Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trials of Christian Longo

The Boy, the Family, the Religion

It's hard to say when Christian Longo learned the art of standing politely, passively, while smooth-talking his way out of trouble. This calmness served him well from the time his financial troubles began by stealing a roll of quarters from his father's dresser in ninth grade to the day 20 Mexican police and FBI agents crashed into his Caribbean hideaway and arrested him for the murder of his wife and three children. Had he been the aggressive sortresisting arrest, showing his temper when faced with the evidence of his crimesthings might have turned out much differently for Christian and his family. As it was, he passively submitted to handcuffs as his horrified German girlfriend looked on. He was not who he'd said he was the New York Times journalist Michael Finkel. Instead, she was informed, he was Christian Longo, one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted, and he was headed for death row.

Longo's crimes began as a simple, perhaps even logical way out of his financial woes and escalated into one of the most heinous stories to capture the country's imagination. Longo's crimes, pursuit, capture and trial made headlines coast to coast, were highlighted on "America's Most Wanted" and are now the subject of Michael Finkel's book, True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa.

Book cover: True Story
Book cover: True Story:Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa.

Born in Burlington, Iowa, Christian and his younger brother moved several times around the Midwest with their mother and father, following employment opportunities. Eventually, that marriage crumbled, and Joy, the mother, remarried and settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when the boys were still small. The entire family embraced the Jehovah's Witness religion of Joe Longo, the boys' stepfather. The small Jehovah's Witness community in Ypsilanti seemed an oasis for the Longosit provided a code of ethics, a community in which to socialize and marrya manner of behavior that was a refreshing dose of sanity to the reconstituted family with a harsh past. It was within this insular religious community that Christian, at 17, met MaryJane Baker, seven years his senior. Deemed by his parents still too young to date girls at age eighteen, Christian got a job at a local camera store and moved out of the house to pursue the beautiful MaryJane.

Joe Longo, father
Joe Longo, father

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