News 12 at 11 o'clock, October 29, 2009
BURKE CTY, Ga.---Jeremy Long knows he doesn't have much to his name. No assets, no full time job, and no savings. But he says he still had all he had ever wanted in life: a big family, including a wife and eleven children.
Now, he says his kids are gone and his wife has turned on him, all while he's behind bars.
"I get an hour with ten kids," Christine Long told News 12. "it's never enough." Wiping away tears and relying on her oldest daughter Miranda for strength, Christine Long made the case that she's a good mom despite the neglect her children suffered in the home she and her husband were squatting in for more than a decade.
"My three-year-old daughter asks, 'Can you go bye bye with me?' and I can't. I have to watch them leave with other people." Christine was referring to her limited visitation with the children, two one0hour sessions a month.
That's still more time with the kids than her estranged husband Jeremy is getting. The couple both pleaded guilty to the exact same charges, but they're now serving very different sentences. Jeremy is serving three full years in jail, while Christine lives on the outside, working to afford a four-bedroom home and serving her jail time two weekends a month.
"I want (my children) to know I fighted (sic) for them to the end," Christine said. "That I never gave up trying."
Nine of the Long children are still minors and are living with foster parents. The second oldest daughter has aged out of the DFACS system already, but she chose not to return to her mother's care. She remains in foster care with some of her siblings.
Jeremy says he wants his kids to know he is fighting for them too. "I really don't agree with it. I think it's too harsh," he said in a taped interview with an investigator, referring to the charges and subsequent punishment he was given.
The family was split up after they were found on July 31, 2008. Pam Bartlett, a neighbor, made the call that changed this family's fate.
"I really had a hard time struggling with this. How did we live so close (and not know)?" Bartlett said. "I have a peace now. I know these little ones, those babies are being taken care of."
Bartlett called 911 to report someone was stealing a chainsaw from her father's property. That someone was one of the Long children, and that phone call led deputies to the home, where they found Christine Long and the eleven children with no running water, no electricity, no beds, and little more than a few jars of jelly to eat.
"I said, 'Look, if you want these children tonight and now on, you're going to have to say your husband slapped you, hit you, pushed you around, even abandoned you out here," Bartlett said. "(Christine) was emphatic he was a good father, they were just going through hard times."
Christine is now alleging Jeremy abused her.
As for the condition of the children Bartlett witnessed firsthand: "I was appalled! Eleven children--one grown really, she was 18 years old already. The little one she was still nursing, naked. At first I just thought she was beat down. We've all been there a time or another. But she was just emphatic."
We showed Pam the pictures Christine provided to News 12 exclusively last month to prove the family wasn't always living in such squalor.
"Do they look abused? Does she look beat down? The pictures speak for themselves," Bartlett said, looking at the pictures. "Like she said, they were having hard times. We all have them. My God, look at society right now. The first thing she said was, 'We never been on public assistance. We never took any food stamps.' Girlfriend, wake up! I'm a surviving citizen, a thriving citizen! I pay for you in case you have hard times!"
Bartlett says that to this day, she worries about each and every Long child. "They've missed their childhood. They've missed playing with other children, bonding with society. There's no going back."
Jeremy Long explained in the recorded interview why he didn't reach out for help for his family. "You know, the load got heavy before in life. We've always overcome. We sought for assistance one time in Richmond County, way too much headache. As far as what happened to us now, happening then, that wasn't a gamble worth taking."
Jeremy was home schooled, and he says he and Christine wanted the same for their children. "Well, at the time they had a lot of debate over shots that was giving children, with the autism. Ah...when Miranda was school age, which Miranda's 19 now, they had just taken prayer out of school. Neither one agreed with that. My wife does most the educating. I do the work."
But when the children were found, they were illiterate. The teenage children were on a preschool or grade school level. Experts said the children didn't know the days of the week, their ABC's, or even how to spell their own names.
Jeremy: "They could have been better, that's for sure. I'm not going to argue that point. I can't argue that point."
Investigator: "You can't argue that point because they are illiterate."
Jeremy: "Momma taught them with the Bible. I bought them bajillions of books for them to be educated with, workbooks, stuff like that. Stuff that's also fun for them, you know?"
Investigator: "What happened to the books?"
Jeremy: "Well, when you got eleven kids, you don't have nothing really long. Ah, stuff gets broke, trampled on."
Christine claimed in court that Jeremy didn't provide food for his family on a regular basis. Jeremy also denies this allegation.
"Well you can look at her weight. Look at my kids' weights. My 13-year-old boy weighed 187 pounds with a 42-inch waist when this happened."
As for medical neglect, Jeremy says that was more Christine's responsibility. "If she had it her way, she'd been a midwife. She'd a had them all at home. I was against that. My children, I took them (to the doctor) on a need to know basis. If they wasn't sick, they didn't go."
The children have since had extensive medical treatment for everything from bad oral hygiene to impacted earwax that had to be surgically removed. One child's bowels were so backed up he had to be admitted to the hospital.
Long also denies ever abusing alcohol or drugs, like Christine claims. "I offered my blood work the day I turned myself in to them, for drugs, alcohol, anything they wanted. I offered hair follicles, anything. Offered the same thing to DFACS and DFACS should tell you that."
Now DFACS is the only true fight the Longs have left. Their criminal cases are done; their divorce, messy. But their custody case is what both say matters to them the most.
Jeremy fights from jail; Christine, in the public eye.
"You didn't wake up with an 18-year-old, honey," said Bartlett. "You didn't wake up with children, eleven of them! She has no right. She's not a mother."
The Long's custody hearing is still ongoing. Christine has been ordered to pay $250 to the state in child support for her now nine minor children.
Christine also says she's in the process of writing a book about her story, including the abuse she and the children allegedly suffered. Christine hopes it will be released sometime next year.