The Man Who Loved Elvis
Larry Long grew up and lived his entire life in Ukiah.
He was a gifted athlete who graduated from Ukiah High School, worked at Masonite, and married his high school sweetheart at 17.
But Larry drank alcohol.
His marriage lasted less than a year, and he was run over by a drunk driver in 1973. The accident left Larry with a metal plate in his head and a mental disability. Although he tried to return to Masonite, he soon found himself on disability. Larry took an awful turn for the worse when his girlfriend, Charlotte Verducci, was murdered in the late 1970’s
Amazingly, Larry never complained about the terrible things that happened to him.
Larry Long was one of the nicest people I ever met.
His cousin Michele Pearson once wrote, “Larry was a good, generous man who never hurt anyone. He never hesitated to provide shelter to any of his homeless friends and was not beyond giving money or food to a complete stranger.”
On most days, Larry could be found walking the streets of Ukiah with a portable tape player on his shoulder listening to Elvis songs, including his favorite, “Don’t Be Cruel.”
I first met Larry while I was working as a corrections deputy in the county jail. Larry had been sentenced to time in jail for public intoxication. Surprisingly, Larry would tell young corrections deputies (like me) how the jail operated, and the way things were supposed to be. He would even volunteer at the police department, washing cars and cleaning up, just because. On any given day, Larry loved to talk about country music and playing football, basketball and baseball at Ukiah High School.
As the years went on, Larry and I interacted when, as a young police officer, I often had to take him to jail for being too intoxicated to care for himself. Larry was big and strong–someone you wouldn’t want to fight. He could have made arresting him really tough; yet, he would usually understand why he was going to jail and almost walk himself to the patrol car.
Larry lived on social security income, residing at board and care homes or local motels.
You could always find him in a red bandana and sunglasses with a radio on his shoulder. He walked our streets, ate at Plowshares, flirted innocently with women he saw, and hung out in front of Safeway or Albertsons asking for handouts.
People who knew Larry often bought him something to eat or gave him money. He would often turn around and give that money to his homeless friends – or buy alcohol.
Larry trusted everyone one he met.
Tragically, on the night of July 2, 1996, Larry Long was murdered at the age 45. After being robbed and assaulted, Larry was thrown off the Talmage Street – Russian River overcrossing. He died from injuries he sustained from the fall.
Two teenagers, David Portlock and Eric Mehtlan, took Larry to the bridge to rob him. There, Portlock pushed Larry over the bride railing. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office later arrested Portlock and Mehtlan, and both are now serving long prison sentences.
Larry contributed to our community and cared for the people who lived here, unlike the transients and travelers who come to Ukiah today. Today’s transients do not care for our community: they pollute the environment and often commit crimes like aggressive panhandling, robberies, violent dog bite attacks, felony assaults, and even murder.
Larry’s murder in 1996 was a tragic and senseless act. But if we can learn anything from Larry and his life, it is that we have a caring community, a community where people like Larry can get help everyday at places like Plowshares and Ford Street.
Instead of giving your money to transients who do not care, give your money to organizations in our community that help people like Larry. Helping people like Larry makes Ukiah a better place.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.