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After 31 years, ex-neighbor of Croydon mom killed in 1991 to face trial for her murder

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More than three many years in the past, Robert Atkins got here again to his Bristol Township residence, “covered in blood,” and advised his spouse he stabbed somebody and set a home on fireplace.

April Atkins, on the stand in a Bucks County courtroom Wednesday, testified that her then-husband made his household drop every little thing and go to the Poconos. “He was pretty much a mess,” she mentioned.

Robert Atkins then tapped on his pocket, indicating that he had a pocket knife on him, she mentioned. April Atkins mentioned it was a approach to “keep her in line.”

Scared of what he would do to her, it will be one other 25 years earlier than April Atkins would present up to the Bristol Township police station and implicate her husband in the murder of Joy Hibbs, a 35-year-old mom of two from the township’s Croydon part, in accordance to testimony.

“I went into there to do the right thing,” she mentioned in courtroom.

It can be one other six years earlier than Robert Atkins, a former Bristol Township confidential police informant, was charged. County Detectives, now with April Atkins’ assertion in their investigative recordsdata, charged her ex-husband with stabbing and strangling Hibbs in her Spencer Drive residence earlier than it was set on fireplace on April 19, 1991.

On Wednesday, following Robert Atkins’ preliminary listening to, District Judge Frank Peranteau Sr. held all expenses towards him, together with first- and second-degree murder, arson, housebreaking and theft. The case now heads to trial in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.

During a roughly 3½-hour listening to, Joy Hibbs’ son, David Hibbs, April Atkins and County Detective David Hanks testified in regards to the prolonged investigation that started greater than 30 years in the past.

Defendant Robert Atkins is escorted to the police car after his preliminary hearing for the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Defendant Robert Atkins is escorted to the police automotive after his preliminary listening to for the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Robert Atkins threatened Joy Hibbs twice, in accordance to testimony

David Hibbs referred to as himself a “quintessential momma’s boy” who spent lots of his time together with his mom. He knew that his dad and mom smoked marijuana, and he mentioned that his mom advised him so. He additionally knew they bought marijuana from Robert Atkins.

In the weeks prior to his mom’s loss of life, he recalled Joy Hibbs speaking on the telephone with Robert Atkins whereas she was in the kitchen. The Atkins have been former neighbors, and he knew Joy Hibbs was associates with April Atkins.

There was a dialogue over the standard of the marijuana she had lately bought from him, and that Joy Hibbs was not glad and needed her a refund from him.

“I remember hearing him say, ‘I will f−ing kill you and blow up your house,'” David Hibbs testified.

His mom was “shook,” however David Hibbs mentioned he was unsure if she took the risk significantly. He mentioned she advised him Robert Atkins had additionally referred to as her and threatened her on the physician’s workplace the place she labored.

In the weeks main up to her loss of life, somebody slashed the tires of her automotive. Additionally, somebody had kicked in the again door to their residence.

David Hibbs mentioned his mom by no means advised his father, Charlie Hibbs, in regards to the threats. She was afraid if she advised her husband, who was fiercely loyal to the household, that issues would “escalate.”

Charlie Hibbs, husband of the victim, leaves the courtroom after the preliminary hearing for Robert Atkins who is accused in the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Charlie Hibbs, husband of the sufferer, leaves the courtroom after the preliminary listening to for Robert Atkins who’s accused in the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Joy Hibbs killed, home set on fireplace

David Hibbs, then 12, was heading residence about 1 p.m. April 19, 1991, to present his mom how nicely he did on his newest report card. When he arrived on the residence, it was in flames.

Initially, he thought the fireplace began from his mom making an attempt to prepare dinner one thing. He opened the again door to the house and located the gasoline burners on and ceiling tiles falling from the kitchen, which had flames coming from it. David Hibbs ran outdoors and yelled for a neighbor to assist. He additionally noticed his mom’s automotive, nonetheless in the driveway.

“I tried to get back in the house because I wanted to save my mom,” he mentioned. Neighbors held him down to cease him from going again in.

He was positioned in an ambulance for security. David Hibbs referred to as it an “out of body experience” and mentioned it felt like “forever” whereas he waited in the again of the ambulance.

“I just felt like I was trapped,” he mentioned on the stand Wednesday. Eventually, ambulance personnel advised him his mom had died.

David Hibbs came upon that his mom’s physique had been found in his room. He tried to assume of what might have been on fireplace in his room that would have prompted the blaze. He was “tormented” by that info till two days later, when investigators knowledgeable the household that Joy Hibbs had been murdered.

County Detective Hanks testified that proof confirmed Joy Hibbs had gone grocery purchasing earlier that morning, and had a go to from two representatives from a Bensalem church, the place the household had lately gone to an Easter service. They left her residence by 11:45 a.m.

The fireplace had began someday earlier than 12:54 p.m. A clock in David Hibbs’ room stopped at the moment, indicating the fireplace was sturdy sufficient by then to trigger the clock to cease working, in accordance to Hanks.

A fireplace marshal decided the fireplace was set in David Hibbs’ room, as nicely on the burners and a waste basket close by in the kitchen.

Neighbors advised authorities {that a} blue Monte Carlo car was seen parked “haphazardly” in entrance of Joy Hibbs’ residence earlier than the fireplace, Hanks mentioned. David Hibbs testified that he knew Robert Atkins had a Monte Carlo, and had seen him with the car at one level earlier than his mom’s loss of life.

David Hibbs recalled telling police in regards to the automotive and that Robert Atkins had threatened his mom, he mentioned. That was earlier than he knew his mom had been murdered.

“As clearly as I am telling you today, yes,” David Hibbs advised First Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Schorn of his report to police again in 1991.

Atkins charged:Ex-police informant charged in 1991 murder of Croydon mom found dead in arson fire at her home

Investigation timeline:‘Living on borrowed time:’ A timeline of the investigation in the Joy Hibbs murder in Croydon

For subscribers:Did police ignore evidence in 30-year-old Bristol Township murder? Family seeks answers

Defendant’s ex-wife and witness April Atkins is seen in the conference room outside the courtroom during the preliminary hearing for Robert Atkins who is accused in the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. A cold case that led to an arrest of the long-time suspect in May.

Defendant’s ex-wife and witness April Atkins is seen in the convention room outdoors the courtroom through the preliminary listening to for Robert Atkins who’s accused in the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. A chilly case that led to an arrest of the long-time suspect in May.

Robert Atkins returns residence, goes to the Poconos

April Atkins testified that she was supposed to work an evening shift at Woods Services, a help facility for these with disabilities, the day Joy Hibbs died. Robert Atkins got here residence that afternoon, “covered in blood,” and advised her they have been going to the Poconos, she testified.

April Atkins obtained her kids, ages 1 and 4, packed up for the journey, referred to as out of work and let her co-worker, who she usually carpooled with, know she would not be in work for the weekend. She mentioned Robert Atkins was driving aggressively on the way in which to the Poconos, the place they stayed at a resort she had not been to earlier than.

“This was the scariest travel I’ve ever done,” she mentioned.

Her husband made her put the room in her identify. They spent that evening there, and the following morning she wakened and noticed Robert Atkins with new footwear on, and a bag of unknown gadgets. April Atkins mentioned he made them go behind the resort, and he walked right into a wooded space, alone, with that bag. When he returned, he not had it.

On April 21, 1991, Bristol Township Detective Al Eastlack visited the Atkins residence after they returned from their journey. April Atkins testified that she didn’t hear to lots of what was mentioned to her husband, who would later be revealed as a confidential informant for the division.

She mentioned she did , nevertheless, study that Joy Hibbs had been killed.

“I kept my mouth closed,” she mentioned.

Robert Atkins interviewed by Bristol Township police

Hanks testified that there was no document of the April 21, 1991 assembly with Robert Atkins. That, he mentioned, just isn’t typical of policing.

“It’s not great policing,” he mentioned. “Probably not then and not now.”

Robert Atkins can be interviewed on April 24, 1991, however no arrest was made. He admitted to promoting the Hibbs marijuana, however mentioned he had not seen them since December 1990. He advised them he had gone to the Poconos that weekend.

Two months later, Robert Atkins advised police that his spouse’s co-worker, who April Atkins had contacted earlier than they went on their journey, might confirm that he was residence when Joy Hibbs was killed. An officer contacted her, and confirmed that was the case.

That co-worker was lately interviewed, and couldn’t recall the interplay with police, in accordance to Hanks. She remembered April Atkins calling her between 1 and 1:30 p.m. that day. The county detective mentioned the Atkins lived about quarter-hour from the Hibbs at the moment, and that the fireplace began earlier than 1 p.m.

“It really doesn’t affect the timeline one way or the other,” he testified.

Joy Hibbs in an undated photo

Joy Hibbs in an undated photograph

Joy Hibbs murder case reopened

In 2014, Bristol Township Detective Michael Slaughter interviewed Robert Atkins once more.

Robert Atkins mentioned he had reminiscence points as a result of of a concussion, however admitted to being a police informant and proudly owning a Monte Carlo on the time of the murder, in accordance to Hanks. He advised Slaughter he bought marijuana to Joy and Charlie Hibbs.

April Atkins testified that her ex-husband contacted her earlier than her 2014 interview, and advised her what to say to police. The two had divorced in 2006.

April Atkins mentioned she initially lied to officers.

“I said everything Bob told me, and that was the end of the conversation,” she mentioned.

Two years later, she went again to Bristol Township police and implicated him in the murder, she mentioned.

At the tip of 2021, Hanks supervised intercepted telephone calls between April Atkins and her ex-husband. She led Robert Atkins to consider that she had advised her roommate about Atkins’ confession to her in 1991, and that police have been questioning them about it.

During the listening to Wednesday, Schorn performed recordings of the telephone calls between April and Robert Atkins.

In the primary name, Robert Atkins tells his ex-wife that she has mentioned sufficient, and doesn’t want to speak to police in regards to the case anymore.

Later, she would textual content Robert Atkins that she advised her roommate in regards to the “knife and fire,” in accordance to Hanks. In one other name, he appeared calmer when talking to her.

“I don’t know what to tell you because I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Robert Atkins tells his ex-wife. He mentioned a number of instances on that decision that he couldn’t be in “two places at the same time.”

“You do realize your phone is probably tapped, yeah?” he requested her.

Hanks mentioned in February, Robert Atkins despatched his ex-wife a message with a screenshot of her roommate’s Facebook account, saying “You better choose your friends better.”

Robert Atkins’ son, who lived with him, testified to the grand jury that his father advised him he “may have been involved,” in the Hibbs murder after he spoke to his ex-wife late final 12 months, in accordance to Hanks.

Craig Penglase, Robert Atkins’ legal professional, didn’t have any witnesses, nor did he have any argument on the finish of Wednesday’s listening to. He didn’t reply to a message searching for remark later that day.

Robert Atkins is scheduled to be formally arraigned on the fees on Oct. 21. He stays in police custody.

Guests greet Angie Hibbs, the victim’s daughter, as they leave the courtroom during a break from the preliminary hearing for Robert Atkins who is accused in the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. A cold case that led to an arrest of the long-time suspect in May.

Guests greet Angie Hibbs, the sufferer’s daughter, as they depart the courtroom throughout a break from the preliminary listening to for Robert Atkins who’s accused in the 1991 murder and arson of Joy Hibbs, 35, of Bristol Township on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. A chilly case that led to an arrest of the long-time suspect in May.

This article initially appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Robert Atkins faces trial in 1991 killing of Joy Hibbs in Croydon

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