Bobby Joe Long biography
Tampa Bay serial killer Bobby Joe Long, born in West Virginia in October 1953, confessed to committing 10 murders and more than 50 rapes and 10 murders. For many years, he and his mother, a bartender, had a strange relationship, which included sharing a bed until Long was 13. Long married Cynthia Bartlett in January 1974, and they divorced in 1980. Long committed several rapes by using newspaper ads to find victims. He then began an eight-month killing spree, murdering Virginia Johnson, Lana Long, Elizabeth Loudenback, Chanel Williams, Karen Dinsfriend, Kimberly Hoops, Kim Swann, Vicky Elliot, Artis Wick and possibly others (he confessed to committing 10 murders, but alluded to the possibility of others). Long was arrested in November 1984, and is currently serving multiple life prison sentences. He received two death sentences, but his execution has been delayed by several appeals. He remains on Florida's death row.
Born Robert Joseph Long in Kenova, West Virginia on October 14, 1953, to parents Louella and Joe, Bobby Joe Long moved with his mother to Florida when he was 2. He spent his younger years traveling between southern Florida and West Virginia due to his parents' sporadic relationship (they twice married and twice divorced). Long and his mother shared a bed until he was 13 years old.
Long began to develop hatred for women at a young age, beginning with his mother. Louella Long, who worked in a bar, often wore racy clothing to work and brought different men home with her.
In 1959, Bobby Joe failed the first grade. He finished the following year, and not long after, was involved in a major accident: He was hit by a vehicle, knocked unconscious and hospitalized. Less than a year later, he was involved in a strangely similar incident: He ran into a street and was hit by a moving car, suffering an irrepairable jaw injury.
In the mid-1960s, Long met his future wife, Cynthia Bartlett (later known as Cindy Levy). In 1970, at 17 years old, he became a high school dropout. One year later, while still dating Bartlett, Long was accused of rape, but escaped criminal charges due to a lack of evidence. He and Bartlett married in January 1974, and by the end of the following year, they had become the parents of two children, a son and daughter.
Becoming parents earlier than planned put stress on the newlyweds, and their relationship soon became volatile. Additionally, around this same time, Long was involved in a serious motorcycle accident: He was hit by a vehicle while riding his motorcycle, and was subsequently hospitalized for several weeks. Cynthia later claimed that Long's temperament changed following the accident; while he was always short tempered, he became physically violent with her impatient with their children, she said. Long had also developed a strangely overt, compulsive and often dangerous sex drive—crime analysts would later attribute his violent character to a sexual obsession, labeling him as a sexual sadist.
When Cynthia filed for divorce in 1980, Long moved in with a female friend, Sharon Richards, who would later accuse him of rape and battery. In the fall of 1983, Long was found guilty of assault against Richards. Around the same time, he was found guilty of sending an inappropriate, sex-infused letter and photographs to a 12-year-old Florida girl, receiving a short jail sentence and probation. In a re-trial, Long was acquitted of assault charges in the Richards case.
Making a criminal leap in early 1984, Long committed what is thought to be his first premeditated rape. Finding a newspaper advertisement about a home for sale in New Port Richey, Florida, he secured vicious plans and traveled to the home. Armed with a gun, he didn't wait long to execute his plans when he arrived at the house: He quickly pulled his gun and raped the female homeowner. Long continued to commit sexual crimes by looking for "For Sale" signs on homes and going through classified ads for furniture, homes and other household items. He soon became infamously known in the Tampa Bay area as the "Classified Ad Rapist."
According to police, Long committed more than 50 rapes during this period, before moving to darker crimes.
By the spring of 1984, Long had made another criminal jump: He committed his first murder. He would continue a killing spree for the next eight months, allegedly motivated by his obsession with sex and long-held anger toward women. Initially just looking to fulfill his sexual needs, Long picked up a young prostitute named Artis Wick in March 1984. After assaulting and raping Wick, he decided that he wasn't content with his crimes, so he strangled and killed her.
In May 1984, while driving on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, Long spotted a young woman walking named Lana Long. He pulled up to Lana and offered her a ride, and she accepted, asking him to take her to a nearby bar. Instead of taking her to the bar, however, Long pulled his car off the road not far from the bar, and pulled out a knife. When Lana began screaming and attempting to fight Long, tied her up and drove to a road farther away. He then pulled her out of the car, raped and strangled her. According to police, Lana Long's body was found—on Mother's Day, May 13, 1984—lying face down with her hands bound behind her back, and her legs were spread far apart (officers measured five feet and one inch from one heel to the other).
Long's next victim was Michelle Simms, a 22-year old prostitute who had reportedly been struggling with drug addiction. After raping Simms, Long hit her with a club, then strangled her and cut her throat. Detectives connected Simms's murder to Lana Long's when the same material—red trilobal nylon carpet fiber—was found on each victim. Police found Long's fourth victim, Elizabeth Loudenback, in Tampa's Madorick Park (formerly Turkey Creek Reservoir), 17 days after she was killed. Loudenback's body was badly decomposed when detectives found her; she was lying on her back, fully clothed.
According to police, Loudenback was different from Long's other victims: She was not a drug user, prostitute or stripper, but had been on a walk outside of her residence when Long spotted her. Long would later admit to raping and strangling Loudenback, on whom police also found red trilobal nylon carpet fiber.
Long's fifth victim, a young prostitute named Chanel Williams, had been walking along a Tampa street when Long picked her up. After raping and attempting to strangle Williams, Long pulled out his gun and shot her in the head.
Long continued to kill, taking the lives of Karen Dinsfriend and Kimberly Hoops, and then spotted 17-year-old Lisa McVey Noland on her bicycle in northern Tampa, on Waters Avenue. Unlike his other recent victims around this time, Long let McVey live, after treating her like a sex slave for nearly 26 consecutive hours: After picking up McVey, he forced her to perform oral sex and then brought her to his apartment, where he raped her repeatedly, and even showered with her. It was McVey's testimony that would finally lead police to Long.
After releasing McVey, Long killed two more times. Just days after McVey's police report, investigators found Virginia Johnson's body. Days later, Kim Swann's body was found. McVey provided police with a brief description of Long's car. Police were then able to identify the vehicle and its owner, and obtain search warrants for Long's home and vehicle. Long was arrested in November 1984, while watching a film at a movie theater not far from his Tampa home. Upon searching Long's home, detectives were finally able to identify the mysterious red nylon fibers they had found on so many victims' bodies: Red carpeting lined the staircase of Long's apartment, which, following lab testing, was identified as a perfect match.
Arrest and Sentencing
Once Long was in custody, another body was found: Vicky Elliot, investigators determined, had been raped and strangled. Red fibers were also found on Elliot's clothing.
In April 1985, Long was convicted of first-degree murder in the Virginia Johnson case, which took place in Pasco County, Florida, and was sentenced to death. Several months later, Long pleaded guilty to eight Hillsborough County murders (Artis Wick's body wasn't found until several days after Long's arrest, and because Long had not pleaded guilty to murdering Wick until long after submitting his original confession, he was never formally charged with her murder). Long was convicted of the other eight murders in Hillsborough County, among several other charges. He received seven life imprisonment sentences (Lana Long, Elizabeth Loudenback, Chanel Williams, Karen Dinsfriend, Kimberly Hoops, Kim Swann, Vicky Elliot), and, in the summer of 1986, was sentenced to death by electrocution for the murder of Michelle Simms. While Long confessed to committing 10 murders, he alluded to the possibility of others during police interviews.
Long is currently serving multiple life prison sentences. Though he also received two death sentences, his execution has been delayed by several appeals over the past several years. He remains on Florida's death row.