Very early in the morning of December 19th of 2001 the tiny body of a 4 year old boy washed ashore. The cause of death was not imminent, initially investigators believed they were looking at an accidental drowning. The boy, donning nothing but his underwear, had obviously been well cared for; it is noted that even his finger and toe nails were in perfect condition, someone had dearly loved this child. Police immediately believed that there must’ve been a kidnapping, or that possibly a vehicle had gone into the water. A sketch of the boy was released and a woman by the name of Denise Thompson soon called to say that she recognized the child as Zachary, the son of her Starbucks co-worker, Christian Longo and his wife, Mary Jane.
Police went straight to the Longo home and realized that the entire family, including Zachary’s siblings, 3 year old Sadie and baby Madison, were missing. The condo was beautifully decorated with not a single thing out of place. Investigators decided to search the water by a bridge where little Zachary had washed ashore, that’s where they found 2 weighted down pillow cases in the water. One held the body of the boy’s sister, Sadie, but the other was empty; this was apparently where Zachary had been dumped. His little body hadn’t remained weighted down as his killer had expected – within hours of being thrown over the bridge, Zachary had washed ashore.
On December 27th, police decided to check the water closer to the family’s home, and this is where they found the children’s mother and baby Madison. They, too, had been murdered, dumped in the water, but these two had been physically folded inside suitcases weighted down with dumbbells. The cause of death was determined to have been strangulation.
Where was father Christian? Investigators thought that perhaps they’d find his body in the water as well, but when they interviewed his co-worker they realized something else was going on. She had been the last person to see the family, she’d actually babysat the children just before the tragedy. The next time she saw Christian, he was visibly upset and confided that Mary Jane had taken the children and left him; they were getting a divorce. As happy as the family had always appeared this didn’t ring true, but then Christian disappeared as well.
The Longo family had only been living in the area for less than 2 months, and Christian hadn’t been who he’d seemed. He was a con man, a financial disaster responsible for a laundry list of bad checks including one alone worth $30,000, stolen from a client. He had owned a professional cleaning business and left unpaid employees in the lurch when the business went belly up, he did things show up to a car lot and ask to test drive a fancy minivan and just never bring the vehicle back!
The family was used to living far beyond their means; they owned very expensive homes, 2 new luxury vehicles, they took extravagant vacations. Those who knew the couple had wondered how they did it; Mary Jane didn’t work, maybe they came from wealthy families? But then, while living in Michigan, Christian was arrested for cashing all those stolen checks; the con man was fortunate enough to have been given only probation and ordered to pay restitution.
Shamed by his Jehovah’s witness community and Mary Jane’s family, Christian loaded up his wife and kids and they skipped town; originally they moved to Ohio, and finally Oregon. Mary Jane had not been permitted to contact her family – not even to tell them that she was okay. They were terribly concerned for their daughter, enough so that they’d filed a missing persons report just months before the murders.
Now everyone was dead and Christian was missing. He was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list, and tracked by his recurring scams; there was a constant stream of stolen vehicles, credit card numbers which he’d stock piled ahead of time from his Starbucks customers, and eventually there were sightings in Mexico. This is where he was found.
Christian didn’t initially admit that he’d been responsible for his family’s demise – he stated that he had merely put them all “to sleep”. That’s what Christian believed death was, the big sleep, and this was his way of rationalizing his crimes. At trial, in a last ditch effort to save his own hide, a shameless Christian slandered his murdered wife. He claimed that Mary Jane had killed Zachary and Sadie, and that the baby, Madison, was half dead by his wife’s hand when he discovered the situation.
At this point he claimed to have flown into a blind rage; he murdered Mary Jane without thinking, had simply grabbed her by the throat and squeezed. Then he finished off the baby, Madison, which had been a mercy killing since she was in so much pain anyway. Thankfully nobody believed this likely story, and in March of 2003, Christian was sentenced to death.
After the trial, Christian confessed the truth to his favorite journalist: he had killed his family because of financial ruin and yeah, he hadn’t much enjoyed being tied down. Mary Jane had given all of her time, love, and affection to the children, and Christian had hated being in that sort of relationship. So he decided to end their lives; within hours of planning it all out he and followed through – but y’all, it’s the way he did it!
Christian had decided that it would be easiest to kill Mary Jane first, and he did so when his wife was at her most vulnerable. Christian had lured her to bed, and during the most intimate of acts, Christian had strangled his wife to death. He hadn’t respected the woman he’d vowed to always cherish enough even to cover up her corpse – he’d simply fit her still nude body inside a suitcase. Can you imagine? Then Christian strangled baby Madison, he’d stuffed her inside another suitcase, and dumped her near her mother. The investigators who found these two victims will always be haunted by the sight of Mary Jane’s long hair flowing in the water outside of the suitcases.
After this, Christian loaded Sadie and Zachary up in his vehicle, drove them to a bridge, tied stones to the children’s legs, stuffed them into pillowcases and dropped them off the bridge – y’all, these babies had been thrown in alive! Just imagine their terror!
After this, Christian ran to Mexico where he’d lived his life under an assumed identity – he’d claimed to have been a disgraced journalist named Mike Finkel, a very real New York Times journalist who had been fired for writing a story about an invented person in the African slave trade. While living it up as Mike in Cancun, he had a passionate love affair with a young German photographer. Then, as a final, hateful act and attempt to save his own hide, he blamed the children’s murders on his wife who would never have harmed a hair on one of those children’s heads! Its absolutely shameful!
The real Mike Finkel was so perplexed as to why Anyone would want to steal his identity, he was so shamed that he couldn’t even find work. Mike got in touch with Christian, and a strange sort of a friendship began. This is what he has to say about the family annihilator: “The scariest thing about him is that there is nothing scary about him. He’s a witty, very intelligent guy, and I’m still completely flummoxed by what drove him. I don’t believe in the death penalty, but I believe he belongs exactly where he is. He’s despicable to the core.” Then Finkel adds: “He was the only friend or person in my life to whom I ever felt morally superior.“.
Christian is still in prison where he will remain until death – hopefully by the state’s hand. There’s been multiple documentaries, books, and even a movie made about this case.
*This is one of the cases which I kept thinking about when Chris Watts claimed that Shan’ann had been responsible for killing the girls. It really is a likely story, one which has been used by countless murderous husbands. These two cases do mirror one another in some ways – considering the attention which this particular case garnered, I wonder if Chris knew of it?
Oh! One more thing. If I were going to start a true crime podcast/YouTube many of you keep asking for, which case would you like to hear about first? I would like to start off with something comfortable – with a subject I already know of very well. Y’all know I have terrible anxiety and I just don’t know where to start! I keep saying I’m going to do it, but keep putting it off. Need to actually take the plunge 💚