News 12 at 6 o'clock, October 29, 2009
BURKE CTY, Ga.---A husband and father of 11 is serving hard time behind bars--not for what he did, but rather for what he did not do.
On July 31, 2008, the Long family was found living in squalor in Burke County. There was no running water, no electricity, no beds and little to no food... just jars of jelly, applesauce and mayonnaise for the family of 13 to eat. Experts say the deplorable conditions had been going on for years.
Jeremy Long pleaded guilty to felony cruelty to children charges. His estranged wife, Christine Long, pleaded guilty to the exact same charges, but she received a reduced sentence compared to her husband.
In a News 12 exclusive last month, Christine told her side only to News 12. Now Jeremy Long breaks his silence for the very first time, and again, only News 12 has the story.
Jeremy Long is serving a three-year sentence. He's been in jail well over a year, and he knows what that may mean as far as custody. He could possibly lose his children forever. Now he takes a stand on the allegations against him.
They've never squared off in the same courtroom, but Jeremy and Christine Long have certainly drawn the battle line with their war of words.
"No, I did not beat her in front of the children. I did not beat my children," Jeremy Long says in a recorded interview with an investigator from the district attorney's office. Long was responding to some of the allegations his wife lodged against him in her divorce filing this February.
"I'm not going to tell you in 20 years of marriage we ain't argued, we ain't fought," Long says in the recording. "I'm not going to say I never hit her. I'm not going to tell you she never stabbed me with a fork. (Inaudible) Almost poured hot coffee all over me, a whole pot of it."
But Christine told a Burke County judge and News 12 that the family's deplorable living conditions and years of felony child neglect were caused by years of abuse at the hands of her husband.
News 12: "So what has it been like for you to not have him the last year?"
Christine: "It's been wonderful. I've been free. I can think for myself. I don't have to be hit anymore. I love it. I absolutely love it because I can be myself now."
She even alleged Jeremy raped her over the years, causing some of her pregnancies.
"No, no," says Jeremy. "My children were not a product of rape. None of my children are a product of rape."
Investigator: "Each (of the) eleven children (was) consensual?"
Jeremy says the Christine he knows always held her own: "I don't consider her to be aggressive. I can assure you, she can be aggressive. She's not a weak woman. She's not weak physically or mentally. She's a strong woman all the way around, I can assure you of that."
He should know, he says, because they started dating when they were neighbors as kids growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They moved in together when Jeremy was 16 and Christine was 17.
Jeremy says when he turned 18, they were married. Their oldest child, Miranda, was born a few months later.
"We always wanted a big family," Jeremy said. "Well, more me more than her. She wanted to slow up after about the eighth one....She was kind of furious about the eleventh child. She was not happy about that at all. I don't, I don't know if something happened mentally to her, or, you know, women have hormone changes when they get pregnant. When you got eleven kids, you see about every one you can see."
Jeremy says he worked in construction and things got tough for the family when the housing market started to tank over the last few years. But he's adamant that despite all of his shortcomings financially, he loved every one of his 11 children.
"I never missed a night with my children," Jeremy said. "They wait for me. Don't matter if I come home at 9 o'clock at night or if I come home at 11, they going to get up and see me."
"They knew more than likely I'd have something for them," he went on. "A sucker, or anything, they always like candy."
When this interview was recorded in June, Jeremy Long had spent almost a year in jail, and he knew exactly what he had missed with his kids.
"My littlest boy was ten months when this happened," Long said. "Well, actually, he was a few days shy of ten months. I've got to see him one time. I've missed half of his life already. I mean I got to miss his first birthday. I've missed his first steps. I missed his first words. I missed [child's name removed]'s 16th birthday, I missed [child's name removed]'s 13th birthday on the 16th of this month, and [child's name removed], she's going to be 18 on the second of next month."
When he first went to jail, Jeremy's wife wrote him love letters. He says he thinks it is suspicious those letters stopped when she was indicted.
The divorce filing came two and a half months later.
A medical expert concluded both parents were responsible for the neglect. The D.A.'s office argued in court there was no physical evidence of the abuse Christine now claims occurred, and prosecutors argued the children they spoke with denied ever seeing that alleged abuse.
Jeremy denies it too. "I mean, come on, I got enough children they could actually pick me up and throw me out of the house if they want."
But for now, those children are getting used to life without their father as he serves his hard time for what a court has ruled he did not give them.
The Long family: Six girls, five boys, and two criminal parents, one who's fighting for custody on the outside while the other fights with everything he can from inside a jail cell.
Jeremy Long did consent to an on-camera interview with News 12, but Tuesday (October 27) we received notification from the warden's office that our request was denied. We asked for the reason why and for a statement explaining the warden's decision, but we have not received any comment or reply.
News 12 did receive a handwritten letter from Jeremy Long this week.
In it he says: "Ther (sic) is so much I have to say and will only tell all of it in front of a TV camera - this is why I fill (sic) I have been denied to speak with media... tell my children that I love them - and think of them every day - it is so hard to fight with my hands behind me and locked behind closed door."
Sources tell us there is no judge assigned to the custody case right now because the Burke County juvenile judge is ill. It's not clear if the case will be sent to another circuit. As of now, no hearing is set.
Sources and Christine Long also tell News 12 that DFACS has changed their recommendation from a reunification mode to a termination of both parents' parental rights.
Sources tell us the nine minor children's guardian ad litum has not made her decision on what her final recommendation will be once a court date is set.
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