January 17, 2010

This Man Killed His Family And He Doesn't Know Why

I guess I didn't want any witnesses

Christian Longo was a "successful businessman" who fell on bad times/spent too much money.  Too ashamed to admit to his wife he was failing, he tried credit and then theft/forgery/counterfeiting to maintain the image.  When he knew the cops were on to him, he did the obvious thing: he strangled his wife while she was on top of him during sex; then strangled his 2 year old daughter who was sleeping on the floor beside their bed; stuffed their bodies in suitcases; then put his other two sleeping kids into their car seats and drove them to a bridge, tied rocks to their feet, and threw them in the river.  Then he went to Cancun.

He had the kind of time in Cancun you'd expect: drinking beer, smoking pot, and pretending to be a New York Times reporter (he had always wanted to be one), and having sex with a girl who wanted to be a photojournalist who thought he needed one for his story.  Within a month he was caught.

Coincidentally, (or not, depending on your belief in synchronicity;) (or not, depending on whether you believe anything Christian Longo says;) the reporter he was impersonating was simultaneously being outed as having faked an article in the NYT. 

Longo was convicted and sentenced to sitting on death row for the rest of his life.  But he never confessed.  Longo decided he would only tell his story-- the real story, of course-- to Michael Finkel, the reporter he had impersonated. 


It's not spoiling much to tell you that Longo is a classic narcissist, but it's worthwhile to go through the examples:

Longo was not a violent or mean person:

In fact, I could not unearth a single violent incident in Longo's life before the murders, apart from a minor scuffle his freshman year of high school. I looked everywhere; I spoke with everyone I could. I didn't even find an occasion when he lost his temper, when he so much as raised his voice. He hardly swore; he never fought with his brother. A woman who attended his church said she used to tell her friends, "I wish my husband could be more like Chris Longo."
But past performance is not indicative of future results because he's never been tested: he's never had a narcissistic injury, wherein you are discovered to be not what you said you were.  He thought of himself as-- he wanted people to believe that-- he was a successful, rich, businessman.  But the business ran out of money, the debts piled up; so he counterfeited and forged, not to cover expenses but to keep up appearances.

And you can't admit that you've been deceiving your wife for years, that in reality she's married a loser and a liar and a thief... You're trapped.
Trapped?  If he cared about money he would have stolen more of it; maybe even killed a couple of people to get their money.  No.  If he cared about his freedom he could have abandoned his family and fled the country.  No.  If he felt guilty about what he had done he could have found Jesus or simply killed himself.   No.   The thing he cared about more than anything else was his identity, and the ones who reflected that identity back to him were his family.  They had to go.

Probably, you don't understand how killing people you love so much protects your identity: aren't you now going to be exposed as a murderer?  But if you kill your family, then no matter what else happens to you it doesn't matter, because they will never know.  You did them a favor: they don't have to live with the pain of knowing you are a fraud.


Even a narcissist is going to feel some remorse when he kills his family, right?  It's not like he didn't love them:

When thinking back about times in life where my heart was squeezed in my throat, nothing hurt more than when Sadie fell off the swing that I was pushing her on. To see tears fall from your child's face that you are the direct cause of was more painful than anything that I could remember. It's still painful. How could I be so horrible & still have that sort of pain?
Nope.  Those are reflex emotions, the kind you feel watching a romantic comedy or a porn or Beaches.

Also, he noted, as further refutation of his psychopathy, "I got choked up during E.T. & Titanic."
That's right, he said choked.

But his reaction to the photo [of his smiling kids] disturbed him. "I'm not really feeling what everyone else feel's," he wrote, tossing in, as he often does, an extra apostrophe. "What should be most difficult to stomach is what I've done [the murders], yet somehow that part is still palatable."
Narcissists don't feel guilt.  Only shame.
Longo's facade in prison is the same as it was in the outside world: a successful businessman. On death row, people think he's a stock-market whiz. And on the surface he seems to be. He subscribes to The Wall Street Journal and Barron's and often keeps his TV tuned all day to CNBC. He supposedly calls his broker with picks and earns big profits. It's actually an elaborate ruse. "All of that pretend stock market playing is believed to be real," Longo writes. "I've never told anyone that it's not. And I use the phone for sufficient amount's of time to all for that thought to seem legit." 

Maintaining the stock-market lie, Longo writes, is getting "exhausting." But he can't be honest, he explains, because of "extreme embarrassment."