The Longo family: Mary Jane and Christian (top); Madison, Sadie, and Zachery (bottom).
Dec. 19, 2001, Waldport, Oregon: An angler fishing off a marina on the Alsea River spotted something disturbing floating in the water. Once the police arrived, they found it was the body of a young boy, only about 3 or 4 years old, wearing only his underwear. He appeared to be well-fed, healthy, and clean, with no obvious injuries or clear cause of death ? or any clues to his identity.
Police at first thought he had simply wandered off and accidentally drowned, and his parents would surely report him missing soon. But no one came forward.
So police did the basic shoe-leather work of knocking on doors and posting flyers in the small community just south of Newport. They also released his digitally enhanced photo to the media, hoping someone would recognize the boy.
It worked. A woman named Denise Thompson told police she recognized the boy as Zachery Longo.
She knew Zachery through his father, Christian Longo, whom she worked with at a local Starbucks. She said the Longos ? Christian and his wife, Mary Jane ? had only moved to Yaquina Bay, Oregon, about six months ago. She told police she?d befriended the Longos and babysat their children ? 4-year-old Zachery, 3-year-old Sadie, and 2-year-old Madison.
The last time Thompson had seen Christian, he told her that Mary Jane was taking the kids and leaving him. The next shift they were scheduled to work together, he hadn?t shown up. She feared Christian ? whom she knew as a devoted family man ? might have taken the break-up hard.
So police went to the Longos? address to conduct a welfare check. Their home ? a one-bedroom condo right on the water ? was far too expensive for someone making $7.40 an hour part time. In fact, the landlord said he?d only agreed to rent to the Longos because Christian told him that he worked for the telephone company. And now, the landlord told them, they were already behind on their rent.
Inside, the condo appeared undisturbed. It didn?t even look like the Longos had left ? their clothes and few possessions were still there. They had left no clues to where they might be.
So Oregon State Police reached out to the FBI to conduct a nationwide search for the remaining Longo family. They also sent divers into the water to search for clues where Zachery had been found.
There, beneath the cold waters of the Alsea River, near the Lint Slough Bridge, they found Sadie?s body. She had been weighted down with a pillowcase full of rocks tied to her ankle. Nearby they found another similar pillowcase full of rocks; presumably, it had been used to weight down Zachery?s body as well.
But there was still no sign of Christian, Mary Jane, or Madison.
Tips started coming in to the hotline. One man told police he had seen someone parked on that very bridge the night of the murders. He had stopped to help, but the man driving told him the car just needed to cool down. The man didn?t have any details to give, other than a basic description of the man behind the wheel and the red minivan he was driving. The description matched Christian Longo.
Another tip came from a housekeeper who worked at a hotel where the Longos had stayed when they first arrived in Oregon. She said that she had found several important papers, including birth certificates and other records, along with Mary Jane?s driver?s license and the family?s photo albums, in the trash.
As investigators dug into Christian Longo?s past, they discovered a long trail of greed, lies, and fraud.
He had been born in 1974 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to a devout Jehovah?s Witness family. It was at his local Kingdom Hall where he met Mary Jane Baker. Though she was several years older, the two fell in love. In the spring of 1993, when he was 19 and she was 25, the two got married. However, in order to make a payment on Mary Jane?s large, 3.5-carat diamond ring, Christian had stolen a little over $100 from the camera store where he worked. Later, feeling guilty, he wrote a check to reimburse the store for the money. However, his roommates, who were also JWs, turned him in to the congregation elders. Christian was sanctioned for the theft, which meant he and Mary Jane could not marry in the Kingdom Hall.
That set the precedent for what would be an ongoing pattern of overspending and fraud.
Once he and Mary Jane set up house, they started living the good life: new clothes, expensive electronics, resort vacations, and new cars. But he wasn?t making nearly enough money to support that lifestyle. The Longos were soon drowning in credit card debt.
So Christian and his brother founded a construction clean-up business together. While the business was moderately successful, Christian continued to spend lavishly on credit. He routinely lied to anyone who would listen about how profitable his business was, even convincing his father to invest tens of thousands of dollars in it.
Unsurprisingly, when one of their customers was late on a payment, the whole house of cards began to tumble down. So Christian, in order to cover his tracks and continue living the good life, began writing hot checks to himself from the business and forging checks from clients.
But he was in too much debt to sustain it all. One of their cars was repossessed for non-payment, leaving them with only one car for their growing family. When that car broke down, Christian obtained a fake ID and went to an out-of-state car lot to ?test drive? a van. He drove the van home and gave it to Mary Jane as a birthday present. When she started asking why they hadn?t received any bills for the van payment, Christian printed out fake bills and sent them to his address.
But that was not the worst of his deceptions to Mary Jane. One day she found an e-mail on his laptop that confirmed that he was cheating on her. He claimed he hadn?t actually had a physical relationship with the woman, but that he was straying because Mary Jane wasn?t any fun since they had had children.
Again he was sanctioned by the congregation. But Mary Jane, like a good JW, stayed with him anyway.
Soon enough, he was busted for forging $30,000 worth of checks. In September 2000, he was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay restitution.
This led to Christian being disfellowshipped and shunned by the Jehovah?s Witnesses. Since Mary Jane was his wife, she, too, was shunned. However, her family continued to remain in contact with her, in violation of the congregation?s rules.
But that didn?t stop Christian from continuing his fraudulent ways. While on probation, he managed to get a credit card in his father?s name (without his knowledge) and ran up $100,000 in debt ? including another ill-gotten ?present? to Mary Jane: laser eye surgery.
Seven weeks after his conviction, he packed the family up and moved them to Toledo, Ohio, into an old warehouse without a kitchen or adequate plumbing. He told Mary Jane he would renovate the space to make it an apartment. There, he continued his criminal ways, cashing forged checks and fencing stolen tools from the warehouse to pay rent.
That scam was busted soon enough, but by the time police showed up at their home, the family was gone. They had apparently left in a hurry, without even packing. Most of their belongings were left behind ? including Mary Jane?s wedding dress and photo albums.
Soon Mary Jane?s cell phone was disconnected for non-payment. Unable to contact her and fearing for her safety, Mary Jane?s family made a missing person?s report on her and the children.
What they didn?t know was that the family was on the run from the law, driving around the country in a stolen moving van and a stolen SUV, staying at cheap motels and campsites.
Mary Jane knew nothing about what was going on, believing Christian?s lies.
At one point, she sent her family a postcard from South Dakota. Based on this postcard, the Ohio police closed the missing person?s case.
The Longos finally ended up in Oregon, staying at one place after another, until they could no longer make rent and had to move again. All the while Christian continued his small-time scams: fencing stolen items, stealing gas, passing hot checks.
That?s when he got the job at Starbucks ? the first real job he?d had in a long time ? where he met Thompson. Still trying to create the illusion of a successful man, he claimed he actually had a fortune from some internet something, and was just working at Starbucks because he liked the coffee.
But the income wasn?t near enough to support a family of five. The rent wasn?t paid and there weren?t enough groceries to feed the kids.
On the evening of Dec. 16, 2001, Christian stood on his balcony looking out over the water, knowing they were going to be evicted yet again, but reluctant to tell his wife. He would later say this night was ?the beginning of the end.?
On Dec. 27, divers were sent into the water near the Longos? condo. There, they found two suitcases ? one of which had human hair floating out of it. Inside it was the nude body of Mary Jane Longo, bruises in the shape of hands around her neck. Inside the second was the body of Madison, along with some clothes and a dumbbell to weight her down.
The next day Christian was wanted for the murders of his wife and three children, and put on the FBI?s 10 Most Wanted List.
They soon caught a lead: he had applied for a job at a Starbucks in San Francisco, California. Agents staked out the Starbucks, but Christian never returned.
They then discovered that he had used a stolen credit card number to buy an airline ticket to Texas, and from there, to Cancn, Mexico.
Now the FBI had to work with the Mexican authorities to find and apprehend Christian. One of their first steps was to plaster the areas in and around Cancn with flyers containing Christian?s face and a hotline to call.
Surprisingly, within 48 hours, they got two hits. One was from a Canadian tourist who said she saw him in Cancn. The other was from a Mexican tour guide who remembered taking Christian ? who said his name was ?Mike? ? on a snorkeling tour. The guide had taken ?Mike? back to his camp, and so was able to tell police exactly where he was staying.
When two countries have to work together to apprehend a criminal, things don?t always move quickly. In the time it took to iron out all the bureaucratic details, officers were able to put Christian under surveillance. There, on the sunny beaches of Mexico, the man who had murdered his wife and three children just days ago was scuba diving, smoking pot, bar-hopping, and romancing beautiful women.
And he was telling everyone he was Mike Finkel, a reporter for the New York Times.
On Jan. 14, 2002, after two and a half weeks in Mexico, Christian was finally busted. When FBI and Mexican federal agents arrived at his cabaa, he was smoking pot, nude, in bed with a German photographer he?d met at a youth hostel.
On March 10, 2003, his trial began. At first he pled not guilty to all counts, but later, pled guilty to killing Mary Jane and Madison, but not Zachery and Sadie.
At trial, he gave multiple, conflicting explanations, before settling on the classic ?blame the wife? defense. He claimed he came home from work to find Zachery and Sadie gone, and Mary Jane acting erratic. He said Madison was on the bed, apparently lifeless, and Mary Jane admitted to killing the older kids and ?putting them in the water.? He said he then strangled Mary Jane in a fit of rage, and, when he saw Madison gasping for air, ?finished her off.?
The jury didn?t buy it. After only four hours, they returned guilty verdicts on all four counts. He was sentenced to death. However, since Oregon currently has a moratorium on the death penalty, Christian remains in the Oregon State Penitentiary.
After hearing about the trial, the real Mike Finkel became ?obsessed? with the case and began corresponding with and visiting Christian. He wrote about it in his memoir, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa, which was turned into the movie True Story in 2015.
As he had done with everyone else, Christian at first lied to Finkel and claimed to be innocent.
But years later, Christian finally admitted the truth about what happened. He said that he decided to kill his family while he was at work that day. The pressure of trying to provide for them was too much, and he felt he needed to ?send them to a better place.?
He said that after he got off work, while he and Mary Jane were making love, he realized this would be the ?perfect opportunity.? So he put his hands around her throat and strangled her. He then strangled Madison in the same way, but said the feeling of a 2-year-old?s throat in his hand was too upsetting to do again. So he packed their bodies into suitcases and threw them into the water while he figured out what to do with the other two children.
He told Finkel that he took Zachery and Madison out to the minivan while they were asleep, buckling them into their carseats. He brought along pillowcases and stopped along the drive to fill them with some large rocks.
Once he got to the middle of the Lint Slough Bridge, he pulled over and quietly opened the door so as not to wake them. One by one, he unbuckled each from their car seat, tied the pillowcase around their ankle, lifted them gingerly out, and dropped them into the water.
Afterwards, he went to a company Christmas party (where he gave a co-worker a bottle of Mary Jane?s perfume as a gift), rented a movie, worked a shift at Starbucks, and played some volleyball. He only left town once Zachery?s body was discovered.
He had killed his family, he said, so they wouldn?t ?witness his failure? to provide for him, so that Mary Jane wouldn?t discover he ?had been deceiving her for years, that in reality she?s married a loser and a liar and a thief.? This puts him in the category of a ?civil reputable? family annihilator, much like John List. Unlike the ?livid coercive? family annihilator who kills their family to maintain control or exact revenge, the ?civil reputable? type is obsessed with presenting the world with an image of a happy family and a successful breadwinner. They are usually non-violent until they come to their breaking point ? usually when they are about to be discovered for the frauds they are. Even after his conviction, he has continued pretending to be a successful stock trader so as to impress the other inmates.
When last heard from, Christian Longo, who says he is ?irredeemable,? was working to overturn laws forbidding death-row inmates from donating organs. He founded GAVE, which stands for Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone. However, the blog has not been updated since 2015.