Could you ever imagine coming into close contact with a predator? Really – it’s a nightmare that we’ve all had before, and something that most people doubt could ever happen to them… until it does. Lisa McVey was ready to give it all up when she was given even more of a reason to hang on.
The young 17-year-old was riding her bicycle home from work when she was abducted at gunpoint by Bobby Joe Long, a serial killer who traumatized women in the Tampa, Florida area. Though she was terrified, she refused to become a victim of her circumstances. She would survive by any means necessary.
Who Is Lisa McVey?
Lisa McVey was and still is far more than a victim of one of the most horrendous crimes that a person could ever face. She was just a 17-year-old girl working in a donut shop in the Tampa, Florida area, living with her grandmother and her grandmother’s boyfriend. Things at home were far from comfortable.
Lisa was struggling in all aspects of her personal life. She was living with both an abuser and an enabler – her grandmother’s boyfriend had been molesting her for at least three years. Her grandmother did not seem to care and seemed to even encourage her to accept the abuse. Today, however, she sees herself as a survivor as opposed to a victim.
She Was Struggling to Make It Through the Day
After struggling with sexual abuse at home, the place, she was supposed to feel the safest and comfortable, the young woman who rode her bike everywhere was ready to take her own life. She had already penned a suicide note and was ready to put a bullet into her brain after work that evening.
She was exhausted and continually traumatized. She’d been in foster care on and off, suffering from abusers left and right. She was in pain – both physically and emotionally – and was ready to end her life. She was terrified of what else might come if she didn’t take matters into her own hands.
The Day of the Abduction
Lisa McVey was (and still is) a hard worker. She worked like a dog, day in and day out, at her local donut shop. She would often work double shifts and would clock out well into the earliest hours of the night. These were the circumstances on the day she was taken.
She had worked a double shift until two in the morning and had spent the whole evening on her feet. She clocked out, told her boss that she would see him on Monday, then unlocked her bike. She thought that she was done for the night, ready to bring her night (and life) to a close.
She Was Stalked Beforehand
While riding her bike to work earlier that evening, she felt uneasy. She felt that she was being watched and preyed upon. As she was riding, she felt eyes on her. There was a car parked nearby, and she felt it was suspicious.
The car she felt was watching her sped in the direction opposite of her personal route. She just kept riding – what else was she to do? She knew that women were going missing all around her, but she was confident that it would never happen to her. This would come back to haunt her later.
She Was Snatched in the Night
The black Magnum that sped ahead of her turned erratically and was suddenly right behind her. Before she knew it, the driver had pulled over and attacked her. He took her off her bike violently and put a gun to her head. She had no choice but to comply with his demands.
He told her not to make any sudden movements, or she would be murdered on the spot. He put a blindfold over her eyes and put his full body weight on her as he threw her into the back of his car. From there, things only escalated.
The Night Sent Chills Down Her Spine
Lisa McVey opened up about that evening in an interview with A&E Networks. She recounted the evening in gruesome detail as if she had lived through it just moments before reporting it. She was biking down a dark road, and everything changed without a moment’s notice.
“I’m passing a church when I feel someone rip me off my bike from behind. I start screaming. He puts the cold steel barrel of a gun against my left temple and says, ‘Shut up, or I’ll blow your brains out.’ It was nothing new. My grandmother’s boyfriend used to put a gun to my head, too.”
What Did Lisa Do in the Moment?
That entire night, she felt ready to end her life – this time, however, she was determined to stay alive. She recalled suddenly not feeling suicidal but rather feeling the urge to survive. She needed to push through, she decided; she would not be losing her life to a predator. She’d already survived it once – she would make sure she survived it again.
“I say the Lord’s Prayer to myself, and I say to him, ‘I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t kill me.’ I had stopped feeling suicidal right then, and I wasn’t going to let someone else kill me either,” McVey told A&E networks. She knew that she needed to prevail – she was not going to be just another victim.
She Was Thrown Down and Tied Up
As previously mentioned, he threw her into the backseat of the car. He tied her up with ligatures and put a gag on her. He blindfolded her to disrupt her vision, but when she clenched her jaw and relaxed, the tight blindfold was just slightly looser.
This was crucial in identifying where she was and helping police identify the assailant later. She was able to identify certain marks, like noticing that his car had the word “Magnum” on the dashboard. She could also tell that there were white seats and a red carpet. If only that’s where it ended…
The Violence Began Instantly
As if it wasn’t enough for her to be thrown down and tied up, he proceeded to violate her sexually. He was rough and aggressive, inflicting pain as she cried out for him to stop. He didn’t care, though; she belonged to him now, and none of her pleadings did her any good.
Though she was terrified and forced to take the violence inflicted upon her, she instantly tapped into her survival skills. She had unfortunately spent her childhood navigating sexual violence just like this and had been training herself for years on how to handle situations like this.
Counting Her Steps
As she was being tossed around left and right during the abduction, she remained blindfolded. He started driving and made her stay down and keep a low profile while he was committing such a heinous crime. As he drove, she was able to get tiny glimpses of the world outside.
She counted anything that she could – street blocks, distance, really anything she could connect with a number – 22 steps, four left turns – anything that could be helpful in identifying where she was and where she was heading could be helpful in identifying the assailant if she came out alive.
The Torture Was Brought Inside
Her assailant took his victim out of the car and into his home. McVey even said that she wasn’t positive it was his apartment; it could have been a warehouse of some sort. She really couldn’t have known since she was blindfolded. Once she was inside, she did her best to leave prints everywhere.
The following 26 hours would be filled with gruesome torture and pain. She would be physically and sexually violated repeatedly, and if she tried to even get more comfortable, he would retaliate with more violence. It is beyond painful to imagine what she dealt with.
Cop Shows Helped Her Learn What Evidence She Should Gather
In the film adaptation of this story, Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey, the actress depicting McVey later told police that she left fingerprints, blood, hair clips, and any other evidence that she could. She said she’d learned this tactic from watching cop shows…
This detail was true, believe it or not. When she later went to report the incident, she told them about her efforts to leave prints and evidence wherever possible. She had learned what she needed to survive from cop shows. She knew that she needed to leave any evidence she could that she had been there.
Wait a Minute… Who Is This Mystery Assailant?
This mysterious aggressor was a serial killer named Bobby Joe Long. Long was born in West Virginia in 1953 and had a rough childhood (much like many serial killers… and just… people in general), moving with his mother Louella to Florida when he was young.
He didn’t have an easy go of things from the start. He failed the first grade, which must have played into his self-esteem. He started to develop a hatred for women, starting with his mother. She worked in a bar, wore racy clothing, and brought many men home – not to mention that the two shared a bed until he was around 12 years old.
Where Did Bobby Joe Long Go Wrong?
Long met his wife Cynthia when he was a young boy. The two were 13 years old when they met, and they were married in 1974. It didn’t take long for them to start having children, bringing two young ones into the world. This made things more unstable in their marriage than they already were.
Cynthia later disclosed that her husband had been hit by a vehicle while on his motorcycle. He already had a short temper, but the damage from the accident left him more aggressive, violent, and all-around impatient with her and his kids.
This Wasn’t His First Offense
Unfortunately, years before his crimes were connected to him, there were signs of concern. After his wife Cynthia filed for divorce back in 1980, Long moved in with a female friend named Sharon Richards. She would later come forward and accuse him of sexual assault and battery.
As if that weren’t enough, in 1983, Long was charged with sending inappropriate materials to a 12-year-old Florida girl. He had sent her a graphic, sex-infused letter, landing him a short jail sentence followed by probation. Something was ignited within him, and his crime spree only got more intense.
Working His Way to More Intense Crimes
Long followed his urges and became a serial rapist, often depending on classified ads for items for sale to lure in his victims. He would hunt through the classified section for his victims, scoping out homes with “for sale” signs on them to find what he believed were easy victims.
He spent this time entering the homes of unsuspecting women and attacking them, sexually violating more than 50 women during this crime spree. There was no other way to describe him other than a serial predator… or that is until he became known as a serial killer.
The Start of His Killing Spree
Long wasn’t quite fulfilled by the terrible things he was already doing, so he decided to “up his game” and add murder to the mix. In 1984, he picked up a victim to violate but decided that he needed to do more than just fulfill his sexual needs.
His first victim was a young prostitute by the name of Artis Wick. He assaulted her both physically and sexually and then continued to strangle her. He killed her right then and there, giving him a rush unlike any other. He wanted to do more, taking out his anger on any woman possible.
What Lisa Experienced Inside
One experience of note that McVey had to endure was her forced shower. He ordered her to get undressed and put her into the shower – she said that he was almost obsessed with her cleanliness. He took her blindfold off but told her not to look at his face.
Though she wanted to see the face of the monster she was dealing with, she was able to see that he had short brown hair. He washed her body, then forced her out and put her blindfold back on. Instantly, he pushed her down to the floor once more and continued to harm her in every way possible.
She Was a Smart Cookie
Even though she couldn’t see him, she tried to heighten her other senses in order to identify him. She recalled her experience in an interview with A&E networks, stating that “at one point, he takes my hand and puts it on his face—the idiot!”
She continued, “Now I know what he looks like. I can feel he has a small mustache, some pockmarks on his skin, a snub nose. He’s not heavy. He feels very clean. When he lets me go to the bathroom, I leave my fingerprints everywhere. In case he does kill me, I want the police to know I was there.”
Pleading With His Softer Side
The torture continued for a while, but she played into his emotions and tried to flatter him. “I had to take all of the abuse I had incurred as a child and just reach down one more time, into the pit of my stomach, and tap into those survivor skills in order to overcome him psychologically,” she recalled.
“I said, ‘Listen, it’s unfortunate how we met, but I can be your girlfriend. I could take care of you, and no one ever has to know.'” She knew how to give him what he wanted while still protecting herself. She needed to feed his ego; that was the only way to be set free.
How She Managed to Escape
She managed to escape by speaking to him like a child while simultaneously trying to convince him that her father was ill and needed her to survive. Maybe he was thinking about his own children, but he somehow gave in. Little did she know, she was about to be set free.
“I gave him a lame story about my father being very ill, and I say he can’t kill me because I’m my father’s sole caregiver, and he needs me,” McVey told A&E networks. Somehow, through all the torture, she was able to outsmart a serial killer and save her life – along with the lives of countless other women.
She Managed to Escape
In the same interview with A&E networks, she divulged even more details. “Finally, he pulls into the back of a business and tells me he’s sorry. He says, ‘Tell your father he’s the reason why I didn’t kill you.’” Doesn’t that just send chills down your spine?
She continued, “Then he says, ‘Give me five minutes, and you can take the blindfold off.’ I’m just frozen–but when I finally take it off, I’m in front of a beautiful oak tree. I think I’m going to have a new life, and it will be better.” She was free, but her pain wasn’t quite over.
What Happened When She Got Home
Her grandmother had reported her as missing, prompting a search. When she made it home, her grandmother called the police to let them know that she was back and telling a tall tale about what she’d been through, and though she thought it was “just a dramatic story,” the police took McVey in for questioning.
“Don’t worry about that missing girl. She’s home. She’s making up some story about being kidnapped,” her grandmother told the police. Luckily, they took that seriously enough to launch an investigation. Unfortunately, though, that wasn’t even the worst of it.
Her Abuser Didn’t Miss a Beat
McVey continued to recall what happened when she was released from captivity. “I start running. It’s about 4:30 a.m., and every time a car goes by, I’m afraid it’s him coming back and hunting me down. I finally get back to my grandmother’s house…”
“I’m pounding on the door, and her boyfriend opens it up. He grabs my hair and throws me to the ground. He beats me and interrogates me for about five hours. He beats me, asking where I’ve been and why I’m ‘cheating on him,’” she reflected. Thankfully, police took care of that clown and arrested him for sexually abusing a child.
No One Believed Her
Time and time again, when women come forward to report sexual violence and abuse, they are met with questions of legitimacy. This was the case with Lisa McVey – especially after her grandmother claimed she just made up a story, cops felt the need to just assume she was indeed lying.
She reflected, “At the police station, I tell my story to a female detective, and my demeanor is so calm, she thinks I’m lying. She wants to go over it again and again, and I finally say, ‘No—bring in somebody more intelligent.’” Luckily, though, there was one detective around with a moral compass.
The Detective Who Changed Everything
Luckily, there was one detective who looked at the case as if she were his own daughter – he had one who would soon be heading off to college, after all. She shared, “The next day, I go over the same story with Sgt. Larry Pinkerton, who’s in charge of sexual crimes…”
“I hear him tell one of the female detectives, ‘I believe her. Call the FBI,’” she recalled. Finally, she had an ally who was not going to let her case go unnoticed. Thanks to Larry Pinkerton, not only was she able to feel safe and protected, but his office would be able to capture and take down a serial killer, Bobby Joe Long.
The Red Fibers Found
Every one of Long’s victims was found to have tiny red fibers on their clothing and/or bodies. This would be key to catching the killer himself. Without these tiny fibers, they might not have been able to connect the victims together or to the murderer.
There was red carpeting throughout the vehicle, so when police were able to come up with a profile and finally had their suspect, everything lined up almost perfectly. He was in a car that was covered in red fibers, and police took a photo of him to show for identification. She confirmed – that was him.
Bobby Joe Long, You’ve Been Served!
After determining that Bobby Joe Long was indeed her captor, they found him trolling for women in Tampa’s red-light district. He was being his creepy self, trying to pick up another woman for the evening. Later that evening, they were able to confirm their assailant and make the arrest.
He was arrested and confessed, claiming that he only got caught because he let her go. There’s a special place in the dark underworld for people like him. He was given two death sentences, and the Florida governor signed his death warrant. He was executed in 2019.
Moving On, Moving Up
Lisa McVey went on to become a successful police officer, working for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office for more than 17 years! She put herself through the police academy and rose to where she wanted to be. She saw her own experiences as terrifying but wanted to help others.
She became a mother as well as a school resource officer for the Sheriff’s office. She’s been working at a middle school, doing anything that she can to protect the children she sees every day. She took a terrible experience and made something amazing from it. Thank you for your service!