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Robert Joseph Long (October 14, 1953 – May 23, 2019), also known as Bobby Joe Long, was an American serial killer and rapist who was executed for the murder of Michelle Sims. Long abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered at least 10 women in the Tampa Bay Area in Florida during an eight-month period in 1984. He released one of his last victims, 17-year-old Lisa McVey, after raping her for a period of 26 hours. McVey provided information to the police that enabled them to track him down.
Long was sentenced to death for two of the ten murders. He was executed by lethal injection on May 23, 2019.Contents
Long was born on October 14, 1953 in Kenova, West Virginia to Joe and Louetta Long. He was born with an extra X chromosome, because of which he grew breasts during puberty, for which he was severely teased. He also suffered multiple head injuries as a child. He had a dysfunctional relationship with his mother; he slept in her bed until he was a teenager, and resented her multiple short-term boyfriends. He married his high school girlfriend in 1974, with whom he had two children before she filed for divorce in 1980.
Prior to the Tampa Bay area murders, Long had committed at least 50 rapes as the "Classified Ad Rapist" in Fort Lauderdale, Ocala, Miami, and Dade County. Starting in 1981, Long answered classified ads for small appliances, and if he found a woman alone at home, he would rape her. He was tried and convicted for rape in 1981 but requested a new trial, which was granted. The charges were later dropped. Before Long killed in Florida, he lived in Long Beach, California, on the 2500 Block of Eucalyptus Avenue, where he rented a room from a woman named Kathy. He dated a 17-year-old girl across the street from his rented room. Long began contacting women through the Penny Saver and other classified ads and when he found a woman alone, he asked to use the bathroom, took out his "rape kit" and brutally raped and robbed the woman. These crimes were never prosecuted by the local California authorities.Murders
Long moved to the Tampa area in 1983. Hillsborough County had been averaging about 30 to 35 homicides per year in the 1980s. Then, in 1984, the murder rate escalated. During one eight-month period, a killer with a unique method of binding, raping, and killing his victims, then dumping them in unusual positions and poses, was averaging a murder every other week. The first victim was discovered in May 1984, when the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) was called to a crime scene where the body of a nude woman had been found.
This began an intensive investigation into the abduction, rape, and murder of at least 10 women in three counties in the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas) involving the personnel from the HCSO, the FBI, the Tampa Police Department (TPD), the Pasco County Sheriff's Office (PCSO), and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The bodies were found usually long after the murder in a state of decomposition, dumped near a rural roadside and dragged into the woods.Modus operandi
In 1984, while on probation for assault, Long began driving around, trolling for victims in areas known for prostitution and in bars where women were found alone. He claimed his victims approached him, after which he persuaded them to enter his car and took them to an apartment. There he bound his victims with rope and ligature collars he fashioned using a variety of rope knots, later confessing that he derived sadistic pleasure from the abduction, rape, and brutal murder of his victims. Some he strangled, others he killed by slitting their throats or bludgeoning. The bodies were placed in unique positions or "displayed," for example with their legs splayed five feet apart at odd angles. Of Long's ten known victims, five were identified as sex workers, two as exotic dancers, one was a factory worker, one was a student, and one was of unknown occupation.Known victims
At the time of his capture, Long was wanted in three Tampa Bay area jurisdictions where investigators had collected forensic evidence, including clothing and carpet fibers, semen, ligature marks, and rope knots.
Long was arrested on November 16, 1984, and charged with the sexual battery and kidnapping of Lisa McVey. Long signed a formal Miranda waiver, and consented to questioning. After the detectives procured a confession for the McVey case, their questioning focused on a series of unsolved sexual battery homicides pending in the area. As the detectives began to question Long about the murders, he replied, "I'd rather not answer that." The detectives continued the interrogation, and handed Long photographs of the various murder victims. At this point, Long stated, "The complexion of things sure have changed since you came back into the room. I think I might need an attorney." No attorney was provided, and Long eventually confessed to eight murders in Hillsborough County, and one murder in Pasco County.
Fiber evidence analysis by the FBI linked Long's vehicle to most of his victims.Trial
The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office confronted Long with the evidence. The State Attorney and the Public Defender's Office of Hillsborough County reached a plea bargain for eight of the homicides and the abduction and rape of Lisa McVey. Long pled guilty on September 24, 1985, to all of these crimes, receiving 26 life sentences without the possibility of parole (24 concurrent and two to run consecutively to the first 24) and seven life sentences with the possibility of parole after 25 years. In addition, the State retained the option to seek the death penalty for the murder of Michelle Simms. In July 1986, the penalty phase of the Michelle Simms trial was held in Tampa. It lasted one week and again received extensive media attention. Long was found guilty and was sentenced to die in Florida's electric chair.
Although Long confessed to raping and killing women, his confession was thrown out. His trial proceeded straight to the penalty phase, which was possible in the 1980s. In early 1985, he received the death penalty.
Long was convicted and appealed his first degree murder conviction and death sentence for crimes committed in Hillsborough County.
Long appealed his first degree murder conviction and sentence of death in the death of Virginia Johnson.
On appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Pasco County, in which Long's death sentence was vacated, his conviction reversed, and his case remanded to the trial court with directions to enter an order of acquittal for the murder of Virginia Johnson. On February 24, 1999, Long accused the Capital Collateral Regional Council (the state office defending death row inmates in their appeals) of revealing his private letters to a book author, thus violating attorney–client privilege. He also accused the agency of running a "death pool," betting on the dates on which inmates would be executed, and asked that the agency be removed from his case. An investigation concluded that these allegations were unfounded. Long's petition for a writ of mandamus to require Bob Dillinger, the public defender for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, to relinquish possession and control of his file in State v. Long, was denied.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Long had one five-year sentence, four 99-year sentences, 28 life sentences, and one death sentence.Execution
On April 23, 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Long's death warrant, this being the first death warrant signed by DeSantis since he took office in January 2019. Long’s subsequent appeals were denied and he was executed by lethal injection on May 23, 2019. He was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m. and made no last statement.Documentaries
The story of Long's crimes was told on: