Lisa McVey, now 55, was just 17 years old when she was abducted by Long as she rode her bike home from work in the early hours of November 3, 1984, in Tampa, Florida.
The teenager, who had endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of her grandmother’s boyfriend, had actually planned to end her life when she got home.
She had written a suicide note hours earlier and planned to shoot herself in the head with her abuser’s gun the moment she stepped through the door.
But as fate would have it, McVey would never make it home that night. Instead, she was bundled in the back of Long’s car at gunpoint and blindfolded, a horrifying moment she now credits with saving her life.
It was when Long placed the barrel of his pistol against her temple and threatened to blow her “brains out” that McVey realized that she didn’t want to die and instead wanted to make something of herself.
Her new lease on life provided her with the strength to endure 26 hours of horrific abuse and torture carried out by Long while she was blindfolded and bound inside his apartment.
It also buoyed her with a determination to make it out of Long’s apartment alive at any cost.
To do so, McVey sought to humanize herself to Long, spinning tales that her father was terminally ill and needed her to care for him while also assuring her captor she knew he was a “really nice guy” whom she’d consider dating.
Unknown to Mcvey at the time, Long was in the midst of a spate of brutal kidnappings and serial killings that would leave at least 10 women dead.
When McVey asked him why he was raping her, Long chillingly responded: “to get back at all women in general because of a recent breakup.”
“He thought he could get back at all women by kidnapping and raping them, all because someone broke his heart, apparently,” McVey told The US Sun in an exclusive interview.
“But I was trying to be as compassionate as possible and show him in some way that what he was doing to me was wrong because I was a nice person.”
A TWIST OF FATE
Describing her childhood as “rough”, Lisa McVey grew up in foster care from the ages of two and seven before she was returned to the care of her biological mother, a drug addict who would disappear for months at a time.
Living between homeless camps, in cars, and in abandoned buildings with leaking roofs, she eventually moved in with her grandmother and her grandmother’s boyfriend in Tampa – but the home was anything but a refuge.
From the moment she turned 13, McVey was sexually abused by her grandmother’s boyfriend, then in his 50s, every night for the next four years.
The abuser swore her to secrecy, threatening to kill her identical twin sister if she ever told anyone about the abuse.
He referred to her as his “girlfriend” and would also hold a gun to her head during the attacks, threatening to pull the trigger if she ever made a sound.
Scared of the repercussions, McVey followed her abuser’s demands and stayed silent.
But when she turned 17, and her grandmother’s boyfriend started speaking about having a child with her, McVey could bear her life no longer.
“I went to work one day at a local donut shop and before I left I wrote my suicide note because I was just done.
“I was going to end my life when I came home that night; I was going to kill myself using the gun he used to hold to my head when he raped me.
“I was tired of everything. It was time to go.”
‘FIGHTING TO LIVE’
McVey’s note was brief: she insisted she was as tired of living as she was being abused.
She didn’t want to go on, she wanted a better life.
“I remember writing in it, ‘sometimes I wish I was a bird so I can fly far, far away,” McVey said.
“That line was later used in the movie Forrest Gump but I had it first – they stole that from me,” she added with a laugh.
Content and happy with the impending fate she’d resigned herself to, McVey worked a double shift at the donut shop and began riding her bike home sometime around 2am.
As she noticed a strange car parked outside of a church, someone grabbed her off her bike from behind.
The teenager started screaming and flailing her arms in a panic as she was blindfolded and thrown into the back of the man’s car.
She cried out for her life, telling her attacker: “God, whatever you do, don’t kill me, you can do whatever you want but don’t kill me.”
That’s when the man, later identified to be Long, placed the cold barrel of his gun to her left temple, barking through gritted teeth: “Shut up or I’ll blow your brains out.”
“Something in the pit of my stomach said you’ve got to stay calm and you’ll survive this,” McVey said.
“There was an epiphany of I’m not gonna allow one more person to take my life away from me.
“My grandma and her boyfriend took my youth but I was going to take control and take my life into my own hands.
“Bobby Joe Long wasn’t going to take my life away, he didn’t have the right to – and that’s why I started fighting to live.”
HORRIFIC 26-HOUR ORDEAL
As McVey was tied up by Long she peered out of a small opening below her blindfold to get a glimpse of the car he’d thrown her into – a red Dodge Magnum.
Growing up she had watched a number of crime shows, from MacGuyver to Magnum PI, and decided to put her own detective skills into practice, memorizing as much of her surroundings as she could, in addition to keeping track of the direction in which Long was driving.
“Anytime he would take off or put on the blindfold I would clench my jaw to make it tight and allow the blindfold to be looser than it would be.
“It really did help; I couldn’t see everything, but I could see beneath it.”
She was eventually led out of a car and up the stairs of an apartment.
McVey counted every step she took inside the home. She also peered beneath her blindfold to see green carpet on the floor beneath her.
Over the next 26 hours, Long would repeatedly rape, torture, and abuse McVey.
While terrified at any moment that her attacker could decide to kill her, she never for one second entertained the possibility that she would die.
“Each hour felt like an eternity,” McVey said. “But I never let myself believe that I was going to die in that house.
“I was scared he was going to kill me, yes, but I knew I couldn’t be resigned to the face I was going to die – I had to be street smart.”
In the event she was killed, McVey started pressing her fingertips on any surfaces she could find to ensure a trace of her was left behind for investigators to later find.
She grabbed table legs, and chairs and even pushed her palms against the wall seeking to leave prints.
She also at one stage convinced Long to allow her to go to the bathroom alone, whereby she placed her fingers on the mirror, on the bathtub, and beneath the basin of the toilet – trying to find places where her captor may forget to clean.
All the while, McVey tried to strike up conversations with her attacker during the abuse, attempting to find out as many details as she could about him while simultaneously humanizing herself.
She never gave him her real name, she told Long her name was Carol and that she was older than she was.
McVey also made up that she had an ailing father that she cared for full-time, who would surely miss her if she were not to make it home.
“I had to do whatever it took to get his attention to show him what he was doing, that he was messing with the wrong person,” McVey explained of her rationale.
“I told him if he decided to kill me that it wouldn’t be good because I have a father who wasn’t well, and he has nobody to take care of him.
“I told him if he killed me then my dad would definitely die of a broken heart.
“I don’t know why I said it but I remember feeling at some time in his life he may have been abused himself, which I later learned that he was,” McVey explained.
“It was almost like I was setting up a profile of a suspect,” the 53-year-old, now the Master Deputy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, added with a laugh.
“Who knew I was a cop before I was a cop?
“Either way it saved my life.”
DUPING A KILLER
Several hours into the abduction, a news break came on the TV reporting a missing 17-year-old girl by name of Lisa McVey.
She immediately started trembling and crying, realizing that someone was looking for her.
But Long stormed over to the girl, placing his gun against her head and warning, “don’t make me kill you.”
Realizing she was a child, Long turned to McVey at around 3.30am in the morning and asked her what he should do with her.
“I told him, ‘you’re a really nice guy, I can take care of you, I can be your girlfriend, nobody needs to know how we met,'” she remembered.
“But he said ‘no, no I can’t keep you. Where do you live?’”
McVey sensed her freedom was just around the corner. She told Long the wrong address and he hauled her back into his car.
He drove to an ATM and then a gas station before dropping her off behind a business at 4.30am.
“Tell your father he’s the reason why I didn’t kill you,” Long told her, before warning McVey to wait five minutes before taking her blindfold off so he could drive away.
“That five minutes felt like five years,” she said.
“But when I finally took it off and saw this huge oak tree in front of me, I knew at that moment my life was going to change.”
SEARCHING FOR A SERIAL KILLER
Change would not be instantaneous for McVey.
She ran through the night back to her grandmother’s home, escaping one nightmare but returning to another.
When she arrived, her grandmother’s boyfriend started brutally beating her, accusing her of “cheating on him” and lying about what had happened to her.
McVey’s grandmother even told Tampa PD that McVey was lying, but after some initial apprehension, police insisted on an investigation.
The teenager, remembering the details she’d made an effort to memorize while in captivity, told investigator Larry Pinkerton everything she knew.
A few days later, she was walking past a TV when she heard a news report about a potential serial killer operating in the area.
A description of the suspect led her to believe that her kidnapper was the killer, so she contacted the FBI.
McVey once again recounted her ordeal. Pinkerton asked if she’d be willing to be hypnotized to help or jog any memories that may be lingering in her subconscious.
She agreed but her grandmother’s boyfriend, masquerading as her father, refused to grant her permission.
Confused by the refusal, Pinkerton quizzed McVey further on her relations with the man which is when she revealed the abuse for the first time.
Her grandmother’s boyfriend was arrested and died in custody shortly after.
McVey, meanwhile, was taken to a home for runaway teens where investigators with the FBI visited her with a stack of six pictures of potential culprits.
Since McVey had briefly touched her attacker’s face and caught small glimpses of him beneath her blindfold, she was able to identify Long right away – the first picture in the pile.
“I had no doubt in my mind the very first picture I chose was him,” she said.
“Because he had a pockmarked face, he had a short clean mustache, small ears, round face – I knew it was him and told them to stop wasting time and go get him.”
McVey’s story, and the details she had remembered along the way, ultimately led investigators right to Long’s door.
He was arrested 12 days after her abduction, and in that time had already managed to claim the lives of two other women.
Long was found guilty of first-degree murder a year later in 1985 and was sentenced to death.
He eventually confessed to committing 10 murders and died by lethal injection in 2019.
McVey, his only survivor, sat front row and center for the execution wearing a t-shirt that read, “Long…Overdue.”
She also managed to rebuild her life in the aftermath of the attack.
McVey moved in with a loving aunt and uncle and picked up a host of different jobs before signing up for the police academy in 2004.
She later joined the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office — the same department that had arrested Long – and began specializing in sex crimes.
She remains with the department today, currently serving as the Master Deputy.
“When Robert Joe Long was put to death it wasn’t so much about closure, because I forgave him a long time ago for what he did to me, and when you forgive someone you find closure,” she said.
“My thing with him is that justice was served on the day he was arrested – when he was no longer on the streets and couldn’t hurt anyone any longer.
“And justice was completed on the day he took his last breath.”