Christian Longo: The Monster Who Murdered His Wife & 3 Kids -- Then Partied in Cancun

December 19, 2017
By: Mike McPadden
Michael Longo [FBI Most Wanted Poster]

Michael Longo [FBI Most Wanted Poster]

Michael Longo [FBI Most Wanted Poster]

NEWPORT, OR — On December 19, 2001, answers regarding what happened to the recently vanished Longo family began to surface — literally.

First, the body of Zachery Longo, age four, bobbled into sight on the Alsea River. A pillowcase filled with rocks had been tied to his leg.

Shortly thereafter, police divers located the remains of Zach’s three-year-old sister Sadie. Beneath the icy water’s surface, a stone-stuffed pillowcase dangled from Sadie’s leg as well.

Then, on December 26, divers spotted a pair of suitcases containing Mary Jane Longo, 34, and the couple’s youngest child, Madison, age two. Their bodies had been packed with dumbbells.

Notably not among the corpses: Christian Longo, whose financial recklessness and law-breaking launched the family on the downward spiral toward this abomination in the first place.

So as Oregon authorities pieced together the mystery, where was Christian? The answer proved nearly as shocking as the murders. Nearly.

Christian Longo, in fact, had killed them all. The Michigan native raised in the confines of a strict Jehovah’s Witness background initially strangled Mary Jane and baby Madison in the family’s home, and then jammed their bodies into the luggage, which he loaded into the trunk of his car.

From there, Longo carted the sleeping Zachery and Sadie into the vehicle and drove to a nearby bridge over Lint Slough, an inlet of the Alsea River. Coldly, then, Longo tied the weighted pillowcases to his two children’s legs and tossed them, still alive, into the water below. The suitcases followed. For Christian Longo, then, it was party time.

Using a pilfered credit card, Longo hopped a flight to Cancún, booked himself into a seaside resort, and somewhat randomly assumed the identity of New York Times reporter Michael Finkel. For the next two weeks, Longo hit the beach, got drunk, made the nightclub rounds, and romanced a German tourist, all while pretending to be Finkel.

The scam was an extension of Longo’s financial crimes that predated the murders, wherein he took out loans, ran up debt, and built a web of bad checks, bogus businesses, and fake IDs to keep creditors at bay.

At the same time, in one of the weirdest twists in this whole sick story, the Times had caught on that Michael Finkel had fabricated the main subject of a major exposé he had written on modern slave-trading. So while Longo was posing as Finkel, the real reporter was getting fired and shamed out of journalism.

On the fugitive front, the FBI placed Longo on its Ten Most Wanted list and tracked him down to Cancún in January 2002. Local police immediately handed him over.

Over the next year, Longo claimed that Mary Jane had killed the two oldest children and that he, in shock, responded by strangling her. Longo claimed he then also strangled baby Madison because he felt hopeless for the toddler.

After a month-long trial in 2003, the jury convicted Longo on every charge and sentenced him to die. An Oregon moratorium on executions, however, has in part kept Longo alive.

Eventually, Longo confessed that he actually did murder his entire family — to disgraced reporter Michael Finkel.

Finkel didn’t even find out about his unwitting involvement in the Longo atrocity until after Christian had been convicted. Finkel says he became “obsessed” with the case and flew to Oregon to meet Longo face-to-face.

In 2005, Finkel published a best-seller about Longo titled True Story: Murder, Memoir, and Mea Culpa. Ten years later, a movie adaptation of True Story came out to middling reception. Jonah Hill stars as Finkel; James Franco plays Longo.

Since then, Longo has mounted a campaign to enable Death Row prisoners to donate their organs after being executed. It’s an idea that’s long been debated, but, in regard to Longo’s involvement, some observers perceive it as one last attempt at a ruse from a homicidally nightmarish con man.

To learn more about this case, watch the “Green-Eyed Monsters” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Sins on ID GO now!

Watch Now:

Next Up

5 Things You Need To Know About Susan Powell

In 2009, mother-of-two Susan Powell disappeared without a trace in West Valley City, Utah. Then in 2012, her husband Josh killed himself and their two sons after custody of the children was granted to Susan's parents.

Inside The Tragic Hart Family Murder-Suicide Crash

Jennifer and Sarah Hart killed themselves and murdered their six adopted children in 2018 by driving their SUV off a cliff in California.

True Crime News Roundup: Former NFL Player Indicted For Murdering Girlfriend, Prosecutors Say

Plus: Maryland woman allegedly shoots her husband after he’s accused of sexually abusing children; hit-and-run driver kills man who had plans to propose; police determine what happened to slain Rhode Island couple; three school employees indicted in connection with autistic student’s death.

Man Who Strangled Wife In Hot Tub Killed His First Spouse In Bath Four Years Earlier

“I think he’s like a cancer,” says the son of convicted murderer Timothy Boczkowski. “And I do think if he got out, he would kill again.”

Omaima Nelson: The Model Who Killed, Castrated & Ate Her Husband For Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving Day 1991, Nelson unleashed her fury, she claimed, over the sexual terror and other abuses to which her husband Bill had subjected her.

The Twists And Turns Of The Infamous Susan Smith Case

On October 25, 1994, the 23-year-old South Carolina mother drowned her two young children.

Video: Young Mom Denise Amber Lee Kidnapped In Broad Daylight

Kidnapped in broad daylight at home with her children present, she bravely made a 911 call, however a tragic mistake would seal her fate.

Believe It Or Not, Scott Peterson, Convicted Wife-Killer, Has Groupies

Since Peterson first got arrested in 2003, admirers have continually loaded his prison bank account with donations.

Utah Man Who Killed His Family Was Previously Investigated For Child Abuse

On Jan. 4, 2023, Michael Haight, a 42-year-old Utah man, killed seven members of his family before turning the gun on himself.

The 1993 Unsolved Murder Of Holly Piirainen

On Aug. 5, 1993, Holly Piirainen, 10, and her brother went to a neighbor's house to play with puppies. Her brother returned home but she never did.