Murdered July 8, 1996

This site is dedicated to the memories of Jim and Zelma Long. They were a lovely couple and much loved by everyone who knew them. They were my mother and father-in-law. I miss them every day as do their children, grandchildren and everyone else who knew them. What happened to them should never happen to anyone. It is a shame we live in a society where one word - murder is becoming familiar to more and more families everyday. We thought no one had ever suffered the pain we had, but the farther down this road we travel, we find it is a path frequented by many unfortunately. 

The reason for the creation of this site is because their murderer, who currently sits on death-row has his own web page where he disperses poetry, advice and encourages people to write and become pen-pals. We find this atrocious.

James and Zelma were married forty-nine years. They were living their retirement years in the same house they lived in all of their married life. It was an ordinary house, a white rambling affair that grew throughout the years as the number of their children grew. They were parents to seven children, James Paul, Linda, William, Angela, Martin, Christine, and Laura. They were grandparents to fifteen, one being born after their deaths. They were great-grandparents to six, two more have been born since, and presently, two more are on their way.

How we wish they could be here to rejoice in these happy events. For Jim and Zelma, nothing was more important than family. Without them we struggle to remain just that. Murder has a way of throwing even the closest of families out of whack.

Zelma Long was prom queen of her graduating high school class in 1946. She was on the short side with dark hair, twinkling blue eyes and curves that caught the attention of a lanky, 6' 4", blue-eyed, blond boy named Jim. In 1947 she passed the crown of "Love and Beauty," to my mother, a fact I found out after marrying her son, Bill.  

Zelma and Jim had their children in quick succession, every two years until the last two. During this time, she went to college and began to teach elementary school. She pursued her college education for many years until she was close to a doctorate degree.

Zelma with one of her early classes as a teacher.Zelma enjoyed children, loved being around people and those who met her immediately felt close to her. She enjoyed bingo, traveling to Las Vegas and goin' fishing with Jim and anyone else who wanted to. After over thirty years of teaching school, she liked to say, "Have suitcase, will travel." 

Jim quit school to join the service during WWII. Upon release from the service, he married his sweetheart, Zelma. After their deaths we found a drawer full of letters, all signed, Always and Forever. He had written his sweetie (and she him) almost every day he was gone in the service.

Jim standing next to his father with his brothers and sisters at his parents 50th anniversary in 1975.After the service, he went to work for the railroad, upon suffering a severe injury, he changed jobs, delivering cigarettes and candy wholesale for several years. Later on, he ventured out and built a gas station on 67 Hwy near their home.

Among his hobbies, he loved gardening and worked the ground next to the home place every year of his married life. His gardens were so big and bountiful, often times people pulled to the side of the road to comment on the lush beauty of the plants as he worked the soil.

Over the years, he dabbled in peach and apple tree orchards and honey bees. Many a grandchild learned the hard way not to run from honeybees!

For fun he loved to bowl, bird hunt, bet the dogs, but most of all - fish. He and Zelma fished together and against each other and anyone who would cast a line with them to see who could catch the most. You can guess who always caught the most if he had to stay out on the lake all day in the rain to do it!

Jim and Zelma probably in the early 70s.In 1972, they were preparing to take a long awaited trip to Germany. Just days before the trip they received a phone call one night that every parent dreads. Their son, Jimmy Paul, age twenty-four, had been killed in a terrible car accident. Zelma told me years later, "We went on to Germany, but I hardly remembered a thing the entire trip. I used that time to pull myself together. I knew when we came home I had children, some of them still quite young, that I had to be there for." And that was just the way she was, always there for you, ready to listen, laugh and make you feel better when you were at your wits end.

Jim and Zelma with their immediate family in 1975.That year they began something different. I always thought because of Jimmy's death they had to create a change in their lives. They began to travel to a large lake in Missouri in the Ozarks. All the kids went. Somehow it helped, maybe it was the change of scenery. Maybe it was the loss of Jimmy that they wanted to do something to pull all their children together because now they knew just how precious life was, how life could change in a matter of seconds.

Jim and Zelma at Lake of the Ozarks in the 80ís.From 1972 until their deaths in 1996 the two were a constant on the shores of the lake, boating, skiing, fishing, swimming, barbecuing, sometimes just sitting on the deck drinking coffee and watching the duck traffic. No matter what they were doing some or all of their kids drove the many miles to be with them at the water's edge. Even as they grew up, married and brought back kids of their own, the closeness with their children was incredible.

Jim and Zelma became known in their cove for their annual holiday fish fries, where close to one hundred, relatives and friends boated across water or drove in to sample the delicate golden fried crappie fillets and wash them down with ice cold beer. On holidays, their dock would sit lower in the water from the weight of the many people crowded there and along the shoreline. Old timers used to swear they only liked fish cooked in corn meal to a crispy yellow. Yet, over the years, we began to fry fillets in corn flake crumbs, while the old timers would protest for the corn meal.

Jimís parentsí immediate family on their 50th anniversary.Often we wonder, why can't our lives remain the same? Why do we have to endure change? For years, our family seemed to be riding a cycle of good health, peace and happiness. One night it all changed, we were plunged deep down a black tunnel into a nightmare. Many a time one or another remarked, "This seems like a nightmare we can't wake up from." But it wasn't a nightmare. It was our life and the horror story of what it became.

On a hot summer evening July 8, 1996, Jim and Zelma watched TV at their home in rural Jefferson County, while babysitting two of their grandchildren visiting from out of state. Their youngest daughter came to pick up her children, anxious to get them to bed. She gave her parents a quick kiss goodbye and out the door she went =-Out the door, not knowing this would be the last time she would see her parents alive. 

It was reported, "Like a page out of Truman Capote's book, In Cold Blood," the similarities were many. Within minutes of their youngest daughter shutting the door came a knock. Zelma answered the door. (We will always think she answered, thinking her daughter had came back to retrieve a forgotten baby bottle.) Two young people, the perpetrators, a brother and sister (no relation) stood there. They said, "We're lost." Could the older couple draw a map? That's how the beginning of the end started. Zelma opened that door, always one to help. She chatted easily while Jim drew the two lost young people a map. Upon finishing drawing the map, a gun was pulled, ordering the retired couple into the bedroom they had shared for forty-nine years.

The perpetrator had recently been (accidentally) released from prison, a term familiar to him for the past ten to fifteen years. Upon his release, he spent the next three weeks planning a robbery and if necessary, "murder." They both bragged about the plan to different people. He brought his sister along because she worked in a nursing home and, "would know how to take their pulse to make sure they were dead." He ordered the old safe in the closet opened. Jim was so shook up he could not remember the combination. Zelma offered to open it. Upon finding no cash Zelma offered "bingo" money out of her purse. Jim remembered pocket change kept in a tin box on the TV for holiday poker games. While the robber hadn't seized the amount of cash he thought he would, he listened as Jim begged for his and Zelma's lives. Jim offered to write a check for any amount if they would just leave. He thought about it for ten minutes at the foot of their bed where they both lay shaking, face down. Then he decided, "fuck it," and stepped closer and pulled the trigger twice into the back of Jim's head and then walked around and fired two more shots into the back of Zelma's head.

Following an anonymous tip, less than two hours later, the suspect was pulled over, found with the gun, the small amount of cash, the stolen tin. He gave a full confession, as did his sister. For less than $500 he had committed burglary, armed criminal action, and two first degree murders with the help of his sister, the pulse taker.

I have heard people whose souls are so intertwined with love often die together. If this is so, Jim and Zelma will be together as in their long ago love letters, "Always and Forever."

Update on legal status of case
On April 27, 1998, the defendant, Carman Deck received:
Ct. I: Death by lethal injection.
Ct. II: Life imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Ct. III: Death by lethal injection.
Ct. IV: Life imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Ct. V: 30 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Ct. VI: 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Said Counts II and IV are to be served concurrent with each other; Counts V and VI are to be served consecutive with each other and with Counts II and IV.

On July 6, 1998, Carman Deck's sister, Tonia Cumming took a plea, disposing her case as follows:

Ct. I 30 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Ct. 5 shall be consecutive to the sentence in Ct. 1 Ct. 2 shall run consecutive to Cts. 1 and 5. Cts. 3, 4 and 6 shall run concurrent to each other and concurrent to Cts. 1, 2 and 5. (This means Tonia Cummings shall serve 35 years before becoming eligible for parole.)

At his sentencing, Deck said he did not wish to file any appeals; he changed his mind quickly with the help of lawyers provided by the state of Missouri. With help from his lawyers he has filed every appeal possible so far.

Currently he is working on a post-conviction motion in the circuit court of Jefferson County. If denied, he must file a notice of appeal within ten days of ruling. Then he has ninety days to file the record in the Supreme Court. He has another sixty days to file a brief. The Attorney General's Office for James and Zelma Long has thirty days to file a brief, and Deck has fifteen to file a reply brief. After the hearing there is time for a rehearing motion. At that point Deck will have exhausted his state remedies and may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court in St. Louis.

June 16, 1999: Motion for Rehearing filed

June 30, 1999: Motion for Rehearing failed

October 8, 1999: Mandate for Execution set

September 13, 1999: Writ of Certiorari to the Missouri Supreme Court filed

June 27, 2000: Post-Conviction Relief Hearing: Outcome denied.

Appealed to Missouri Supreme Court: Motioned for time extensions three times

October 10, 2001: Oral argument at the Missouri Supreme Court

February 26, 2002: Missouri State Supreme Court upholds convictions, but voids penalty phase.
Click here for opinion

February 2003: The Circuit Court of Jefferson County will hold another Penalty Phase trial to decide death or life in prison again.

May 1, 2003: Jury deliberated, handing down a death penalty recommendation.

June 30, 2003: Formal sentencing. Case disposed. Defendant received:
Ct. I: Death by lethal injection:
Ct. III. Death by lethal injection.

Victim Impact Statement (click to view)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004: The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of State of Missouri v. Carman Deck. No. SC85443, Supreme Court of Missouri resulting from his appeal from his penalty phase retrial.

The family at the Missouri Supreme Court again in 2004.

Missouri Supreme Court Judges at this time are:

Ronnie L. White, Chief Justice; Michael A. Wolff; Duane Benton; Laura Denvir Stith; William Ray Price, Jr.; Richard B. Teitelman; Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr.

October 19, 2004

No. 04-5293 *** CAPITAL CASE ***
Title: Carman L. Deck, Petitioner v. Missouri

Docketed: July 20, 2004
Lower Ct: Supreme Court of Missouri
Case Nos.: (SC 85443)
Decision Date: May 25, 2004
Opinion handed down May 25th, 2004. The judgment is affirmed. All concur.
Click here for opinion

Decision Below: 2004 WL 1152872

Are the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments violated by forcing a capital defendant to proceed through penalty phase while shackled and handcuffed to a belly chain in full view of the jury, and if so, doesn't the burden fall on the state to show that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than on the defendant to show that he was prejudiced?

Cert. Granted 10/18/04

Proceedings and Orders

Date: Jul 15 2004
Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma    pauperis filed. (Response due August 19, 2004)

Date: Aug 6 2004
Order extending time to file response to petition to and including September 20, 2004.

Date: Sep 20 2004
Brief of respondent Missouri in opposition filed.

Date: Sep 30 2004
DISTRIBUTED for Conference of October 15, 2004.

Date: Oct 18 2004
Motion to proceed in forma pauperis and petition for a writ of certiorari GRANTED.

March 1, 2005, members of the Long family attended the case on shackling of convicted murderers during the penalty phase of a trial. It seemed ludicrous that we went through a metal detector, x-ray, wanding, had our photo-id's checked, checked in our coats, hats, cell-phones and cameras and went through another purse check (more thorough than any airport) before being seated in the courtroom with the United States Supreme Court Justices to hear why a person who murdered two people should not be shackled. I'm sure my in-laws did not think this man was a danger when he knocked on their door asking for directions, yet in matter of minutes he became one of the most dangerous!

One of the Justices asked if he was a big man? After being in prison these past years, there is no doubt he could tackle anyone in the courtroom should he have chosen to. After all, he killed two people to prevent being identified. Was his being shackled cruel and unusual punishment according to the Constitution? What about the rights of the two people he killed? It's time to stop bending over backwards for defendants and start remembering our silent victims.

Another Justice inquired if there were security guards in the courtroom? Yes, but what could they have done in a courtroom full of people to prevent this person from taking a run for it? We wondered if the defendant had been present before the Justices, would he have went through as much as we did to get in or would they have wanted him shackled. After all, he is already guilty, not us.

How could the jury have been biased by his shackles when they expected him to be in shackles? He did have a hand free to write notes. I believe a jury is probably more comfortable doing the job they are there for with defendants in shackles.

It will be two to six months before the US Supreme Court hands down its' decision in this case.

May 23, 2005 - Update: The Supreme Court tossed out the death sentence of a Missouri man on Monday, ruling that it is unconstitutional to shackle capital murder defendants as juries decide their penalty unless the state justifies the need.

The decision is expected to have implications nationwide, as attorneys challenge the sentences of clients who were chained in view of the jury.

Carman Deck was sentenced to death for the execution-style murder of James and Zelma Long after he robbed the elderly couple in their home near De Soto, Mo., in 1996.

During the penalty phase of Deck's state trial two years ago, he was in leg irons, handcuffs and a belly chain.

The 7-2 majority opinion was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, who said shackling implies to jurors that the defendant is "a danger to the community" - thus affecting their perception of him as they decide his fate.

Dissenters Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia warned the ruling would jeopardize safety in courthouses across the country. "The court's decision risks the lives of courtroom personnel, with little corresponding benefits to defendants," they wrote.

The decision doesn't prevent courts from handcuffing or chaining defendants if a case is made that they pose a clear danger.

"We're just thrilled about the ruling," said Assistant Missouri Public Defender Rosemary Percival, who argued the case March 1 before the Supreme Court.

"It clarifies the balance that the court has to strike, even in the penalty phase, between the need for courtroom security and the defendant's right to a fair proceeding," Percival said. "In a penalty phase, the jury's looking for whatever clues they can find as to what's in the defendant's mind and his heart and his character. The shackles tip the balance by making it appear that this person can't be trusted even in the courtroom."

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon disagreed with the ruling.

"If we're going to err, we should err on the side of safety for jurors and other courtroom personnel. I think for people who have been convicted of first-degree murder, public safety should be on the side of limiting their ability to threaten or hurt a juror," Nixon said.

He questioned whether seeing a convicted murderer in chains would influence a juror's sentencing decision, because "they know he's a murderer, they know he's dangerous, otherwise he wouldn't have been convicted."

Nixon said he wasn't sure whether there would be another sentencing phase for Deck or whether the state would have the chance to show that the restraints were appropriate.

When the case was argued before the Supreme Court in March, Missouri Assistant Attorney General Cheryl Nield said the Missouri court had acted reasonably in shackling Deck as a flight risk, because he had murdered the Longs partly to avoid being identified and going to prison.

But Percival countered that shackling Deck was "inherently prejudicial" to the jury by making him appear to be currently dangerous.

Docket Entry:
Court Order Issued


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As we journey back in time
We must always look ahead
Thoughts of past are written
We must not feel their dread

Obstacles are always there
But through them we must find
Journey on a brand new day
By each of us designed

In life so much to overcome
But each new day we see
Chance to feel the calmness of
Life's quite harmonies

Crystal streams to soothe us
Air to breathe so clear
Within this peaceful glowing
Each day a new premiere

With hope for bright tomorrow
With love that fills the mind
The joy and peace of knowing
Each new day is divined.

~ Francine Pucillo ~
Read more of her poetry here.