Robert Atkins charged with the 1991 murder of Joy Hibbs

Robert Francis Atkins, Joy Hibbs

Robert Francis Atkins, Joy Hibbs

A 56-year-old Pennsylvania man has been arrested following a grand jury investigation into the 1991 murder Joy Hibbs. Bucks County prosecutors say it’s Falls Township Robert Francis Atkins was caught based on important information from his ex-wife.

Authorities allege Atkins murdered the 35-year-old wife and mother at her home on April 19, 1991 — in broad daylight — by stabbing her and strangling her with an electrical cord. Prosecutors say Atkins, a former police informant on drug cases, “lived two doors down from Hibbs and her husband” and “was known to occasionally sell them marijuana,” according to a press release.

According to the complaint, which you can read in full below, Atkins murdered Hibbs and then set her house on fire.

Investigators initially thought the fire was accidental, but a subsequent autopsy soon led authorities to believe a murder and arson had taken place. Still, naming Atkins as a suspect proved elusive — though he was “interrogated by police on at least two occasions but always denied any involvement in her murder.” An interview took place two days after the fact.

Another interview took place in 2014 while he was aware that investigators had conducted “a surprise interview” with his ex-wife April Atkins days earlier. Both April and Robert shared a story about taking their kids to the Poconos on the weekend of the murder. Robert Atkins only admitted to having an argument with the victim about marijuana.

For her part, April Atkins had told the detective that she had never been questioned about Hibbs’ murder before.

In 2016, April came forward and issued a “recorded statement implicated by her husband in the murder of Joy Hibbs,” authorities said.

“She stated that on Friday, when Joy Hibbs was murdered, her husband Robert Atkins came home covered in blood and admitted that he had stabbed someone and set fire to a house,” the complaint reads. “She said she was told to pack up the kids and finish the job, and then they fled to the Poconos. She said they returned home the Sunday after learning of Joy’s murder.”

April reportedly said she did not previously voluntarily provide this information because she feared for her own safety and the safety of her youngest son. Gabrielstill living with her ex.

In December 2021, April agreed to participate in a wiretapped phone conversation. The “trick” was to call Robert while he was a detective David Hanks listened and told him that the police were about to find out that he had confessed. She said police are questioning her and a roommate she confided in about the confession.

According to the complaint, Robert Atkins responded with several words, the last of which turned out to be 100 percent correct: “You’ve said damn enough, don’t say anything!”; “This isn’t China, they can’t make you talk”; “You have the 5th Amendment for a reason”; “The phone is probably being bugged.”

These “intercepted communications” were eventually played to the grand jury assembled a month after the December phone call. But Atkins is also reported to have said, “I explained everything to Gabriel.”

In April 2022, Gabriel testified about his father’s alleged reaction to the possibility of investigators approaching him.

“I’m afraid I’m being arrested for something that happened a long time ago,” Gabriel recalled the suspect’s words.

In March 2022, April Atkins testified.

Robert Atkins is now charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, robbery (two counts) and arson (seven counts). He is being held without bail at the Bucks County Correctional Facility.

District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said Hibbs’ loved ones knew her as “the perfect mother and wife”.

The Hibbs family released a statement calling Joy a “charming southern girl” and a “devoted mother, wife and medical assistant”:

Joy Hibbs was a sweet, charming girl from South Florida. A loving and devoted mother, wife and medical assistant. She was highly regarded and loved by her friends, neighbors and colleagues alike.

On April 19, 1991, she was brutally murdered in broad daylight in her own home. Stabbed five times in the chest and neck and strangled with an electric cable. Her body and our family’s home were intentionally set on fire to make this horrific crime go away.

The immense sorrow and suffering our family has endured over the past three decades will never go away. For thirty-one years, our family has been haunted by this tragic loss, knowing full well that Robert Atkins was the perpetrator. Our family has waited thirty-one years for justice to prevail.

We would like to thank District Attorney Matt Weintraub and Chief Deputy DA Jennifer Schorn and Detective David Hanks for prosecuting this case. We would particularly like to thank Detective Michael Slaughter of the Bristol Township Police Department for his tireless work in investigating this case and seeking justice for our family.

We are grateful for the community’s love and support and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.

Read the complaint below:

[Images via Bucks County DA]

Do you have a tip we should know? [email protected] Robert Atkins charged with the 1991 murder of Joy Hibbs

James Brien

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