Born October 14, 1953, at Kenova, West Virginia, Long may be the classic case of someone "destined" to become a random killer. With other members of his family, he suffered from a genetic disorder characterized by an extra "X" chromosome, causing his glands to produce abnormal amounts of estrogen in puberty, with the result that his breasts began to enlarge.
Surgery removed six pounds of excess tissue from his chest, but the resultant gender confusion remained, perhaps exacerbated by his mother, who shared Long's bed until he reached the age of 13 years. (Long's mother, twice divorced, denies his allegations that he watched her entertain numerous male "visitors" in their one-bedroom apartment.)
Aside from genetic and family problems, Long also suffered a series of grievous head injuries beginning at age five, when he was knocked unconscious in a fall from a swing, one eyelid skewered by a stick. The following year, he was thrown from his bicycle, crashing headfirst into a parked car, with injuries including loss of several teeth and a severe concussion. At age seven, he fell from a pony onto his head, remaining dizzy and nauseous for several weeks after the accident.
At age 13, Long met the girl who would become his wife and simultaneously gave up sleeping with his mother. Various accounts agree that he was dominated by his girlfriend almost from the moment of their meeting, but his mother kept her hand in, too, the females in his life apparently cooperating rather than competing. Long enlisted in the army prior to marriage, and he crashed a motorcycle six months later, shattering his helmet with the impact of his skull on asphalt.
Convalescing in the hospital, he was alternately stricken by blinding headaches and unpredictable violent rages, discovering a new obsession with sex. While still in a cast, Long masturbated five times a day to relieve himself, continuing the practice at home despite twice-daily intercourse with his wife. Still, it was not enough, and soon he began to search for other prey.
Between 1980 and 1983, Long terrorized the Florida communities of Miami, Ocala and Fort Lauderdale as the "Classified Ad Rapist," preying on housewives in mid-day attacks. Dropping by while their husbands were working, Long typically produced a knife, bound his victims, raped them violently, and robbed their homes before he fled. Convicted of rape in November 1981, Long was cleared on appeal through discovery of "witnesses" alleging the victim's consent, and so the attacks continued, with murder shortly added to his list of crimes.
Unlike the 50 women raped by Long, his murder victims were selected from the ranks of prostitutes or other women whom he viewed as "tramps." Between May and November 1984, he strangled, stabbed and shot at least nine victims, with a tenth suspected by police but never charged against him.
In early November, he snatched a 17-year-old girl off the street and raped her, sparing her life when she described acts of incest performed by her father. In releasing a victim capable of describing him and his car, Long sealed his own fate, but police were too slow to save victim Kim Swann, murdered two days later in a final frenzy.
Arrested on November 17, 1984, Long was charged with nine counts of first-degree murder, plus felony counts of abduction, rape, and sexual assault on his surviving victim. Convicted at his trial in early 1985, he was sentenced to die.
On February 24, 1999, Long accused the Capital Collateral Regional Council (the state office defending death row inmates in their appeals) of revealing his private letters to a book author, thus violating attorney-client privilege. He also accused the agency of running a "death pool", betting on the date inmates would be executed on, and asked that the agency be removed from his case. An investigation concluded that these allegations were unfounded. Long's petition for a writ of mandamus to require Bob Dillinger, the public defender for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, to relinquish possession and control of his file in State v. Long, was denied.
On April 23, 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Long's death warrant, this being the first death warrant signed by DeSantis since he took office in January 2019. Long's subsequent appeals were denied and he was executed by lethal injection on May 23, 2019. He ate his final meal at 9:30am local time; he requested roast beef, bacon, french fries and soda. He was pronounced dead at 6:55pm and made no last statement.