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Younger siblings of Burlington killer: 'I don't know why he did that'

4:59 PM, Nov 22, 2011   |    comments
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It's breezy, but perfectly chilly for a November morning.

The Long home sits a bit off the road. Inside, Wally Long is making breakfast: wheat pancakes from home-ground wheat. Three of Long's six children are grown and have homes of their own. On this particular morning, Wally's wife Sylvia is dashing out to her part-time job. Wally's cooking for sons Alex, 17, Aaron 13, and for his two adopted children, 6-year-old Sarah and 10-year-old Ethan.

"I got a special technique I use to make pancakes for kids," Wally Long said. "I make initials, numbers and things like that."

After prayer and breakfast, it's time for school, which the Longs teach at home.

The Longs thought they were done raising and educating kids. Aaron would be their last one.

"We're done with this. We got the older kids now. We're ready to move on to a different stage of life, and now we're back to raising young children again," Wally Long said.

When you ask them about being new parents again, Wally and Sylvia's faces light up. They recently adopted Sarah and Ethan, the children of Wally's younger brother, Charles Long.

"It's an adjustment," Wally Long said. "We're just not used to the energy of a 6-year-old running around the house anymore like we have now, and a 10-year-old who's interested in everything, who wants to know the littlest detail about every single thing that we do."

When they got married and thought they were going to have two children, they prayed about adopting two more. They never thought their prayers would be answered like this.

"We're just overwhelmed that they survived," Sylvia Long said, "and we have the privilege or raising them for their mom and daddy."

On March 1, in Burlington, Colo., Sarah and Ethan's 12-year-old brother shot and killed their parents, Charles and Marilyn. He then directed his violence toward his siblings. Ethan was 9 years old at the time.

Wally Long told 9NEWS the boy shot Ethan twice and stabbed him six times in the back. He slashed Sarah's throat and stabbed her several more times. She was 5 years old.

Both of Ethan's lungs collapsed; he lost a lot of blood. It's a miracle he survived, the family says.

"The kids survived by God's grace, and somehow, little Ethan probably should've been dead, but he survived, and God had a reason for his life," Wally Long said.

The family is still wondering about the reason why this happened at all.

"It's kind of hard to believe, and [my cousin has] already been tried [for the crime] and I heard him say he's already [pleaded] guilty to it," said Ashley Johnson, Wally Long's oldest daughter. "It's still really hard to believe that someone I knew could've done this to his family."

"I still wonder why," Wally Long said. "I don't know if we'll ever know why. I'm not sure. Sometimes things just break, I don't know. Maybe something just broke in his mind, maybe something happened, maybe. I don't have a clue."

The Longs say Charles and Marilyn were good parents who loved their kids. Sarah says she misses them.

"They died," the 6-year-old said, in a matter-of-fact way. "My brother killed them. He also hurt me and Ethan. I don't know why he did that. Now he's in prison. I think it's good he's in prison, because he won't touch us ever again."

Now 13, Sarah and Ethan's older brother is serving a seven-year sentence in juvenile detention - the maximum the system allowed - for killing his parents and injuring his siblings. From the beginning of the case, 9NEWS has chosen not to name him because of his age.
Ethan says he doesn't remember much.

"I think the only reason I remember is because it hurt," he said. "When I woke up from my second stomach surgery, I was hitting my little pain medication button as much as I could. It wasn't working."

Wally Long says both kids worry about their safety.

"We assure them regularly that they're safe, that I'll take care of them," he said. "That's one of the main concerns, 'Will you keep us safe?' Sarah asks us that fairly regularly, I'd say."

Through the tragedy and heartache, there are smiles, love and even jokes from Ethan. The two seem to have adjusted to their new family.

"Uncle Dad and Uncle Mom," Sarah calls her new mom and dad. "Not [many] kids have that - Uncle Dad and Uncle Mom."

For a kid whose life was robbed of so much, she's incredibly giving. Sarah is planning to use her entire piggy bank on a surprise present for the family.

"It's been hard in some ways but it's been really exciting in other ways to see how well they've done, even though they've been through a lot, and how well they fit in," Johnson said. "It's been really cool to see how God has worked it out. And how God has allowed this to happen in our family and given us the tools to make it work even if it's hard."

The Longs say they allowed 9NEWS into their home to be able to say thank you and to show the world the kids who survived so much are doing well.

"Somehow, in his God-way, he takes evil and bad things and brings good out of it," Wally Long said. "I just want to tell the people of Colorado and across the country that might hear this: Thank you, thank you for your prayers. It means a lot, I know that the prayers of people all around the country and certainly there in Colorado have kept us lifted up, and God does listen to those prayers, and he's working in our lives."

"This is a hard thing, it's a horrible thing. Sometimes the pain has been real dark and real deep, almost overwhelming, but the thing I keep thinking about is, love is deeper still," Sylvia Long said.

Read Anastasiya Bolton's blog about covering this story.

Timeline of events:

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