‘I Hate What He Did But I Still Love Him’
AP, Apr. 15, 2003
NEWPORT, Ore. — Tears rolled down convicted family killer Christian Longo’s face Monday as his adoptive father made a plea to a jury to spare the life of his son.
“I hate what he did but I still love him,” Joe Longo told the jury, which will decide whether Longo will die by lethal injection for the slayings of his wife and three children.
The jury heard similar pleas for mercy from Longo’s mother, Joy, and his brother, Dustin, during the third day of testimony in the penalty phase of Longo’s trial.
“I hope he has the opportunity to work things out and get right with God,” Dustin Longo said.
Also Monday, a psychologist for the defense testified that Longo suffered physical abuse by his biological father that left him with a personality disorder.
Dr. Steven Scherr testified that Longo’s biological father beat Longo’s mother, Joy, while she was pregnant with him. Further, Scherr said, the biological father gave Christian Longo a black eye when Longo was 3 years old.
Those incidents don’t excuse Longo’s actions in the slayings of his wife and three children, but they do offer some explanation for how Longo developed a “narcissistic personality disorder,” the psychologist told the jury.
The disorder is characterized by self-centeredness, being self-absorbed, and an inability to empathize with the effects of one’s behavior on others, Scherr said.
“Mr. Longo appears on the surface to be intellectual and calm, but there is a lot emotion underneath that he has to keep the lid on,” Scherr said, adding that Longo may suffer from depression, anger and anxiety.
Longo was convicted last week of killing his 4-year-old son Zachery and 3-year-old daughter Sadie. Earlier, he pleaded guilty to strangling his wife, 34-year-old Mary Jane, and youngest daughter, 2-year-old Madison.
The same jury that found him guilty will decide whether Longo, 29, will be sentenced to death, life in prison or life in prison with the possibility of parole. The penalty phase of the trial is expected to go to the jury this week.
In Monday’s testimony, Scherr said Longo has a deep-seated need to appear as though he has everything under his control – which is why being shunned by fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses in Michigan after an earlier conviction for passing bad checks was especially damaging for him.
Scherr also testified that Longo was more likely to commit suicide than to harm others if spared the death penalty.
The proceeding was to resume Tuesday, and defense attorney Steven Krasik said he was hoping that Longo would be allowed to have the “last word” by making a statement to the jury just before it begins its deliberations on the penalty.
Prosecutors have painted Longo as a cold-hearted killer who got rid of his family and within three weeks was cavorting with a woman at a beach resort in Mexico. They say he never repented for his crimes, even flirting with female inmates while in jail awaiting trial.
But a tearful Joy Longo on Monday asked the jury to spare her son, saying she still believes there’s hope that he can repent for his crimes.
“We know what he’s done is horrible,” she said. “But we do hope he has the opportunity to turn around and do the right thing.”