Justice is not always swift. Yet, it is always inevitable.
For two women in Florida and almost three and a half decades later, it finally came this week.
Thursday evening, May 23, brought the execution of serial killer and rapist Bobby Joe Long. It was part of the penalty he had been serving for his conviction in the murders of eight women taking place in the Tampa Bay area in 1984.
The death sentence was specifically for the murder of Michelle Simms.
The event marked the end of a long reign of terror. His only two surviving victims, Lisa McVey Noland and Linda Nuttall, were there to witness the event.
Noland’s encounter with Long occurred in November of 1984, when she was abducted by Long and held hostage for more than 26 hours. She was only 17 at the time.
After the execution, Noland was quoted saying:
“I wanted to look him in the eye. I wanted to be the first person he saw. Unfortunately, he didn’t open his eyes.”
As stated above, Linda Nuttall was also there to see Long expel his final breaths. Nuttall’s abhorrent confrontation with the now-deceased predator came when Long answered an ad to sell some of Nuttall and her husband’s furniture.
Long committed his crime while Nuttal’s children were in the house. Nuttall’s closure was found after Long’s punishment and she responded by saying:
“It’s just surreal. But it closes another door for me.”
Several family members of his other victims were also in attendance. Lula Williams, mother of Chanel Williams, one of the ten-plus murdered victims, came to watch this horrific chapter in her life come to a close. Like Nutall, she found closure after the execution and said:
“Now, after 35 years, we can say we have some peace of mind, knowing that justice has been served.”
Families of both the victims and the survivors took the time to address the media after all was said and done. Many thanks were given to Florida’s current governor, Ron DeSantis and the prosecutors and law enforcement who made sure that all the events that led up to that moment took place.
Kevin Nuttall, Linda’s husband, commented with:
“He got what he deserved. Today’s just another chapter.”
But then there was a major shift in the overall tone of the evening. After taking the time to read another victim’s statement honoring those whose lives were cut short by Long, Noland followed up with a heartfelt and honest:
“God has shown me the only way to really be free when someone bestows injustice against you is complete forgiveness. My life changed forever and for the better. I chose not to remain a victim. I chose to live.”
Lisa McVey Noland, or rather Master Deputy Lisa McVey Noland, is currently a deputy for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. She truly has chosen to live and now serves and protects the people of her county.
The question of the death penalty is complicated by the disproportionate number of people of color receiving the sentence. There is also the issue of innocent people exonerated while on death row or after their execution.
But hopefully those last two sentences from Noland can find their way to every person who has been a victim of any type of assault.
“I chose not to remain a victim. I chose to live.”
May all who have been harmed be empowered to recapture the light in their lives and may they all find reasons and support to live life fully.