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Oregon Death Row Prisoner Awards Victims $58.5 Million

In September, 2007, an Oregon death row prisoner settled a wrongful death action brought by his victim’s family. The deal awards the family approximately $58.5 million, barring the prisoner from profiting from the story of his crimes.

Just before Christmas, 2001, the naked bound body of Mary Jane Longo, 34, and the bodies of her three young children, Zachary, 4, Sadie, 3, and Madison, 2, were found, stuffed in suitcases, weighed down with rocks, and thrown into Alsea Bay and Yaquina Bay, on the Oregon coast. They had been strangled to death, or otherwise asphyxiated.

Attention immediately focused upon husband and father, Christian Longo. Within days of discovery of the bodies, Longo fled to San Francisco in a stolen Dodge Durango. On December 26, 2001, he boarded a plane for Mexico. Partying on the beaches near Cancun, Mexico, Longo assumed the identity of a New York Times reporter. He met a female tourist from Germany and they toured the local ruins and other sights, shared a cabana on the beach and were sexually intimate.

Less than one month after the murders, an FBI agent and a dozen Mexican police stormed the cabana on January 13, 2002, taking Longo into custody. He said, of murdering his family, “I sent them to a better place.”

Mexico does not allow extradition in death penalty cases, but the FBI tricked Longo into returning to the states voluntarily. He was then extradited to Oregon. In 2003, Longo pleaded guilty to killing Mary Jane and Madison but not guilty to murdering Zachary and Sadie. A jury convicted him of those murders as well, and sentenced him to death for all four murders. The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and death sentence in November 2006. See: State v. Longo, 341, Or. 580, 148 P3d 892 (2006).

Longo’s case has gained interest among true crime writers and others. Fearing Longo may profit from the story, Mary Jane’s family brought a wrongful death action against him, in state court.

Weeks before trial, in September 2007, Longo agreed to settle the case, according to Rick Diaz, attorney for Mary Jane’s sister, Penny Dupuie. The agreement awards the family about $13.5 million for pain and suffering caused by Mary Jane’s murder, and approximately $15 million for each of the children, totaling $58.5.million, says Diaz.

The family doesn’t expect to see the money. The settlement was meant only to prevent Longo from profiting, or allowing anyone else to profit from the story of the family’s murders explained Dupuie. It was never about the money.

Some wonder about Longo’s motivation for settling. “This case was going to go to trial on the issue of damages, which essentially meant his defense had to be that the pain and suffering were not as great as we were claiming,” explained Diaz. “I think he may have found that prospect as unpleasant as anyone else would have. It would have been a pretty gut-wrenching thing for everyone to go through.

Source: The Oregonian

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Related legal case

State v. Longo