On November 16, 1984, police finally caught up with Bobby Joe Long for the last time. Long was wanted in connection dozens of rapes and murders around Florida, the result of an eight-month killing spree.
Long, who some reports claim is a distant cousin of Henry Lee Lucas, had a troubled childhood that was a perfect storm for creating a violent offender. He suffered at least three major head injuries during childhood, the result of various accidents. At a young age, he also killed his own dog — by shooting her in the vagina. He had been born with a genetic disorder characterized by an extra chromosome that led him to grow breasts at puberty. In addition, during that time of his life, he was sharing a bed with his barmaid mother in their one-bedroom apartment. He was also witness to the numerous gentleman callers she would bring home. He married his high school girlfriend whom he’d met at 13, presumably to get away from his situation with his mother.
As a teen, he suffered another accident, this time a motorcycle crash. During his recovery, he got into the habit of masturbating five times a day. Once back at home when he’d regained a bit of mobility, Long engaged in sex with his wife twice a day. But that was apparently not enough to assuage him.
Long reportedly began either wandering through neighborhoods looking for women who were home alone, or chatting up women who were advertising some household item for sale in the local Penny Saver. If he was right and the women were alone, he quickly moved into action, brutally raping the women before robbing them and disappearing. The many cases in California were never prosecuted.
After divorcing his wife in 1980, Long moved from California to Florida. His obsessions moved with him. Using the same classified-ad method for finding women, Long ended up being wanted for at least 50 rapes that took place in the Miami, Ocala, and Fort Lauderdale areas between 1980 and 1983. The local news outlets dubbed Long the “Classified Ad Rapist.” He was actually caught at one point in 1981, and went on trial for one of the rapes. He was convicted, but requested a new trial. Long’s request was granted, but before the new trial could take place, the charges were dropped and Long was once again out on the streets.
Long graduated to murders in the Tampa area in March of 1984 with a prostitute named Artis Wick. Eight months and at least nine victims later, Long had singlehandedly caused the murder rate in and around Tampa to skyrocket. He would troll the areas around seedy bars and places that were known for prostitution, looking for victims. When a woman came to his car, he would persuade her to get in. When they were in the car, Long drove to an apartment in the area. In that apartment, he would tie the women up with rope and knotted ligature collars. After binding his victims, he would rape the women before brutally killing them either via strangulation, bludgeoning them to death, or simply slitting their throats. On November 16, 1984, police finally caught up to Long and brought him in.
Thanks to some creative police interrogation and a mountain of forensic evidence linking Long to the different murders in some manner (fibers, semen, rope knots, etc.) Long eventually confessed to the ten known murders. Long’s attorneys reached a plea deal with the State Attorney’s office for eight of the murder charges, as well as the additional charge of rape against victim Lisa McVey, who had managed to escape his clutches. In exchange, Long was sentenced to 26 life sentences without the possibility of parole, as well as seven life sentences with a possible parole after 25 years. Unfortunately for him, he was later found guilty of the murder of Michelle Simms. For that he was sentenced to death. Long remains behind bars in Florida’s maximum security detention facility awaiting execution.
Main photo: Bobby Joe Long [Florida State Department of Corrections]
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