Longo prosecutors offer motive
NEWPORT, Ore. — Christian Longo murdered his wife and three children in December 2001 because he was tired of them and they were preventing him from living a wilder lifestyle, a prosecutor argued at Longo's trial yesterday.
It was the first time the prosecution has offered a motive for the deaths of Longo's wife and children, whose bodies were found in two separate coastal inlets.
Longo has pleaded guilty in the slayings of his wife, 34-year-old MaryJane, and their daughter, 2-year-old Madison. But he has denied killing the two older children, 4-year-old Zachery and 3-year-old Sadie.
In the second day of the trial for the deaths of Zachery and Sadie, the prosecution depicted Longo as a philandering man who wanted to rid himself of his family because they were a hindrance.
The prosecution called witnesses to testify about two periods in Longo's life — 19 months before the murder when he told his wife he was having an affair, and after the slayings when Longo was a fugitive partying on a Mexican beach with a German tourist.
"It's the state's theory that the defendant went to Mexico and slept with another woman and had fun. It's extremely relevant to our case. It's the defendant's motive for committing the murders," Steven Briggs, an assistant state attorney general, said in court.
Prosecutors say Longo killed his wife and three children on the night of Dec. 16, 2001, at a Newport condominium where they had been living. MaryJane and Madison were both strangled, prosecutors say. Longo's two older children showed signs of asphyxiation, Briggs said, but autopsies could not determine exactly how they died. Asphyxiation could include drowning or smothering.
Longo fled to Mexico and was captured there on Jan. 13, 2002.
During testimony yesterday, FBI agent Daniel Clegg said Longo told him during the flight back to Oregon that he had sent his family to "a better place."
Longo had been ousted from the Jehovah's Witnesses because of financial crimes he had committed in the Midwest.
Clegg said Longo told him he was upset his family could not attend church because he was on the run, and when asked what he meant by a "better place," Longo said life after death. The two talked about the months before the murder. Longo said his exclusion from the church "was very hard on him," Clegg said.
Briggs contended that the explanations given by Longo to Clegg masked the true motive for the killings.
"What the defendant told agent Clegg is his excuse for the murder. We are not positing that as the motive," Briggs said.
MaryJane Longo's sister, Sally Clark, testified yesterday.
In a telephone call in May 2000, she said, MaryJane told her that Longo had confessed to having an affair, that he had "stopped loving her a long time ago," and that MaryJane had ceased being fun after she started having children.
"She was extremely upset," Clark said. "I have never seen MaryJane in that state of mind."
Clark also described how Longo moved his family from a suburban house in Ypsilanti, Mich., to a rundown warehouse in an industrial area in Toledo, Ohio.
She said the family's phones and cellphones were cut off. Clark and other sisters grew concerned and began searching for the Longo family. By then, Longo had fled creditors on a cross-country trip that ended in Newport.
At the end of her testimony, Briggs showed Clark pictures of the slain family. Clark broke down and cried when the pictures were placed in front of her.