Associated Press, Mar. 10, 2003
NEWPORT, Ore. (AP) – An Oregon man accused of murdering his wife and three children went on trial Monday, with prosecutors saying he downloaded a book on how to kill months before the slayings.
Christian Longo, 29, has pleaded guilty to killing his wife and youngest daughter but innocent in the deaths of his two other children. All four bodies were found dumped along the coast in December 2001.
In opening statements, prosecutor Steven Briggs said a computer containing a downloaded murder manual was left in a car Longo abandoned at the San Francisco airport before fleeing to Mexico.
Briggs said Longo attacked his wife first by trying to strangle her, but she fought back. Court papers said she died of a blow to the head.
Longo’s youngest daughter, 2-year-old Madison, was strangled, Briggs said. The two older children also showed signs of asphyxiation, but autopsies could not determine whether they had been drowned or smothered, he said.
Defense lawyers, who have not yet explained Longo’s pleas, are expected to give opening arguments later in the trial.
In police interrogations, Longo has claimed he was driven to murder by financial problems and shame over being expelled from the Jehovah’s Witnesses for passing bad checks. According to investigators, Longo said: “I sent them to a better place.”
Briggs appeared to cast doubt on any suggestion that Longo saw the slayings as an act of compassion. The prosecutor noted that Longo ate cheese and drank wine before carrying out the slayings.
However, the prosecutor did not offer a motive of his own.
Longo is charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of 4-year-old Zachery and 3-year-old Sadie. He could get the death penalty.
Zachery’s body was found floating in an ocean inlet. Sadie was found in the same area three days later inside a sleeping bag, her body weighted by a rock in a pillow case.
In a surprise, Longo pleaded guilty to murdering his wife, MaryJane, 34, and Madison. They were found about a week after the other two bodies, stuffed in suitcases under a pier.
The family had arrived in Newport in the fall of 2001, leaving a trail of bad checks, fraud and theft charges stretching to Michigan. Longo took a job at a Starbucks while talking his way into an upscale condo by saying he was a telephone company executive.
After the deaths, investigators say, Longo went first to San Francisco and then to Mexico on a ticket bought with a stolen credit card number. He snorkeled and partied at a beach resort near Cancun, allegedly telling tourists he was a travel journalist.
Longo was captured in Mexico about three weeks after the final two bodies were found.