Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A House Full Of Life

Eight years ago today a fellow by the name of Christian Michael Longo paused on a bridge over Lint Slough outside of Waldport, Ore., and tossed two sleeping bags over the bridge. Inside were two of his young children. They were alive when he threw them into the frigid water. Longo had stuffed a boulder into each of two pillowcases and tied them to their ankles before dumping his sleeping children into the slough. Earlier that night he had killed his wife before stuffing her body into a suitcase. He also tried to strangle his youngest daughter, just two years old. He stuffed her into a suitcase and before he dropped those two pieces of luggage into Yaquina Bay outside his condo in Newport, Ore., he could hear his daughter whimpering.

At the time I was a correspondent for The Oregonian working from my home in Corvallis. Lincoln County, where the murders occurred, was territory I covered. That story of Longo, the murders of his family, his escape to Mexico, eventual apprehension and convictions that earned him a cell on Death Row essentially became my working life over the course of about two years. I think about the details of the horrific events often. The autopsy photos of the children that were showed at trial still haunt me. Another that comes to mind is the image of pallid 4-year-old Zachery Longo found floating face down in Lint Slough, clad only in his underwear. It was the grisly discovery of Zachery Longo that launched an investigation into his father's whereabouts that spanned the country and culminated in his arrest at a beach hut in Tulum, Mexico, where he had assumed a new identity. When an intrepid FBI agent and the Mexican police tracked Longo down, he had been smoking dope and drinking beer with newfound buddies and a new girlfriend.

By a strange set of circumstances I corresponded today with a former colleague at The Oregonian, Bryan Denson, who I worked with extensively on the Longo saga. We won an award for one of our stories about Longo, a story which I'm sure is out there in cyberspace somewhere if for some reason you're interested in reading it. At the tail end of the last of three e-mails Bryan sent me, he mentioned sort of in passing that today a detective from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office had dropped a wreath in Lint Slough in memory of the three Longo children and their mother. That wreath is a poignant image. In this line of work there are certain stories that stay with me. I guess you could call them the scars of my profession. It's almost always the stories that involve human tragedy, in this case one that is so senseless. The capacity for human cruelty is horrifyingly extraordinary and sometimes I think I've seen too much of it.

At the same time, my life is a picture of God's blessedness. Sure there's plenty of hardships. I'm tired, overwhelmed with work, trying to muddle through four days without a hot water heater ... but then I come home about 6:30 from a long day in court listening to more human tragedy. And I hear Ezra making his light saber sounds as he battles imaginary foes. And Olivia is climbing the stairs and "counting" as she goes. This house is full of life. A good life. And more life in Julie's womb. Julie was telling me tonight how she went shopping with the older girls today and waves of nausea were sweeping over her and she was so exhausted. She told the girls to keep shopping while she found a place to sit and rest for five minutes. Later she had a conversation with the girls about the new baby and what it might be. Evie wants a boy. Madeline wants a girl. Madeline thought about it a while. Maybe there will be a boy and a girl. Oh my.


  1. Wow Matt, that is so crazy because I was just talking about this story today. A tragedy indeed.

    And #13? I knew we'd have an announcement in the Christmas newsletter You never let us down bro!

  2. Congrats! We know you'll lap us yet. Number 13 comes with extra blessings. We know. We've been here!Give our love to Julie and the whole crew. We are praying for you!!!

  3. just got here the first time...really, you're not kidding? you have 12? wow...hugs to the love kids too! hurray!

  4. will always visit this blog, a real dean koontz and anne rule stories huh? take care! send my best to your nest! :)