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Longo sentenced to death.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

NEWPORT - A dry-eyed jury delivered a death sentence to Christian Michael Longo on Wednesday for each of the four people he murdered, and then watched as tears slipped from Longo's eyes.

For five minutes, Longo stood between his lawyers while Lincoln County Circuit Judge Robert Huckleberry read their verdicts to a courtroom packed and hushed.

In the front row, Sally Clark, the sister of Longo's murdered wife, dabbed her eyes. On a hard wooden bench behind Longo, his parents and brother sat stoically.

Huckleberry thanked the eight-woman, four-man jury for devoting six weeks to hear the trial. They marched out of his courtroom without a glance toward Longo.

At Longo's request, Huckleberry immediately orchestrated a formal sentencing that included statements from two sisters of Longo's wife, MaryJane, as well as a 23-minute monologue by Longo - during which he admitted for the first time that he murdered MaryJane and all three of their children.

He dropped the accusation he made on the witness stand that MaryJane killed Zachery, 4, and Sadie, 3, before he killed her and Madison, 2.

"She never would do anything to hurt them," he said. "It's something I did solely."

Much of Longo's statement seemed to illustrate the narcissistic personality defect diagnosed by a psychologist who tested him and testified for him during the penalty phase of his trial, hoping to explain to jurors how a husband and father could commit such an unimaginable crime.

In the end, though, Longo said he could not explain why he did it.

"I don't know," he said. "I can't answer that."

He said it was only after his capture - when he saw photos of memorials of flowers, teddy bears and poems local residents had constructed for his murdered family - that he realized the enormity of his crimes.

It was only in the week since his conviction for the murders of Zachery and Sadie that he began to feel the pain he had inflicted on his family, Longo said.

"I didn't empathize before with the pain. I think in the last week I've empathized more than I have in my life," he said. "This has been a tremendous wake-up call, if nothing else. Too late."

Facing his family, he apologized, even while admitting that his words lift no weight from their hearts. He said he hopes to demonstrate "an unprecedented amount of repentance," even while admitting that his time to do so will be short.

He said MaryJane and his children were "the best thing that ever happened in my life." He said he would not change anything about his life if that meant he would not have met MaryJane and had the children.

Swallowing hard, his jaw quivering as he held back tears, he assured his parents, Joe and Joy Longo, that they are not to blame for the man he became.

"I became who I did, who I am right now, despite the way that you raised me," he said. "I squandered the spiritual upbringing. I squandered the love you gave me."

Joy Longo mopped tears with a tissue, while Dustin Longo, his brother, sniffed and his father sat without visible emotion.

In statements to the judge, MaryJane's sisters, Sally Clark and Penny Dupuie, tried to describe their loss and the added suffering of hearing their sister's name sullied by Longo's false accusations.

Dupuie described a cemetery headstone, shared by MaryJane, Zachery, Sadie and Madison, that has no date of death engraved on it because investigators could not precisely determine - and Longo would not say - what day in December 2001 he killed them.

"Many people talk of closure. There is no closure," she said. "Chris deserves his punishment and so much more. He is the most dangerous of all humankind. He murdered and threw away those that he should have protected and cherished."

Clark, who described MaryJane as her best friend, said she cries every day thinking of her sister, the children and what could have been.

"It was disturbing to hear MaryJane's good name dirtied by one of the people she loved the most," Clark said during a seven-minute statement.

Before imposing the sentence, Huckleberry, a judge for more than two decades, told Longo the case had produced more tears in his courtroom in one month than there had been in 10 years.

Addressing Longo, he said the crimes show a level of treachery by a defendant "beyond anything I have experienced in my life."

Huckleberry said the facts showed "beyond any reasonable doubt" that Longo killed a family most people yearn to have.

"These were beautiful children," the judge said. "By the testimony, your wife was a beautiful lady."

Huckleberry said he was even more distressed by Longo's false testimony against MaryJane and his expressions in court Wednesday of hope for the possibility of future repentance.

"The sheer breadth of harm you yourself have pointed out, truly makes it impossible - in my judgment - for you as a person to atone for these crimes or to expect absolution," Huckleberry said. "I don't know how the scales can ever be leveled."

Nevertheless, Huckleberry said the purpose of a trial is to ensure that basic rights are protected so that verdicts and sentences can be delivered with a certainty that gives the public confidence that the justice system works.

"This case is about four people and the man who claimed to love them. This case is about profound loss," Huckleberry said. "This case also, in the end, is about justice."

For the first time in his 19-day trial, Longo was handcuffed before deputies escorted him from the courtroom. He is the 27th man currently on Oregon's Death Row, the only one for a crime in Lincoln County.

After the hearing, Joe Longo thanked the local community for showing sympathy and support for his family. He also extended sympathy to those who suffered because of his son's crimes.

He said his family is not surprised by the sentence, indicating that his son's conduct had been a long-term problem for the family.

"We were there for him," Joe Longo said. "He gave little back but lies, and eventually abandoned us completely. Now he has quite literally destroyed more than one family. As angered and injured as we are, Chris is still a part of our family and we still love him."

He said his family wants to speak with Longo, for the first time in two years, if authorities will allow it.

Lincoln County District Attorney Bernice Barnett thanked the jury for its work, investigators for their diligence and the community for showing it cared about the victims and their families. She denied that there was any political motive in her decision to offer Longo no plea bargain and to pursue the death sentence.

Outside the courthouse, Newport resident Liz Gordon, who had attended 16 days of the trial, said she was impressed by the judge, the jury and the process she observed.

She struggled to describe the emotion of the case in its closing moments.

"There are no words really," she said. "I think justice was served."

CAPTION(S):

Christian Longo now admits he killed Sadie (left) and Zachery (right), as well as Madison. MaryJane Longo is shown in a family photo. INSIDE Bob Welch: Tide of lies finally catches up with Longo / D1
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Title Annotation:"It's something I did solely," says the man convicted of killing his wife and children; Courts
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 17, 2003
Words:1218
Previous Article:Newport residents say justice is served.
Next Article:Letters in the Editor's Mailbag.


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