Trial Starts for Man Held in His Family's Slayings

From Associated Press

An Oregon man accused of murdering his wife and three children went on trial Monday, with prosecutors saying he downloaded a book on how to kill months before the slayings.

Christian Longo, 29, has pleaded guilty to killing his wife and youngest daughter but not guilty in the deaths of his two other children. All four bodies were found dumped along the Oregon coast in December 2001.

In opening statements, prosecutor Steven Briggs said a computer containing a downloaded murder manual was left in a car Longo abandoned at the San Francisco airport before fleeing to Mexico.

Briggs said Longo attacked his wife, MaryJane, 34, by trying to strangle her, but she fought back. Court papers said she died of a blow to the head.

Longo's youngest daughter, Madison, 2, was strangled, Briggs said. The two older children also showed signs of asphyxiation, but autopsies could not determine whether they had been drowned or smothered, he said.

Defense lawyers have not explained Longo's pleas. In police interrogations, Longo said he was driven to murder by financial problems and shame over being expelled from the Jehovah's Witnesses for passing bad checks. According to investigators, Longo said of his family members: "I sent them to a better place."

Briggs appeared to cast doubt that Longo saw the slayings as an act of compassion. He noted that Longo ate cheese and drank wine before carrying out the slayings.

However, the prosecutor did not offer a motive of his own.

Longo is charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of 4-year-old Zachery and 3-year-old Sadie. He could get the death penalty.

Zachery's body was found floating in an ocean inlet. Sadie was found in the same area three days later inside a sleeping bag. MaryJane and Madison's bodies were found about a week later, stuffed in suitcases under a pier.

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