Bobby Joe Long showed no mercy in abducting, sexually assaulting, and killing at least 10 women. The actual number of Long’s victims could be as high as 50. With investigators closing in on him, Long could have continued raping and killing for at least some more time, had he not released a woman after sexually assaulting her for 26 hours, which helped the investigators get to Long sooner. HEMRAJ SINGH tells the story of one of America’s most gruesome serial killers.
The detectives investigating the case with the ninth victim found that it was time to wrap the case up and take it to the court for a trial and verdict. But it was not quite the end of it.
On November 19, 1984, a woman’s corpse was found in the Hillsborough River. She had been strangled to death. It seemed very much like one of Long’s victims, but one could not say for sure. The victim could not be identified. Long never confessed to killing this woman, and was never charged with her murder. Then on November 22, 1984, the skeletal remains of another body were found. The remains were some 6 to 8 months old. The victim was later identified by dental records as Artis Wick (18). Wick had disappeared on March 28, 1984 from a northeast Tampa street corner, and is believed to be Long’s first murder victim though, quite ironically, her mortal remains were found the last. Long admitted to killing Wick. With Wick on it, the tally of Long’s known victims stood at 10.
The detectives also learnt that Long fitted the description of a man who had raped a woman from Pasco County a few months ago. When Long’s apartment was searched for more incriminating evidence, detectives found a photo album with photographs of nude women, including many rape victims and many of those whose dead bodies the police had already found. The clothing and jewelry from Long’s other victims was also found in the apartment, which Long had apparently kept as trophies.
As the detectives searched Long’s apartment, they also realized that Long was the ‘Classified Ad Rapist’, called so for his method of luring his victims. It was estimated that Long had raped over 50 women in Florida during the 1970s and 1980s. It dawned upon the detectives that there was a lot more to Long’s criminal history than the 10 brutally killed women they had thought he was responsible for, before entering his apartment. He was, in fact, responsible for a lot more.
Born on October 14, 1953 in Kenova, West Virginia, Bobby Joe Long had an additional x chromosome, which made his life as a teenager difficult, for the extra x chromosome caused his glands to produce estrogen in excess making Long’s breasts-like formations during puberty, which made him a butt of jokes and ridicule by other kids. The genetic disorder ran in the family and was shared by many of his family members. Long underwent a surgery for the removal of excess tissue, and some six pounds of tissue was taken off his chest region. However, it cannot be ruled out that despite the surgery some sort of gender confusion still remained in Long’s mind.
To make matters worse, he had suffered serious head injuries multiple times by the time he was 13. At the age of five Long fell from the swing and was knocked unconscious sustaining injuries to one of this eyelids from a stick. A year later he was fell from his bicycle and was flung into a parked car, headfirst and sustained severe injuries, including loss of several teeth and a concussion. The following year, when he was seven he fell straight down on his head from a pony and continued to feel dizzy and nauseous for many weeks.
Long’s mother separated from his father when he was very young and brought Long to Tampa, Florida, where they did not have a permanent residence and moved from one place to another staying in rented rooms or with one or the other relative. Long’s mother was a little too protective of Long, and he slept in the same bed as his mother until the age of 13, which was when he met Cindy, and started sleeping in his own separate bed. Long married Cindy in 1974.
Long said that his mother, who was divorced twice, entertained a number of male visitors in their one-bedroom house, which Long strongly disliked. However, Long’s mother denied the allegations.
After his marriage to Cindy, Long was under the hand of two women simultaneously – his wife and his mother. His mother was overly protective, and his girlfriend-turned-wife was also the dominating partner in their relationship. However, things did not turn out quite as badly as they could have because both the women were mutually cooperative rather than being competitive. Before Long got married, he joined the army but a mere six months later he met with an accident riding a motorcycle. His helmet was shattered as his head hit the ground.
As he recovered in the hospital from his injuries, Long suffered from blinding headaches and would unpredictably get enraged. He also grew an unprecedented and compelling obsession with sex, and masturbated as many as five times a day to relieve himself. He continued the practice at the same rate even when he returned home, got married and had intercourse with his wife twice on daily. However, the intercourses and masturbation eventually stopped working and Long started looking for unsuspecting women to prey upon.
He devised a way of relieving his virtually insatiable sexual needs. From the classified advertisements in the newspaper, Long would locate the households looking for a buyer for the old furniture and other household items. During the day time, when the men of the house are at work, he would arrive at the house and gain entry on the pretext of examining the items for sale. Once inside the house, he would overpower the woman, assault her and rape her before making away with small expensive items. The women let him inside their houses because he made sure that he looked presentable and harmless. In certain cases, he raped girls as young as 12 or 13. Cindy had no idea what was up with her husband, but the duo got divorced early enough. When Long was caught, the police dated the rapes to have been committed in the 1980s, but Long claimed that he had been using his method since 1975 or 1976. “Mostly I did it for the thrill of it.” He also admitted that he particularly enjoyed the “intimidation factor” of his “sharp, nasty blade”. The FBI classified him as a “power assertive rapist”, meaning that he committed violent crimes because he felt the need to asset his masculinity.
During 1981, Bobby Joe Long shared a house with one Sharon Richards, who accused Long of rape, but the police did not have sufficient evidence against Long to charge him. A couple of weeks later, Long assaulted Sharon after an argument, and went to his parents in West Virginia and returned back to Tampa only in June 1983, which is when he met Emma at the Humana Hospital, where she worked as a nurse while he as an X-Ray technician, and became a couple. Emma never questioned or even bothered to find out how and wherefrom was Bobby getting all the expensive gifts he brought for Emma. Those gifts were basically the items he had robbed his victims of.
In September 1983, Long was found guilty on the assault charges pressed by Sharon Richards, but Long maintained that he had been wrongly convicted and none of it was his fault. Less than two months later, in November 1983, it came to light that Long had sent obscene letters and pictures to a 12-year-old girl in Tampa. The officials traced the phone calls made by Long to the girl, and he was charged with crime. Long was sentenced to two days in prison and a probation for six months.
However, in the assault case of Sharon Richards, Bobby was granted a re-trial in early 1984, and he was acquitted.
In 1984, when Long was on probation for assaulting Sharon Richards, he took to driving around in the areas where the prostitutes were known to look for new clients. He also started frequenting the bars where he could find vulnerable women. Apparently, it was on one of these occasions when he was driving around looking for a victim that he spotted Wick, and dragged her into his car although Long claimed that his victims got into the car with him willfully, after which he took them to his apartment to torture and subsequently kill them before dispensing with the bodies. But Long’s claim that all his victims got into his car willfully does not fit the case of Lisa McVey, who was grabbed off her bicycle and taken away.
In his confession to the police after his arrest, Long described how he had invited Lana Long into his car, for she looked like she needed a ride, and then proceeded to rape, strangle and kill her. Long said that he had to hit Michelle Simms in the head to knock her out after he failed to strangle her because he did not want her to suffer when he stabbed her to death. As for Elizabeth Loudenback, Long had almost decided to let her go but changed his mind when, as Long said, “She jerked me around.” He then strangled her to death with a rope, took the bank card out from her purse and used it before casting the purse and the card away. He also described in detail how he killed Chanel Williams and Karen Dinsfriend. He told that he shot Chanel Williams with the same gun that he had used to threaten McVey when he kidnapped her, and it was also the same gun in question in the aggravated assault case of Richards, in which he was convicted at first, but was later acquitted of the charges after a re-trial. In the case of Dinsfriend, Long had first started strangling her in one orange grove, but a few dogs started barking. So, for the fear of discovery, Long stuffed her back into the trunk of his car and moved to another grove, where is finally killed her and left the body. He also described how he had killed “Sugar” (Kimbely Hops). The police then asked him if he knew one Vicky Elliot (21), who had been reported missing since September, and was last seen walking to work for her midnight shift at the Ramada Inn. Long admitted to abducting and killing her. In his transcribed confession, which ran into 45 pages, Long also confessed to a number of rapes that he had committed over the years. However, he could not be charged and tried for those because the law of limitation barred prosecution.
Long was arrested on November 17, 1984, and was charged with nine counts of first-degree murders committed over a period of six months in Hillsborough County, Pasco County and the City of Tampa and felony counts of abduction, rape, and sexual assault in the case of Lisa McVey. At the end of all the trials for multiple offences, when the sentences were handed down to Bobby Joe Long in 1985, he received in total two death sentences, 34 life sentences and 693 years of imprisonment.