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Thriller Thursday: When the Killer Speaks

A couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through the Direct TV guide and caught a program on Biography about serial killer Bobby Joe Long. It was one of the most disturbing programs I’ve ever watched.

In 1984, Bobby Joe Long kidnapped, raped, and murdered at least 10 women in the Tampa Bay area. He is believed to have raped at least 50 women.

He was already on probation for assault when he started cruising areas known for prostitution as well as various bars where women might be found alone. Long said his victims approached him and he persuaded him to enter the car. In the Biography episode I watched, he very frankly talked about subduing and threatening the women in the car, and then taking them back to his apartment. He bound the women with rope and proceeded to sadistically rape and torture them before finally killing. Some he strangled, some he bludgeoned, while he cut the throats of others. Every body was displayed with its legs splayed several feet apart at odd angles. Bobby Joe Long is known to have killed five prostitutes, two exotic dancers, a factory worker, a student, and a woman of unknown occupation.

As I watched Long, I was reminded of Ted Bundy, the most charming serial killer of all. Bobby was a pleasant, round faced guy with an easy smile and conversational way of speaking–all while he was telling the story of his vicious murder spree. He knew what he did was wrong, and he wasn’t trying to excuse himself. But he also made it clear that during the time of the murders, the women he killed all showed themselves as morally corrupt, and he really didn’t think their lives were worth much at all.

Again, he told all of this as though he were recounting an adventure, and it was that attitude that chilled me to the bone.

One incredibly brave woman brought Bobby Joe to his end. On her way home from work on November 3, 1984, Lisa McVey was snatched off her bike by someone hiding in the bushes. He had a gun, and quickly blindfolded her and forced her into his car.

Lisa begged him not to hurt her and told him she would do whatever he wanted.  He kept her for 26 hours, repeatedly raping her and even making her shower with him. He told her several times he didn’t want to hurt her. 

During her ordeal, Lisa paid attention to her surroundings. In the car, she managed to peer under the blindfold for a look at the car’s interior. At his apartment, she saw the white stucco building and red steps.

Although the man insisted that she keep her eyes shut as he abused her, she managed to get a look at her surroundings. She also dropped a barrette next to the bed, unnoticed, to prove that she had been there. Inside, she managed to drop a barrette next to the bed to prove she’d been there.

After raping her again, Bobby Joe dozed off. Lisa didn’t try to flee, and when Bobby woke up, he said he trusted her. He stopped referring to her as bitch and called her babe. He said he wished he could keep her, and she even told him she’d stay, be his girlfriend.

He eventually took her back to the car and drove away. He stopped, told her to get out and to take care.

Bobby Joe Long was arrested on November 16, 1984, and he wasn’t surprised. He’d known letting Lisa go was the beginning of the end for him, but he never really explained why he chose to do it.

Like Bundy, Bobby had a personality that engaged law enforcement, and he was often seen chatting and joking with him. But beneath that was quick temper, and several involved with the trial saw him morph into a monster on more than one occasion.

Seeing the killer speak was a reminder of the many masks these people can wear and the complexity of their dark personalities. What makes these psychopaths monsters is not only their heinous crimes, but their ability to blend seamlessly back into society after they have washed the blood off their hands.

Bobby Joe Long is currently on death row in Florida.


12 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: When the Killer Speaks”

  1. I watched this show after you mentioned it. He was scary. Someone like that…I almost wish they’d meet up with someone as horrifying as they are and see what it’s like to be the victim.

    • I wondered if you did. He just really bothered me. Bundy is about the only other one I’ve seen interviewed that truly gave me the creeps, and it was because of his ability to charm. Me too! That is real justice.

  2. It’s all about motivation. The reason Booby Joe could seem so reasonable and “nice” was because he was convinced he wasn’t hurting good people–he was hurting “bad people”. He may have known in an academic sense that he was wrong for doing what he did, but just like the kindly fathers who participated in lynchings in the U.S. South post Civil War or the friendly Serbian families who laughed it up with reporters over beers during the 1990s… Something allowed them to believe they were doing a good and decent thing in killing that “other”… that person who wasn’t like them be it for skin color, religious faith, etc.

    I’m reminded of a scene in a Doctor Who episode: Boom Town. The whole Slitheen thing annoys me, but there is a lot to be said for the discussion between the Doctor and Margaret in the Bistro. (here’s a transcript link: ) It fits a lot about why Bobby Joe allowed Lisa to get away.

    • That’s very true, Eden. He did believe they were bad people, and that is partially because of his upbringing. If I recall, his mother had a revolving door of men among other issues.

      What a great example, too! Thank you so much for sharing.

      • Now I have to go find that biography of his…

        (as for the example… don’t you love how fiction can make us look at ourselves even more deeply than reality can?)

  3. And Lisa McVey is now a hero to me. It must have been so hard to exert self-control and keep her wits about her like that. Good for her. Who knows how many future lives she saved?

    • She really is. Her interview was so inspiring. There is no guilt, no bitterness, just honesty. And she has devoted herself to helping other victims, went on to lead a normal life.

  4. I will have to watch this, not because I am interested in him but I am interested in her. I think he must have let her go because he couldn’t put her in the same box with the others. She didn’t approach him, she wasn’t “bad” in the moral sense he had applied to his other victims. Perhaps he was ready to stop, ready for it to end thus, the change.

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