ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - As the state prepares for the execution of Bobby Joe Long, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked Florida's Catholic governor, Ron DeSantis to commute the serial killer's death sentence.
On the eve of his execution by lethal injection, prayer services are being held for Long and his victims at Catholic churches across the state.
Robert Joseph “Bobby Joe” Long accepted a plea deal for the murders of 8 women and the abduction and rape of one known surviving victim, Lisa McVey Noland. He was sentenced to death for the 1984 murder of Michelle Sims, 22, and received 26 life sentences without the possibility of parole plus seven life sentences with the possibility of parole after 25 years for the murders of Ngeun Thi Long, 20; Elizabeth B. Loudenback, 22; Chanel Devon Williams, 18; Karen Beth Dinsfriend, 28; Kimberly Kyle Hopps, 22; Kim Marie Swann, 21; and Vicki Elliott, age unknown.
Long was convicted in Pasco County of the murder of Virginia Lee Johnson, 18, but the ruling was later overturned.
Regardless of his crimes, the executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, Michael Sheedy said in a letter to the governor, "society has been safe from his aggressive acts in the decades of his incarceration.”
"Mr. Long’s crimes are numerous and heinous. However, executions are to be reserved for the most aggravated and the least mitigated cases,” Sheedy wrote. “Without taking his life, society can be protected while he endures the alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole."
Sheedy asked DeSantis to "promote a consistent pro-life ethic" by granting a stay on Long's execution.
“The cycle of violence - to which Mr. Long’s acts have contributed - must end. His execution would only perpetuate it,” said Sheedy.
The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Catholic Church advocates for an end to the use of the death penalty.
The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is holding a prayer vigil Wednesday evening at St. Vincent de Paul Parish; 4843 Mile Stretch Drive, Holiday; 4 p.m., followed by evening prayer and benediction
Spirit FM 90.5 WBVM Tampa will also hold an on-air prayer Thursday, May 23 at 5:50 p.m.