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Search Widens for Suspect

Crime: Bay Area police intensify hunt after finding vehicle linked to Oregon man accused of killing his family.

January 10, 2002|JOHN M. GLIONNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Bay Area authorities continued their manhunt Wednesday for a suspected Oregon mass murderer whose stolen sport utility vehicle was found in a parking lot at the international airport here.

FBI agents and police are slowly piecing together clues to the whereabouts of 27-year-old Christian Longo, who has been the subject of a nationwide search since the bodies of his wife and three children were found floating in two Oregon coastal inlets last month.

Since then, authorities said, Longo has been on the move, using several aliases and commandeering a stolen vehicle in Oregon to stay one step ahead of police. He is wanted on a Lincoln County, Ore., warrant on suspicion of aggravated murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Investigators no longer believe that the former self-employed businessman and coffee-shop employee boarded a plane. Instead, they suspect that he lived out of the green Dodge Durango that was parked at the airport before it was impounded by San Francisco police Sunday.

Longo has been sighted several times--most recently Friday--and police said they may be closing in on him. Evidence recovered from the truck suggests that he is a diabetic, and authorities are monitoring local clinics and hospitals in case he seeks treatment here.

"Eventually, he's going to have to get his insulin someplace," said San Francisco Police Sgt. Larry Ratti. "And we hope to be waiting for him when he does."

Police uncovered a pillow, clothing, a personal computer, food, wine and restaurant receipts in the stolen Durango--evidence that Longo used the vehicle as a home base, Ratti said. Investigators this week received a search warrant to review the computer files.

They also found a list of low-cost San Francisco hostels, which police are monitoring.

"We think he's low on funds," said Andrew Black, an FBI spokesman in San Francisco. "So we're trying to keep watch on all the low-expense shelters."

Investigators said they think Longo left the truck in the airport parking lot out of convenience, not to throw police off his trail.

"If he parks on the street, pretty soon somebody is going to spot him coming and going or call to get the truck towed," Ratti said. "In the airport parking garage, who's going to notice him for a couple weeks? It was a good place to hide. The confusion factor we figure was just icing on the cake."

Longo is a suspect in the slayings of his wife, Mary Jane, 34, and three children, Zachary, 4; Sadie Ann, 3; and Madison, 2. No motive has been established.

Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokeswoman in Portland, Ore., said Longo was born in Iowa and lived in Michigan before moving west to the seaside town of Newport, Ore., in September.

Authorities are investigating how Longo--who has a history of debt and convictions for petty crime--supported his family on his coffee-house wages.

"That's a good question," Steele said. "He's wanted for a number of fraud-related crimes back in the Midwest, so that should give some clue. We think he's funding his present travels through fraud-related activity."

Oregon authorities asked that anyone with information on Longo's whereabouts call (541) 265-4949.

Bay Area police became involved after more than 100 sightings of people resembling Longo, who may be using two aliases--Jason Joseph Fortner and John Thomas Christopher--and three birth dates.

He was allegedly spotted at a San Francisco coffee shop and failed to show up for a Dec. 28 job interview at a Starbucks. A week later, he may have applied for a job at a Santa Cruz area Starbucks.

On Friday, he was reportedly spotted in Daly City, a San Francisco suburb near the airport.

"Over the weekend, we looked at airport parking, and, let me tell you, there are thousands of spaces and several lots there," Ratti said.

Investigators pored over flight logs and area hotel registers on the chance that Longo might have tried to take a flight out of San Francisco using an alias. They have reviewed hundreds of hours of videotape from airport security cameras in the hope of tracking his movements.

Longo, who is 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds, has blue eyes and reddish blond hair. He has several surgical scars on his back, police said.

"We think he's laying pretty low," Black said. "The problem with collaring this guy is that he's an individual who can blend in pretty well with the public--better than most criminals. He looks very ordinary."

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