TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Convicted serial rapist and murderer Bobby Joe Long was executed by lethal injection Thursday night at the Florida State Prison. He was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m.
8 On Your Side has been selected to witness the execution, and you can follow live updates throughout the day.
Long’s killing spree started, as far as investigators know, on Mother’s Day in 1984. Two boys playing in a field in Hillsborough County stumbled across the body of Lana Long, an exotic dancer in Tampa.
Her hands were bound behind her back, her body contorted. Her were legs spread 5 feet apart.
“No one deserves to be killed like these women were killed,” said Col. Gary Terry (ret.), the lead investigator with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on what would become Bobby Joe Long’s case.
Two weeks later, a second victim was found.
“The series of homicides started, and we were finding a body…it averaged out about every two weeks,” said Terry in an interview with 8 On Your Side in 2013.
For Terry and the other investigators, it was a race against time.
“You know if you don’t solve it soon, someone else is going to die.”
Four more women were killed through the summer. By November, the number dead had grown to eight.
The gruesome scenes often included bodies put in awkward positions, ligature marks from the victims being tied, often with the ropes still attached.
The victims had been raped, often repeatedly, before they were murdered.
Investigators had very few leads, but one crucial piece of evidence kept appearing at the crime scenes.
“Red, trilobal, nylon carpet fiber,” said Terry.
Tire tracks from the suspect’s car revealed one tire that was particularly rare.
But the clues weren’t leading anywhere until a separate rape case where the victim survived and provided a break in the killing spree case.
Lisa Noland, then 17-years-old, was working a double shift at the Krispy Kreme in Tampa when she was abducted while riding her bike home around 2 a.m.
“I’m just plucked off my bicycle by God knows who,” Noland said. “And I felt the cold, steel barrel up to the left side of my temple.”
An unknown man forced her into his car and eventually took her to his apartment where he raped her repeatedly over a 24-hour period.
“I lost count of how many times he raped me that night,” Noland said.
A previous victim of abuse, Noland knew how to handle him and did what she needed to survive.
“I would lie to him to appease him to keep him calm and coddle him.”
She got a glimpse into his mind… and his motive.
“He said he was getting back at women in general because of a bad breakup.”
He was armed, and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape. After 24 hours from hell, incredibly, Long said he would take her home.
While she was blindfolded for much of the encounter, she tried to put her fingerprints on anything she could touch, and remembered every detail about him, his apartment and his car that she could.
On the ride home, she kept peeking beneath her blindfold, finding the evidence that would catch a killer.
She saw the word ‘Magnum’ on the dash, white leather seats and a red carpet interior. She also saw and heard him stop at an ATM on the way to drop her off.
Noland told investigators everything she remembered when she was eventually set free.
Detectives matched local owners of a Dodge Magnum with a list of those who made an ATM transaction and Bobby Joe Long’s name was on both.
Noland then picked Long out of a lineup. His reign of terror was over.
“If we had not captured him when we did,” said Terry, “I’d hate to think what his body count would’ve been.”
Long later confessed to eight murders over an eight-month span in 1984. He was given multiple life sentences and sentenced to death for the murder of Michelle Simms.
In a later interview, Long couldn’t explain why he did it.
“A lot of lives just gone right down the tubes because of me,” Long said. “One way or another. And it’s not a good feeling, it’s not a pleasant feeling. I’m not proud of anything I’ve done. And the worst thing is I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why.”
Long was behind bars, but investigators and prosecutors believed there were many more victims. They think he raped dozens of women before his killing spree, answering classified ads posted by unsuspecting young women.
“Ugh, he was an absolute sicko,” said Pinellas-Pasco prosecutor Allen Allweiss. “He is an arrogant son of a b****. He was an arrogant guy. His big start was rapes. He would answer ads where the parents were trying to sell their baby furniture. So he would go to the house hoping to find the little girl or the mommy there.”
For more than 30 years, Long sat on Florida’s death row, until Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his death warrant in April.
“I was happy,” Allweiss said of the moment his daughter told him Long was scheduled to die. “I said, ‘God, it’s about time.'”
Then came multiple appeals in court, including a hearing in early May in Hillsborough County.
Long’s attorneys argued that Florida’s specific lethal injection protocol, a three-drug sequence that starts with the anasthetic etomidate, would violate his constitutional rights by subjecting him to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“It’s ridiculous that I’m expected to come in here and say ‘here’s a better way to kill my client,'” said Robert Norgard, one of Long’s attorneys.
Norgard argued that etomidate has been known to cause seizures in smaller doses, and that its effect in larger doses was unknown, possibly subjecting Long to massive seizures because he has epilepsy and a traumatic brain injury.
In recent years, some drug manufacturers stopped supplying state departments of corrections with drugs for lethal injections, forcing changes to the protocol and introducing the possibility of adverse reactions with the newer drugs.
The state’s expert witnesses disagreed, one saying “such an extreme dose would be lethal and would produce an extreme state of unconsciousness and suppress all seizure activity.”
Judge Michelle Sisco disagreed and ruled against Long.
Lula Williams’ daughter Chanel was one of Long’s victims. She was in court for the hearing, and heard Long’s voice as he joined the hearing by phone from the prison.
She says the years have not been kind to the victims who loved her, and that any pain Long may experience in receiving his death sentence shouldn’t matter.
“To have this person find excuse after excuse to not face his judgement… no. It’s time,” said Williams. “He did that wrong. Now you got to pay for your sins.”
As for Long’s only known survivor from that 1984 killing spree, the woman whose keen eye and memory brought Long to justice is now an officer of the law herself.
Lisa is now Master Deputy Lisa McVey Noland in the same Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office that helped catch her attacker.
She says she’ll be at the execution, hoping it may finally, 35 years later, bring her some closure.
“I’m hoping to get a full night’s sleep without any interruptions,” Noland said to a group of reporters after learning Long would be put to death. “I have not slept since 1984.”