On November 15 (Newton says November 17), Detectives Wolf and Helms were on cruise patrol in Tampa when they saw a red Dodge Magnum in the slow moving traffic. (Flowers says slow-moving, while Ward indicates that the car zipped by, as if speeding.) They pulled the car over and they checked his license. The mans name was Robert Joe Long, better known as Bobby Joe, and his address matched the area that the police were searching for the killers apartment. The cars interior also matched what Lisa McVey had described.
Bobby Joe Long
They approached him and told him they were looking for a robbery suspect (Ward says a hit-and-run suspect), so he cooperated and let them photograph him. He was visibly relieved when they let him go.
Now that they had information for leads, the task force checked the bank transactions and found that Long had made a withdrawal at precisely the time McVey said her abductor had made a withdrawal. That was significant. They then examined Longs criminal record and found that he was currently on probation for an aggravated assault in Hillsborough earlier in 1984. The FBI profile had indicated that the killer they were looking for could have a record.
Bobby Joe Long, 1984
They put surveillance teams on him and tapped into his phone line. They then got a vehicular search warrant and an arrest warrant on the charges of kidnapping and sexual battery. In preparation to take him, they put together four teams: an arrest and security transport team, a vehicular seizure and search team, a residence search team, and a neighborhood survey team to interview Longs neighbors.
A swarm of cops grabbed Long as he came out of a movie theater and placed him under arrest. Then the other teams went into action.
Once they had Longs car, they removed a sample of the right floor carpet and sent to the FBI lab for comparison. Special Agent Malone confirmed the fiber match. They disassembled the cars interior for them to check for fibers from the victims clothing or from rope, victim fingerprints, blood, and any other potential physical evidence.
In Longs apartment, which looked as Lisa had described it, detectives located her barrette. They found plenty of photos of nude women, including photos that Long had taken of himself raping some victims. They also located pieces of female clothing.
Long signed a consent-to interview form and was interrogated by Detectives Latimer and Price. During the course of the interrogation, they learned that Long was an unemployed X-ray technician who lived in TampaFlorida. Once married and with two children, he had been divorced for five years. His former family lived with their mother in Hollywood, Florida.
He quickly admitted to kidnapping McVey and to having sex with her many times. Yet he added that at one point McVey said that she did not want to leave. He claimed that he had unloaded the gun and put the bullets in the trash so he wouldnt be tempted to hurt her. About the blindfold that Lisa wore, Long said he had fashioned it himself two days before the abduction just in case. Long said he did not use drugs, rarely drank, and did not suffer from memory losses.
The interrogators then brought up the subject of physical evidence. They told Long the many kinds of evidence that can be gathered at a crime scene and showed him photos of the five known murder victims, asking if he knew them.
Long replied, No.
He asked to use the bathroom. When he came back, they again started talking about physical evidence, specifically the left rear Vogue Tyre on the tire tread impressions. Long appeared to understand. He responded with, I think I might need an attorney. Rather than end the interrogation there as required by law, Sgt. Latimer urged Long to be honest because they already had a case against him through the physical evidence.
Long smiled and said, Well, I guess you got me good ... Yes, I killed them ... All the ones in the paper. I did them all. He was asked to describe each case and he complied with the details. He realized that hed set himself up when he had not killed Lisa McVey as he had done with the others.
I knew when I let her go, Norris quotes Long as saying, that it would only be a matter of time. I didnt even tell her not to talk to the police or anything ... I just didnt care anymore, and I wanted to stop. I was sick inside.
Newton indicates that if anyone was destined to become a serial killer, it was Bobby Joe Long. A distant cousin of the notorious Henry Lee Lucas, who had confessed and recanted and confessed to hundreds of murders, Long had also survived numerous blows to the skull: a fall from a swing, a fall from his bicycle, a fall from a pony, a motorcycle crash. In addition, he proved to have an extra X chromosome that had produced abnormal amounts of estrogen during puberty. To make matters worse, he had slept in his mothers bed until he was 13, and when he finally married, his wife dominated him. He suffered from blinding headaches and driving obsessions with sex, as well as the ability to have sex repeatedly.
As Long confessed that day, he described how he had invited Lana Long into his car because she needed a ride. With Michelle Simms, he had hit her on the head after he couldnt strangle her because he didnt want her to suffer when he stabbed her.
Next, he described the killing of Elizabeth Loudenback, who he said he had considered letting go until she jerked me around. He had strangled her with a rope, and then took her purse and used her bank card before throwing it away. He described the killing of Chanel Williams, and claimed that the gun he used to kill her was the same gun with which he had kidnapped McVey, and also the gun used in his earlier conviction of aggravated assault.
He described the murder of Karen Dinsfriend, in which he had started to strangle her in one orange grove, but had heard dogs barking, so he put her in the trunk and moved her to another grove where he finished the job. He spoke of the murder of Sugar (later identified as Kimberly Hoops) who he had left in a ditch. Long described the murder of the girl whose remains had been found scattered in a field. He didnt know her name, but he did know Kim Swann, whom he had picked up when he saw her driving drunk and weaving down a street. He said he hit her several times in the head to subdue her.
When the police asked him if he knew anything about the disappearance of Vicky Elliot, a 21-year-old who went missing in September as she was walking to work for her shift at the Ramada Inn, he acknowledged killing her. She had accepted a ride, and when he tried to tie her up she fought him off with a pair of scissors. That angered him, so he strangled her. He drew a map to direct the investigators to her body.
His confession, when transcribed, ran 45 pages long.
In addition to the murders, Long also solved a series of rapes that had occurred in the area over the past several years.