How Lisa McVey Survived an Abduction by Bobby Joe Long
January 31, 2023 ~ By Shari Rose
17-year-old Lisa McVey persevered through a 26-hour abduction from serial killer Bobby Joe Long and helped police arrest him two weeks later
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of suicide and self-harm.
In early November 1984, 17-year-old Lisa McVey made a plan to end her life. But just hours after writing a suicide note, she was abducted by Bobby Joe Long, a local serial killer who murdered eight women before kidnapping her. McVey saved her own life by resolving to do whatever it took to survive unconscionable sexual abuse and live to see another day after a brutal 26-hour abduction in Long’s apartment. Her escape from a serial killer and her fight to convince the adults around her to believe her story became the subject of many pieces of media, including a 2018 Lifetime movie called “Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey.”
The 1984 Abduction of Lisa McVey
Before McVey’s abduction and survival, the 17-year-old was no stranger to hard times. When she was a child, McVey had little stability in her home life as she and her mother spent periods of time living on the streets.
“My teenage years were unbearable,” Lisa McVey recounted in a 2020 interview. “I did not have a good childhood. I was always down, depressed, sad.”
When she was 14 years old, she moved in with her grandmother and her grandmother’s boyfriend in the Tampa Bay area. Tragically, McVey’s life took a turn for the worse after she began living at the house.
“One day, my grandmother came to me and said her boyfriend was interested in me and he was going to teach me how to please a man,” McVey said. “I was 14 years old. I did not know and understand what she was talking about.”
For the next three years, McVey endured ongoing sexual abuse from the man at home, with her grandmother fully aware of what was going on. With no end to the abuse in sight, McVey decided to end her life at 17 years old.
“The night before my abduction … I came to terms of being done with my life,” she said. “I felt disgusting, I felt betrayed, I felt like a nobody. I was so tired of living, so tired of being hurt, I didn’t know a way out. Who could I tell? I had no one to trust or tell what was going on at home.”
Hours before McVey was kidnapped by serial killer Bobby Joe Long, the teen wrote a suicide note. She planned to end her life when she returned home after working a late shift at her job at Krispy Kreme.
“I was at that moment in my life of just feeling as if I just want to be free. Where no one would ever, ever be able to hurt me again,” she said.
Around 2 am on November 3, 1984, Lisa McVey finished her shift at Krispy Kreme and rode her bike home with a plan to die soon when she returned. But she never made it to her grandmother’s house that night.
As she passed a church parking lot, Bobby Joe Long jumped out from the darkness and grabbed her by the neck. He dragged her off her bike and into his red Dodge Magnum, all the while holding a gun to her left temple. McVey said that at that moment, something just “clicked” in her mind.
“Now I’m in a position where I felt like I was forced to fight for my life,” McVey said. “It’s like God was saying, ‘Not on my watch, you’re not going to kill yourself. This is what we’re going to go through together.’”
Lisa McVey Survives 26 Hours in Bobby Joe Long’s Apartment
Bobby Joe Long tied, gagged, and blindfolded Lisa McVey and drove them both to his apartment. Despite the acute trauma she was experiencing, the teenager had the presence of mind to remember everything she could see, hear, and feel while inside the serial killer’s vehicle. When Long blindfolded her, McVey clenched her jaw so she could see through a little space in the blindfold when she relaxed it again.
Through that tiny peephole she created, McVey saw that Long’s car had red carpet and white seats. She also read the word “Magnum” detailed across the dashboard.
Long drove her back to his apartment and sexually assaulted her repeatedly. McVey’s blindfold was kept on during the attacks, but she did not need to see his face to later identify her rapist. At one point, Long put her hand on his face. She could feel he had a small mustache and snub nose, physical details she would later use to choose his photo while working with investigators.
Despite the intense physical, emotional, and sexual trauma she endured for seemingly endless hours, McVey managed to think of ways she could leave behind evidence at his apartment. When he let her use the bathroom, she left her fingerprints on everything she could, in hopes that police would connect her to Long.
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Some hours after her abduction, a local news story playing on Long’s television covered McVey’s disappearance and classified her as a missing person. Upon seeing the coverage, the teen started to panic. But Long threatened her with: “‘If you scream one more time, I’ll be forced to put a bullet in your head. Stop crying.’”
McVey noticed that her abductor said he would be “forced” to kill her, as if he did not actually want to do it. So, she began to ask him questions in an effort to bond with him.
In a 2019 press conference, McVey explained that she tried to “get inside his head” while trapped at his apartment.
“[I tried] to get him to see that I was a compassionate person, and even though what he was doing to me wasn’t right, I had to show that I was a real person at the same time,” she said.
When Long informed McVey that he had done this to other women, she asked why he would do the same to her. He replied that he wanted “to get back at women in general” following some bad breakups. McVey offered to be Long’s secret girlfriend and reassured him that she would never tell anyone how they met.
McVey also told her rapist that she was her father’s only caregiver, and he needed her help because he was very ill. It wasn’t true, but this information worked to convince Long that she was a person with compassion and humanity, rather than an object to abuse.
Her efforts paid off, and after 26 hours of torture in the serial killer’s apartment, Bobby Joe Long bundled Lisa McVey back into his Dodge Magnum and asked where she lived.
Long Releases McVey
Long first drove the pair to an ATM, then a gas station. Finally, he pulled up to a parking lot behind a business near her grandmother’s home. Long told McVey he was sorry, and said he didn’t kill her because of her father’s health. Still blindfolded, she exited his vehicle and stepped outside. Long ordered her to wait 5 minutes before taking off her blindfold.
After what felt like hours of waiting, the 17-year-old took off her blindfold. The first thing McVey saw was an oak tree.
“I’m just frozen–but when I finally take it off, I’m in front of a beautiful oak tree,” Lisa McVey said. “I think I’m going to have a new life, and it will be better.”
Finally free, she took off running. Terrified that Long would change his mind and abduct her again, McVey ran to her grandmother’s home and arrived around 4:30 am. But back home, her horrific ordeal wasn’t over. Her grandmother’s boyfriend beat the teen for hours, and interrogated her about where she had been for the past day.
Despite the rampant abuse, McVey stuck to her facts and implored the two to call the police. Her grandmother finally called Tampa police in the morning and said the teenager was making up a story about being kidnapped. Because McVey was classified as a missing person, police had to conduct an investigation. So, she headed to the station to tell authorities what happened to her.
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McVey Assists With the Kidnapping Investigation
At a nearby Tampa police station, Lisa McVey shared the details of her abduction and sexual abuse with a female detective. But the detective did not believe her story.
“She wants to go over it again and again, and I finally say, ‘No—bring in somebody more intelligent,’” McVey said.
The following day, McVey spoke with Sgt. Larry Pinkerton, the official in charge of sex crimes at the department. Pinkerton believed her story, and he called the FBI.
Just a few days after McVey’s return home, local news reported that another body of a young woman had been uncovered in the Tampa Bay area. The teen heard the story as it played on TV at her grandmother’s house, and she called up Larry Pinkerton because she believed whoever committed that murder was her kidnapper. Pinkerton contacted Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and got her in touch with deputies who were investigating the murders.
During the investigation, Pinkerton asked McVey if she would undergo hypnosis to see if she could recall further details of the man who abducted her. Because she was a minor, she needed her parents’ permission to do so. Her grandmother’s boyfriend refused to allow McVey to be hypnotized. Pinkerton thought that was strange, so he spoke to McVey about it. She broke down crying and told him about the sexual abuse going on at home. Police soon arrested her abuser and Pinkerton arranged for her to live in a center for runaway teens so he could not hurt her again.
As law enforcement began to close in on discovering Bobby Joe Long’s identity in the ensuing days, Pinkerton showed McVey a series of photos of potential suspects. Based on the physical features of his face she felt with her hands during the abduction, McVey chose Long’s photo.
Police retraced the drive that McVey thought Long took before he released her, and they found the ATM he used. By cross referencing registered Dodge Magnums in Florida with the names found in the ATM, they found Robert Joseph Long.
Police Arrest Bobby Joe Long in Tampa
Twelve days after abducting McVey, Long was arrested. But that arrest came too late for two more victims he killed in less than two weeks: Virginia Lee Johnson, 18, and Kim Marie Swann, 21.
A key piece of evidence that linked Long to the women he murdered were red carpet fibers from his Magnum car that were found on victims’ bodies as well as McVey’s clothing. In spite of the disbelief and doubt cast on her story, McVey did not waver from telling those around her what happened. And those red fibers were hard evidence that proved the teenager had been telling the truth from the very beginning.
Following his arrest, Long confessed to murdering nine women and raping dozens of others. The murders all took place in a nine-month period throughout the Tampa Bay area in 1984. Before the killing spree, he began robbing and raping women he contacted through classified ads in 1981 throughout Fort Lauderdale and Miami. For these crimes, he was known as the “Classified Ad Rapist.”
Long was tried and convicted of rape in 1981, but the charges were dropped when he was granted a new trial. He moved to Tampa Bay in 1983, and started killing women within a year.
In September 1985, Long pleaded guilty to the murders of eight women as well as the many crimes he committed against Lisa McVey. He received 26 life sentences. The following year, he was found guilty of killing 22-year-old Michelle Simms and was sentenced to death. In total, Long killed at least 10 women before he was arrested.
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McVey Joins the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office
After Lisa McVey aged out of the teen center, she moved in with her aunt and uncle. For the first time, she found herself living in a loving and supportive home. Over the next few years, McVey worked odd jobs before landing at the Hillsborough County Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1995, she had to report a break-in at one of the facilities with a deputy at the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office. The deputy told her she had the right attitude to be a cop, and McVey considered making a career change.
But at that time, McVey had a young daughter and did not want to put her own life in jeopardy. However, she received a lateral transfer to the sheriff’s department four years later, and worked as a dispatcher. In 2004, McVey put herself through the police academy and became a deputy.
Today, Lisa McVey Noland is a master deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and has worked at the department for 20 years. She married a fellow officer and is known as Deputy Lisa Noland. Furthermore, she works as a school resource officer and often speaks to students about how to protect themselves and be vigilant against potential danger.
Lisa McVey Noland Today
Serial killer Bobby Joe Long sat on death row in Florida for over 30 years. McVey lamented the delays to his execution and worked with various victims’ groups to try and secure an execution date. In 2018, she traveled with the family members of one of his murder victims, Vicky Elliott, to a victim’s advocate week in Tallahassee to advocate for the signing of Long’s death warrant.
“His time is coming, and he knows it, and ironically, he’s very scared,” McVey said in 2019. “It’s about time.”
Nearly 35 years after McVey’s abduction, Long’s death warrant was signed and he was executed by lethal injection on May 23, 2019.
McVey and one other survivor, Linda Nuttall, were present at Long’s execution. McVey wore a shirt that read “Long … Overdue.”
But Bobby Joe Long never opened his eyes at his execution. And he never said a word.
Today, Lisa McVey Noland remains a master sheriff’s deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and works as a middle school resource officer in a role she’s held for a decade. She said there was a time where she never spoke about her kidnapping and survival at the hands of a serial killer, but Noland speaks openly about her experience with students today.
“I’m not embarrassed to say I was raped,” she said in 2020. “I tell kids if somebody tries to grab them, scream as loud as you can. And if they get taken anyway, they should mind their Ps and Qs and do whatever they can to survive. I tell them to be strong and draw on their own sense of self-preservation.”
In 2018, a Lifetime movie about McVey’s survival called “Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey” premiered. It focuses on McVey’s determination to get the adults around her to believe her kidnapping story, and the relationship she built with the one man who did believe her, Sgt. Larry Pinkerton.
“I’m not a victim,” Lisa McVey Noland said in a 2015 interview. “I’m no longer a victim. I’m a survivor and I’m a warrior. There’s no victim here.”
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