Bobby Joe would have sex with his wife two or three times a day — and masturbate an additional five or six times a day.
The sexual drive of Bobby Joe Long can be described in one word: unbelievable. But for a number of women in Florida, it became all too believable—and deadly. Bobby Joe Long believes that his troubles began in 1974, when he was involved in a very nasty motorcycle accident. He was speeding down a street in Tampa, Florida, when a car suddenly appeared in front of him. He slammed on the brakes, but it didn’t help. He was thrown into the car hard enough to crack his helmet. From then on, Bobby Joe says, strange things happened to his sex drive. He started to think about sex all the time—and to do it all the time, becoming almost satyrlike.
Before the accident occurred, he would have sex with his slim, pretty wife, Cindy Jean, two or three times a week. After the accident they would have sex two or three times a day, and Bobby Joe masturbated an additional five or six times. (This kind of sex drive is reminiscent of that of another murderer, Albert DeSalvo—who claimed to be the Boston Strangler—who used to have sex with his wife more than thirty times a week.)
Soon enough, sex with his wife was not enough for Bobby Joe; he wanted other women as well. Starting in 1980, Bobby Joe started to look at the want ads in the Miami and Ocala areas in Florida. He would find ads for furniture or televisions for sale, and then, during the day—always during the day, when it was less likely that a man would be home—Bobby Joe would go to the home, ostensibly to look at the item for sale. Once he was inside and sure that no one else was there, he would tie and gag the woman, then rape her.
Long did this more than fifty times between 1980 and 1983, and he became known in the area as the Want-Ad Rapist. Local task forces and the FBI went after him, but he eluded capture. As the rapes continued, he felt a rising sense of anger. He started to feel anger as never before. The slightest thing triggered a towering rage, which he would act out in bizarre ways.
Once, for example, his mother Louella was visiting and said something that displeased Bobby Joe. He grabbed her and spanked her like a child, an absurd, painful, and humiliating event for her. Noise also started to bother Long. The slightest noise would set off an explosive reaction.
Whatever was cooking inside him, in 1983, Long converted from rapist to killer—and then to serial killer. His first victim was a Vietnamese woman named Ngeon Thi Long. He somehow lured her into his car, then tied her up, took her to an isolated spot, raped and killed her, and dumped her body on the side of the road.
Prosecutor Mike Bonito would later say that Long set up his car to particularly serve his murderous ends. The passenger seat could be pushed back flat. He would have the victim sit in the seat, tie her up, and then push her back so her head would be lower than the back window. With his free hand he would molest her as they drove, then he would rape and strangle her at their destination.
Almost any woman was fair game for Long, but he particularly liked prowling the strip joints, bars, and assorted dives along Nebraska Avenue in North Tampa to look for victims. However, there was one thing that all of his victims shared: They had to come to him, pick him up, or otherwise approach him. This was the way he rationalized killing them—if they picked him up, he considered them as manipulative, detestable whores, people who should be killed.
Loss of Desire
With eight victims behind him, something strange happened to Long. Following his usual pattern, he picked up a big, sexy woman named Kim Sann in North Tampa. As soon as she was in the car, he started to assault her. But Sann was a fighter, and she fought back—and screamed. There followed a series of skirmishes inside the car during which he managed to choke her into unconsciousness, only for her to awaken and scream and fight.
Finally he strangled her to death, and it was then that he discovered the curious thing: He had no energy to violate her sexually. To some degree, his frantic sexual energy had dissipated.
But an encounter two days before the one with Kim Sann was even stranger. On the prowl, he picked up a seventeen-year-old girl—and didn’t kill her. The girl couldn’t know it, but the reason, in Long’s mind, was that she was not a whore, not a manipulator of men. Rather, she was homeless, rejected by her own family. Not that this kept him away from her sexually. He took her to his own apartment and raped her, but he did not kill her. Rather, he was with her for more than twenty-four hours and then simply dropped her off where he had picked her up.
The really strange thing about this abduction was that he gave the girl the opportunity, though he kept her blindfolded throughout the rape and for much of her ordeal, to see him at various points, to glimpse his apartment, to see him at an automated teller machine. He knew he was putting himself in jeopardy but did nothing to stop it.
In fact, because of leads that the girl provided, the police tracked down Bobby Joe Long and arrested him for murder. He said later that his capture did not surprise him, that he wanted to be caught and knew he would be. As time had gone by, he had gained more and more a sense of revulsion - though not remorse — at what he was doing.
Less than a year after he was arrested, Long was tried on multiple homicide charges. There was a mound of evidence against him, including the testimony of the girl he had raped and held at his apartment. His defense counsel tried mightily to establish a medical reason for his actions: Medical experts presented evidence that the motorcycle accident had caused trauma to his brain and that his injuries were the precipitating factor in his assaults on women. Before the brain injuries, his counsel argued, there had been no offenses. After, there had been the fifty-plus rapes of the Want-Ad Rapist and nine homicides.
There was no question he had brain damage. Brain tests showed it, and he also had physical symptoms: His face felt dead on one side and he walked with a limp. But the defense counsel did not effectively establish a connection between his injuries and his actions, or maybe the jury just didn’t think it reason enough for his crimes. They found him guilty, and in early 1985, he was sentenced to death in the electric chair. He is still — after all these years — on death row in Florida.
Growing BreastsOn top of the various emotional burdens that Bobby Joe Long had to carry, he suffered, like some other members of his family, from a disorder of the endocrine system that had a devastating side effect. When he was about twelve, he began to develop breasts. He was terrified that he was becoming a woman. This certainly would have a traumatic effect on a twelve-year-old boy, particularly one who already must have had severe doubts about his sense of worth and self. Eventually he had to have an operation and doctors removed several pounds of tissue from his breasts.
An Only Child
Although the defense couldn’t prove that Long’s head injury had caused his crimes, there were some things in his childhood that likely contributed to how he turned out.
Bobby Joe Long was an only child raised by his mother, an attractive woman who was a waitress who lived on the edge of poverty after divorcing her husband. Until he was twelve, Long and his mother shared the same bed in a series of hotel rooms she rented. As reported in Serial Killers: The Growing Menace, by Joel Norris, she said, “We just didn’t have the money for two bedrooms.” However, she also said that she never undressed in front of him or in other ways acted improperly.
When she got finished with her waitressing jobs, she would go out on dates rather than stay home with her son, whom she had neighbors watch. Bobby Joe apparently went into rages over his mother’s lack of concern or caring for him. Her work and dating schedule also angered him in terms of the times she would come home: five or six in the morning, when Bobby Joe would be getting ready for school. They spent almost no time together.
As mentioned earlier, when Long was twelve, he stopped sleeping with his mother. But whatever damage there was had already been done. Perhaps sleeping with a grown woman diminished the young boy. Indeed, in studies conducted with serial killers, psychiatrists have found that the most savage are those who feel sexually diminished by women. Feelings of shame also might have been a factor. Such feelings coupled with the terror and rage he felt over his mother neglecting him may have made for a murderous combination.