Robert Joseph Long, also known as Bobby Joe Long, was executed Thursday at the Florida State Prison near Starke.
Gov. Ron DeSantis last month signed a death warrant for Long, scheduling the first execution since he took office in January. Long, 65, was killed by lethal injection at 6:55 p.m., 13 minutes after the process began. His last word was “no,” a response to the question of whether he had anything to say.
“I wanted to look him in the eyes. I wanted to be the first person he saw. Unfortunately, he didn’t open his eyes,” survivor Lisa Noland said.
At 17 years old, Noland said she didn’t only grapple with the sexual abuse from her grandmother’s boyfriend but also her own mother’s drug addiction. On Nov. 3, 1984, she was biking home from work when she was abducted and raped by a man who was on a killing spree that left 10 women dead over an eight-month rampage in 1984.
Noland escaped Long and gave detectives enough details to arrest him.
“I promised myself I would never live as a victim. I would empower myself with strength and courage to conquer my life tragedy,” Noland said.
It took more than three decades, but Long’s sentence was finally carried out Thursday evening. At 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the 65-year-old was served his last meal – roast beef, bacon, French fries, and soda.
“He was a loving father up until today, and his family has been here to support him. They’re devastated by this,” said Long’s attorney, Greg Brown. As the execution took place inside Florida State Prison, Brown joined Long’s daughter Sarah Crosby and a dozen other protesters in a prayer vigil for Long.
Victim Kim Swann’s sister Tammy Kaspi said she knows Long’s ex-wife, Cindy Brown.
“She asked me to tell everybody that she’s very sorry for everybody’s losses. Obviously, she has no part of that, she’s a victim as well,” Kaspi said. Her 21-year-old sister was Long’s last victim.
Lula Williams, the mother of victim Chanel Williams, remembered her daughter as “a loving daughter, kindhearted sister, loved by her family.” She said she saw no sign of remorse from Long but instead witnessed a sense of peace and comfort.
“I would like to have some more pain, the pain he inflicted that we have in our hearts,” Williams said.
Long is the 98th person executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. He was among the longest-serving inmates on the state’s death row.
“Bobby Joe Long. Hear me loud and clear. Here, my roaring voice, May God have mercy on your soul. Long. Overdue,” said Noland, who’s now a Hillsborough County Sheriff school resource officer at James Buchanan Middle School in Hillsborough County.
Noland broke into tears as she thanked Long – words she would have said to him if she had met him before his execution.
“The reason why I say thank you now is that I have forgiven you for what you have done to me,” she said. “Had I not forgiven you, I might as well be in my own prison without walls.”