Bobby Joe Long, a distant cousin of Henry Lee Lucas, viciously raped and murdered at least nine women from May 1984 to November 1984 in Tampa, Florida. He was sentenced to death for raping fifty women and killing nine. Bobby Joe Long was born October 14, 1953, in Kenova, West Virginia. While he was quite young his mother left his father and took Bobby Joe to Tampa, Florida. They moved around Tampa frequently, staying with relatives or in rented rooms. He and his mother slept in the same bed until he was 13. His mother tended to be overly protective and dramatic, but still Bobby Joe Long managed to suffer a series of severe head injuries beginning at age five, when he was knocked unconscious in a fall from a swing and had one eyelid skewered by a stick. At 6 he was thrown from his bicycle, crashing headfirst into a parked car, with injuries including loss of several teeth and a severe concussion. At age 7, he fell from a pony onto his head and remained dizzy and nauseous for several weeks. He also seemed to have gotten into countless fist fights with relatives and classmates.Bobby Joe Long was born with a truly unusual condition known as Klinefelter’s syndrome which meant he had an extra X (female) chromosome causing higher amounts of the female hormone estrogen in his system. His breasts grew during puberty, which caused him great embarrassment. At 13 Bobby Joe Long met Cindy and finally began sleeping in a separate bed from his mother. They dated for 6 years before marrying in 1974. He was in the army then, stationed at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. Things went well until a serious motorcycle accident in which he suffered another serious head injury and came close to losing a leg. He claimed that after this accident he became hypersexual. His growing and desperate sexual needs seemed to consume him. Shortly after his release from hospital Long devised the idea of using the classified ads in the newspaper to locate women, arrive at their houses and rape them. He had lots of time now that he was unemployed and discharged from the army. Cindy never even suspected what he was up to but they did end up divorced.
Between 1980 and 1983, Long terrorized the Florida communities of Miami, Ocala and Fort Lauderdale as the “Classified Ad Rapist,” preying on housewives in mid-day attacks. Dropping by while their husbands were working, Bobby Joe Long typically produced a knife, bound his victims, raped them violently, and robbed their homes before he fled.
In October 1981, Sharon Richards, who shared a house with Bobby Joe Long, accused him of rape, but the police did not have enough evidence to make a charge. Just two weeks later, Bobby Joe hit Sharon during an argument. He then took a leave of absence from Tampa and went to stay with his parents in West Virginia, returning to Tampa in June 1983.
In July 1983, Bobby Joe met Emma at the Humana Hospital where he worked as an X-ray technologist and she as a nurse. They soon became a couple. Emma encouraged him to attend church. He in turn gave her jewelry that, unbeknownst to Emma, were stolen from his rape victims. She never questioned him about how he was able to afford these expensive gifts. Then in September 1983, he was found guilty on the assault charges stemming from the 1981 incident. This enraged Bobby Joe and he wrote numerous letters to the judge, demanding a new trial. He claimed he had done nothing criminal and that the whole incident had been Richards’ fault.
In November 1983, Bobby Joe Long was charged with sending an obscene letter and photographs to a twelve year old girl in Tampa. Officials had traced phone calls Long had made to the 12 year old and Long received a sentence of two days in jail and six months’ probation.
In early 1984, Bobby Joe Long got his retrial in the Sharon Richards case and was acquitted of the assault charges, despite the testimony of a number of witnesses against him. As he left the courtroom he turned and laughed at her.
n March 27, 1984, Bobby Joe Long raped 20 year-old Artis Wick in Tampa. Unsatisfied, with just rape, he strangled her to death. The serial rapist escalated to serial killer.
Between May and November 1984, Bobby Joe Long strangled, stabbed and shot at least nine victims, with a tenth suspected but never charged against him. In early November, he abducted a 17-year-old girl off the street and raped her, then her life when she described acts of incest performed by her father. Two days later he raped and killed one last victim, before being arrested and charged. The girl who had been spared was able to describe him and his car to police.
The First Body
A couple of teenage boys walking in the early evening across a field near I-75, southeast of Tampa, Florida, noticed a bad smell in the air. They went closer to investigate the construction area from which it emanated and realized that the blackened thing in the weeds they were looking at was not a deer or cow but the mangled remains of a nude woman. They ran to find their parents. Anna Flowers offers the details of what happened next in her book, Bound to Die.
It was Mother’s Day, May 13, 1984 . The body, estimated to have lain in that spot for three days, was infested with maggots, especially around the face, which made identification difficult. She was found face down, her wrists tied together loosely behind her back around eight inches apart, and a noose draped three times around her neck. It appeared to have been used as a leash, with a hangman’s slipknot. The Florida sun and insects had done their damage.
Capt. Gary Terry and Detective Lee Baker from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) came to the scene. They examined the remains and saw from severe bruising that prior to her death the victim had been severely beaten. Oddly, the rope tying her wrists was different from the rope around her neck. A white silk cloth found under the victim’s face apparently was used as a gag. And there was more: The young woman’s hips had been rudely broken to allow both of her legs to be pulled out at right angles to her body – a pose apparently meant for shock value. It seemed likely that she had been raped, but that was for the autopsy to determine, if possible.
At the scene, investigators soon found a set of tire tracks that led into and out of the field. They cast plaster tire impressions and noted that the front and rear right tires had a standard tread design while the left rear tire had an unusual tread design. That could be helpful in the apprehension of the offender.
Medical examiner Charles Digg performed the autopsy and stated the cause of death as best he could tell as strangulation. He confirmed that the victim had been raped. It was difficult to tell her race or age, but he thought she might have been Asian.
In a move that was unusual for him, Capt. Terry contacted special agent Michael P. Malone, a fiber analyst at the FBI lab, who agreed to examine the evidence. Malone located a red trilobal nylon fiber on the scarf and concluded that it was probably from a type of cheap carpeting used in an automobile – perhaps the one that had transported the victim to the dump site.
This incident did not get much press. Bernie Ward says in his book, In the Mind of a Monster , that it was buried on page 9B of the Tampa Tribune .
A missing persons report on a young Asian female, filed by John Corcoran, appeared to match the victim’s physical features. As DNA was not yet in use, her fingerprints were utilized to affirm her identity as Ngeun Thi Long, also known as Lana Long (Ward also calls her Peggy). She was 20 years old and had worked as a dancer at the Sly Fox Lounge in Tampa . Investigators discovered that she was a drug addict. She had also been trying to raise money to return to her family in California . They assumed that she may have been asking men who liked watching her to give her money and had met the wrong person at the wrong time. In addition, because she had no car, she often looked for rides. Long was last seen leaving a bar called CC’s.
Her boyfriend was briefly a suspect, but his alibi checked out. At this point, Lana Long was just one of a number of unfortunate girls getting murdered in the Tampa area. No one thought much about it, but within two weeks, her status had changed.
The psychology of a serial killer
A construction worker came across another female body on May 27, 1984 , in a lover’s lane near Plant City north of I-4 in Hillsborough County . Officials from HCSO arrived to examine the scene, and they soon realized this one was oddly familiar.
The mostly nude woman was on her back, clad in a green T-shirt which had been ripped up the front and pulled back, leaving her arms in the sleeves to bind them. Her wrists had been tied behind her back (also loosely), and once again a rope had been wound three times around her neck. Like the crime two weeks earlier, the ropes used to bind her and to strangle her were different types. The leash-like rope around the neck had been partially cut by a knife, possibly with the same weapon used to cut her neck and cheeks. Among her most serious wounds was a wide slicing cut to the neck almost a foot long that had severed a large blood vessel, and she had a massive blunt trauma injury over her left ear.
So she was stabbed, strangled, and beaten to death. Whoever had done this was shockingly brutal.
While this victim wore next to nothing, a bloodstained white jumper and white pantyhose were found hanging from a tree limb and were assumed to have been hers. There were also trace items of note: on the victim’s body was a reddish fiber, lying near her left breast, as well as several strands of hair on her stomach and under her right hand. These had to be analyzed along with whatever was under her fingernails.
Prints were evident at the scene: tire tracks and even a barefoot print found in mud. Plaster casts were made of all of these impressions, one of which contained a clear “V” along with more indistinct letters.
This time they had found the victim more quickly: She was estimated to have been dead for about 12 hours. The autopsy revealed that her skull had received five brutal blows and that she had been strangled at or near the time of death. She also had been raped. The official cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation and severe head injuries.
Ward describes the news item that accompanied a composite drawing of this Jane Doe, offering identifiers such as being in her late teens, 5-foot 5-inches tall, 119 pounds, with dark brown hair and eyes. The faster they IDed her, the better it would be for their investigation.
Michelle Denise Simms
She turned out to be a prostitute. The victim was identified by another girl working the streets as Michelle Denise Simms, a 22-year-old with a drug habit. Having been in the city only two days, she was last seen talking to two white men near Kennedy Boulevard . Her high-risk lifestyle had made her easy pickings, as well as throwing up hurdles to solving her murder. Random killings were always more difficult.
Special Agent Malone also examined the Simms case evidence and noted clear similarities. There were good matches between the tire impressions from both scenes, so the casts were sent to an expert in Ohio , according to Ward. He said that the right rear tire was a Goodyear Viva tire, while the left rear was a Vogue Tyre, an expensive tire exclusive to Cadillacs. This kind of individualizing evidence would definitely help if they ever identified a suspect.
There was also a close match on the fiber evidence. The red trilobal fiber found on both bodies indicated that these two women had a killer in common. Malone also found a second type of red fiber in the Simms case, a delustored red trilobal fiber, which indicated that the associated vehicle probably contained two different types of carpet fibers.
One more important clue emerged: Semen stains found on Simms’ clothing indicated that the killer had an AB blood type. The hairs found on Simms were 8-inch-long, brown cranial hairs identified as Caucasian. They did not belong to her.
Since the FBI was already involved via the fiber analysis, it was but a short step to get the Behavioral Science Unit interested in the possibility of getting in on a serial killer case before it escalated.
No one then had any idea that they’d already been looking for this man as a notorious rapist. On June 2, the press ran a news report that indicated how seriously they were taking this investigation.
The FBI Gets Involved
HCSO sent a summary of the common factors from the crime scenes to the BSU, and agents there worked up a profile of the killer’s probable background and personality traits. Flowers indicates that this occurred after the second victim, while Ward shows it after the fourth. Ward offers a retired agent’s discussion of the various profile points, but Flowers reproduces the entire profile:
The agents thought the factors from both cases that were most important to their analysis were:
- the victims had to depend on others for transportation
- the victims were essentially nude when found
- the victims had been similarly bound, while one was posed
- they had been picked up in Tampa
- they had been left near interstate highways in rural areas
- there were tire tread impressions at both scenes
- they were found at quite a distance from where they were last seen
- carpet fibers confirmed the relationship of the crimes
From these facts, it was clear that the killer was mobile and probably had or borrowed a vehicle. The leash-like ropes around the necks and the brutal beatings that exceeded what was necessary to kill them showed a certain deviance. It seemed more likely that the victims had been randomly selected because they were easy prey than that they were known to the killer.
He was deemed to be a white male, in his mid-20s, gregarious, extroverted, and manipulative. In general, he seemed to be what they classify as “organized.” He would operate normally in society, but he would be argumentative, self-centered, and exhibit little or no emotion – all common to a psychopath. Being narcissistic, he would want to be the center of attention. He would also be impulsive, albeit not sufficiently so to risk being caught. It was likely that he lied easily and had a macho self-image. He might even have tattoos to that effect, and carry a weapon as a statement of his manhood.
At best, he’d have a high school education. If he’d even tried college, it was likely that he’d had trouble adjusting to the discipline and would have dropped out. He would be intelligent but have issues with authority. He may have been truant and disruptive. In keeping with his self-image, he would probably take masculine jobs or a job where his manipulative skills would be useful. He probably had difficulty holding down a job and would have had multiple short-term employments.
As a child, he probably was delinquent and difficult to control, and exhibited resentment toward efforts to impose discipline. He may have a history of bedwetting, arson, and animal cruelty.
If he had served in the military, he would have joined a masculine unit, such as the Marine Corps. Even here, his issues with authority would have gotten him into confrontations.
On the issue of relationships, and in the tradition of organized killers, he probably would have a woman in his life. He would date regularly, but not have long-term commitments. He would brag about his sexual exploits, and probably date younger women. If married, he would be unfaithful, and his chosen type of woman would be dependent and easily controlled.
His car of choice would be flashy, like a sports car.
It was also likely that he would have a prison record, or some record of problems with the law. Prior to these murders, he may have committed neighborhood crimes, such as voyeurism or burglary. Yet if he was ever in jail, he would have been a model albeit manipulative prisoner.
In these crimes, he was sadistic: he probably used some scheme to lure the women into his car, and then proceeded to torture them mentally and physically, keeping them alive for some period of time. He would leave little or no evidence behind. In all likelihood, he would kill again.
He could be a police buff. After the crime, he may return to the scene of the crime and participate in the investigation – both to deflect the investigators and to relive the experience. He would continue his lifestyle without change after the crime. On the anniversaries, as a way to relive his pleasure, he might contact the victims’ family members, the police, or the media to gloat.
In addition to personality traits and probably background, the profilers also offered recommendations for interrogating a suspect, should they make an arrest. They suggested that whoever interrogates him know the facts of the case well, and ask questions with confidence. He should dress formally and appear to be a figure of authority, fully in control and not easily manipulated. He can demonstrate this by dropping facts from the crimes in a timed manner to give the killer the impression “that his entire background is known.”
The BSU sent this profile to HCSO, but the killer had already struck again, and this time there was a difference.
Serial Killer at Large
On June 8, 1984, Elizabeth Loudenback, 22, a shy girl who worked on an assembly line, had gone for a walk from the mobile park where she lived, but never returned. He mother reported her missing.
It took more than two weeks before her body was found on a Sunday morning in an orange grove, severely decomposed. Ward says that she was nearly liquefied. Unlike the earlier two victims, she was fully clothed, but her hyoid bone was broken, indicating death by strangulation. Since there were no ropes at this scene and no interstate nearby, she was not immediately linked to the serial killer. She was also not a prostitute, drug addict, hitch-hiker, nor dancer. Only later would her clothing be checked and found to yield the same two types of red fibers that would link her case to the others. At this time, she was considered merely the victim of a random murder, possibly a copy-cat to the others.
But she was not.
There was a hiatus of several months before more victims were linked to this killer:
Chanel Devon Williams
- The fourth set of remains was found on October 7, 1984, by a ranch hand on a cattle ranch north of Hillsborough State Park. The body, dead for nearly a week, had been shoved under a barbed wire fence and was lying facedown. Her head was a mass of maggot activity. Her clothing had been scattered, her panties on the fence, her bra on the gate. The girl had been raped and strangled, and then killed with a shot to the back of her head — a different method from the others. She was identified by her fingerprints as Chanel Devon Williams, an 18-year-old black girl who had just been released from jail after being arrested for prostitution. The FBI lab found both types of red carpet fibers on her clothing, a brown Caucasian pubic hair on her sweater, and semen stains on her clothing that contained both A and H blood group substances. The semen stains found in this case did not match the Simms case, but both had been prostitutes, so the similarities among the evidence outweighed this difference.
- On October 14, 1984, a fifth body was discovered in northeastern Hillsborough County. Her wrists were bound with a red bandana, and her legs and neck had been tied with a long thick shoelace. She had been beaten about the head and raped. Her yellow sweatshirt was pulled up to her neck, exposing a bruised and bloodied torso, with indicators that she had been dragged. She was wearing only the sweatshirt, although the rest of what appeared to be her clothing was scattered nearby. The cause of death was strangulation. Because she was a known prostitute and drug addict, the investigating team had recognized her, but she was officially identified by her fingerprints as Karen Beth Dinsfriend, 28. To link her with the other victims, both types of the red fibers had been found on her clothes. There were also brown Caucasian pubic hairs and semen that indicated A and H blood substances.
- The next body was found two weeks later, on Halloween by a 71-year-old man clearing a ditch next to US 301 on the northern edge of Hillsborough County. This one was mummified, with hair still attached to her skull, so it was difficult to tell when she had been killed and dumped here. They did not rule her out of the investigation, but they did not have much evidence to use. They tried to identify her, but it wasn’t until much later, when they had the killer in custody, that they learned her identity. She was Kimberly Kyle Hoops, known as “Sugar,” a 22-year-old prostitute. She had been strangled to death with the black cloth choker that she wore around her neck.
- Another woman’s body was found on November 6, 1984, in Pasco County, the next county over from Hillsborough. A woman out horseback riding on her ranch had come across this victim. Body parts had been severed and scattered throughout the field. Dr. Joan Woods, chief medical examiner of Pasco County, determined that the victim had been dead and dumped there for about two weeks. Although the bones had been gnawed by animals, Dr. Woods could still determine that the girl had died a violent death. There was a 9-inch cord tied twice around the neck over a piece of cloth and a thick shoelace bound the wrists together. There were no bullets or bullet wounds, so the cause of death was deemed strangulation. Despite the dismemberment, there were many similarities to the other murders. The victim was a Caucasian female, about 20 years old and 5-foot 5-inches tall. She was later identified, after the killer was apprehended, as 18-year-old Virginia Lee Johnson, a prostitute on the Tampa Strip.
Kim Marie Swann
- On November 12, 1984, a sign painter in Tampa came across another woman’s body. The Tampa Police called in HCSO to take a look at the murder scene. This victim wore the leash-like noose around her neck and bore rope burns on her body. Her face was severely beaten, and her legs were forced open for a shocking display. Her clothing had been thrown near her, and fecal matter lay on the shirt. Dr. Miller estimated that she had been dead for two to three days, and that the cause of death was strangulation. Inside the jeans there was a driver’s license for a Kim Marie Swann. She was 21, and like a previous victim, she worked as a dancer at the Sly Fox Lounge on the Tampa Strip. Also like most of the previous victims linked in this series, on her jeans they found small particles of reddish carpet and some brown hairs.
The police worked this case hard, given all the bodies they had within a short period of time, but no leads panned out. They were desperate to find a suspect.
A Survivor of Bobby Joe Long
Investigators busily interviewed people and watched suspicious areas along the Tampa Strip. They used their evidence and the FBI profile of the killer to narrow their search, but to no avail. The killer’s identity eluded them.
Then 17-year-old Lisa McVey was abducted. While all of the published accounts of this case cover this tale, the victim herself has helped to write, Smoldering Embers, her own book about it. She had survived the serial killer and was able to tell the police what she knew.
While on her way home from work during the evening of November 3, 1984, Lisa was grabbed off her bicycle and tied up by someone hiding in the bushes along the road. He had a gun and said that he also had a knife. He quickly blindfolded her and forced her into his car. She was certain he meant to kill her.
She begged him not to hurt her and said that she would do whatever he wanted. He ordered her to remove her clothes in his car and to perform oral sex on him. He drove her around for a while, says Joel Norris in Serial Killers , and eventually brought her back to his apartment, where he kept her hostage. Her entire ordeal lasted 26 hours, as he repeatedly raped her, fondled her, forced her to perform sex acts on him, and even made her shower with him. He told her repeatedly that he did not want to hurt her.
But despite her terror, Lisa managed to keep her head clear. She looked for opportunities to find this man again if she ever got free. At one point, her kidnapper stopped at an automatic teller machine to get some cash, so she peered under the blindfold at the dashboard and memorized what she could see of the car’s interior. She continued to get quick glimpses as they arrived at a white stucco building and went up some red steps.
Although the man insisted that she keep her eyes shut as he abused her, she managed to get a look at her surroundings. She also dropped a barrette next to the bed, unnoticed, to prove that she had been there.
After a marathon rape session, her attacker dozed off. When he woke up, he said he now trusted her. She sensed that when they talked, he relaxed and was less brutal with her. He stopped referring to her as “bitch” and started calling her “Babe.” He even said he wished he could keep her. She had no idea what he intended to do, but she found ways to keep him from getting angry.
Then he seemed to lose interest. He took her back into his car and now she knew she would find out if she was to live or die. To her surprise, he stopped the car and told her to get out. He let her go, telling her, “Take care.”
Lisa wasted no time in getting home. She woke her father, told him what happened, and he called the police. The investigators working the serial killer case did not yet realize it, but this was their big break.
Lisa described her kidnapper as a white male in his mid-30s. He had a deep voice; his hair was brown, about an inch long in a “layered cut.” He had thin eyebrows and a short mustache, big nose, small ears, and good teeth. He was compact but slightly overweight and had come across as somewhat feminine. She noted the gun, and then went on to describe the car, a dark red or maroon two-door Dodge Magnum with a red steering wheel and dashboard, and white seats and interiors. She did not remember anything about the carpet. She also recalled details about the apartment where she’d been raped and tried to give the officers a hint about its location, as well as the location of the bank where they had stopped, but the blindfold had limited how much she was able to offer.
On a hunch, HCSO sent the McVey rape evidence to Malone at the FBI lab to see if there was a connection to the serial murders.
In the meantime, a task force had been formed with members from HCSO, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department, the Tampa Police Department, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to combine forces and investigate the area’s string of serial murders. Lt. Gary Terry was designated as the team supervisor.
Their first meeting took place on November 14, 1984. All the cooperating homicide and sex crime detectives learned that the FBI lab had processed the Lisa McVey evidence and found the same red fibers evident in the other serial murder cases. They now had good information about the killer, including a description of him, his car, his apartment, and his bank. The profile had come fairly close on several points. More important, the place where Lisa had been released had given them a good sense of where to be on the lookout for the red car.
Yet even as Lisa was telling her story, the killer was at work again on his next victim, a woman who willingly got into his car. She fought him, so he strangled her and then drove around with her corpse. He even stopped for gas with her body still in the front seat, but no one noticed. He then took her out to the countryside and dumped her.
The TakedownOn November 15 (Newton says November 17), Detectives Wolf and Helms were on cruise patrol in Tampa when they saw a red Dodge Magnum in the slow moving traffic. (Flowers says slow-moving, while Ward indicates that the car “zipped” by, as if speeding.) They pulled the car over and they checked his license. The man’s name was Robert Joe Long, better known as Bobby Joe, and his address matched the area that the police were searching for the killer’s apartment. The car’s interior also matched what Lisa McVey had described.
Bobby Joe Long
Bobby Joe Long, 1984
Once they had Long’s car, they removed a sample of the right floor carpet and sent to the FBI lab for comparison. Special Agent Malone confirmed the fiber match. They disassembled the car’s interior for them to check for fibers from the victims’ clothing or from rope, victim fingerprints, blood, and any other potential physical evidence.
In Long’s apartment, which looked as Lisa had described it, detectives located her barrette. They found plenty of photos of nude women, including photos that Long had taken of himself raping some victims. They also located pieces of female clothing.
Long signed a consent-to interview form and was interrogated by Detectives Latimer and Price. During the course of the interrogation, they learned that Long was an unemployed X-ray technician who lived in Tampa Florida. Once married and with two children, he had been divorced for five years. His former family lived with their mother in Hollywood, Florida.
He quickly admitted to kidnapping McVey and to having sex with her many times. Yet he added that at one point McVey said that she did not want to leave. He claimed that he had unloaded the gun and put the bullets in the trash so he wouldn’t be tempted to hurt her. About the blindfold that Lisa wore, Long said he had fashioned it himself two days before the abduction — just in case. Long said he did not use drugs, rarely drank, and did not suffer from memory losses.
The interrogators then brought up the subject of physical evidence. They told Long the many kinds of evidence that can be gathered at a crime scene and showed him photos of the five known murder victims, asking if he knew them.
Long replied, “No.”
He asked to use the bathroom. When he came back, they again started talking about physical evidence, specifically the left rear Vogue Tyre on the tire tread impressions. Long appeared to understand. He responded with, “I think I might need an attorney.” Rather than end the interrogation there as required by law, Sgt. Latimer urged Long to be honest because they already had a case against him through the physical evidence.
Long smiled and said, “Well, I guess you got me good … Yes, I killed them … All the ones in the paper. I did them all.” He was asked to describe each case and he complied with the details. He realized that he’d set himself up when he had not killed Lisa McVey as he had done with the others.
“I knew when I let her go,” Norris quotes Long as saying, “that it would only be a matter of time. I didn’t even tell her not to talk to the police or anything … I just didn’t care anymore, and I wanted to stop. I was sick inside.”
Newton indicates that if anyone was destined to become a serial killer, it was Bobby Joe Long. A distant cousin of the notorious Henry Lee Lucas, who had confessed and recanted and confessed to hundreds of murders, Long had also survived numerous blows to the skull: a fall from a swing, a fall from his bicycle, a fall from a pony, a motorcycle crash. In addition, he proved to have an extra X chromosome that had produced abnormal amounts of estrogen during puberty. To make matters worse, he had slept in his mother’s bed until he was 13, and when he finally married, his wife dominated him. He suffered from blinding headaches and driving obsessions with sex, as well as the ability to have sex repeatedly.
As Long confessed that day, he described how he had invited Lana Long into his car because she needed a ride. With Michelle Simms, he had hit her on the head after he couldn’t strangle her because he didn’t want her to suffer when he stabbed her.
Next, he described the killing of Elizabeth Loudenback, who he said he had considered letting go until “she jerked me around.” He had strangled her with a rope, and then took her purse and used her bank card before throwing it away. He described the killing of Chanel Williams, and claimed that the gun he used to kill her was the same gun with which he had kidnapped McVey, and also the gun used in his earlier conviction of aggravated assault.
He described the murder of Karen Dinsfriend, in which he had started to strangle her in one orange grove, but had heard dogs barking, so he put her in the trunk and moved her to another grove where he finished the job. He spoke of the murder of “Sugar” (later identified as Kimberly Hoops) who he had left in a ditch. Long described the murder of the girl whose remains had been found scattered in a field. He didn’t know her name, but he did know Kim Swann, whom he had picked up when he saw her driving drunk and weaving down a street. He said he hit her several times in the head to “subdue” her.
When the police asked him if he knew anything about the disappearance of Vicky Elliot, a 21-year-old who went missing in September as she was walking to work for her midnight shift at the Ramada Inn, he acknowledged killing her. She had accepted a ride, and when he tried to tie her up she fought him off with a pair of scissors. That angered him, so he strangled her. He drew a map to direct the investigators to her body.
The Classified Ad Rapist
Long had developed a successful MO: between 1980 and 1983, he scanned papers for ads for items for sale. Long’s former roommate, Ted Gensel, recalled for police how Long used to make a lot of calls to people who had placed ads. In particular, he was looking for bedroom furniture (which Long later explained was because one would have to try it out before a purchase). He also went up to houses that bore “For Sale” signs and often forced his way in. A few times, he raped girls as young as 12 or 13.
After he found an ad he liked, he would call and arrange to go look at the item during the day, when husbands were unlikely to be home. If he was mistaken, he could always decline to buy the item and walk away. More often, a woman alone answered the door. They often let him in because he came across as clean-cut, well-dressed, and respectable. As Ward puts it, “He did not look like a rapist.”
He practiced this maneuver in neighborhoods in the counties surrounding Ocala , Miami , and Fort Lauderdale . When a woman opened the door and appeared to be alone and vulnerable, Long would pull his knife. Then he would bind the victims and rape them, often robbing the home as well before he left.
In a letter that Ward reprinted, Long writes that “a few of them got into it” and even asked him if he minded if they enjoyed it. He said that while he raped them, he made them talk to him. Most did not resist, but those who did received a punch in the stomach that showed them he meant business. “Give a bitch a choice between getting dicked and getting hurt,” he said, “you know what she’s gonna pick.”
In his opinion, he was doing them a favor because they had such miserable sex lives with their husbands. He believed that had he not begun to kill, he could have kept up with this criminal activity indefinitely. To him, it seemed foolproof. He got a kick out of seeing himself described in the newspapers as the Classified Ad Rapist or the Adman Rapist. Even when they knew how he was doing it, they had been unable to catch him.
Although the police dated the first of these rapes to 1980, Long claimed he had started using this method in 1975 or 1976. “Mostly I did it for the thrill of it,” he admitted. He especially liked the “intimidation factor” of his “sharp, nasty blade.”
The FBI labeled him a “power assertive rapist,” which meant that he was doing these crimes to affirm for himself his own manhood. Roy Hazelwood, in The Evil that Men Do , describes such men as those who “assault to assert their masculinity, about which he has no doubts The most important thing in the world for him is for others to see him as a man’s man.” He will rip off clothing, terrorize, and show no concern for his victim’s suffering.
The method was actually not as foolproof as he claimed. He was nearly caught on several occasions as he fled the place. There were witnesses.
In 1981, he had actually been convicted of rape, but in an appeal he claimed the discovery of witnesses who affirmed that the alleged victim had actually given her consent to have sex. Long was let go and he continued his attacks.
He appears to have raped at least 50 women, with some estimates going as high as 150. Norris says Long’s rapes followed the cycles of the full moon.
Gathering Evidence Against Bobby Joe Long
The investigators followed the map that Long had provided and discovered the ninth victim, Vicky Elliot. Her skeletal remains were found with a broken hyoid bone, and the scissors were found in what would have been the vaginal cavity. A positive identification was made from her dental records. They also found tiny red fibers that definitively linked her to Long.
A missing person report of Virginia Johnson matched the description of the unknown victim. A heart pendant found on the corpse was linked to her, and she was positively identified by her dental records.
The knife mostly likely used in the Michelle Simms murder was discovered in Long’s apartment and was catalogued as evidence.
After a grand jury hearing, Bobby Joe Long was charged with eight counts of murder and sexual battery and nine counts of kidnapping, with one count of murder pending for Virginia Johnson, which was decided by Pasco County ‘s grand jury. He was also charged with violating his probation for aggravated assault. Because of the murder charges, he was refused bail.
Bobby Joe Long, 1984
Then other bodies were found.
On November 19, 1984, a woman’s corpse floated up in the Hillsborough River . She had been strangled with some type of device. She was never identified, but she fit Long’s profile. On November 22, 1984, another woman’s skeletal remains were found. She was identified as Artis Wick, and her remains were at least 6 to 8 months old. Her hands were bound, and her death is attributed to Long by the FBI and HCSO, although he never confessed to the crime and he was never charged. Police believed that while she was the last victim found, she may have been the first to die.
Long was formally charged for the rape and robbery of a Palm Harbor woman, and he was suspected in many more rape cases.
Holmes & Holmes discuss sex-related homicides in their book, Murder in America . To them, a sexual homicide is “a murder that combines fatal violence with a sexual element. The violence usually ends with the death of the victim and is often preceded by various aberrant sexual acts.”
Often it’s guided by a highly detailed fantasy and some degree of controlling the victim. Sometimes they consume parts of the victims, bite them, or cut them up, all of which is done for the purposes of erotic self-stimulation. Sometimes they use fetish objects, such as shoes or underwear, or rely on rituals. They have little control over this and it can become addictive and compulsive. Long’s crimes were definitely compulsive.
Norris says that after each murder, Long would go home and sleep deeply. He apparently claimed that when he awoke, the entire incident seemed more like a dream than reality. He would then go purchase a newspaper to read about it. Via the press, he learned more about each of his victims. He came to hate these women, believing that as “sluts” they had deserved to die, anyway. Yet he did not want to stop what he was doing.
Finally, Long’s case came to trial. Several times.
The Slippery Con
In 1985, Long was tested and considered competent to stand trial. There was evidence, according to Norris, of organic impairment from his earlier head injuries, but doctors did not deem them problematic for the courtroom. Norris suggests that the physical analysis was too superficial to be useful. He and psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis believed that Long’s problems stemmed from brain injuries and impairment, and that he should not have been considered responsible for his behavior. Norris also points out how the hormonal imbalances influenced Long’s behavior (though others in Long’s family suffered this as well, but they did not become serial rapists or killers).
“Dorothy Lewis,” Norris writes, “noted that Long’s hypersexuality and hair-trigger violence conformed to a pattern of behavior associated with neurological damage associated with the limbic region of the brain.”
He claims that had Long understood that his problem was a medical one, he would have had it treated. Yet there is no evidence to indicate that this is true, aside from his word on it – and this from a man who believed his rapes were good for his victims. Even organic impairment would not make him that oblivious or arrogant. Nor would it make him despise prostitutes or women in general, or make up different accounts about what he had done to his victims (which can be seen when comparing Norris’s rendition with the letters that Ward publishes).
Long says that by allowing a victim to go free, he basically turned himself in. Yet any psychopath who wants to retain his illusion of control might say as much.
Long admitted that he was aware of what he was doing and that it was wrong. He showed careful control of his crimes, taking care not to be discovered, which is sufficient to be judged guilty rather than insane. He says that he considered going to a doctor but decided not to take the chance that he might be turned in to the police. Clearly, then, he knew that what he was doing was wrong and against the law.
Long faced a lengthy series of trials in Florida , all of which were deeply flawed, and it was his intent to drag the process out as long as he could. Many different attorneys came in and out of his case, including celebrity defense attorney Ellis Rubin. Two of Long’s death penalty convictions were later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, because among other problems, that panel of justices deemed that the police had gone over the line in their interrogations. The high court specifically noted that only four hours of testimony had been presented on the murder for which Long was charged, while three entire days had been spent admitting highly prejudicial evidence of other murders with which he had not been charged. That got Long new trials.
Long’s guilt was never really an issue, but whether he should be executed or granted life in prison was the primary consideration.
A parade of mental health experts was brought into the case to try to prove that Long’s genetic anomalies and head injuries accounted for his behavior. They also blamed his parents and too much pornography, according to Ward.
A parade of mental health experts was brought into the case to try to prove that Long’s genetic anomalies and head injuries accounted for his behavior. They also blamed his parents and too much pornography, according to Ward.
Dr. Helen Morrison, who had interviewed Long for 23 hours, diagnosed him with “atypical psychosis.” He had a distorted perception of reality and was unable to make moral decisions. His mind was fragmented and non-cohesive, and had been so since he was a very young child. He eventually lost his ability to maintain control. Thus, he could not comprehend the criminality of his actions. Another psychiatrist said that once he picked these women up, he was “like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse.”
Bobby Joe Long
Throughout the string of trials, beginning with the one in Pasco County for the Virginia Johnson murder, prosecutors were looking for two death sentences, just in case one might be overturned. Simultaneously, Long was being tried on his home-invasion and rape cases. The defense just kept raising the neurological issues in the hope that someone would see that Long could not be responsible for becoming a serial rapist and killer, and show mercy. In one trial, they actually said that he was such a unique specimen that he should be preserved and studied.
Even Dr. John Money, renowned for his work in confused gender identity, came into the case. He spoke about the effects of the extra female chromosome, exacerbated by the head injuries, on a fragile ego. This had created in Long a Jekyll/Hyde syndrome. (Money was to be discredited in years to come when his failed work on a re-gendered young man came to light in the victim’s book).
The prosecution countered with psychiatrists who contended that Long had antisocial personality disorder, not deemed a mental illness. He was a liar and he had known what he was doing when he raped and murdered.
In the end, no jury accepted the defense’s psychiatric testimony. By the time Florida was done with Bobby Joe Long, he had received two death sentences and 34 life sentences (many of which were reached in plea deals), plus an additional 693 years.
Bobby Joe Long, recent
After his first death sentence, Long left the court whistling a tune. He had decided that since he was “no killer like other guys on death row,” his sentences had merely been political.
Then something else happened.
During 1997, the FBI lab came under the scrutiny of the Department of Justice, which issued a blistering 500-page report about testimony from the crime lab technicians. Those cases that had been worked by renowned fiber expert, Special Agent Michael Malone, became eligible for appeal. Long’s was one of them, since fiber evidence had been instrumental in his conviction. In fact, a 1992 assault conviction based on Malone’s neglect to do the proper testing of the fiber evidence was overturned in 2003, and other cases were re-examined. Malone’s once sterling reputation came under fire and he was allowed to retire in 1999.
However, along with fiber evidence, Long had also confessed and there was other evidence as well, including McVey’s powerful testimony and hair from a victim found in Long’s car, so the appeal merely delayed the process. As of this writing, Long is still on Florida ‘s death row.