Crime - Sacto 911

‘I’ve got to get rid of this body.’ Husband tells murder jury of grisly S. Land Park killing

At his Sacramento murder trial Monday, Mark Herbert Long described the violent confrontation that he said led him to bludgeon his wife to death in their South Land Park home in January 2018 and his grisly effort to dispose of her body in the days after her slaying.

Monday marked the beginning of the second week of testimony in the killing of Sacramento attorney and advocate Susan Roberts inside the South Land Park home she shared with Long. Roberts’ circle of friends testified last week at the trial before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon. Many more have been a daily presence in the gallery at the trial.

The confrontation began with an ultimatum, Long, 60, told his attorney, Sacramento County deputy public defender Stephen Nelson. Long’s wife, Roberts, wanted him out of the house, Long testified. Two years into their marriage, their relationship had become a landlord-tenant arrangement, he said.

“She said, I want you out of here,” Long said. “I told her I’m not going anywhere.” Long, his voice abrupt and annoyed at times on the stand, said Roberts left the room briefly before re-entering with “something in her hand.”

“She said, ‘It’s time for you to go.’ She came at me – I’m sitting on the couch – and she has a knife in her right hand. I tried to get out and she was coming down to stab me with the knife.”

Long tried to avoid the blade, tripped and fell backward through the home’s sliding glass door. Long ducked another swipe as he got back to his feet and picked up a utility hammer left on a living room table, he testified.

“I picked it up. As I was getting up, I swung at her. I think I hit her in the shoulder – I don’t know where I hit her. She went toward the kitchen and I went after her. I thought she was going to kill me,” Long said from the witness stand.

Long struck Roberts in the head with the hammer and again as Roberts tried to block his blows, he said.

“She never said a single word. Not ‘No’ or ‘Stop,’ or ‘Ouch.’ Not a word,” Long said.

Long struck Roberts in the head 11 times, Nelson said citing Sacramento County coroner’s officials. Long said he didn’t remember how many times he hit her.

“The last blow, I hit her really hard,” he said. Roberts fell to the kitchen floor.

“I looked at her. I bent down and she was gone,” he testified. Long did not call paramedics.

“I’m freaking out. I says to myself, ‘What’s happening?’ – 911 couldn’t save her,” Long said. “She was already gone.’”

Roberts oversaw foster homes and critical care facilities for the state Department of Social Services. She and Long, a contractor, were married in September 2015. Roberts was 61.

The fatal confrontation described by Long was Jan. 4, 2018. It would be three more days before a Sunday afternoon welfare check by Sacramento police confirmed the worst.

But on Jan. 4 and into Jan. 5, Long sequestered himself in a bedroom drinking beer and vodka.

“For over a day, I wanted to just hide in the room. I spent the whole day in the bedroom thinking, ‘What am I going to do? Who would do that?’ and here I am, thinking about doing something like that,” Long testified under questioning from Nelson. “I’ve got to get rid of this body. How do I get out of it?”

It was Jan. 5, a Friday, when he decided how he would go about his gruesome task. He would amputate her legs.

For much of the morning’s final hour, Long testified to a silent courtroom how he tried different tools, from a knife to a saw to an ax to SkilSaws, to complete his work.

“When one didn’t work, I went to the other,” he said matter-of-factly.

Jurors at the end of the prosecution’s case last Wednesday watched security footage from a Meadowview Home Depot of a nondescript Long wandering the home improvement store’s tool corral for first a reciprocating saw, then a circular saw and blades. He bought all three, paying cash, over two days

“When I started thinking about it,” Long told Nelson later from the stand, “I thought, ‘What the hell is wrong with this guy? The madness has got to stop.”

Roberts’ father was frantic. It was a Sunday and the daughter who talked every day with 99-year-old Charles Roberts hadn’t been heard from since Wednesday.

No one had heard from Susan Roberts or Long for days. No phone calls or texts. They missed a Saturday dinner date with one of Susan Roberts’ close friends.

“He was beside himself. He asked me to drive to Susan’s house,” said Gary Knutila from the stand last week, describing the elder Roberts’ desperate telephone call. Susan Roberts’ ex-husband, Knutila had remained close with her father and still lived near the South Land Park home she shared with Long.

There, Knutila met three of Roberts’ friends. The team knocked on the doors, rang the doorbell, peered through blinds. Knutila drove back home to fetch ladders to scale a side fence to get into the backyard.

They found a gaping hole in the sliding glass door; broken glass strewn across the patio, Knutila testified. Knutila looked into a living room through the smashed glass door and spotted a man sitting on an ottoman.

“He said, “You can’t come in – you’re trespassing. You can’t come in without a search warrant,” Knutila testified.

Long had heard their voices outside, heard them knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell. Roberts’ phone rang so often on Saturday that he muffled its sound with a pillow, he said.

“People were calling. I knew (police) were going to come eventually. I just wanted to crawl into a hole,” Long said.

By Sunday night, the voices of Knutila and the others on Nevis Court were replaced by police bullhorns and a SWAT unit’s flash bangs.

“At first, I said, ‘Let’s get this over with,” Long testified. “But then I got paranoid. I thought they were going to kill me.”

Long surrendered to police. Sacramento County Coroner’s Office personnel arrived at the home the next afternoon to recover Roberts’ body.

Nelson asked Long one last question Monday.

“Anything you would’ve done differently?” Nelson said.

Long responded, “Everything.”

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.