The life and crimes of Christian Longo (Part 2) (Part 1)
Willamette Week, Aug. 21, 2002
by CARLTON SMITH
Editor’s Note: This is the conclusion to a two-part series begun with last week’s cover story, which can be read here (http://wweek.com/flatfiles/News3074.lasso).
Sometime in the first week of June 2001, Chris Longo packed his wife and children into their stolen red Pontiac Montana van and drove south down State Route 23 to Toledo, Ohio. There near the banks of the Maumee River, within the shadow of the new Toledo Mud Hens baseball stadium, Chris and Maryjane Longo set up housekeeping in a decrepit brick warehouse. Chris was on the lam, and Maryjane and their three children were on the lam with him.
Today, Christian Michael Longo awaits his fate in the Lincoln County jail, charged with one of the worst crimes in recent Oregon history. Sometime this fall, Longo will face his accusers in Newport, where the dead bodies of his victims, his own family, were discovered during the two grisly weeks of Christmas last. But if justice is to be done, there will have to be an answer to the paramount question of why.
By June of 2001, there had already been numerous opportunities to stop Chris Longo before the final tragedy: On probation in Ann Arbor for forging bad checks, under investigation for writing still more bad checks, for stealing trailers and construction equipment, and for selling stolen property, Chris Longo and his serial frauds were well-known to law enforcement.
In addition, given what the cops, at least, knew about Longo–that he was a thief–why on earth did Maryjane Longo go with him?
As perceived by the brother and sisters she left behind, Maryjane, herself the product of a broken home, steeped in the traditions of the […]
Just before 6 pm on Aug. 30, 2001, Sgt. Paul Hickey, the supervisor of the Toledo Police Department’s stolen-vehicles section, arrived at the warehouse to question Chris.
“Here we were with Ma and Pa America,” he said. To Hickey, Chris seemed utterly unfazed at being grilled.
Flummoxed by Chris’ self-assurance, Hickey, or possibly one of his fellow officers, went to speak to Maryjane in the van.
“We apologized to her,” Hickey said. “She sort of harrumphed, didn’t say anything. If anything, I would say she was indifferent to our presence.”
Later, when the Bakers leveled harsh criticism at Hickey for his failure to arrest Chris on Aug. 30, Hickey was indignant. There was never any indication that Maryjane was under any form of coercion, he insisted. “Hell,” he said, “she could’ve jumped into our lap, if she thought she was in any danger.”
In fairness to Hickey, it has to be pointed out that at the time he questioned Chris, he naturally had no way of knowing how things would turn out: that Chris and Maryjane would flee to Oregon, that Chris would eventually be accused of drowning his wife and three children.
“Coulda, shoulda, woulda,” said Hickey later. It was easy for people to complain later, he said, especially once they were gifted with hindsight.
But there were some gaps here that “coulda, shoulda, woulda” would have closed, if the system had operated with any efficiency. For one thing, there were three Michigan arrest warrants outstanding on Chris, including one for fleeing probation.
Thus, less than a week before Maryjane Longo and her children would be murdered, some of the same people who are now trying to put Christian Longo on death row muffed the last chance they had to catch him before the worst outcome of all transpired.
From this point forward, the story has been widely recounted, both in the state and nationally: Longo told people that he and Maryjane were getting a divorce, that she and the kids had gone back to Michigan. Zachary Longo’s tiny body washed up on the bank of Lint Slough on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Two days later, Macon Thompson, a “business associate” of Longo, and his wife, Denise, thought they recognized a publicized drawing of Zach’s face, called the Longo apartment at The Landing, and got no answer. They reported their suspicions the next day to a “neighbor,” who happened to be Lincoln County Sheriff’s Lt. Ed Stallard.
The same day, police searched the area under the Lint Slough bridge and recovered the body of Sadie, still held under water by the rock-weighted pillowcase tied around her ankle. The police then began searching for Chris and Maryjane and Madison, only to be told repeatedly by the Bakers in telephone conversations that if Zach and Sadie were dead, so were Maryjane and Madison. On Dec. 27, the police divers found the body of Maryjane in the Longo family suitcase, just over the side of the dock at The Landing, and Madison in another case nearby. By then, Chris Longo was in Mexico. Two weeks later, a Montreal woman who recognized Longo tipped off the FBI, and he was arrested while in the disbelieving company of a female German photojournalist.
Eventually, it will be up to Oregonians to judge Christian Michael Longo–at least on this earth. Were his alleged acts of murder–so heinous on the surface, so cruel–the path taken by a “dreamer” who only wanted to jettison his responsibilities? Or were they something different, something rooted in the madness of an age of mass murder, symbolized by the attacks on Sept. 11, then brought to horrific flowering in the “Last Days” mentality widely prevalent among the practitioners of the faith that he had, by his own prior acts, so fundamentally repudiated? Those are among the questions that may be answered by the trial of Christian Longo.
And if the defense has any hope at all of proving Longo’s innocence, it will have to explain the suitcases. In the weeks after Longo’s arrest, a deputy from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office would go back to Michigan, to see if he could get the facts straight about the Longos’ life and times in Ypsilanti.
It was while talking to the Bakers that Deputy Dennis Bosque was provided with a particularly damning photograph: a snapshot that showed little Zachary Longo sitting in the very same green suitcase that eventually held the body of his murdered mother, Maryjane Irene Baker Longo, and which might answer a gruesome question: Just why were Zachary and Sadie’s bodies found so far away from their mother and baby sister?
“[The police] told us,” Mark Baker said later, “that he just ran out of suitcases.”