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This Teenage Girl Was the Ultimate Downfall of a Florida Serial Killer

How Lisa McVey got inside the head of notorious Florida serial killer Bobby Joe Long.

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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia & David von Diemar/Unsplash

*Content Warning: Discussions of sexual abuse and assault.

In 1984, the Tampa Bay area of Florida was terrorized by a serial killer and rapist. Over the course of eight months, Bobby Joe Long abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered at least 10 women. Targeting vulnerable women, it seemed like his reign of violence would never end. But one clever teenage girl changed everything.

On November 3rd of that year, 17-year-old Lisa McVey was riding her bike from work to her grandmother's house when Long abducted her. For the next 26 hours, Lisa was blindfolded, held at gunpoint, raped, and tortured.

Sadly, Lisa knew what it was like to endure. She'd been a victim of abuse for years. Her mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and after spending a period of time in and out of foster care, Lisa was forced at the age of 14 to move in with her grandmother to provide her care. Here, her grandmother's boyfriend would hold a gun to her head as he molested her. After three years of this, Lisa was ready to end her own life. She had the suicide note written out the night before her abduction.

Once Lisa was plucked out of one bad situation and dropped into another, she was overcome with an intense will to live. She faithfully memorized as many details about her abduction as she could—keeping track of the passage of time, counting her steps, and making a mental note of her captor's car (a red Dodge Magnum). Preparing for a scenario in which she didn't make it out of the ordeal alive, she made a point to leave as many fingerprints around the area as she could.

Related: Prison Pen Pals: Amanda Howard on Her Collection of Letters from Serial Killers

Deducing that Long had a childlike mind, she began to appeal to this part of him, offering to be his secret girlfriend. Building a bond with him, she incited sympathy by weaving a story of being the only child of a sick parent.

Lisa's tactics were ultimately successful, and she was able to persuade Long to release her in a remote location. He instructed her to remain blindfolded for five minutes while he fled the scene. She did as she was told before she returned home—only to be beaten by her grandmother's boyfriend. For the next five hours, she was brutally interrogated about where she'd been. When her story was deemed consistent and accurate enough, a call was finally placed to report the incident to the police.

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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia

After Lisa provided the police with descriptions of her captor, his vehicle, the route they took, and other relevant details, the authorities were able to identify Long and connect him to other crimes. Besides the murder of 10 women, Long was guilty of the rape of at least 50 other women, which he targeted through classified ads.

Long's first murder victim had been 20-year-old Artiss "Ann" Wick, who he had raped and strangled in March of 1984. During this murder, Long was on probation for assault. Over the next eight months, nine more women died across three counties. Preying on vulnerable women, five of his confirmed victims were known sex workers and two were exotic dancers. Two women were murdered after Lisa bargained for her escape.

After setting up a surveillance operation, the police arrested Long on November 16th. His involvement in the murders was confirmed through red carpet fibers found on multiple victims' bodies. Almost a year later on September 23rd, 1985, Long pleaded guilty to the abduction and rape of Lisa McVey, as well as to eight counts of first-degree murder, eight counts of kidnapping, and seven counts of sexual battery. For this plea bargain, he received 33 life sentences.

However, for the murder of his victims Michelle Denise Simms and Virginia Johnson, he received the death sentence. His execution was carried out on May 23rd, 2019. Lisa and another survivor, Linda Nuttall, were present. After receiving a lethal injection, he was pronounced dead at 7 pm, having made no final statement.

As for Lisa McVey, life went on. She reported the assault from her grandmother's boyfriend and got him convicted. After aging out of the teen center she'd been placed in, she took up residence with a caring aunt and uncle. 10 years after her horrible abduction, she got a job working for the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation department. After she reported a break-in at the office, one of the responding deputies recommended she become a cop herself.

Related: 14 True Crime Books That Focus on the Victims and Amplify the Voices of Survivors

Five years later in 1999, Lisa began work at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as a dispatcher and reserve deputy. After completing the police academy, she was officially deputized in 2004. From there she worked in the very department that tracked down and apprehended her abductor. Her specialty is combating sex crimes and protecting children, and she provides middle school students with education on how to maneuver dangerous situations.

Featured image: Murderpedia; David von Diemar/ Unsplash; Murderpedia.