PORTLAND, Ore. — Penny Baker Dupuie was at her desk at work in Arizona when her cell phone rang Tuesday morning.
The caller identified themselves as a victim’s advocate from Oregon. They had some bad news.
Christian Longo, the man who killed Dupuie’s sister and three young children would be spared the death penalty.
Hours later, Oregon’s governor announced she would commute the sentences of all 17 inmates on Oregon’s death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“It’s devastating,” said Dupuie, who argued Oregon Governor Kate Brown should have consulted with families impacted by the commutations and provided more advance warning.
“If you’re going to make decisions that are going to dramatically affect other people’s lives, you need to have the courage to actually speak to those people and look them in the face and tell them what you are going to do,” said Dupuie. “I think she needs to see some pictures and videos of the lives that were lost.”
In 2003, a Lincoln County jury sentenced Longo to death for killing his wife, MaryJane and their three children, Zachery, Sadie and Madison. Longo dumped their bodies into the water off the Oregon Coast, then fled to Mexico.
“Before this happened, I did not have an opinion on the death penalty. I did not feel that was my decision to make about anyone. After this happened, I have an opinion on the death penalty. Chris deserves to be dead for what he did,” Dupuie explained.
Governor Brown defended her decision in an interview with KGW by arguing the death penalty is immoral, inequitable and irreversible.
“I know that not everyone will agree with my decision, but I hope it is a further step towards finality in this conversation,” said Brown.
Dupuie argues the governor shouldn’t be able to undo the exhaustive efforts of a judge, jury, prosecutors, defense lawyers, witnesses and families that endured a painful trial, with the simple stroke of a pen by signing a clemency order.
“No one should have that power,” Dupuie said.
Woodburn Mayor Frank Lonergan also condemned Brown’s decision.
In a statement, Lonergan said he was shocked and angered to learn the father and son responsible for the deadly 2008 Woodburn bank bombing would have their death sentences commuted.
Bruce and Joshua Turnidge were both convicted after planting a bomb outside the West Coast Bank in Woodburn. The blast killed Oregon State Police Senior Trooper William Hakim and Woodburn Police Capt. Tom Tennant. It critically injured Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell and wounded bank employee Laurie Perkett.
“Governor Brown’s decision is an injustice to those who were affected by the bombing and a repudiation of Oregon voters who established the death penalty for those convicted of murdering innocent victims and police officers, “Lonergan wrote.