death row

Photo of the Day

Christian Longo (left) led into a courtroom in 2002 before he was convicted of murdering his wife and three children and then escaping to Mexico to party. (PAT SULLIVAN/AP)

This Psychopath Doesn’t Justify a Hollywood Finale

Warning: Some Parts in this Story, People May find Disturbing.

In February 2002, New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel received a startling piece of news: a young man named Christian Longo wanted for killing his entire family, had been captured in Mexico, where he’d taken on a new identity: Michael Finkel of the New York Times.

The next day, on page A-3 of the Times, came another troubling item: a note from the editors explaining that Finkel, having falsified parts of an investigative article, had been fired. Nonetheless, the only journalist Longo would speak with was the real Michael Finkel, and so Finkel placed a call to Oregon’s Lincoln County jail, intent on getting the true story. So began a bizarre and intense relationship—a reporting job that morphed into a shrewd game of cat-and-mouse.

He’s infamous at this point, and sadly, it’s not for good reason: Christian Longo is the man responsible for the brutal murder of his wife and children in Oregon more than a decade ago. He’s also the man that stole the identity of a disgraced New York Times journalist, Michael Finkel, while on the run from authorities. The story of this disturbed man and the writer he wooed his tale of tragedy has been fictionalised for the big screen in the movie True Story.

If you’re not familiar with the story: After standing trial in Oregon for the murder of his wife, MaryJane (maiden name Baker), and children, Zachery, Sadie and Madison, Longo was sentenced to death by lethal injection on April 16, 2003. Now 43 years old, he is currently carrying out the judgement on death row at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. No date has currently been set of his execution.

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Photo of the Day

Sing Sing. Warden T. M. Osborne. Library of Congress

“Old Sparky

Warning Disturbing Photos and in a link.

A 19th-century prison was a barbaric place, and Sing Sing was no exception. Prisoners were expected to keep absolute silence. Beatings — and worse — were commonplace. “Bread and water” and “ball and chain” weren’t euphemisms, they were a way of life.

“The bath” was a method of torture used for decades to terrify the population and maintain order. “An inmate was tied to a chair… Water was dropped in a steady stream from a great height and landed on the top of a prisoner’s head. Prison records show that 170 men received this punishment in 1852. That same year, 120 men were placed in solitary confinement and five were “bucked”… causing the man to hang upside down like a roasted pig.”

There really was torture, until prison reform took hold in the country, led in large part by Lewis Lawes, Sing Sing’s warden during the ’20s and ’30s. Lawes believed that prison was punishment enough, and that he would send prisoners back into the world as better people than when they came in. Lawes educated prisoners, taught them trades, and entertained them with visits from the likes of Babe Ruth, Harry Houdini, Edward G. Robinson, and other stars of the day. He helped change the way prisons were run.

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