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The Ones That Got Away: Lisa McVey Escapes Serial Killer Bobby Joe Long

Clever Teen Outsmarts a Serial Killer and Grows Up to Become Law Enforcement

Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey (2018).

It was 2 AM on November 3, 1984. Lisa McVey was riding home from her job at a donut shop in Tampa, Florida. Lisa was 17 years old at the time. She had to move in with her grandmother three years prior because her mother was an addict who couldn’t properly take care of her. Her grandmother’s boyfriend had been sexually abusing her for years, and she was looking for a way out. She was planning to commit suicide.

A man, later identified as Bobby Joe Long, came up behind her and put a gun to her head. A 2022 article, “The Story of Lisa McVey, The Teen Who Escaped a Serial Killer,” on All That’s Interesting reports that Long told Lisa, “Shut up or I’ll blow your brains out.” Sadly, this situation wasn’t unusual for Lisa. Her grandmother’s boyfriend had threatened her with a gun before. However, at this moment, Lisa’s plans changed. She decided that she wanted to live. According to All That’s Interesting, Lisa said, “I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t kill me. “

Long held Lisa captive for 26 hours, during which he repeatedly raped her. However, as soon as Long put his gun to her head, Lisa was determined to survive. All That’s Interesting quotes Lisa “I watched a lot of crime shows […] You’d be surprised about the survival skills you have when you’re in a position like that.”

A young woman is about to get on her bike in a dark, deserted parking lot at night.
A scene from Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey (2018).

Tied up and blindfolded, Lisa found a space to peek out. She noted the type of car Long drove, which was a red Dodge Magnum. When Long started driving, Lisa started counting minutes and noted that he was driving north. She also counted her steps as Long took her into his apartment in Tampa.

The 2021 article “Where is Lisa McVey, Bobby Joe Long Survivor, Now The Story of Lisa McVey, The Teen Who Escaped A Serial Killer” on Oxygen quotes Lisa from Mark of a Killer: “I left my fingerprints everywhere […] On the glass, the hairdryer, the curtains, I wanted people to know that I was there.”

She also started to tell him about herself, hoping that she would appear more as a human being than a faceless victim. Lisa told Long that her father was sick and depended on her to care for him. Oxygen reports that Lisa told the Associated Press in 2019 that “I had to learn who he was,  what made him tick. […] If I did the wrong move, could it end my life?” 

Oxygen quotes Lisa recalling, “I said, ‘I’ll be your girlfriend. I’ll do whatever you want. It’s unfortunate how we met, we don’t have to tell anyone how we met; let’s do this.’”

Lisa’s plan worked, and Long opened up a bit. Oxygen reports that Lisa told ABC Action News in 2019 that Long confided in her that he killed women “just to get back at women in general.”

The taillights of a car shine in a dark deserted parking lot.
A scene from Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey (2018).

Long let her go after 26 hours. At 4:30 AM, he drove her to a gas station, then dropped her off behind a business. He told her to wait five minutes before taking her blindfold off. “Tell your father he’s the reason I didn’t kill you,” he said before leaving her there. Once he was gone, she ran home. Unfortunately for Lisa, her ordeal at home picked up where it left off.

All That’s Interesting reports that Lisa’s grandmother and her grandmother’s boyfriend didn’t believe her. Her grandmother’s boyfriend accused her of cheating on him and beat her. However, she told her story to the police. Lisa recounted her ordeal and gave all of the information she collected to Sgt. Larry Pinkerton. Even though her grandmother told police she was lying, they followed up on Lisa’s information anyway.

Days later, Lisa called Pinkerton to tell him she had more information after seeing a report on the news about a murder victim in the area. An interesting turn of events was that when Lisa gave her account again, Pinkerton suggested that hypnosis might help her remember more. However, her grandmother’s boyfriend objected and wouldn’t give permission for Lisa to be hypnotized. All That’s Interesting reports that her grandmother’s boyfriend confessed to abusing Lisa, and he was arrested.

With her grandmother’s boyfriend behind bars, Lisa was sent to a home for runaway teens. However, she was still determined to get Long apprehended. She got a look at Long’s face and identified him in a line-up. Two weeks later, Bobby Joe Long was arrested.

A young woman huddles in a chair as a man seated across from her is talking to her.
Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey (2018).

Who was Bobby Joe Long?  According to a 2021 article “Who is Bobby Joe Long, The ‘Classified Ad Rapist?’” on Oxygen, Long found his victims through classified ads. He looked for ads posted by women selling appliances. If the woman was home alone when Long showed up, he raped her. He soon graduated from rape to murder. Long confessed to and was eventually convicted of murdering 10 women. He was sentenced to death.

In a 2021 article, “Surviving a Serial Killer—and What Comes Afterward” on A&E True Crime, Lisa told A&E that after seeing the pictures of his victims, she also decided that she wanted to work in law enforcement. She told A&E Crime that she thought, “Man, I want to be a cop. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

All That’s Interesting reports that, when she aged out of the home, she moved in with an aunt and uncle. She worked many jobs before entering the police academy. According to Oxygen, Lisa eventually joined the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in 1999, the same office that looked into her case and apprehended Long. As of the writing of the A&E article, Lisa had served as a school resource officer for four years. Her story was told in the film, Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey (2018), which aired on the Lifetime Network. A&E quotes Lisa as saying, “My message is powerful: Be strong. Draw on your instinct for self-preservation.”  

Bobby Joe Long was executed by lethal injection on May 23, 2019 at Florida State Prison. All That’s Interesting reports that Lisa attended Long’s execution. She sat in the front row and wore a shirt that read “Long…Overdue.” “I wanted to be the first person he saw,” she said.

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Written by Melissa Bastek

I've had a longtime love of horror and the paranormal --- in both books and film. I enjoy writing fiction as well as researching the stories behind my favorite films and books. I also have an interest in true crime and forensic science and psychology. Besides fiction, I like to watch documentaries --- everything from behind-the-scenes about a film to true crime cases.

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