True Story (2015) Script

"A big stick. Sometimes a metal chain."

Where?

"On the back."

Is it bad? Does he bleed?

"Sometimes."

And it's his master who's doing this?

It's okay. Tell him I'm from The New York Times.

I want to help you. But I can't help you unless you help me.

I think he wants, you know...

I know what he wants.

You see this?

He can have this. But only when we're done, okay?

Again.

Is it his master from the cocoa plantation that's doing the beatings?

"Yes."

All right. And his parents are dead?

"No." He says they live in the country.

Okay, so it's... It's his parents who are dead.

Yes, I think so.

Wait, wait, wait.

Will you ask him to take his shirt off, so I can see his back?

Tell him we need to take a picture for the paper.

It's okay.

This is me.

Mike Finkel from The New York Times.


Excuse me.

Do you speak English? A little.

I can't figure this out. This takes coins, right?

I think so, yeah.

Ta-da. You did it.

Why do they light candles?

So people get to heaven?

I'm not Catholic.

Are you German? Yeah.

What brings you to Mexico?

Some winter sun.

Oh, yeah.

You?

I'm a journalist.

Journalist? Cool.

Yeah. Whatever. It's just a job.

What is your name then, Mr. Journalist?

Me?

Mike Finkel, with The New York Times.

Lena. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you.


Ten minutes, Mike. We gotta put this thing to bed.

I'm on it. Raise $250.

You serious? You heard me. $250.

Motherfucker.

So how long are you back for, Mike?

Just tonight. I just came back to make sure they didn't sub the shit out of me again.

Where do they put me? The fucking Hilton.

Nice. Yeah. It's a circus out there.

Call. Yeah.

You know, when I arrived, at the same hotel as me, a guy from Reuters, two from Le Monde, and that Kwiatowski from CNN.

Turn. Ace of spades. Hello.

$500. Bullshit.

Mike? I'm on it.

It'll need proofing. No, it won't.

The whole thing stinks.

You know, people are starving on the coast and 200 miles inland, it's all Bon Jovi and French fries.

But what do they care? As far as they're concerned, they're getting a cigar box from Gaddafi at Christmas.

You know what I want for Christmas? 6,000 words.

Are we playing poker, or what?

King of spades.

Here, pussy, pussy, pussy, pussy, pussy.

$750. He's got the fucking Jack.

I'm out. We all ready to drink this town?

Come on, Mike, show us. You got those Jacks, or what?

He doesn't have to. You folded.

Come on, asshole, show us.

Me?

I don't have shit. A pair of deuces. Oh, my...

Really?

Can someone help me scoop up all this money I just won?

You're paying for drinks tonight.

Mom.

This is 42nd Street, with transfers to the ACE and E train.

Stay clear of the closing doors.

So did you read it?

Read it? What do you think? I'm framing it now.

Seriously. You don't have to do that.

What? I'm, like, your biggest fan.

Mike, that's nine covers in three years.

Ten, but who's counting? Nine, ten, whatever.

You going to give yourself a day off now?

No, I'm actually going into the office. Marcus and Karen want to see me.

Really? What about?

No idea, but I have a hunch it rhymes with Smulitzer.

I wish I was there to celebrate with you. If you lived here, you would be.

You know I can't. Come home soon.

I will. I love you. I love you, too.

What's up, man? My dude.

Hey.

Hey. Hey.

Listen, I don't want to bother you with this, but Marcus got a call from Save the Children about that article of yours.

The cocoa plantation piece.

They say that's not Youssouf Male on the cover.

This is.

I can't remember. I interviewed both of them.

They wrong?

They must be.

Hey, these things happen all the time. Let's go tell him.

Sure. You better bring your old notebooks.

They've also taken issue with some of the content.

It's all checkable. None of it should be a problem.

Fifteen minutes?

Sure.

Is this him or not?

Everything I wrote about Male happened to at least one of the boys.

Is this or is this not Youssouf Male?

This boy with scars like a mountain range.

Yes, it is.

You sure? Yes, I'm sure.

Okay, great. So just show us where his details are in here.

I can't do that. Why not?

Because I didn't take notes that day.

It might not be him?

This article was about saving young people's lives.

I wanted to write about all the kids I interviewed.

I came back with a plan for that.

A more aggressive story about the corruption within these aid agencies.

But we felt it was too broad.

Don't imply this has anything to do with anyone other than you, Mike.

You said write about one boy.

Suggest the issues through one boy's story. A personal portrait.

And you were right. You were absolutely right.

I assumed you had the research.

I did, just not all in one place. Then that's not research.

Mike, you must understand how damaging this could be for the charities who work with these children.

Not to mention the paper. You said write it up.

I... I thought it could work on a higher level.

I said write it up, not make it up. The higher level is the truth.

You didn't have the research, that's the only fact that matters here.

Do you think this stuff writes itself?

You hire people like me to get on the ground and hunt.

That's how this paper has competitive advantage.

I did the best with what I had. You lied.

I just can't understand why.

It's not like you had anything to prove to any of us, you're an exceptional journalist. It just bewilders me.

We'll have to be open with our readers about this, Mike, which is no small embarrassment. Explain what you've done.

Do you know what that means for those poor kids?

For the support your article gave them, for their futures? For your future?

What the fuck were you thinking? Okay, that's enough, Karen.

All right. I...

I can write a retraction, if that's what you want.

That's what I can do. I can go... I'll go right now.

I'll go and I'll just write you a retraction, if that's what you want, okay?

Just... can you not print the apology?

If you print the apology, no one will touch me.

Can you just... Can you do that? Can you just not print the apology?

Just that, please?

You have a great future ahead of you, Mike.

But not here.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.

We're about to begin our descent into Bozeman, Montana.

For those of you returning, we would like to welcome you home.

For those passengers visiting Montana for the first time...

I can be working again by summer.

If I can find something good.

I can ask the university for a raise, or... take on some high school teaching. No, I'll make some calls.

It'll be nice to have you back for a while.


Tonya, it's Mike.

Finkel. Yeah.

I know, it's been a long time.

Anyway, listen, I have this great idea. It's a snowboarding piece.

I'm going to shoot with my war photographer, Chris, so it's going to look like...

But this is... This is winter sports.

This doesn't have anything to do with what happened.

Hi, Ed, it's Mike Finkel.

Since the A.P. awards dinner, yes.

So, listen, Ed, I have this thing I've been working up on black ops in the Marine Corps from my war days.

And it feels like a GQ piece.

Right, but none of my other work has any suspicion.

How long have we known each other? Don't make me beg here.

Right, but it's 11:30.

I know he can't be at lunch because Playboy doesn't even open until 11:00.

I understand.

Okay.

Hey.

Hang on, hang on. Here.

Hey, it's okay.

It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.

I'm sorry. It's okay.

Hello? Hi, my name is Pat Frato.

I'm a reporter with The Oregonian.

Oh, I'm sure you're buried in all this by now, but I wanted to get your side on the Christian Longo story.

Who? Christian Longo? The child killer?

He murdered his entire family out here in Newport. You must know about him.

They finally took him down in Cancun last week. You hadn't heard?

No. Why are you telling me this?

Because when they apprehended him, he said he was Mike Finkel, of The New York Times.

Hello?

Hello? Mr. Finkel?

Hello? Hold on one second.


When they picked him up in Mexico, he denied all knowledge of it, but the cops clearly felt they had enough to bring him in.

He was just a regular guy, an intelligent, sane man from a good family.

Comes home one night and kills his wife and kids. It makes no sense.

At any rate, this turned out to be the end of the line for them.

He... He drowned them.

Although there is evidence to suggest that his wife and baby were strangled first.

Where are they holding him now? Lincoln County Jail.

He'll stay there until it comes to trial, I suspect.

I'm going to have to start getting back. I'm afraid it's quite a drive.

But you can keep all of this.

Thank you so much, Pat. I really appreciate...

No, I wanted to meet you as much as you me. I love your writing.

Hey, listen. Did he say anything at all about why he claimed to be me?

I'd hoped you might be able to tell me that.

Just one for your diaries, I guess.

Thanks a lot. Yeah.

Dear Mr. Longo:

This is Michael Finkel. I am told you've been using my name.

I can't say I understand why, as I don't recall us ever meeting.

But, actually, I don't mind.

In fact, in a way, it makes me feel kind of honored.

I know you are facing an upcoming trial and have been instructed to avoid people like me, but I was wondering whether you would agree to meet.

You see, I've been through a kind of trial myself.

And at the very same time that you were using my name, they stripped me of it.

Since then, I've been doing a lot of soul searching.

I've been trying to find out who I really am.

I thought maybe you could tell me what it's like to be me.

You get 15 minutes. Guard will be in attendance the whole time.

No physical contact during any part of the meeting, understood?

He'll... He'll be in the room with me?

Lincoln County doesn't get many cases like this, so he gets the only room we've got.

I just thought because he's accused of multiple homicide...

Visiting privileges are determined by your behavior in here, not your crimes out there.

And how's his behavior been? Longo? Exemplary.


Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Longo.

Call me Chris.

Nice to meet you, Chris. Yeah, nice to meet you, too.

What are you writing?

Sorry. It's... It's a habit.

First impressions?

Yes, first impressions.

What did you put down?

Brown eyes.

That's not very remarkable.

I'm sure 70% of the world has brown eyes.

I guess so. I don't.

You know, there's a... mathematical technique that will determine how ordinary a person you are.

Not just your looks, but your whole life.

Really? From my calculations, I'd say...

I'm pretty ordinary.

I've been decent and regular for...

92.88% of the time.

But you couldn't tell that from reading the papers.

They write about me and...

I'm just another... Pariah.

Yeah. Exactly.

So why... why me?

Picked up The Times and you thought the name sounded funny?

No, I... I've followed your whole career.

What?

I've always found your writing appealing.

The adventure.

The way you stand up for people that don't have voices.

I've probably read everything you've done.

I guess I felt like I knew you.

So I read the paper.

Did you do it?

I should be asking you the same thing.

I'm gonna take that as a yes.

Why?

I don't know.

You know... I needed the story to be ahead of the game.

But deep down, you know, I don't know.

And now you're here.

Well...

All the networks have been chasing me, and...

I've had a bunch of requests from different newspapers.

The Times? Not yet.

I know I'm very valuable to people like you.

And not everything's been said yet.

But most journalists they're only interested in writing what their readers want to hear.

They don't want to take the time to find out the truth about what really happened.

But maybe at this point, it doesn't matter.

Of course it matters. The truth always matters.

It always seems to matter to you.

You know, when I was being you, it was the happiest I'd been in a long time.

Do you think you could ever imagine being me?

Longo! Time to go.

Okay. Mike.

I want to tell you my side of this. Only you.

But I know that eventually you're gonna want to write about it, so I'm gonna need two things from you in return.

What?

I need your word that you will not tell anyone what I tell you until after the trial.

And in return, I will grant you exclusive access.

Okay? I promise.

But if I write about you, you may not like what you read.

I understand.

What's the second thing?

I want you to teach me to write.

This him? Yeah.

You might not even hear from him again.

I will.

I think he trusts me. Can you trust him?

Don't do that. What?

You think after what happened, I didn't cross-check the police reports?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime story.

Don't you see this as a second chance?


Dear Mike:

Write what you know?

Well, here is a list of all the ways I've gone wrong through life, so I may better understand how I reached this path I now find myself on.

My father was a strict man. I once stole a roll of quarters from...

We married pretty young and I definitely struggled for work at first.

And eventually, because they liked what I was doing, they put me on the executive fast track. I also made a few stupid decisions about what we spent our money on. We traveled a lot...

The children came like a flock of starlings.

No one tells you how hard it's gonna be when you have kids.

Providing for them was all I sought to do. You just get through it. No matter what.

These were the boom years in America.

No matter where we traveled, I could never find enough to give them all what they truly deserved.

We had to forfeit all our property.

We went from Ohio all the way to Oregon. Motels, takeout.

Being brought up a Jehovah's Witness was a blessing in my life, because it was there I met my wife.

For two months, we had to sleep in the warehouse.

We went on the run. Shame is a terrible emotion for a man.

To lose your dignity in front of your wife and children...

I took any work I could find. I spent four months in Starbucks, making coffee for kids and guys who used to work for me.

The car we had broke down, so I just drove off the lot.

All my friends were going to college.

We were teaching our kids how to walk.

I wish I could have gone to college. It felt so good just to make M.J. happy.

When I think back to my life before that awful night, it's like looking at a watercolor.

The outlines are clear, but they fade at the edges leaving blurs and smudges.

Everything after that... is dark.


How long are you going for? A couple days.

What was her name? The wife?

MaryJane. And the baby?

Madison.

How old was she?

She was three years old.

Look, I know what I'm doing, okay? I know.

Take care. I'll call you, all right?

Love you.

So this is it?

Second floor, the one on the left. Can we see it?

Well, it's totally empty, the cops cleared it out.

But I can show you where they were found.

According to the coroner, MaryJane and Madison were beaten and strangled to death, and then zipped inside two suitcases with free weights and dropped here, breaking a water pipe on the way down, which is noticed the next morning and becomes part of the reason the canal was searched the following week.

It's pretty public here. I know. Crazy.

And then Zach and Sadie are driven 15 miles south and dropped in the water at Waldport, over there.

Why drive 15 miles to dump bodies on the edge of the next town?

Don't you find that odd?

Maybe something in him wanted to get caught.

Then why'd flee? I guess he changed his mind.

So this is where he dropped them.

It's not high enough to kill them outright, so they would have drowned.

Unless the cold made them go into cardiac arrest.

It was well below zero that night.

Terrible thing for him to do. If he did it.

If? He's gonna plead innocent.

How do you know?

He told me. You spoke to him?

I met him. Why?

I wanted to hear his side of the story.

I'm not sure Christian Longo deserves to have his story heard.

Everybody deserves to have their story heard.

Mommy!


I know you did it.

You know you did it.

We don't need the how or why, just three little words.

They can be spoken real quick.

I just can't right now.

I'm sorry.

Chris, your letter was an extraordinary thing.

But this story between the two of us, it's... it's not an article I can write.

But it could be a book.

Really?

But if we're gonna write something like that together, it's what you tell me, not how, that's important.

I know. It's just that... you speak so beautifully, you have such a mastery of words, and I want that.

It inspires me. I... I need it.

Okay.

Let's make a trade.

I give you a note, you answer a question.

Okay. All right.

All right, so on page 23 you write, "When I lost my position at the realtor's, MaryJane thought I'd tried to get fired, "but I never said it was a job I didn't want."

So that's a double negative, "never said I didn't want."

Okay. It's weak, a double negative.

In good journalism, we would write, "It was a job I wanted."

I get it. Two negatives don't make a positive.

Okay.

My turn.

Okay.

Why did you hook up with that German girl in Mexico?

How'd you know about that? I spoke to her.

I don't know.

I was... I was grieving so much, it was as if the old Chris Longo was dead.

But you slept with her on the first night.

I don't know.

That's what she says.

Chris, did you do what you're accused of doing?

I loved my family.

I only wanted what was best for them.

I'm really sorry, Mike. I can't do this right now.

Do what?

I can't tell you what really happened.

Okay.

Okay. Then...

Then why flee to Mexico right after they were found?

I mean, you have to understand, that makes you look incredibly guilty.

Sometimes, you have to accept looking one way... in order to protect something more important.

Chris, if you're hiding something from me, I will find out.

That's what I do. I look everywhere.

Why did you kill them?

I didn't kill them.


It's part true crime, but it's part mea culpa.

It's really about writing itself.

And you're sure it's a full book and not an article?

You really feel that there's enough there? It's a book, it is a book.

We're not gonna find out later it's like the African story?

You can imagine how difficult that would be for us.

Of course, of course. And I...

You have nothing to worry about.

It all came at once, and I had five mouths to feed, so I took any job I could get. That was when you started stealing?

You know about that?

It was just small amounts. Food and clothes, and diapers.

Books.

That... teddy bear they found with Madison, with her body. That was originally Zach's.

And it was handed down to Sadie and then to Madison.

All because I couldn't buy new toys.

I mean, what kind of loser can't even...

That says more about you than anything.

It does?

That's exactly what I would want to use in the book.

Chris, it's not easy to relate to someone who's accused of four murders.

But everyone understands a child needing a toy.

And the teddy bear ending up... It's like it died when she died.

I never thought of it that way.

This is my notebook from Africa. You gotta see this.

Look.

That's weird.

Two men, same age, from completely different worlds, different educations, and yet... there's something so similar about us.

Some of what he writes is really...

It's moving.

You think he's innocent, don't you?

I don't presume anything anymore.

I'm going to say a word, then we just write the first thing that comes to our mind.

Don't even think about it. All right.

Okay? The future.

Future?

I wrote "always another opportunity."

I didn't write anything.

All right, you try one.

Love.

"Something I always screw up."

That's depressing, but true.

Oh, that's really weird, because... for "love" I wrote "Mike and Jill."

What?

I guess I was just looking at you and...

I thought you were writing about her.

Maybe you were, in a way.

I'd have thought you would have written "M.J."

I couldn't.

Why not?

It's too complicated.

What was she like?

Beautiful.

Supportive. She was a great mother.

Loyal.

We made a pact that... we would never lie to each other.

That was very important.

You must miss her.

Yeah.

She was like the ocean.

How so?

She was deep.

Rolling.

Sometimes stormy.

That's really nice.

Let's do one more.

All right, but they're so hard.

It's good that it's hard. That's why it's a good exercise.

Okay.

"Lies."

"Lies"?

I'm a liar? Yes.

I'm a liar?

You stole my identity.

I was in Mexico. I mean, who was I supposed to choose?

I don't know. Dr. Seuss.

No, I needed somebody that nobody knew.

I'm sorry.

No, it's okay. I know I'm a nobody.

Not to me.

You know his real name was Theodor Geisel?

Oh, yeah. Dr. Seuss. Yeah, I knew that.

You knew that? He was born in Wisconsin.

There's a park there, with statues of all the Dr. Seuss characters.

You out-Seussed me. That's impressive.

I have kids.

We went to Seussland.

Time to go.

All right, buddy.

Thanks, Mike.

Let's go.

The more I dig into this thing, the more I think it could be the best thing I've ever worked on.

And do you have a title in mind? "True Story," I think.

True Story, right. And when do you think you might be able to get us something?

Soon. Incredibly soon.


Let's wrap it up, Shortstop.

Shortstop.

It's my nickname.

Long-go.

Short-stop.

Shortstop.

We'll give him the dedication.

Dedicate...

For the book. "For Shortstop." Like a wink.

What's a wink?

A wink is... when a writer puts in a secret message for someone special.

Like a private joke.

Cool.

My mom will be proud.

Chris, you know, if you're found guilty, I can't give you any money for the book.

Even if I wanted to, the law wouldn't allow it.

I understand.

Just as long as you're not hoping I am.

Am what?

Found guilty.

Thank you.

I just got off the phone with HarperCollins.

And?

They offered me a $250,000 advance.

They say it's exactly what they needed. They loved the writing.

They're very excited, and they want me to sign up immediately.

And he told you the whole story? He told me what I needed.

Did he do it?

I don't know.

Hey, could you... be careful with that, please?

Sorry. No, no.

It's just that I want to send them a hard copy of the first chapters.

You okay? Yeah.

I'm glad it all worked out.

You should be proud.

So how have you been this week?

I'm... just thinking I should plead guilty to everything, so it'll all be over.

People are gonna think what they want to think. It doesn't matter what I say.

Chris, come on, of all people, I know what it's like to avoid the truth.

But I'm smart enough to know a second chance when I see it.

I've never admitted this to anyone, not even Jill,

but the things that I got fired for, I did them.

When I wrote that Africa story, I didn't mix up my notes.

I didn't combine the characters by accident.

I knew what I was doing.

I knew readers would care more if they thought all these things happened to one kid instead of five.

And I needed people to care.

I got so wrapped up in trying to tell a great story that I completely lost my obligation to the truth.

Don't make the same mistake I made.

If you're covering for someone, if you're lying for them, you may think it's easier, but it will eat away at you.

It will destroy you.

This is the plea hearing for the State of Oregon versus Christian Michael Longo, case number VRN1641.

Is the defendant in attendance and represented?

Yes, Your Honor.

Would the defendant please rise?

Mr. Longo, I will go over the charges one by one... in the order they were filed.

For the death of Zachary Longo, how do you plead?

My client pleads not guilty.

For the death of Sadie Longo, how do you plead?

My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor.

Hi, this is Mike Finkel. I'm calling to see if case number 641 is out of plea hearings yet? How did it go?

For the death of MaryJane Longo, how do you plead?

My client pleads guilty.

For the death of Madison Longo, how do you plead?

My client pleads guilty.

Order. Order.

Mr. Longo, you do realize how confusing the court will find this plea.

And that unless you have been advised otherwise, you could be facing a life sentence at the very least.

Yes, sir, I do understand that.

Do you have any questions?

I do not.

But, Mike, everything you sent suggested he was pleading innocent on all counts.

I know, I know.

And now every news outlet in the country is covering the story, but you seem to be completely in the dark.

Yes, I realize... I realize that.

Mike, we need your word you'll get us something we can rely on.

Without that, we have no book.

Fuck!

What are you doing?

What are you doing? Mike...

You told me you were innocent.

I'm sorry about that. You should be fucking sorry, Chris.

Who pleads guilty to two murders and innocent to two others?

Look, I... Stupid.

Yo, Chris, I don't understand.

And you seem to have no interest in telling me the truth, so why should I believe a word that you say?

Sometimes the truth isn't believable. That doesn't mean that it's not true.

What the fuck are you talking about?

Do you hear yourself? Just stop. Tell me something real!

Mike, I would, but I can't. This isn't just about me.

Who? Who do you have to protect? I can't say.

I know better than to blindly trust my sources.

If anybody on Earth knows that, it's me.

But this is different, okay? This has been months.

My whole reputation's on the line, or what's left of it anyway.

Mike... you are a good friend.

And I owe you so much.

So, so much.

Mike, don't give up on me.

Writing with you has been the only thing that's kept me going.

How did it feel to write about your family?

It was hard.

The trial for their murders begins tomorrow. I suggest you think about them tonight.

I think about them every night.

Mr. Finkel?

My name is Greg Ganley, I'm an investigator with the Oregon Department of Justice.

I'll be assisting the prosecution's office in its case against Christian Longo.

Okay.

I was wondering if we might be able to speak together.

Sure. Great.

You want to go somewhere quiet? More quiet?

Yeah. Thanks.

I know you've been communicating with Mr. Longo.

Maybe he's even been candid with you about matters directly related to the trial, I don't know.

But I need to ask you for help now for our side.

So we can get some justice here.

Help how?

Tell us what you and Longo have discussed.

Let us review any letters or taped conversations between the two of you.

I... I can't do that. I promised Chris I wouldn't.

Let me spell this out for you.

Your cooperation might make the difference between him being found guilty or set free.

Set free? What are you talking about? He pleaded guilty.

No. We think he might be trying to confuse the jury as part of some bigger game plan.

If he can sow enough doubt to force a mistrial, he's won.

I know this doesn't make any sense right now, but I've seen a lot of killers in court down the years.

Most of the time, they look like cornered foxes, wild and confused.

Longo has this calm about him.

He knows something.

I believe we're dealing with an exceptionally dangerous man who has killed before, and he will kill again if he is allowed. So, what can you do for us?

I'm trying to make you feel bad enough or guilty enough to talk to me.

I'm putting the turd, so to speak, in your pocket.

Are you really going to be the man who might set him free?

You've done your thing. This is for the law now.

I can't help you.

Can I ask why?

Is it because you don't want to share your scoop, is that it?

You want to keep it all for yourself?

All right.

I said what I wanted to say.

Why don't you give me a call if you're having trouble sleeping.


Hello?

Jill, hey. It's nice to meet you.

Meet... meet your voice, anyways.

Chris? Exactly.

Hi. I was trying to reach Mike, but I couldn't get him on his cell phone, so...

I was wondering if you'd take a message for me?

Okay.

Just tell him that my lawyer said he can get him a seat when the trial begins tomorrow. Okay?

Sure.

Great. Well, it's truly nice to talk to you, Jill.

You know, Mike's such a... such a sweet guy.

And he's been a... he's been a real friend to me.

I'm sure he's like that with everyone.

No, I think you're special.

Yeah, well, exactly. It... feels like we've known each other, like, from before.

And he really loves you.

You know. Even if he... seems like he doesn't want to let it out.

He told you that?

Yeah. He tells me everything.

Life in Finkelwood, his record collection, your old piano, that bathtub you bought together.

He just goes on and on.

It's like I'm writing the book about him, rather than him about me.

I know he must be under a lot of pressure, though.

It must be hard for you to have him so preoccupied like that.

You know nothing about me.

It feels like I do, though.

I don't mean to make you uncomfortable.

I just hope that we can be friends, too.

I'd really like that.

Mike means so much to both of us.

Oh, my... my credit's up. Will you let him know?

Sure.

Thanks, Jill.

I'm standing outside Lincoln County Courthouse, where prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for Christian Longo, who has been charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of his wife...


Be seated.


December 16th.

It's a night we're going to spend a lot of time talking about.

It was the last night in this woman and these children's lives.

MaryJane Longo, 34.

Zachary Longo, four years old. Sadie Longo...

During questioning, I asked him what happened to his family.

And he said he'd sent them to a better place.

A better place? What do you think he meant by that?

Do you believe that he had murdered his family?

That he had, or that... Objection.

Overruled.

A car like that up on a bridge at 4:30 in the morning?

I mean, I've lived up there my whole life, and that's unusual.

Anyway, I heard a couple of splashes.

So I called up and asked him what was going on.

He said, "Nothing."

Could you recognize that man today? Yeah... Yeah.

Could you point to the man?

Let the record show the witness points to the defendant.

Do you know the defendant?

Yes, I do. How do you know him?

I am the manager at the Starbucks where he worked.

How long did he work for you? About two months.

When was the last time you saw him? December 17th.

In the morning, he came in to work about an hour late.

This was the day after the murders.

Yes. Did he say anything?

He said his wife had left him for another man.

A reporter.

How did he seem? The same as always.

Very calm.

Very remote.

You say you know the defendant. When did you last see him?

December 19th.

December 19th. Two days after the murder?

Yes. What was he doing?

Playing basketball.

He was playing basketball two days after his wife and children were murdered?

Yeah. We attend the same gym.

Neither of the children's bodies displayed any evidence of having struggled with an attacker, which suggests they likely knew and trusted their killer.

Both Zachary and Sadie had Play-Doh under their fingernails.

Sadie's toenails were painted with a pearlescent polish, the same as on MaryJane's toes.

They likely painted them together.

Madison... was found in the suitcase.

Tiny scratch marks here indicate Madison must have come around at some point before she drowned.

Dozens of facial capillaries burst as she struggled for air.

MaryJane's body was found in this suitcase.

This was a violent and frenzied act.

A ferocious attack.

Her neck has been broken.

Though this looks like it may have happened after she died, when she was forced into the suitcase.

The prosecution rests, Your Honor.

Then we shall begin with the defense's first witness, Christian Longo, tomorrow morning.

This court is hereby adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

I'm very sorry. For what?

This must be an incredibly difficult day for your family.

Why are you talking to me? Do you need this scene for your book or something?

No, not at all. But you're still writing it?

I have a commission I have to honor. You had a choice of so many stories to tell, and you chose his.

Actually, he picked me.

You pick your wedding day, Mr. Finkel, your children's names.

The important things. He didn't pick you. He used you.

Oh, God.


So, the night of the 15th, you were honest with her about your debts for the first time?

Maybe it was too much all at once like that, but... yes, I told her everything.

She had tears in her eyes.

But I intended to put it all out into the open.

Go on.

So I told her.

I told her that we weren't paid up on the condo.

And that we'd have to move again.

About the credit cards that I'd gotten by forging her father's signature.

About the counterfeit checks. About stealing the van.

I think that hurt her the most.

I'd given it to her for our anniversary.

She'd always wanted one.

How did she react when you told her?

She was pretty shaken up.

When I told her about the van, she hit me.

She was screaming that I should get out and leave her alone.

I'd never seen her like that.

Zach and Sadie were asleep in the living room, and... so I just went and joined them.

When I woke up, it was morning.

I made the kids breakfast. I went in to check on MaryJane.

She was asleep with Maddie.

When I woke her, she pushed past me and went into the bathroom.

So I took Maddie and sat with her in the living room with the kids.

We... made some animals out of Play-Doh.

And then it was getting close to the time I was supposed to be at work.

So I offered to call in sick, but MaryJane said I had to go because we were in such a deep hole, we couldn't afford any more sick days. So... she got dressed and drove me to work.

And...

I worried about her all day.

But when I got home, late, the door was open.

She was inside.

She was wearing just her robe.

And she wouldn't speak.

And then she collapsed.

I asked her what was wrong.

And I was actually getting irritated because she wouldn't answer.

She was just sobbing.

So I went into the bedroom to change, and that's...

That's when I saw Madison.

She was... tangled in the sheets.

She looked sick. Purplish.

She wasn't moving.

So, I went over and sort of jostled her.

That's when I discovered that she was cold to the touch.

Very cold.

And I couldn't...

I couldn't believe what was happening.

I ran into the living room.

I grabbed MaryJane and lifted her to her feet.

And I was... I was yelling, "What happened to Maddie? What... What's wrong with her?"

And that's when I realized... what about Zach and Sadie?

And when I said their names out loud, MaryJane got hysterical.

She started hitting me with her fists.

And I was saying, "You have to control yourself. You have to tell me what happened."

I was just trying to shake her.

She looked me right in the eye.

And she said, "You did this.

"This is your fault."

And I didn't know what she was talking about.

And then she said, "You did this.

"You killed us."

So, I had her up against the wall and I was just trying to get her to tell me where the kids were.

I was shoving her, just trying to force her to tell me.

But you know I... I lost control and...

I was so angry.

What did she say?

She said... they were in the water.

Order, please.

She said they were in the bay.

And she slumped to the floor.

I... picked her up by her throat.

She grabbed my forearm.

But she let me do it.

And I know that's how she died.

What did you do then?

I went and got the... big suitcase and a little suitcase.

And I put MaryJane in the big suitcase.

And I intended to do the same with Madison...

when my heart stopped. Because she was still breathing.

Not very well, but she was.

So I laid her down.

And... even though she was breathing, I... considered her already dead.

There was nothing I could do for her.

Nothing.

So I... put my hand over her... little neck.

And I squeezed.

I could feel the life going out of her.

And then she breathed again.

So I squeezed harder.

And then... I realized I couldn't...

I couldn't put her in the suitcase like that. It was too big.

I just wanted her to be comfortable.

So I... I lay in some of her clothes.

I put in all her favorite things.

All the things that would make her happy.

And her favorite teddy bear.

It was almost like the teddy bear died when she died.

And then I took the suitcases out to the bay and I... put them in the water.

And I drove to the bridge.

And I just...

I just stayed there, thinking about my children.

Why do you think she would do this?

Why not just take the kids and leave?

She told me once... that if I ever left her, she wouldn't be able to go on.

And so by doing this... maybe she was trying to show me how much I meant to her.

Maybe she thought she could make something good out of two things that were bad.

Like a double negative.

The defense rests.

Court adjourned.


I have something for you. It's my correspondence from Longo.

Look.

I have over 100 letters back home. This one was over 80 pages.

You should submit this.

Did you write back? Sometimes.

Pen pals.

You might want to look after them. You're gonna need them for that book.

This is material evidence.

You want to see what material evidence looks like, you come by my office.

But you can put that away. It's done.

If you had legally compelled me to testify, you would have had this.

It could have influenced the jury.

Yeah, I know.

If they find for manslaughter, he might be out in a few years.

But in the end, you wouldn't have made a very good witness, credibility-wise.

You've been through a sort of... trial of your own recently.

And the verdict was you're a liar.

We better hope the jury comes to the same conclusion about him.


I thought you'd be taller.

Why?

I don't know.

Maybe because he looks up to you.

No. I look up to him.

Is it too cold for you in here?

No, I'm fine.

Is... Is he okay?

I was hoping you could tell me.

Well, we don't talk as much anymore.

That's two of us.

I haven't seen a woman in so long.

Looking at you is... like seeing the ocean.

I'm more of a pond, I think.

Can I play you something?

"Se la mia morte brami."

"If you crave my death."

Carlo Gesualdo wrote it in 1611, a few years after killing his wife and newborn son.

His wife had a lover.

So he tracked them down with a hunting knife.

He stabbed her many, many times all over her body.

And as she was bleeding to death on the floor, he forced the lover to strip her naked, put on her bloody nightdress and humiliate himself.

Before shooting him in the head.

Then he went upstairs and beat his infant son to death against the side of his crib.

That music is almost beautiful enough to make me forget him, listening to something written by a man who... broke his baby's skull on a piece of furniture.

But not quite.

You see, Mike wants to try and understand you.

I think he believes that if he can understand you, then maybe he can understand himself.

But I don't want to understand you at all.

You're a murderer.

You kill women and children.

You're a narcissist who resents every single second of attention not given to you.

I'm here to tell you that whatever else is coming to you, you will never... ever escape what you are.

Members of the jury, have you come to a verdict in the case of the State of Oregon against the defendant, Christian Michael Longo?

We have, Your Honor.

Clerk of the court, let the verdict be submitted.

For the murder of Sadie Longo, how do you find the defendant?

Guilty, Your Honor.

And for the murder of Zachary Longo, how do you find the defendant?

Guilty, Your Honor.

For the murder of MaryJane Longo, should the defendant receive a sentence of death?

To this question, the jury has answered yes.

For the murder of Madison Longo, Zachary Longo, and Sadie Longo, to this question, the jury has answered yes.

The jury is dismissed.

Okay.

It's done. I'll be outside.

Order.

Order.

Mr. Longo, you had the opportunity to spare the relatives of your victims further pain by admitting the true extent of your crime.

Instead, you manipulated this court like you manipulated your family despite the overwhelming evidence against you.

Blaming your wife for killing her own children was a grotesque betrayal, both of her and her memory.

You must have realized no one would believe you.

Quite frankly, you are a mystery to me.

And, God willing, you will remain so.

I therefore place you in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections for transport to death row at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Court is adjourned.


I knew you'd come.

You look good.

I'm still writing.

Nobody wrote me back at first, which hurt.

And I must be getting better, because...

I've had two marriage proposals.

Good luck with that.

The only good thing that came out of all this is that I got to meet you.

And I even screwed that up.

I regret that.

Me, too.

Yeah.

Is that why you wrote to me?

You're ready? To tell the truth?

I did it.

I killed MaryJane.

When I got there that night, she was straddling the bed and she was pushing a pillow down towards the mattress.

Underneath, I saw Madison. Fighting.

I don't know why she was doing it, but I was furious that she was taking it out on our daughter.

And then I snapped. I went crazy, Mike.

I must have killed Zach and Sadie, but I don't remember.

I... I don't remember anything.

I don't even know which one I killed first.

It's just a blank.

The first thing I remember is waking up in the airport.

You blacked out?

You know, that can count as temporary insanity.

Well, I have a new lawyer. He's filing an appeal.

It's powerful. But it makes no sense.

Even if MaryJane had wanted to kill Madison, she would've had the entire day.

Why would she wait for you to get home so you could catch her in the act?

Either she's calculating or she's out of her mind. You can't have it both ways.

The only thing that makes sense is a break-in.

You came home, you found everyone dead, you panicked.

You thought someone was trying to frame you.

So you dumped the bodies and you went on the run.

But somebody else killed them. Is that possible?

Maybe.

No, it's not.

None of those stories hold water because they're all fucking lies.

You killed them, you sick fuck. You killed all of them.

Your lawyer called me for the appeal.

He asked me to be a character reference for you.

The first thing I tell the judge is look out for the lies.

Look out for temporary insanity.

Look out for self-defense. Look out for intruder.

Look out for every wet-eyed piece of bullshit he serves up.

How's the book, Mike?

How are the sales?

You didn't have to finish it. But you did.

Because you couldn't help yourself.

We're not so different. Yes, we are.

All these stories... you know what? No one's listening anymore.

One person is.

You, Mike.

I'm the most important thing that ever happened to you.

From now on, you'll just be the guy who talked to the guy who killed his family.

And that's it.

And if I ever open my mouth, you'll just come running.


"I hated him.

"I hated him in the intense way that you can only hate someone

"who you truly care about.

"I'd been fascinated by Longo.

"And also been fooled by him.

"He was gone, condemned to die.

"And I had the sense of having survived something.

"A storm of sorts.

"But although I was alive and intact, that was all I'd been left with."

Thank you.

If we could, Mr. Finkel, your publishers promised us a Q and A.

I know there are a lot of folks with questions. Isn't that right?

Yes?

Mr. Finkel, do you think he'll kill again, like in prison maybe?

I doubt it. He's locked up.

Will they have to restrain him? With straps and stuff?

No.

Where would you place him on a list of comparable killers, Mr. Finkel?

Like Ted Bundy? Ed Gein, say?

Mr. Finkel, may I ask you something?

Do you ever regret contacting him?

What do you mean?

Well, it seems to me that Christian Longo has lost his liberty, but... hearing you read today, I was just wondering what you might have lost as well.