UPDATE 2/4/16: This article was originally written on 1/30/09 and it contains my own knowledge of a victim of a famous serial killer and how it affected me. It is written in respectful truth. Since then, people have periodically left comments that are relevant. Comments that are distasteful or irrelevant will, of course, be deleted. That being said, anonymous requests or comments from people to remove this post will be ignored as I don't know the source. And, frankly, if the attention that this article receives gets the attention of the authorities who may be able to move Long along to the gas chambers after 30+ years, then it is well worth it, isn't it?
I recently got a request from a stranger to take this editorial down, saying the post was suddenly offensive to Karen's surviving family members. However, this post has been up for 7 years so I find this highly improbable. Some of them have supposedly already contributed to the comments (again, there is no way of knowing who really is contributing). And how do we make the distinction? What if half of her existing family wants her personalized and the other half does not, for whatever reason?
Other crime sites detail Bobby Joe Long's crimes and they would scoff at anyone attempting to remove such information. Likewise, I will not be removing this post. Instead, I would encourage all energies to be directed to the Department of Corrections in an attempt to speed along Long's journey to the death chamber.
When I was young, my family and honorary aunt and uncle were involved in attempting to help rehabilitate women from prison. One of the women my aunt tried to help was Karen Dinsfriend. Although I rarely mention real names in my writing, there is a reason for this exception.
Karen Dinsfriend was a engaging but manipulative: A woman who had repeated run-ins with the law. She had a young daughter, Alexa, who was only 2 years old when my aunt met them. Karen was in prison for one of her usual problems: Prostitution.
Alexa had no home, and Karen didn't want her to go into the foster care system (or so I was told). She latched onto my aunt and uncle and begged my aunt to take in Alexa until Karen got out of prison. My aunt agreed.
Over the next couple of years, my aunt and uncle raised Alexa as their own daughter. They had good reason to: Karen had decided that Alexa was better off with a stable family, and Alexa cramped her style. Karen kept promising them that she would sign the adoption papers, but at the same time, she kept putting them off.
When the time came and Karen got out of prison, she showed up on their doorstep, demanding Alexa. No one fully understood the change of heart, but everyone knew that Karen was serious about this.
The system had declared that Karen was rehabilitated, and my aunt and uncle had to face a hard decision: Should they give the child back to a mother who was potentially reformed and could now be a good mother? Or should they spend the money to fight for custody?
My aunt and uncle debated this for a long time, but they eventually allowed Karen to leave with Alexa.
That was the last my aunt and uncle saw of Alexa, to the best of my knowledge. The last they heard, Alexa was living in a car with her mother (who was still turning tricks and doing drugs).
Until Karen disappeared one day.
Although we never found out exactly what happened to Alexa, we know that she went back into foster care. She should be in her mid-thirties by now.
But we do know what happened to Karen: She will go down in history as the victim of Bobby Joe Long, notorious serial killer.
"On October 14, 1984, a fifth body was discovered in northeastern Hillsborough County.
Her wrists were bound with a red bandana, and her legs and neck had been tied with a long thick shoelace. She had been beaten about the head and raped. Her yellow sweatshirt was pulled up to her neck, exposing a bruised and bloodied torso, with indicators that she had been dragged. She was wearing only the sweatshirt, although the rest of what appeared to be her clothing was scattered nearby.
The cause of death was strangulation.
Because she was a known prostitute and drug addict, the investigating team had recognized her, but she was officially identified by her fingerprints as Karen Beth Dinsfriend, 28. To link her with the other victims, both types of the red fibers had been found on her clothes. There were also brown Caucasian pubic hairs and semen that indicated A and H blood substances."
When Long was captured in November 1984, "He described the murder of Karen Dinsfriend, in which he had started to strangle her in one orange grove, but had heard dogs barking, so he put her in the trunk and moved her to another grove where he finished the job."
But Karen was one of many. Long's transcribed confession ran 45 pages long.
Bobby Joe Long is still in prison, despite having a death sentence. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but in Bobby Joe's case they stopped moving long ago.
Most of Bobby Joe Long's victims were unloved and disliked. They were the women that could be picked up cheaply, used, and discarded.
I still can see Karen, walking up the road toward me, her feet in flipflops and dusty from a long walk, wearing ragged denim shorts and a red bandana shirt tied at her midriff. She was deeply tanned, slender, with nervous, quick movements and a lit cigarette that she would draw deeply from, as if to savor every inch of it.
The last time I saw her, she was sporting a horrid afro-style perm (which was very trendy in the early 80s). By the time she was killed, her hair was in a simple flip shag. Her final picture makes her look so young and vulnerable: It doesn't show that inner steel or devil-may-care toughness which she wore like a badge.
None of us liked Karen very much, and she was rife with many problems, but she was a human being who did not deserve her fate.