At first glance, Christian Longo appeared to be an attractive and charming family man. Friends, family, and the entire nation was stunned when he turned out to be a cold-blooded killer. In the late 1990s, Christian Longo’s life with his wife Mary Jane and three children Zachary, Sadie, and Madison seemed perfect from the outside. However, just a few days before Christmas in 2001, this picture-perfect family was destroyed.
On December 19, 2001, the body of 4-year-old Zachary Longo was found floating in a marina in Waldport, Oregon. Shortly after, Sadie Longo’s body was also discovered. The nation’s worst fears came true when eight days later, the bodies and remains of Mary Jane and Madison Longo were found stuffed in suitcases floating near the Longo’s apartment in Yaquina Bay. After each body was discovered, investigators placed the only missing member of the family, Christian Longo, on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Longo was on the run, nowhere to be found and the FBI continued to investigate why a seemingly perfect husband had murdered his entire family.
The investigation showed that Longo had been involved with criminal behavior for quite some time. After leaving the New York Times distribution company, Longo attempted to launch his own company, which became a financial disaster. As his debt grew, Longo began making counterfeit checks from client checks. Despite his dishonest way of making money, he continued purchasing expensive cars and taking extravagant vacations. Longo’s carefree ways ended when he was charged for making counterfeit checks. He was given a light sentence of probation and restitution, but his life changed dramatically. Longo was caught cheating on his wife, and kicked out of his church for a long list of misconducts. Claiming he wanted to start a better life, he took his family from their Michigan home and moved them to a warehouse in Toledo, Ohio.
On the day that Mary Jane and Madison Longo were found, it was discovered that Christian Longo was on a plane to Cancun, Mexico, using the stolen identity of a former writer for the New York Times, Michael Finkel. After Longo was identified by an American tourist, Mexican officials extradited him to the United States.
During his official trial, Longo claimed that in a fit of rage over his poor financial situation, his wife Mary Jane killed his two oldest children, and that he had angrily responded by murdering Mary Jane and his youngest child. In less than four hours, the jury returned with a guilty verdict and Christian Longo was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Shortly after the trial, Christian Longo began an appeals process that was estimated to run for five to ten years. In 2011, Longo admitted to killing his family and remains on death row in Oregon.
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As Longo awaited trial he was visited by the man he identified himself as in Mexico, Michael Finkel. What followed was the development of a strange friendship. As he had done before, Longo charmed Finkel and made him hope that Longo was innocent. Their friendship deteriorated when Longo took the stand during his trial. Finkel wrote a memoir on his relationship with Longo titled, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa in 2005. In 2015 it became a film, True Story, starring James Franco as Longo and Jonah Hill as Finkel