The Oregonian, Mar. 27, 2003
NEWPORT — Christian Longo testified Wednesday that even as his yearly income dwindled — leaving his young family awash in debt from his free-spending habits — he vowed not to turn to other family members for financial help because his pride would not let him.
“Pride has always been an issue for me,” Longo said during three hours of court testimony under questioning from his co-counsel, Steve Krasik.
Longo, 29, has pleaded guilty to killing his 34-year-old wife and 2-year-old daughter, Madison, around Christmas 2001 and dumping their bodies off the Oregon coast. He has pleaded not guilty in the deaths of his two older children, Sadie, 3, and Zachery, 4.
The defense, which began presenting its case Tuesday, did not give an opening argument. Longo’s lawyers have not yet explained the deaths of the two older children.
Longo appeared relaxed and spoke easily, frequently smiling and occasionally laughing slightly in recounting his life through the birth of his third child, Madison.
He had moved out of his parents’ Michigan home just after turning 18 when they told him he was too immature to begin dating, Longo said. But with his heart set on MaryJane Baker, Longo moved out and married the woman he has now admitted murdering.
Seven years later, he and MaryJane had three children, $25,000 in credit card debt and a constant barrage of creditors. But he said he still wanted his family to be a “mirror image” of his upper-middle class upbringing.
The image he cultivated included fashionable clothes, new cars every two years and vacations to Mexico. It clashed with the reality of a growing family and jobs of increasingly less pay.
“I wanted to survive,” Longo said. “I was going to make it and I was going to make it big.”
But more disturbing hallmarks of Longo’s life — lies, theft and deceit — cropped up soon after he moved out of his parents’ Ypsilanti, Mich., home. He stole $108 from a camera store where he worked to make a payment on MaryJane’s wedding ring. He was caught, however, and resigned before he was fired.
He later admitted he stole a Pontiac Montana van from a dealership in Ohio after using a phony Michigan driver’s license for identification to take the car for a test drive. He drove it home and lied to MaryJane about financing it.
Longo admitted his misdeeds were in direct contradiction with his Jehovah’s Witness faith that called for a strict adherence to biblical tenets. He said his theft from the camera store ran him afoul of his congregation’s judicial committee, which refused to let him be married in his church.
He also testified that death brings sleep until the “righteous and unrighteous” are awakened. That reawakening brings a second chance at salvation, he said.
When Krasik asked if death means Jehovah’s Witnesses are in a better place, Longo said no.
“They’re essentially asleep until God decides otherwise,” Longo said.
His testimony contradicted the testimony of FBI Special Agent Daniel Clegg, who said that Longo had told him that he sent his family to a “better place.”
Longo is scheduled to resume testifying this morning.