The story of Bobby Joe Long, aka the Classified Ad Rapist, is a profile in evil. Born into a dysfunctional family and teased mercilessly as a child due to a medical condition, Long would eventually grow up to be a broken, vicious man.
During the early 1980s, Long haunted the beaches and hot streets of Florida as a serial rapist. Long then graduated to murder, killing at least ten women between March and November 1984. Despite being tried and convicted back in the 1980s, Long’s story is still not over, as the Classified Ad Rapist sits at the center of a capital punishment controversy.
Although most closely associated with the Sunshine State, Bobby Joe Long was born in the small town of Kenova, West Virginia, on October 14, 1953. Joe and Louella Long’s baby boy was born different. Because of an extra X chromosome, Bobby Joe’s body produced an access amount of estrogen. During puberty, Bobby Joe began developing breasts, which made him an easy target for bullies.
Things were not too much better at home. In 1955, Long’s parents divorced. Long, only two years old, and his mother relocated to Miami, Florida. Bobby Joe and Louella Long had a very complicated relationship. On the one hand, Bobby Joe loved his mother a little too much, for he slept in the same bed as her until he reached adolescence.
On the other hand, young Bobby Joe experienced several traumatic injuries during his youth, most of which he blamed on his mother. Bobby Joe almost drowned at the beach in 1957, fell from a swing in 1958, and crashed his bicycle into a parked car in 1959. Bobby Joe blamed the first incident on his inattentive mother, whom he said was too busy looking at men and not at him.
Bobby Joe’s teenage years proved to be just as horrific as his adolescence. The disfigured son of a bipolar single mother shot and killed his dog when he was around the age of 13. Booby Joe killed the dog out of anger (he claimed that the dog ate better food than him), and he did so in a most ghastly way (he shot it in the vagina). In 1974, Bobby Joe married his high school girlfriend. This marriage would end in 1980 in divorce. The relationship produced two children.
Long’s criminal career began sometime around 1980. Bobby Joe’s first crimes occurred in the tourist traps of Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Ocala, and Dade County, Florida. Long’s primary interest was sex. Sometime in 1981, Long began placing classified ads in local Florida newspapers. Most of the time, these ads concerned the buying and selling of small home appliances. Bobby preyed on single women who answered his ads. If they lived alone or were by themselves when Bobby Joe appeared at their house, he would rape them. Some 50 women suffered this fate.
In 1981, Long had his first brush with the law. That year, Long was arrested for rape and robbery. From 1981 until 1983, Bobby Joe lived in West Virginia and California. At the latter location, he began dating his 17-year-old neighbor. In 1983, Long was finally convicted of the 1981 rape of Sharon Richards. He was also convicted of sending lewd photographs and letters to a 12-year-old girl in Tampa. For the latter crime, Long was sentenced to two days in jail and six months of probation.
As for the Richards case, Long was initially convicted but requested and received a retrial in 1984. Long was acquitted of all charges in the second trial, and as he left the courtroom, he laughed in Sharon Richards’s face.
Bobby Joe Long’s killing spree began while he was still on probation. It all began on Tuesday, March 27, 1984. As Long prowled the seedier parts of Tampa, he found 20-year-old Artiss (some sources write “Artis”) Wick. Long’s original plan was to rape Wick, but he wanted a greater high on that night. So, after raping Wick in his car, Long strangled the young woman to death. Wick’s skeletal remains would not be found until November 22, 1984. Long was never charged with this murder, but almost every source attributes Wick’s death to the Classified Ad Rapist.
Long’s second victim was 19-year-old Laotian immigrant Ngeun Thi Long (pictured above), who went by the Americanized name of Lana Long. Bobby Joe Long, who was then working as an electrician, spotted Lana as she walked down North Nebraska Avenue in Tampa. Lana worked as a stripper at the Sly Fox club, which Bobby Joe frequented. Lana was also known to abuse alcohol and drugs, and furthermore, she was desperate to return to her family in California. The pair probably met because Lana asked Bobby Joe for some money.
After picking Lana up, Bobby Joe drove her to a wooded area off of North 22nd Street. There, Bobby Joe forced the frightened woman to strip naked and lie facedown on the passenger seat. Bobby Joe then bound Lana’s hands before driving another 40 kilometers (25 mi) along Route 301. Bobby Joe raped and strangled Lana and then dumped her body in the woods near East Bay Road.
Lana’s body would eventually be found by two boys. Responding officers Captain Garry Terry and Detective Lee Baker of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office discovered a white silk cloth that Bobby Joe had used as a gag. Evidence showed that Lana’s killer had broken her legs at the hip in order to make the disposal of her body easier.
Fourteen days after killing Lana Long, Bobby Joe murdered 22-year-old Michelle Denise Simms (pictured left above). Simms, a former California beauty contestant-turned-prostitute, was stopped by Bobby Joe while she worked the Tampa streets. Bobby Joe enticed her into his car and then drove her to Park Road, a sort of local lovers’ lane. Bobby Joe pounced on Michelle, tied her hands behind her back, and then used a length of rope to fashion a noose that was then placed around the victim’s neck. Bobby Joe raped Michelle and then threw her nude body out of his car. Michelle wasn’t dead, though.
Much to Bobby Joe’s chagrin, Michelle was a fighter. Despite her predicament, Michelle kept fighting her attacker. Bobby Joe tried to strangle her. When that didn’t work, he stabbed her again and again. When police found Michelle’s corpse, they noted that her eyeballs were bloated with blood.
Unlike his Long’s previous victims, 22-year-old Elizabeth Loudenbeck (center above) was a factory worker. Shy and bespectacled, Elizabeth was last seen alive on Thursday, June 7, 1984. Her last known moments on Earth saw her leave the Village Mobile Home Park, where Elizabeth lived with her mother, stepfather, sister, and brother. Elizabeth did not have a criminal history and was not known to have any connections with the sex industry at all. Sadly, none of this mattered. On Sunday, June 24, 1984, Elizabeth’s body was found in an orange grove. Bobby Joe would later admit that he had let Elizabeth go after brutally raping her twice. He wound up killing her, he said, because she would not stop crying. After the dark deed was done, Long stole one of Elizabeth’s ATM cards and withdrew money from several different banks.
Twenty-one-year-old Vicky Elliott (right above) was the manager at the Tampa Ramada Inn’s coffee shop when Bobby Joe Long came into her world on September 6, 1984. After the usually diligent Elliott failed to show up for work, police searched her apartment. They found an airline ticket for Muskegon, Michigan, which was her hometown and the place where her parents still lived. Elliott would not be seen again until Sunday, September 23, 1984. Her body was found floating in a Florida river. An autopsy showed not only that Vicky’s killer had broken her hyoid bone but that he had also inserted a pair of scissors into her vagina.
Although just 18 years old, Chanel Williams (left above) worked as a prostitute in Tampa. Sometime on the night of Sunday, September 30, 1984, Chanel and another prostitute were working Nebraska Avenue when a “john” approached Chanel and her friend. At some point, Chanel and her fellow prostitute split up, with Chanel walking back to a nearby hotel in order to check on a friend. On Sunday, October 14, 1984, Chanel’s nude body was discovered near the county line between Pasco and Hillsborough counties. A bootlace had been used to bind Chanel’s hands. The autopsy report found that Chanel had been raped then shot in the neck. Long would later admit that this deviation in his MO was due to Chanel’s pluck and her athleticism.
On that terrible Sunday when Chanel Williams’s body was found, 28-year-old cocaine addict and prostitute Beth Dinsfriend (right above) was busy looking for johns along Nebraska Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue. Bobby Joe Long must have found her on one of these streets, for Dinsfriend’s nude body was found later that day along a dirt road in northeastern Hillsborough County. Dinsfriend had been beaten, raped, and strangled to death before being wrapped in a gold beach blanket bound with a blue jogging suit.
At this crime scene and the Chanel Williams crime scene, police found brown pubic hairs belonging to a Caucasian male. They also found semen samples indicating A and H blood substances.
Kimberly Hopps looked rough and had lived an even rougher life. A 22-year-old prostitute with substance abuse problems, Hopps was last seen alive getting into either a 1977 or 1978 maroon Chrysler Cordoba.
Two weeks after the discovery of Karen Dinsfriend’s body, a 71-year-old man clearing a ditch in northern Hillsborough County discovered Hopps’s mummified remains. The investigating officers really did not have much to examine at this crime scene, as the severe state of decomposition made it difficult to ascertain the date of Hopps’s murder and the method used. Bobby Joe Long would later reveal while in custody that he had killed Hopps, who was known on the streets as “Sugar,” by strangling her with her own black choker necklace.
Police officers in Pasco County responded to a call about the discovery of a female corpse. The body had been found by a female ranch owner who had stumbled across the skeletal remains while out riding one of her horses. The remains included a skull and an upper torso dressed only in a tank top. Also found was a piece of fabric that had been tied around the victim’s throat, plus a piece of shoelace that had been used to bind the victim’s hands.
A forensic examination revealed the victim to be 18-year-old prostitute Virginia Johnson. Like many of the other victims, Johnson favored the Tampa Strip. The autopsy conclusively proved that Johnson had been strangled to death.
The body of Bobby Joe Long’s last known victim was found on November 12, 1984. On that day, a sign painter found the body of a white female. The corpse had nose or a leash around its neck, plus serious rope burns on its wrists. The face was bruised almost beyond recognition, and the killer had forced the victim’s legs open in a gruesome sexual display. A forensic examination found fecal matter on the victim’s shirt, while the autopsy proved that strangulation was the cause of death.
The victim was identified as 21-year-old exotic dancer Kim Marie Swann. Like the unfortunate Lana Long, Swann worked at the Sly Fox Lounge on the Tampa Strip. Another discovery that linked the Kim Swann murder to the others was the fact that red carpet fibers were found at the crime scene. Similar fibers had been found at the Karen Dinsfriend and Elizabeth Loudenback crime scenes.
One woman managed to survive the horrors of 1984. That woman, Lisa McVey, was just 17 at the time of the crime. Back then, she worked the night shift at a Tampa doughnut shop. Like most nights, Lisa rode her bike home from work on November 3, 1984.
A strange man knocked Lisa off of her bike and forced her into his car. For the next 26 hours, Lisa would be at the mercy of Bobby Joe Long. Throughout this time, Lisa was raped repeatedly. The ever-canny Lisa used this to her advantage. How? Well, Lisa had managed to survive an earlier sexual assault at the hands of a family member. Lisa used this experience to talk Bobby Joe down from his rage. Lisa also remembered all of the crime shows that she liked to watch, and as a result, she intentionally left her fingerprints all over Long’s car and home.
Despite her terrifying circumstances, Lisa made sure to take mental notes about her abductor’s appearance and the appearance of his car. After she convinced Long that her father was terminally ill, the serial killer decided to let Lisa live. He dropped her off at a place near both Hillsborough and Rome avenues. After removing her blindfold, Lisa went to the nearest police station and began telling them everything she knew about her abductor. This information would later lead to Long’s capture on November 16, 1984.
The evidence against Bobby Joe Long was strong. After his arrest for sexual battery on November 16, police presented to the county prosecutor semen samples, fiber samples, and other evidence, all of which could be tied back to Long. At his trial in 1985, Long was given 26 life sentences without the possibility of parole. Long also received seven life sentences with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Finally, the State of Florida sought and retained the death penalty during the 1986 trial for the murder of Michelle Simms. Long was convicted and sentenced to death.
Bobby Joe Long is still alive, and, in fact, his case became headline news in Florida in 2019. On May 3, 2019, the Tampa Bay Times published an article outlining how Long and his lawyer skipped a court appearance by arguing that Long sought to appeal his upcoming execution by invoking “undue pain.” Long and his team demanded that doctors and pharmacists review the drugs that Florida will likely use during the execution. Long and his team are using this hearing to challenge Florida’s lethal injection protocol by showing how it is sometimes ineffective and cruel.
Bobby Joe Long’s appeal for a stay of execution, along with his stated desire to find a “painless” method of execution, caused consternation among the families of his victims. Lula Williams, the mother of Chanel Williams and an attendee at the Friday hearing, told the media that: “He [Long] inflicted pain on my daughter and the other victims. And he’s worried about pain?”
On Friday, May 3, 2019, Bobby Joe Long was denied his stay of execution by Florida governor Ron DeSantis. The 65-year-old serial killer, who has managed to live decades longer than all of his victims, is scheduled to be executed via lethal injection today, May 23, 2019, at 6:00 PM local time.