The "Bobby Joe" Long Serial Murder Case:
EDITORS' NOTE: I was unable to reproduce figure 1 in HTML
On May 13,1984, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) responded to the scene of a homicide in southern Hillsborough County, where the body of a nude female had been discovered. This was the beginning of an intensive, 8-month investigation into the abduction, rape, and murder of at least 10 women in 3 jurisdictions in the Tampa Bay area. This investigation would ultimately involve personnel from the HCSO, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Tampa Police Department (TPD), the Pasco County Sheriff's Office (PCSO), and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Never before had the HCSO been involved in a serial murder case of this magnitude. During one period of time in the 8 months, the killer was averaging a murder every other week. This series of grisly killings would eventually end due to the efforts of the homicide detectives who pored over each crime scene striving to find any and all physical evidence, the expertise and skill of the examiners in the FBI Laboratory who analyzed this evidence, the close cooperation and continuous exchange of information between the law enforcement agencies involved, and the fact that the killer released one of his victims alive, yielding physical evidence that would ultimately tie all of the cases together.
The first body, nude and bound, of a young Oriental female was discovered by young boys late in the afternoon, in a remote area of southern Hillsborough County. This victim was identified as Ngeun Thi Long, a 20-year-old Laotian female. She was employed as an exotic dancer at a lounge located on Nebraska Avenue in the City of Tampa. She normally worked the evening shift and was known to use alcohol and drugs. Long was last seen in the apartment complex where she lived. This was in an area near the University of South Florida, where many of the residents were transient. She had been missing for approximately 3 days.
Long had been dead for approximately 48 to 72 hours. She was lying face down with her hands tied behind her back with rope and fabric. A rope was also observed around her neck which had a "leash-like" extension approximately 14 inches in length. It was noted that the ropes around the wrists and neck were different in nature.1 Under the victim's face was a piece of fabric which may have been used as a gag. The victim's feet were spread apart to a distance of over 5 feet, and it appeared as if the body had been deliberately "displayed" in this manner. The victim's clothing and personal belongings were never found. During the autopsy a large open wound was discovered on the victim's face. Decomposition was extensive in this area, but the cause of death was determined to be strangulation. Tire impressions were found on the roadway leading to the body. It appeared that three of the tires were of different brands and all were worn.
Hillsborough County had been averaging about 30 to 35 homicides per year, and while some prior victims had been bound, none had been bound in this manner. Prior to the death of Long, the HCSO had completed a difficult homicide investigation in which the forensic work had been done by the FBI Laboratory. The close cooperation between the HCSO and the FBI Laboratory resulted in the successful conclusion of the case and the conviction of the individual who had committed the murder. Thus, the decision was made to fly the evidence in the Long murder to the FBI Laboratory in Washington, DC, accompanied by a HCSO homicide detective.
The hairs that were removed from the evidence were examined and found to be either the victim's hairs or unsuitable for comparison. The serology examinations were also negative due to the decomposition of the body. The knots in the ropes were examined and were identified; however, these knots were extremely common and not unique to any particular profession or occupation. The tire casts of the tire tread impressions were examined and photographs of these impressions were kept for future reference.
The fibers which were removed from the items in this case were also examined, and this evidence would provide the first important lead in the case. Eventually, it would prove to be the most critical evidence of the entire case. The equipment used for the fiber examinations consisted of a stereoscopic microscope, a comparison microscope, a polarized light microscope, a microspectrophotometer, a melting point apparatus, and eventually, an infrared spectrophotometer. A single lustrous red trilobal nylon fiber was found on a piece of fabric found near the victim. Because of the size, type, and cross sectional shape of this fiber (see fig. 1), it was determined that this fiber was probably a carpet fiber. Because the body had been exposed to the elements for a substantial period of time, and fibers which have been transferred are very transient in nature,2 it was surmised that most of the carpet fibers which had originally been transferred to the victim's body had been lost. Since the victim's body was found in a remote area; she had probably been transported in a vehicle, and the carpeting of this vehicle is probably the last item she had been in contact with. Furthermore, since there is normally a transferrence of trace materials (i.e.,fibers) when two objects come into close contact,3 it was also surmised that the killer was probably driving a vehicle with a red carpet. Vehicular carpets readily shed their fibers, and these types of fibers are commonly found on the bodies of victims at crime scenes. These fibers could then provide a critical "link" in determining whether a serial murderer was operating in the Tampa Bay area.4
The above information was provided to the HCSO, with the caution that the fiber information should be kept confidential. Experience has shown that if the existence of fiber evidence is publicized, serial killers might change their pattern and start disposing of the bodies in such a manner that this fiber evidence is either lost or destroyed. The most famous example of this is the Wayne Williams case.5 The possibility also existed that if the killer knew of the existence of the red carpet fibers, he would probably get rid of the vehicle that was the source of this evidence.
Two weeks later, on May 27,1984, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the body of a young white female was discovered in an isolated area of eastern Hillsborough County. The victim was found nude, with clothing near the body. The victim was on her back, with her hands bound at the waist and a ligature around the neck. Her throat had been cut, and she had sustained multiple blunt trauma injuries to the head. The victim had been at the scene for approximately 8 to 10 hours. The victim's hands were bound to her sides with a clothesline type of rope. The ligature at the neck was made of the same type of rope and was tied in a type of hangman's noose. There was a 3- to 4-foot length of rope extending from the noose. The victim also had what appeared to be a green man's T-shirt binding her upper arms. Hair and fiber evidence were collected from the victim's body.
Several tire tread impressions were located in a dirt roadway that passed approximately 8 feet from the victim's body. These impressions appeared to have been caused by a vehicle turning around in the area next to the victim's location.
The responding homicide detectives believed this homicide was related to the Long case. Since the victim was unidentified, a composite drawing of the victim was made and released to the media. It was through this effort that the victim was identified as Michelle Denise Simms, 22 years old and a native of California. She was last seen the previous night talking with two white males near Kennedy Boulevard in an area that is popular for working prostitutes. Simms had previously worked as a prostitute.
The evidence collected from where Simms was found was immediately flown to the FBI Laboratory. Since this had been a "fresh" site, the chances of recovering significant evidence would be tremendously improved. The tire casts were examined and one of the impressions from the right rear area was identified as being from a Goodyear Viva tire, with the white wall facing inward. The tire impression from the left rear area could not be immediately identified, as it was not in the FBI Laboratory reference files. However, the HCSO was provided with the name of an individual in Akron, OH, who was a tire expert, and the tire casts were flown to Akron, where the tire impression was identified as being made by a Vogue tire, an expensive tire that comes only on Cadillacs. A Vogue tire was obtained and photographed in detail.
The fibers removed from the evidence revealed red lustrous trilobal nylon fibers, which matched the Lana Long fiber. In addition, a second type of fiber, a red trilobal delustered fiber, was found, indicating that the killer was driving a vehicle containing two different types of carpet fibers.
Grouping tests conducted on semen stains identified on the clothing of Michelle Simms disclosed the presence of the "B" and "H" blood group substances.
The hairs from the body and clothing of Michelle Simms were examined. Brown, medium-length Caucasian head hairs were found that could have originated from the killer. Human bair is valuable evidence, and in addition to providing information on race, body area, artificial treatment, or other unusual characteristics,6 it can be strongly associated with a particular individual when matched with a known hair sample from the individual.7 With this information, the HCSO was able to build a "physical evidence" profile of the killer, which was distributed to other law enforcement agencies; however, the information on the carpet fibers and cordage was kept confidential.
On June 24,1984, the body of another young white female was found, the third victim in this series of homicides, although this would not be known for a few months. The victim was found in an orange grove in southeastern Hillsborough County. The victim was found fully clothed, and the body was in an advanced stage of decomposition. The total body weight of the victim, including her clothes, was only 25 pounds. There were no ligatures present, and the victim was not found near an interstate as the first two victims had been. During the initial stages of the investigation, the victim's boyfriend failed a polygraph examination and appeared to be an excellent suspect. Evidence from the case was sent to the FBI Laboratory; however, no request was made for this evidence to be compared to the evidence from the previous two homicide until much later.
The victim was identified as Elizabeth B. Loudenback, 22, of Tampa. Loudenback was employed as an assembly line worker and was last seen at approximately 7:00 p.m. on June 8,1984. She was known to frequent the area of Nebraska Avenue and Skipper Road in northern Hillsborough County, but had no criminal history.
The hairs from the Loudenback case were examined with negative results. Serology examinations were also negative due to the extensive decomposition of the body. The fibers, examined later, were determined to be both types of the red carpet fibers evidenced in the two previous cases. If this examination had been done initially, it would have been immediately known that Loudenback was, in fact, the third victim. When the evidence arrived at the FBI Laboratory, it was not assigned to the examiner who had worked the first two homicides. One of the most important aspects of handling a serial murder investigation is to have the same crime scene technician at all crime scenes and the same forensic examiners at the laboratory, so that one individual can become totally familiar with the forensic portion of the investigation, in order to recognize patterns and associations which might be present.
On October 7,1984, the nude body of a young black female was discovered near the Pasco/Hilisborough County line, lying next to the dirt entrance road of a cattle ranch. The victim's clothing, except for her bra, was found next to the body. The bra had been tied in a knot and was found hanging from the entrance gate. The head area was in an advanced state of decomposition, much more so than the remainder of the body. The autopsy revealed a puncture wound to the back of the neck, but a gunshot wound to the neck was the cause of death.
The victim was identified as Chanel Devon Williams, an 18-year-old black female. The victim had been previously arrested for prostitution. She was known to frequent a gay bar on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. She had been last seen on the night of September 30,1984, by another prostitute with whom she had been working. The pair were working the area of Nebraska Avenue when Williams' companion was solicited by a "john." They were approximately two-tenths of a mile from the motel where they were conducting their "business." Williams' companion rode back to the motel in the "john's" car, and Williams was instructed to slowly walk back to the motel in order to check on her companion. Williams never made it back to the motel.
The homicide detectives who responded to the place Williams was found began looking for similarities to the previous homicides. Other than the fact that the victim was found nude in a rural area and that Williams was a prostitute, there were no other apparent similarities.
At this point in the investigation, the HCSO requested a criminal personality profile be done by the FBI8 on the Long, Simms, and Williams cases, and one other homicide in which another female had been shot. A profile was returned (see figure 2), indicating strong similarities between the Long case and the Simms case. However, due to various differences (race, lack of ligatures, and cause of death), it was believed that the Williams case and the other above-mentioned case were not related.
The evidence from the Williams case was sent to the FBI Laboratory a second time, and both types of the red nylon carpet fibers were found on various articles of her clothing. A brown Caucasian pubic hair, which would ultimately be associated with Robert Long, was also discovered on the victim's sweater. Grouping tests conducted on semen stains identified on Williams' clothing disclosed the presence of the "A" and "H" blood group substances. This was inconsistent with the grouping results found in the Simms case; however, this could be due to their working as prostitutes.
On the morning of October 14, 1984, the body of a white female, nude from the waist down, was discovered in an unpopulated area of northeastern Hillsborough County. The body was found in an orange grove approximately 30 feet from a dirt road, apparently dragged from the roadway. The body had been placed on a gold-colored bedspread, and a blue jogging suit was tied outside the blanket. The bedspread had been tied at both ends with common white string. The victim's hands were bound in front with a red and white handkerchief. Her right wrist and legs were bound with another white string. The victim's feet were bound with a draw string, and there were ligature marks on the victim's throat. She had been struck on the forehead and strangled.
The victim was identified as Karen Beth Dinsfriend, a 28-year-old cocaine user and prostitute. Dinsfriend had been working the area of Nebraska and Hillsborough Avenues and was last seen during the early morning hours of October 14,1984.
Upon arriving at the scene, the detectives strongly suspected that Dinsfriend's death was related to the previous homicides. The ligatures were almost a "signature" of the offender. Red fibers were found when the body was examined at the medical examiner's office.
By this time, all homicide detectives of the HCSO were assigned to the case. Other assaults, suicides, and unrelated homicides were assigned to property detectives. Six tactical deputies were assigned to do night surveillance in the suspect's "hunting grounds," the area of Nebraska Avenue and West Kennedy Boulevard in North Tampa. The patrol divisions were again given alerts and were continually sending in field interrogation reports (FIR), which were checked. A personal computer was purchased specifically for this investigation and was used to record information on vehicles, vehicular tags, information gathered from talking to prostitutes, and information derived from the FIRs. At this point, the HCSO again went "public" to warn the community about these related homicides. However, the fiber information was kept confidential.
The evidence from the Dinsfriend disposal site was sent directly to the FBI Laboratory, and it yielded valuable evidence. The knots in the ligatures were similar to the knots from the previous cases; a brown Caucasian pubic hair, eventually associated with Robert Long, was found on the bedspread; and semen was found on the bedspread and sweat shirt and tests again disclosed the "A" and "H" blood group substances. The bedspread was tested and found to be composed of gold delustered acrylic fibers. These fibers would also provide a link to Long's vehicle.
Both types of red nylon carpet fibers were again found on most of the items and were microscopically compared to the previous carpet fibers. The color produced by the dyes from the red carpet fibers was also compared using the microspectrophotometer. The microspectrophotometer is one of the most discriminating techniques which can be used in the comparison of fibers.9 Since these carpet fibers both microscopically and optically matched the red carpet fibers from the previous five cases, it was strongly believed that all of these fibers were consistent with having originated from the same source, and therefore, all of the cases were related.
On October 30,1984, the nude mummified remains of a white female were discovered near Highway 301 in northern Hillsborough County just south of the Pasco County line. No clothing, ligatures, or any other type of physical evidence were found at the scene. Due to the amount of time the body was exposed to the elements and the fact that the victim was nude, no foreign hairs, fibers, semen, or any other type of evidence were discovered. This victim would not be identified until after the arrest of the suspect, Robert Long, who referred to the victim by her street name, "Sugar." Using this information, the HCSO was able to identify the victim as Kimberly Kyle Hopps, a 22-year-old white female, last seen by her boyfriend getting into a 1977-78 maroon Chrysler Cordoba. Hopps would eventually be associated with Long's vehicle through a comparison of her head hairs with hairs found in his vehicle.
On November 6,1984, the remains of a female were discovered near Morris Bridge Road in Pasco County just north of the Hillsborough County Line. The bones of the victim were scattered about a large area; however, a ligature was found. Another ligature was discovered on an arm bone. A shirt, a pair of panties, and some jewelry were also found. Human head hairs, presumed to be from the victim, were also recovered.
On learning of the discovery of this body, the Hilisborough homicide detectives met with the Pasco County detectives, and because of the ligatures, believed that this case was related to their homicides. The two agencies worked together to identify the victim, Virginia Lee Johnson, an 18-year-old white female originally from Connecticut. It was learned that she split her time between Connecticut and the North Tampa area, working as a prostitute in the North Nebraska Avenue area in Hillsborough County.
The evidence from the Johnson site was sent by the HCSO to the FBI Laboratory. Again, due to the extensive decomposition, the body yielded very little physical evidence; however, in the victim's head hair from the crime scene a single red lustrous carpet fiber was found, relating this case to the others. Eventually, Virginia Johnson would also be associated with Robert Long's vehicle through a transfer of her head hairs.
On November 24,1984, the nude body of a young white female was found on an incline off of North Orient Road in the City of Tampa, involving yet a third jurisdiction in the homicides. The victim had been at the scene less than 24 hours. A wadded pair of blue jeans and a blue flowered top were near the body. The victim was wearing knee high nylons; the body was face down with the head at the lower portion of the incline. Faint tire impressions were observed in the grass next to the roadway, and a piece of wood with possible tire impressions was found. It appeared that the killer had pulled off the road and had thrown the body over the edge and onto the incline. Examination of the body revealed that fecal matter was present on the inside of the victim's legs and on the exterior of the clothing. The body had a pronounced ligature mark on the front portion of the neck. There were also ligature marks on both wrists and on both arms; however, no ligatures were found.
This victim was identified as Kim Marie Swann, a 21-year-old female narcotics user, who worked as a nude dancer. She was last seen walking out of a convenience store near her parent's home at approximately 3:00 p.m. on November 11,1984.
When the Tampa Police Department responded and noted the ligature marks on the victim, they immediately called the HCSO and requested that they also respond. This homicide was also believed to be related to the previous seven homicides.
The evidence from the Swann disposal site was sent to the FBI Laboratory. The tire tread impressions on the board bore limited design similarities to the tire impressions from the Lana Long and Michelle Simms homicides. Again, red nylon carpet fibers were found on the victim's clothing. The head hair of the victim was examined and would eventually be associated with the suspect's vehicle.
Even though the three jurisdictions now directly involved in the eight homicides continued to work separately on their own cases, there was continual exchange of information among these agencies, which enabled the HCSO to learn that the Tampa Police Department sex crimes detectives were working an abduction and rape of a 17-year-old white female. This exchange of information would ultimately lead to the big "break" in the case, a case which had completely captivated the attention of the Tampa Bay area and one which was beginning to attract national attention as well.
On November 3,1984, a young girl, Lisa McVey, was leaving a doughnut shop in northern Tampa when she was abducted. The offender took her to an unknown apartment and sexually assaulted her for 26 hours before releasing her. The HCSO urged the Tampa Police Department to send their rape evidence to the FBI Laboratory, and on November 13,1984, the FBI Laboratory called with the biggest break yet in the serial murder case; they found the same red fibers on McVey's clothes as had been found on the homicide victims.
After the rape case had been linked to the murders, a task force was formed the next day, consisting of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The rape victim, McVey, was extensively interviewed and recalled that after leaving the apartment where she was held, the suspect stopped at a "24-hour teller machine" to withdraw some money at approximately 3:00 a.m. She described the suspect's vehicle as being red with a red interior and red carpet, with the word "Magnum" on the dash. Enroute to the release site, the victim recalled peeking out from under the blindfold and seeing a Howard Johnson's motel as they drove up on the interstate.
At this time, there were approximately 30 officers assigned to the task force. They immediately flooded the North Tampa area searching for the apartment and vehicle (only a 1978 Dodge Magnum has the word "Magnum" on the dash). A task force member was flown to the State capital and returned with a list of every Dodge Magnum registered in Hillsborough County. An examination of the computer printout of these registrations revealed Robert Joe Long's name as a listed owner of a Dodge Magnum.
Each team of detectives was assigned certain areas to search, and as one team drove to their area, they noticed a red Dodge Magnum driving down Nebraska Avenue in North Tampa. The vehicle was stopped, and the driver was told that they were looking for a robbery suspect. The driver, identified as Robert Joe Long, was photographed and a field interrogation report was written.
During the same time period, bank records for all bank machines in North Tampa were being subpoenaed. These bank records revealed that Robert Long had used the 24-hour teller machine close to his apartment at approximately 3:00 a.m. on the morning the rape victim was released. The rape victim identified Long as her assailant from a photo selection. Based on McVey's statements, both an arrest warrant and a search warrant were drawn up and approved by a circuit court judge.
Robert Long was located at his apartment approximately 2 hours after being stopped by the task force members. They began a 24-hour surveillance of Long, also using aircraft to minimize the chances that Long would spot the surveillance teams.
The task force then consulted the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy for guidelines to use when interviewing the suspect. A Special Agent from the FBI Laboratory in Washington was flown to Tampa for an immediate comparison of fibers from the suspect's apartment and vehicle and to assist in the crime scene searches. An aircraft was standing by so that after the arrest this Agent could be flown immediately to the closest FDLE laboratory which had the special microscope required for comparison of the fiber samples.
The following teams were organized from the task force:
1) Arrest team selected to physically arrest Long. Two of these officers
were selected to interview Long at the office after the arrest.
3) Search team for the residence, and
4) Neighborhood survey team to interview Long's neighbors in his apartment complex after the arrest and before any information was released to the media.
After all task force teams were at their assigned locations, the signal
to effect the arrest was given. By this time, Long was in a movie theater;
as Long walked out of the theater, he was arrested. This arrest occurred
only 36 hours after the task force was formed.
The officers opened the interview by carefully talking only about the McVey rape and abduction until the suspect confessed to the McVey case. Then, the detectives began going into the other homicide cases. Long denied any involvement in the homicides initially.
Meanwhile, the suspect's vehicle had been brought to the Sheriff's office where it was being searched. The vehicle was found to have the Vogue tire and the Goodyear Viva tire, all with the white wall inverted and in the exact location on the vehicle as had been suspected. A sample of the carpet was removed from the vehicle, and the FBI fiber expert was immediately flown with this sample and previous fiber samples to the FDLE lab in Sanford, FL, which had a comparison microscope. A short time later, the Agent telephoned the HCSO confirming that the fibers from Long's vehicle matched the red carpet fibers found previously on the victims. Long continued to deny committing the murders until the fibers were matched. The interviewing detectives then explained the physical evidence to the suspect. They also explained the significance of the matched fibers and what other comparisons would be done i.e., hair, blood, etc. At this time, the suspect confessed.
The suspect gave a brief description of each homicide. He admitted killing Loudenback (victim #3) and using her money card. In each case, Long had talked the victims into his vehicle, immediately gaining control of them with a knife and gun. He then bound them and took them to various areas where he sexually assaulted and then murdered them. The suspect also drew a map showing where he had placed victim number nine. This victim had been abducted from the City of Tampa during an earlier part of the investigation, and the Tampa Police Department had informed the HCSO of this fact. They believed she fit the "victim profile" but she remained missing until Long told them where to find the body.10
Eventually, a total of 10 homicides which had occurred in and around the Tampa Bay area over a period of approximately 8 months were attributed to Long ( seefigure 3). The victims ranged from 18 to 28 years in age, and the majority of the victims were prostitutes. Most victims were strangled and/or asphyxiated; however, one was shot and one died of a cut throat.
Several weeks after the arrest of Long, a conference was held at the HCSO, attended by law enforcement agencies from throughout the State of Florida. The entire case was presented, and as a result, numerous rapes were cleared in the Miami area. The Public Defender's Office had attempted to obtain an injunction to prevent dissemination of information about the Long cases, but this obstacle was overcome by having this conference limited to law enforcement personnel only.
This case is a classic example of the success that can be achieved when law enforcement agencies cooperate. The following are critical areas of the investigation and how they were handled.
News Media-In the past the HCSO bureau commander handled the initial press release to the media regarding the homicides. A sergeant from another bureau was selected as a public information officer for the investigation, thus taking the burden off the bureau commander and allowing for the proper supervision of the case. In the majority of these cases, the victims were unidentified, so the HCSO released a composite and physical description to the local media. Each call from the public was logged in as a "lead," and these leads were assigned to the detectives to resolve. It was through this method that the majority of the victims were identified.
Evidence Collection and Control-The identification, collection, and preservation of physical evidence was very crucial in these cases. After the first homicide, two detectives were designated to work each scene and collect the evidence, providing a tracking of the physical evidence in each case.
Laboratory Services-The participation of the FBI Laboratory was the key ingredient to the successful conclusion of this case. Again, continuity was obtained because all the evidence went to the same laboratory. In addition, the lab became closely involved in the case; HCSO supervisors and detectives flew to Washington, DC to present the evidence from each case to the forensic experts. There was a continued dialogue and exchange of information between the HCSO and the FBI Laboratory about the physical evidence.
Task Force-An immediate advantage enjoyed by the HCSO was that the majority of the cases were in HCSO jurisdiction. When it came time for the task force to be formed, there was no question that the HCSO would be in charge. However, the task force commander had to take into account the different agencies and had to be able to blend their various responsibilities. It was decided to have one HCSO detective and one TPD detective pair up and be responsible for certain investigative tasks. The interview team consisted of one officer from each agency, thus the other agencies couldn't complain that they weren't involved. The personnel selected for the task force were all homicide and/or sex crime detectives experienced in these types of investigations. The one problem with this format was that "other homicides" and "persons" crimes continued, so that property detectives were handling the other "persons" crimes, since all homicide detectives were devoted to the task force.
Agency Commitment-An investigation of this magnitude cannot be successfully concluded without the total commitment of the agency and support of the chief executive. This commitment was given by the HCSO immediately after the first homicide, and with this commitment, the Homicide Bureau, and later the task force, had the entire resources of the HCSO and the TPD at their disposal. Examples of the commitment were assignment of aircraft for surveillance, reassignment of property detectives to other homicides, purchase of personal computers to catalogue all leads and suspects, and use of undercover personnel to observe the suspect after he was identified. In addition, detectives were allowed to travel throughout the State of Florida and the United States to trace leads; there was mobilization of auxiliary personnel, realignment of patrol personnel to provide surveillance of the interstate system, and reassignment of the Selective Enforcement Unit to the Detective Division for the duration of the investigation.
As a result of laboratory examinations, numerous associations were made between the various crime scenes, the suspect, the victims, and the suspect's vehicle. ( seefigure 4) The probative value of these associations was explained to the prosecutors from the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office and the Pasco County State Attorney's Office. The importance of the fiber evidence was apparent from the beginning, as 8 of the 10 victims were associated with Long's vehicle through fiber comparisons. The importance of the hair evidence also began to emerge as all of the forensic examinations were completed. Six of the victims were associated to Long's vehicle through hair transfers, even though Long had thoroughly vacuumed his Dodge Magnum the day before he was arrested. Two of the 10 victims were associated directly to Long by transfer of his hairs to these victims. The signifigance of the ligatures and knots should not be overlooked as these provided a valuable link between cases. The tire tread evidence provided many leads and would associate Long's vehicle directly to the crime scene in two of the cases. The importance of the criminal personality profile should also be noted. ( seefigure 5) In addition to providing valuable leads, it can also "guide" a case. It cannot, however, take the place of a thorough and competent investigation.
The first trial of Robert Long was held in Dade City, FL (Pasco County) on April 22,1985. This was the trial for the murder of Virginia Johnson. The strongest evidence presented at this trial was the hair and fiber associations, as well as the confession of Long. The trial lasted a week and received a great deal of media coverage. Long was found guilty of the murder of Virginia Johnson and was sentenced to die in the electric chair.
It was decided that the first case that would be tried in Hillsborough County would be the Michelle Simms case. This case was picked due to the brutal nature in which she had been killed and the fact that it contained the strongest forensic evidence. The second case to be tried would be the Karen Dinsfriend case. As a result of discussions between the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office and the Public Defender's Office of Hillsborough County, a plea bargain was agreed upon for eight of the homicides and the abduction and rape of Lisa McVey. Long pled guilty on September 24, 1985, to all of these crimes, receiving 26 life sentences (24 concurrent and 2 to run consecutively to the first 24) and 7 life sentences (no parole for 25 years). In addition, the State retained the option to seek the death penalty for the murder of Michelle Simms. In July of 1986, the penalty phase of the Michelle Simms trial was held in Tampa. It lasted 1 week and again received great media attention. Long was found guilty and was again sentenced to die in Florida's electric chair.
1. Ropes and cordages were found in 7 of the 10 homicides cases. All of these were compared with another. Even though cordages found in one case were sometimes found to be of the same type, there were no instances in which cordages from two or more different cases were found to be similar. However, these cordages and knots did provide a "link" in the patterns which would associate these cases together.
2. C.A. Pounds and K.W. Smalldon, "The Transfer of fibers between clothing materials during simulated contacts and their persistence during wear," Journal of the Forensic Science Society, vol.15,1975, pp.29-37.
3. This is known as the "Exchange Principle of Locard" and was first published in Edmond Locard in 1928.
4. One of the major problems in investigating a serial murder case is determining whether the murders are related. In cases where a vehicle is used, fiber evidence is probably the best type of evidence to provide this "link." Therefore, these types of cases should be examined by a laboratory with a well-equipped hair and fiber facility.
5. Harold A. Deadman, "Fiber Evidence and the Wayne Williams Trial," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, vol.53, Nos. 3 and 5, (Part I) March 1984, pp.12-20; (Conclusion) May 1984, pp. 10-19.
6. "Microscopy of Hairs," FBI Laboratory Technical Supplement, Issue 2, January 1977.
7. B.D. Gaudette and E.S. Keeping, "An Attempt at Determining Probabilities in Human Scalp Hair Comparison," Journal of Forensic Science, July 1974. pp.599-606; D. Gaudette, "Probabilities and Human Pubic Hair comparisons," Journal of Forensic Science, July 1975, pp. 514-517; Preliminary Report, Committee on Forensic Hair Comparison, Crime Laboratory Digest, July 1985, pp. 50-59.
8. A request for a criminal personality profile can be made by any duly authorized law enforcement agency through any of the FBI's 59 field offices. Each of these offices has an Agent who is specifically trained by tne Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI Academy to provide this service. A profile can be an extremely valuable tool; however, it is intended to be a supplement and not a substitute for a thorough and extensive criminal investigation.
9. Suchenwirth, "On the Value as Evidence of Micro-Spectral Photometric Measurements of Traces of Textile Fibers." Archive for Criminology, vol.142, Nos. 1 and 2, 1968; R. Macrae, R.J. Dudley, and K.W. Smalldon, "The Characterization of Dyestuffs on Wool Fibers with Special Reference to Microspectrophotometry," Journal of Forensic Science, vol.24, No. 1, 1979, pp.117-129; K.K. Laing and M.D.1. Isaacs, "The Examination of Paints and Fibers by Microspectrophotometry," Home Office Central Research Establishment Report Number 359, British Crown Copyright, 1980.
10.In view of the fact that the final two victims in this case, Vicky Elliot and Artis Wick, were not found until after the arrest of Robert Long, they will not be covered extensively in this article.
This article is reprinted from the November and December, 1987 issues