Christian Longo

I have a new goal now.  Instead of going months at a time without working on my blog and then spending several weeks or a month doing nothing but working on it and allowing my genealogy to fall behind I have decided that Sunday is the day that I will work on this.  Now, that does not mean that I will be necessarily posting every week because it depends on my mood.  I have several now ready to type up from my research but I did not necessarily post them when I did them because I was not "feeling it." So today I was already working on my blog when someone pointed out the movie "True Story" that came out this past April starring James Franco.  It is based at least partly on the Christian Longo murder case.  This case was on my list and I have seen episodes of things about it but honestly it had been a while and the subject of the movie itself was not something that I had recalled.  After seeing the trailer for the movie I am very much interested in seeing it and decided to push this one up the list so that I could do the research and post it before seeing the movie so that those bias' would not be present when it was time to sit down and do this.

What I had recalled was that Christian Longo was convicted for murdering his wife and three young children in Oregon.  I remembered that they were found in the bay and that he had fled the country but beyond that I had not recalled specifics, nor had I researched anything more in depth on the case.  Much has been made about this case recently because of the movie, both good and bad publicity.  The movie is based on a book written by former New York Times journalist Michael Finkle.  After murdering his family and fleeing to Cancun Mexico Longo had taken Michael's name and portrayed himself as being him by telling people he was a journalist for, you guessed it, The New York Times and was on assignment.  After his capture Finkle was contacted by the media to find out what, if any, connection he had with Longo.  The fact of the matter was that Finkle had never met Christian Longo but it so happens that Finkle was fired from his job just about the same time that he was contacted about this case and he took on, what he admits readily, almost an obsession to discover all he could about Christian Longo. His discoveries and his relationship with Longo was the basis of his book. So with that being said, and out of the way, at least for now, let's look at the case.

On December 18, 2001 someone contacted the police in Waldport Oregon to report finding some questionable things in a local hotel dumpster.  There were clothes, family photos and an ID belonging to MaryJane Longo.  Their discovery led them to a Starbucks and to the patriarch of the family, Christian, although it is uncertain that was the name he was using.  He seemed unconcerned and stated that the family had left some things at the hotel and apparently the hotel had dumped them.  He went on to tell a co-worker that he had discovered his wife was having an affair and that she had left him, taking their three children, and moved back to Michigan.  I am uncertain if the police were, or planned to, follow up on this but regardless they did not really have time because on the following day a fisherman reported finding the body of a small boy floating in the Slough.  Later that same day a local dealership found an abandoned vehicle on their lot.  It had been illegally rented under a false name and left in their lot. When the vehicle was searched they found diving gear, sleeping bags and a book called "Running from the Law." At this point the three discoveries are not connected.  After the discovery of the child the authorities put divers in the water and on December 22nd they found the body of another young child, this time a girl. She had a pillowcase with a rock in it wrapped around her ankle. They also found another pillowcase with a rock that they presumed had come off of the ankle of the young boy they recovered a few days prior.  Sketches had been made of the children and a young girl soon called in saying that they looked like children she had babysat for, Zachery and Sadie Longo. By the time it seems that Christian was no longer around but authorities also knew neither were MaryJane or the youngest child, Madison, of the family. Missing posters were put out and around town. Then on December 27th two suitcases were found floating in the bay very close to the condo that the Longo family was renting.  When they were opened authorities discovered the bodies of MaryJane and Madison.  

Christian Longo met his future wife, who was almost seven years older than him, MaryJane Baker while attending Kingdom Hall in Michigan.  Both seem to have come from very strict Jehovah Witness families.  They were married in 1993 but apparently not in Kingdom Hall because Christian was already having issues and had been sanctioned by the church which prevented their marriage. The story is that Christian had bought MaryJane a very expensive ring for their engagement.  Apparently the following month Christian did not have the money for both his rent and the payment for the ring.  In the process he ended up stealing the money from his employer, but then he felt bad and paid it back to them and did not pay his rent that month.  He had two roommates who were also devout Jehovah Witnesses who were no doubt upset he did not have his rent that month and reported his theft to the church who sanctioned him and in turn refused to allow Christian and MaryJane to be married there.  Christian vowed to do and be better, but that was the first of what became a lifetime of scams and lies.  Over the next few years the Longo's were appearing to be living large but in reality they were in debt reaching the $100,000 mark.  By 2000 Christian had worked at several different jobs but apparently stole and forged things throughout and would lose job after job.  Then he opened a construction clean up business.  Friends and family thought things were going well but again they were in debt and on top of that Christian had taken to making copies of customers checks and forging them.  By September of 2000 he was finally caught. He ended up having to go to court but once again, rather than let anyone, including the court know how much in debt the family was he lied about his income (and apparently no one checked) and he was put on probation for three years and ordered to pay restitution.  Once again Christian claimed remorse and MaryJane stuck by him.  Most believe that while she knew of the legal issues and what not she was not fully aware of just how much in debt the family truly was or just how much Christian had taken from people over the years.

It did not take long before Christian was right back at his scamming.  He created a false driver's license and went to a dealership to test drive a car and never returned it.  At the same time he opened a line of credit under his father's name and racked up another $100,000 in his name.  When MaryJane questioned why they were not receiving bills for payments on the new vehicle he even went as far as creating fake bills.  Finally, once again things were beginning to unravel and Christian convinced MaryJane it was time to move and get a complete fresh start.  Although it was a violation of his probation the family up and moved to Ohio and took up residence in a warehouse.  He had somehow apparently convinced MaryJane they bought it or were renting it and would be able to convert it to a proper living space.  At this point technically Christian was on the run from the law and he and MaryJane both seemed to have cut off their families.  At some point while in Ohio however one of MaryJane's sisters found her and tried to convince her to leave Christian but she refused. They were not in Ohio long and left there because Christian had been stealing items to sell and he was convinced (although, not sure if it was a legitimate fear) that the police were watching and on to him and it was time to pull up stakes again.  

The family arrived in Waldport Oregon in early December of 2001.  They spent a few days in a hotel and using his charm Christian had convinced the landlords of a condominium complex that he had a check coming to him and they allowed the family to move in without any money.  Christian knew this could not last long because he would not be able to afford the rent.  Considering the fact that he was on the run from the law it was unreasonable (although my research eluded to but I could not confirm) to believe that he was able to gain employment using his own name and social security considering he had violated his probation in Michigan.  It appears that the only place he could find work was at the local Starbucks that was located in a department store for just over $7.00 a hour.  And, well, we know that by the of the month MaryJane and her children were dead and her husband Christian was no where to be found.  He was eventually found in Cancun Mexico, where he had taken on the name of Michael Finkle.  No one can confirm and he apparently has not said if he had used the name prior to being in Mexico. He did say to Michael that he chose his name because he had aspired to be a writer and at one of his many jobs he was the manager of a company that distributed The New York Times and he often read Finkle's articles. Christian was taken into custody in just south of Cancun on January 11, 2002.  Three days later he was back in the United States and soon on his way to Oregon to face charges.  

Before his trial in March of 2003 Christian pleaded guilty to the murders of MaryJane and Madison.  The unusual part of this is that he did so without being offered any sort of deal by the prosecution.  He only plead not guilty to the murders of four year old Zachery and three year old Sadie but authorities had no idea what the defense theory would be.  The prosecution had their own theory and they were not about to make a deal with someone they were convinced not only was a cold blooded murderer but was psychopath who had planned the murders for months and commented them so that he could live a life that did not have him saddled with a wife and children.  Their case was simple in their opinion.  While MaryJane's family was totally convinced that the prosecution was correct in their assessment, they were also angry with authorities.  Apparently not only after Christian had violated his probation had they contacted the authorities but they had also filed a missing person's report for MaryJane seemingly around the time they were headed to Oregon but they felt none of the authorities took them seriously.  One of MaryJane's sisters stated (not certain if in court or otherwise) that in May of 2000, prior to the coming September when Christian was busted for the forged checks with his business, that MaryJane had told her that she had found emails between Christian and another woman that seemed inappropriate and that when she confronted him he had told her that she wasn't any fun anymore since they had children and that he did not love her anymore.  In the process she had also contacted elders at their church who once again sanctioned him. It was the prosecution theory that Christian strangled both MaryJane and Madison (although MaryJane also appeared to have trauma to her head) and placed them in the suitcases.  Controversy arose when it came down to how Zachery and Sadie died.  Autopsies were apparently inconclusive and Christian has told a variety of different stories over the years but it is possible that Zachery and Sadie were still alive when they were placed in the water with the weight to their ankle.

The defense had a few strategies in mind.  First they fought against the death penalty being sought.  They claimed that in essence Christian was tricked into voluntarily coming back to the United States, claiming that Mexico would not have extradited him if they were seeking the death penalty.  They claim that the first talk of the death penalty did not occur until he was already on the plane to the states and was informed that Oregon did in fact have the death penalty but he was told it was unlikely that it would be sought in his case. They claimed to have repeatedly attempted to get the death penalty off the table and make some sort of deal but the Prosecutors refused.  Seeing as they had no choice but to continue to trial, and although I never confirmed that he testified against his attorney's advise it is likely since it is only on the very rare occasion that a defendant testifies.  However, that is what Christian did and in the end most jurors agreed it was his testimony that helped them make their decision (this is why defendants do not usually testify).  His testimony at his trial was that he had come home on the night of December 18th after MaryJane had picked him up from work and that she was acting strangely and did not have the children with her.  He said that when they got home their two year old, Madison, appeared to be lifeless in her crib and that MaryJane had admitted to dumping the two older children (who technically was all he was on trial for) in the water. He stated that he was so overcome with emotion that he had attacked MaryJane and had strangled her.  He had planned to place both she and Madison in the suitcases but when he went to get the baby she appeared to be breathing, although barely.  He said at that point he strangled the baby but felt that he was simply putting her out of her misery.  With this idea apparently in mind, and the controversy as to if Zachery and Sadie were alive in the water, the defense argued that the disposal as well as the method of murder was different for them than for MaryJane and Madison.  They pointed out that a murderer, when multiple victims are involved, especially in one event, generally sticks to the same method for all the victims. The jury did not believe this story and convicted him in the murders of his children.  On April 16, 2003 that same jury sentenced Christian Longo to death.

Now, in the subsequent years that he has been on death row in Oregon he has changed his tune quite a bit, at least publicly I should say.  Some that were previously close to him and/or worked on his case do not believe him yet today and believe that he has not changed and is still a narcissist who only cares about himself and the publicity and attention he can get.  He was in fact diagnosed by a doctor who testified at his trial for the state as having narcissistic personality disorder.  At the time of the trial Christian fought against this diagnosis but since that time has said that after researching the disorder he now believes that the diagnosis was correct.  Over the years Longo has apparently done several interviews as well as written to newspapers and magazines, some of which who has published his articles.  He has even written a book called "Lethal Rejection" that was published in 2014. The book and most of the information you will find on Christian Longo today revolves around his "cause." This cause surrounds the issue of organ donation. Most of the interviews he has given makes it appear that he is simply fighting for the right for a way for death row inmates to donate organs after their death. But, if you go to a website that he helped create with is brother called www.GAVElife.org you will see that it is not just about death row inmates after execution, but prisoners in general as well as other classes (specifically gay men) of people who it appears during the "AIDS scare" time of the 80's and 90's were singled out as not being allowed to donate organs, apparently before or after death. Michael Finkle stated that he has contacted a transplant surgeon who stated that as far as donation after execution, at this point that is not possible due to the fact that the chemicals used in execution are generally heart stopping chemicals and that the only thing left to transplant would possibly be a few heart valves and some skin as the the chemicals all but ruin the other organs.   However, according to Finkle the law on the chemicals used is non specific and that if different ones were used that would create the executed to in essence to become brain dead then the organs could be preserved and this apparently is part of Christian's quest.

In fairness I obviously did not know Christian before he murdered his family, nor have I met or communicated with him since his imprisonment.  I cannot say that when he today appears to be remorseful when speaking of his crime that he is being truthful.  What I can say is that although he was not necessarily a law abiding citizen prior to the murders there was never any indication from his or even MaryJane's family that he was ever violent in any way.  Is that an excuse? Absolutely not! Do I believe he is right where he belongs? Yes I do. But I also believe that whether he is sincere in his supposed passion to help people through organ donation or not he does have a good cause and valid point if it could be done.  Some would argue that no-one would want an organ from an executed murderer.  Yeah, I disagree.  First it is not like they would do a brain transplant where anyone worth their salt in any kind of research would know that it is the chemicals there that tend to create our killers.  Secondly, why not allow it to help those that it can?  Innocent people are dying every single day from failed organs, why would we not open up our avenues if it were possible? If a convicted criminal wants to donate an organ, before or after death it should be made possible.  Should we do it so Christian Longo can feel better... absolutely not but just because he is a no good rotten piece of crap that murdered his family does not mean he cannot have good ideas.  

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