Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bobby Joe Long

The First Body

A couple of teenage boys walking in the early evening across a field near I-75, southeast of Tampa, Florida, noticed a bad smell in the air. They went closer to investigate the construction area from which it emanated and realized that the blackened thing in the weeds they were looking at was not a deer or cow but the mangled remains of a nude woman. They ran to find their parents. Anna Flowers offers the details of what happened next in her book, Bound to Die.

Bound to Die
Bound to Die
It was Mothers Day, May 13, 1984. The body, estimated to have lain in that spot for three days, was infested with maggots, especially around the face, which made identification difficult. She was found face down, her wrists tied together loosely behind her back around eight inches apart, and a noose draped three times around her neck. It appeared to have been used as a leash, with a hangmans slipknot. The Florida sun and insects had done their damage.

Capt. Gary Terry and Detective Lee Baker from the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office (HCSO) came to the scene. They examined the remains and saw from severe bruising that prior to her death the victim had been severely beaten. Oddly, the rope tying her wrists was different from the rope around her neck. A white silk cloth found under the victims face apparently was used as a gag. And there was more: The young womans hips had been rudely broken to allow both of her legs to be pulled out at right angles to her body a pose apparently meant for shock value. It seemed likely that she had been raped, but that was for the autopsy to determine, if possible.

At the scene, investigators soon found a set of tire tracks that led into and out of the field. They cast plaster tire impressions and noted that the front and rear right tires had a standard tread design while the left rear tire had an unusual tread design. That could be helpful in the apprehension of the offender.  

Medical examiner Charles Digg performed the autopsy and stated the cause of death as best he could tell as strangulation. He confirmed that the victim had been raped. It was difficult to tell her race or age, but he thought she might have been Asian.

In a move that was unusual for him, Capt. Terry contacted special agent Michael P. Malone, a fiber analyst at the FBI lab, who agreed to examine the evidence. Malone located a red trilobal nylon fiber on the scarf and concluded that it was probably from a type of cheap carpeting used in an automobile perhaps the one that had transported the victim to the dump site.

This incident did not get much press. Bernie Ward says in his book, In the Mind of a Monster, that it was buried on page 9B of the Tampa Tribune.

BobbyJoe: In the Mind of a Monster
BobbyJoe: In the Mind of a Monster
A missing persons report on a young Asian female, filed by John Corcoran, appeared to match the victims physical features. As DNA was not yet in use, her fingerprints were utilized to affirm her identity as Ngeun Thi Long, also known as Lana Long (Ward also calls her Peggy). She was 20 years old and had worked as a dancer at the Sly Fox Lounge in Tampa. Investigators discovered that she was a drug addict. She had also been trying to raise money to return to her family in California. They assumed that she may have been asking men who liked watching her to give her money and had met the wrong person at the wrong time. In addition, because she had no car, she often looked for rides. Long was last seen leaving a bar called CCs.

Her boyfriend was briefly a suspect, but his alibi checked out. At this point, Lana Long was just one of a number of unfortunate girls getting murdered in the Tampa area. No one thought much about it, but within two weeks, her status had changed.

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