A red carpet fiber found at multiple scenes would lead investigators to capture a serial murderer and rapist; this is the story of Bobby Joe Long, the “Classified Ad Rapist.”
Born in West Virginia in 1953, Bobby Joe Long reportedly received multiple head injuries throughout his early life, starting at age five:
- Fell off of a swing, knocked unconscious, age 5.
- Thrown from his bicycle into a parked car, age 7.
- Fell down a flight of stairs, knocked unconscious.
- Fell off a horse, knocked unconscious, age 7.
Bobby Joe was a victim of bullying due to a condition called “Klinefelter’s Syndrome,” an extra X chromosome that caused his body to overproduce Estrogen during puberty, meaning that he developed breasts that Long had surgically removed.
As with many other future serial killers, Bobby Joe had an unusual relationship with his mother. He reportedly slept in the same bed as her until he was thirteen years old. His mother was extremely overprotective, which I find interesting considering the large number of head injuries he suffered as a child. He moved out of his mother’s bed after he met a girl named Cynthia Bartlett.
The couple married six years later, in 1974, after Bobby Joe enlisted in the Army. His military career ended after Bobby Joe was in a severe motorcycle accident. He nearly lost a leg in this accident and suffered another head injury. When interviewed about his crimes, he stated that this was the point where he became “hyper-sexual,” and he began attacking women just a few years later.
Bobby Joe would later tell authorities that, shortly after his release from the hospital, he came up with the idea that would eventually become his modus operandi.
1980 – 1983
In 1980 Bobby Joe’s wife Cindy filed for divorce, she would later tell authorities that she had no idea what her husband was doing.
Starting in 1980, Bobby Joe long terrorized three cities in Florida, and was first given the moniker “The Classified Ad Rapist.” He found ads for small appliances in local papers and penny saver magazines. He would go to suburban homes under the guise of purchasing items that they were advertising, and if he found a woman alone, he would pull a knife and bind his victim before violently raping her and robbing the house.
In 1981 Long was living with a woman named Sharon Richards who accused him of rape, but there was not enough evidence for police to file charges. Later that year he physically assaulted Richards, and fled to West Virginia to stay with his parents, he didn’t return to Tampa until 1983.
When he moved back to Tampa he got a job as an X-Ray Tech at a local hospital, which is where he met his next girlfriend Emma. While they were together, he showered her with lavish pieces of jewelry, she never suspected that the gifts he gave her had been stolen from his rape victims.
Shortly after he returned to Tampa in 1983, a judge returned a guilty verdict in the assault case filed by Sharon Richards in 1981. He wrote multiple furious letters to the judge, insisting that the assault had been Sharon’s fault. In early 1984, he was awarded a new trial in this case, and a jury acquitted him despite witness testimony.
In November of 1983, Long was convicted of sending obscene photos and letters to a twelve-year-old girl. Authorities had been able to trace phone calls that he made to the girl; for this conviction, he received only two days in jail and six months of probation.
On March 27th, 1984, shortly after his acquittal for the 1981 assault on former girlfriend Sharon Richards, Bobby Joe Long made the jump from a serial rapist, to a killer. Authorities did not locate the remains of his first victim, twenty-year-old Artis Wick, until nearly a year after Long strangled her to death.
The First Body: May 13th, 1984
On May 13th, 1984, two teenage boys walking near a highway found what they initially thought were the remains of an animal. They quickly realized that they were looking at the body of a human being, and quickly found their parents who called the police.
The police determined that the body had been there for at least three days, and was extremely decomposed. She was found face down, with her wrists bound, and a noose wrapped three times around her neck. They also found evidence that a white silk cloth found under the body had been used as a gag. Most disturbing to me was the fact that her killer appeared to have broken the young woman’s hips in order to spread her legs out to a 90 degree angle.
Police found tire tracks near the remains, and took plaster impressions of them as evidence. They noticed that one of the tire impressions were different from the other three and had an unusual tread pattern.
The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was most likely strangulation, and that the victim had been raped. Due to the decomposition, a visual identification was impossible, but the ME said that the victim was most likely of Asian descent.
Trace evidence was sent to Michael Malone, an FBI special agent and fiber analyst who found a specific red “trilobal” carpet fiber on the silk cloth. He believed that the source was most likely automobile carpeting.
The woman was identified as twenty-year-old exotic dancer and drug user Ngeun Thi Long, also known as Lana Long, thanks to a missing person’s report filed by her boyfriend John Corcoran. John was considered a suspect until his airtight alibi was confirmed. It wasn’t until two weeks after Lana’s body was found that authorities became truly concerned about her murder.
May 27, 1984
The remains of the second victim were found in a local Lover’s Lane by a construction worker. When police arrived, they noticed similarities between this victim and the first. Her hands were bound, and there was a rope wound three times around her neck. Also, similar to the initial crime scene, the two ropes were different types. They found tire tracks that, when compared to those found at the first scene, were determined to be similar.
This victim had also been severely beaten, but she had also been slashed with a knife on her neck and face. Upon closer examination, authorities found red fibers that were microscopically consistent with those found at the first scene, they also found strands of hair on her stomach and hand.
The ME determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation and severe blunt force trauma, they were also able to determine that the killed had also raped this victim. Police released a drawing of the victim, and a tip identified her as Michelle Denise Simms, a twenty-two-year-old prostitute and drug user.
The third victim was not initially connected to the same killer as she was not a high-risk victim. Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Loudenback worked on a local assembly line, and according to family members, she was shy and quiet. Elizabeth’s mother reported her missing on June 8th, 1984, after she didn’t return from a walk around the mobile home park where they lived.
Her remains were in the orange grove where the killer left them for more than two weeks, and due to the amount of time that had passed, they had decomposed. Authorities noted that the hyoid bone in her neck had broken, an indication that strangulation was the cause of death. It wasn’t until much later that specialists thoroughly checked her clothing for trace evidence, and they located those signature red trilobal fibers.
After the discovery of Elizabeth’s remains, no further bodies associated with the unknown killer would be located until October of 1984.
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