One can only wonder whether "Dr. Charles Patrick Ewing, a professor of law and psychology in Buffalo, N.Y." is more than vaguely familiar with JW culture and "shunning"?
Experts: Longo has traits of killer
Suspect fits the profile for familicide, say criminology experts.
A combination of stress, depression and a romanticized vision of family contributes to the majority of cases in which a parent kills his or her spouse and children, national criminology experts said Friday.
Those characteristics, usually found in white males in their 30s and 40s, match the profile of Christian Michael Longo almost perfectly, said Dr. Charles Patrick Ewing, a professor of law and psychology in Buffalo, N.Y.
Even before police issued an arrest warrant for Longo late Friday afternoon, evidence found along the Oregon Coast pointed to a family member, said Ewing, who teaches at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
"It's virtually always another family member," Ewing said. "It's extremely rare to see an entire family killed by an outsider. There's not the motive or the opportunity."
Longo, 27, faces four charges of aggravated murder for the deaths of his wife, Mary Jane, and three young children. Their bodies were pulled from Yaquina Bay and a nearby Waldport slough over the past week.
Ewing said men who commit familicide — the killing of an entire family — usually are extremely controlling and picture themselves as so central to the family's existence that other members couldn't live without them. When the control is challenged, or the ability to support the family is lost, they resort to extreme measures.
"Their initial impulse is suicidal," said Ewing, a forensic psychologist. "They're men who have experienced the loss of job and financial ability. They reach the conclusion that their family would be better off dead than without them."
When Christian Longo moved to Oregon in early September, he left a trail of debt and petty crime in Michigan. The Ann Arbor News reported Friday that he owed more than $60,000, half of which was restitution for several forgery convictions. He also was accused of stealing two crab rings worth $50 in Lincoln County, and of lying about where he worked.
The handful of U.S. familicide cases each year are usually committed by men, who in turn kill themselves. Ewing said women can commit familicide, too, although it's far less common and they usually turn themselves in to police soon after.
One of the nation's most famous cases of familicide has local ties. Jeffrey MacDonald — an Army surgeon convicted of killing his wife and two daughters — is serving three life sentences at the federal prison in Sheridan.
MacDonald has maintained his innocence since the morning of Feb. 17, 1970, when military police at Fort Bragg, N.C., discovered the bloody bodies of his pregnant wife, Colette, 26, and the couple's children, Kimberly, 5, and Kristen, 2, hacked and bludgeoned in their bedrooms. MacDonald himself was found unconscious, with multiple stab wounds.
The murders and the resulting trail were the subject of author Joe McGinniss' best-selling book, "Fatal Vision," and a made-for-TV movie of the same name.
While police continue to search for Christian Longo along the Oregon Coast and the San Francisco area — where he was last spotted around Dec. 26 — others cautioned that the case is far from closed.
Bill Gaut, a retired homicide detective in Naples, Fla., said good detectives solve cases by refusing to jump to conclusions, even when statistics point in a particular direction. Gaut, who worked in law enforcement for 25 years in Birmingham, Ala., said about 80 percent of all homicides are committed by family members or friends.
"The main thing is, you don't draw immediate conclusions," Gaut said.
"If you do, you have a tendency to develop evidence that supports that theory. That leads lots of rookie investigators to dead ends."
That could explain why police waited several days before issuing the arrest warrant for Longo.
Most law enforcement agencies throw all their available resources at a homicide case in the first three days, Gaut said. Lincoln County law enforcement task forces said they'd devoted about one-third of their 70-member agency to the case as of Friday.
If the case isn't solved after 72 hours, Gaut said the "solvability rate" goes down drastically. He said the discovery of the bodies of Longo's wife and 2-year-old daughter Thursday likely added fresh evidence to the case.
Alex Davis can be reached at (503) 589-6941.