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Seeking justice, more awareness

by: LORI HALL - Connie Johnson, left, and Sue Barrong will share their story of loss on 'America's Most Wanted.' Their sister was murdered and their mother was left for dead in a 2009 home invasion.Nearly three years ago, two West Linn sisters were dealt a heavy blow. They learned their sister was murdered and their mother was left for dead in Glendale, Ore.

Today, the murder and attempted murder remain unsolved, and the killer is still on the loose. However, Connie Johnson and Sue Barrong hope that changes after their horrific story is shared on the cable TV show “America’s Most Wanted.”

Tragedy hits

The sisters’ mother, Helen Long, lived on an isolated road in Glendale, a quiet town of about 800 people in southern Oregon between Roseburg and Grants Pass. At the time she was 88 years old, and her four daughters took turns during the summer staying with her and helping her out around the home. Her husband had passed away in 1984.

On Oct. 1, 2009, Barbara Tooley, 59, of Damascus, was taking her turn staying with her mother and celebrating her birthday. It was supposed to be Barrong’s turn, but she was having surgery and couldn’t make the trip.

No one is sure what transpired that day, but that afternoon Tooley was shot and killed and Long was beaten, received multiple gunshot wounds and was left for dead in her home. Nothing was taken.

“Mom was shot three times. She was stomped on. She was totally beat,” Barrong said.

“Someone just walked into the house and shot her,” Johnson said.by: SUBMITTED - Barbara Tooley, left, was killed in a home invasion in 2009 in Glendale, Ore. Helen Long was shot three times and left for dead.

The call

One of Long’s neighbors, a young woman, became suspicious early on that afternoon. She had seen a stranger walking along their road, which was five miles out of town and led to just four homes. Her dogs were barking like mad, perhaps sensing that something was off.

She then heard five gunshots.

The woman called her husband and he returned home. Thinking it was a poacher, the husband drove around the area looking for any activity. Finding none, he got his father and they peeked into Long’s window to see if anything appeared out of the ordinary. Seeing the TV on, they believed the two women were OK and returned home.

With the gut feeling that something was wrong, the neighbor insisted her husband and another neighbor return to Long’s home. As they entered the front door, they found Long trying to get up and the body of Tooley.

They called for help at about 6 p.m.

It took nearly an hour for the ambulance to arrive, as the police had blocked off the crime scene and were searching for the suspect.

Long, who is now 91, lost an eye in the attack and spent four weeks in recovery.by: 'AMERICAS MOST WANTED' - Americas Most Wanted host John Walshs 6-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered. Since then Walsh has been an advocate for children and victims of violent crimes.

Loss

Barrong recalls talking to Tooley that morning, singing “Happy Birthday” to her. Tooley had just retired and had three children and five grandchildren.

Long hasn’t been the same since the attack.

“It devastated her,” Barrong said of her mother.

When Long visits, she starts to get agitated in the late afternoon, around the time the shootings took place.

“None of us have stayed in the house since then,” Johnson said.

“There are so many good memories there. It shows the depth, the way this has affected people,” Barrong said. “It’s just there right in our face every day. There’s not a day that goes by.”

Long now splits her time living with Barrong and their other sister, Charleta Barrong.

{img:3099}The clues

Long and her husband moved to the Glendale home in 1956. In that time, there was never an incident at the home until 2007.

The sisters have looked at every angle to find a reason for the shootings, from a joy kill to a gang initiation, but their guts tell them it’s related to a prior break-in.

Long’s home was burglarized in 2007. In July of 2009, just two months prior to the murder, the burglary suspect was identified. They believe the shootings may have been retaliation.

Since that time, the burglary suspect, who was a known drug user in the area, has not been found.

“It makes us wonder,” Barrong said. “Especially since the way mom was beat up so badly.”

The suspect

The suspected murderer was seen by more than one person that day. Another neighbor, who was working on a vehicle, was approached by a young man wearing a hoodie and what appeared to be a fake beard earlier that afternoon.

The young man asked where the high school was, which seemed an odd question as the school was five miles away in town.

The suspect was described as a young white male of average height and a thin build. He was wearing dark gray or black pants and a light blue or gray hooded sweatshirt with pockets in the front. He also had a small dark-colored backpack.

A late-1990s or early-2000s black Toyota 4Runner-type SUV was also seen parked a short way down the road in the trees. It is believed to have been the suspect’s getaway car.

‘America’s Most Wanted’

With the case going nowhere, Johnson and Barrong turned to “America’s Most Wanted.” They had a friend who managed to get their story in front of the producers.

In late August, they met the show’s producers in Glendale, where producers talked with police detectives, neighbors and relatives and created a reenactment at the scene of the crime.

The sisters got to meet the show’s host, John Walsh, in early September when he was in Portland filming for another episode.

“What a kind man,” Barrong said.

Walsh, who has hosted the show since 1988, suffered his own loss. His 6-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered, thus starting Walsh’s crusade to advocate for justice.

“He’s just as he appears on TV. He does it because he cares,” Johnson said.

Since its inception in 1988, “America’s Most Wanted” has helped capture 1,197 suspects worldwide.

The hunt

Johnson and Barrong refuse to give up the search for the person who took away their sister and destroyed their mother’s life. They continually return to Glendale to ask questions.

“We feel there’s someone, somewhere in the area that knows something,” Johnson said. “We are still searching for this person. We aren’t going to give up.”

They are offering a reward of $22,500 for the capture of the suspect.

The “America’s Most Wanted” episode aired Friday at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. Johnson and Barrong encourage everyone to watch. Episodes can also be seen online at amw.com/show_archive.

The family also maintains a website at justiceforbarbaraandhelen.blogspot.com and a Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Barbara-Helen/243315933163.

Tips can be submitted by calling a confidential hotline at 1-800-CRIME-TV or by visiting amw.com/report-tip.by: PHOTO - The suspect is described as a young white male of average height and a thin build. He was wearing dark gray or black pants, and a light blue or gray hooded sweatshirt with pockets in the front. He also had a small dark-colored backpack.