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Published: Tuesday, 1/15/2002

FBI fugitive arrested in hut near Cancun

FROM THE BLADE'S STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

PORTLAND, Ore. - A man on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for allegedly killing his wife and three children and dumping their bodies into the Pacific Ocean was captured at a beach resort in Mexico, where he was living in a grass hut, the FBI said yesterday.

Authorities tracked down Christian Longo on a tip from a vacationer who met him in Mexico and then recognized his picture on the FBI's web site after she returned home to Canada, Charles Mathews, FBI agent in charge for Oregon, said.

Longo, 27, surrendered peacefully to about 20 FBI agents and Mexican police Sunday night in Tulum, about 60 miles from Cancun, the FBI said.

Longo, who has a history of petty crime and debt, had been on the run since the bodies of his wife and children were found in shallow areas of the Oregon coast in December. He was put on the Most Wanted list on Friday.

He is accused in the slayings of Mary Jane Longo, 35, and their children: Zachary, 4; Sadie Ann, 3, and Madison, 2. Their bodies were found in Alsea Bay near Waldport and at a marina at Yaquina Bay at Newport.

Investigators have not said how the victims died and have not given a motive for the slayings.

Longo lived for about three months in Toledo during the summer.

Toledo police Sgt. Paul Hickey said the arrest of the former resident of Toledo and the Ypsilanti, Mich., area is “a load off everybody's mind.”

“He's going to be brought to justice. It's a successful ending to a tragic, heinous crime. It's a relief that somebody like that isn't out there anymore,” he said.

Sergeant Hickey, who oversees the department's auto-theft squad, said he interviewed Longo on Aug. 30 at a warehouse in the 100 block of South Erie Street about a skid loader that was later reported as stolen.

Longo said his family had been living inside the warehouse since June. The sergeant said he saw Longo's wife inside a parked van with the couple's three children, but he did not approach the vehicle. When he returned later that day after receiving more information about the skid loader, everyone was gone, and they were not seen again by Toledo authorities.

Longo is charged with three counts of receiving stolen property in Toledo. Sylvania police accused him of counterfeiting checks totaling about $1,900, and Maumee police have charged him with passing a bad check for $2,311. Perrysburg police have charged him with theft.

Sergeant Hickey said whether Longo will answer the Toledo charges probably will be the call of the Lucas County prosecutor.

“The likelihood he'll face criminal charges would be moot in light of his status in the state of Oregon,” he said.

Longo agreed to return voluntarily to the United States and was flown by the FBI to Houston, where he was jailed while he awaits his return to Oregon on aggravated murder charges.

By volunteering to return, he avoided the sometimes sticky issue of extradition from Mexico and the death penalty. Mexico has no death penalty and does not extradite fugitives who might be given a death sentence.

Lincoln County District Attorney Bernice Barnett said that a decision on whether she will seek the death penalty has been made, but the announcement of the decision would not be appropriate until Longo appears in court with an attorney in Oregon.

At Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Longo arrived in jeans, a gray T-shirt, and a long plaid overshirt, resembling photos posted on the FBI's web site, except his strawberry blond hair had grown slightly longer. He was led handcuffed by FBI agents and Houston police officers out of the terminal and into a waiting vehicle.

“He's booked in the Houston county jail, and he will have an extradition hearing tomorrow,” said Dana Fernandez, clerk at the Harrison County Criminal Court. She said Longo is scheduled to appear today before Judge Sherman Ross.

“I'm relieved that he's caught,” said Mary Jane Longo's mother, Susan Lowery, of Trinity, Ala. “It doesn't help anything else, but I'm glad that he's in custody. It was a worry to me when he was loose. Family members didn't know if he was going to come after them, or me, or whatever.”

Her father, Jim Baker of Traverse City, Mich., said he was relieved to learn of Longo's capture.

“I was so busy taking care of things about my daughter that I'd pretty much blocked out thinking about him, but my kids wanted him caught. They wanted him to pay for what he did to our family,” Mr. Baker said. “I knew they'd get him eventually. I feel very good about it.”

Longo was arrested at a place described by Mr. Mathews as “a beach camp of very modest resources” in Tulum, a spot famed for its Mayan ruins.

Longo had driven a stolen vehicle to San Francisco and flown from there to Cancun on Dec. 27, using stolen identification, the FBI said.



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