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May 31, 2022
On 19 April 1991, at 1:10pm, firefighters responded to reports of a burning home on Croydon Acres in the Bristol Township of Bucks county. After battling the flames and extinguishing the fire they entered the home to discover the body of a woman lying face down in one of the upstairs rooms.
The body belonged to that of 36-year-old wife and mother of three, Joy Hibbs, who was discovered by her 12-year-old son, David, who came home from school to discover his home ablaze.
Varan Lowry, a neighbor who lived across the street, was doing yard work when he heard David Hibbs screaming that his family home was on fire. Lowry ran to the back door and could see the stove on fire and the surrounding area burning, but could not enter the home.
Joy’s death was initially thought to be accidental, however, autopsy would later reveal that Hibbs had been murdered and had been stabbed in the neck and chest several times before finally being strangled to death with an electrical cord in her son's bedroom. Her killer had then set fire to the home to destroy the evidence before fleeing the scene without being spotted by anyone in the street. Fire Marshalls later determined that fires had been deliberately set at four different points in the Hibbs’ home, including two points in the kitchen, one in the hallway and one in David's bedroom where Joy's body was discovered.
Her wallet and purse were found empty and the money she had withdrawn from the bank that day was never located.
Earlier that morning the victim dropped by the bank to deposit both her and her husband’s pay checks, leaving the bank at around 9:53am.
Afterwards, she went shopping for groceries and left the store at approximately 10:54am.
It was determined that Hibbs was murdered before 12:00pm and 1:00pm that day and that the only visitors to her home were two individuals from the Bensalem Baptist Church, 71-year-old visitation member, Reverend Furie Orlando, and a member of the congregation, stopped by to chat with her but were later deemed unconnected to the murder.
Orlando later told the police that he visited Joy Hibbs to see if she was interested in becoming a member of Bensalem Baptist Church, as she had attended an Easter service a couple of weeks earlier. Ominously, Orlando had posed a question to Joy, who found it quite jarring, asking: "Are you 100% sure that you'll go to heaven if you die?" He added that the three then prayed together and Joy cried happily. Orlando described her as "saved" and "born again."
Orlando and the congregation member said they left Hibbs home at around 11:50am.
When police canvassed the street, neighbors said that other than a vehicle they did not recognize parked outside of the victim's home, they did not notice anything they felt was cause for concern. The vehicle in question was there from approximately 12:30pm – 1:00pm and was described as a 1980s dark blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo. No one was able to recall the license plate.
Orlando was a suspect for a time, but he was eventually cleared. Police interviewed and even polygraphed other persons of interest, but could not identify a worthy suspect. They collected forensic evidence from the scene, including pieces of Joy’s clothing and knives from the home and preserved them with the hope that they would one day identify the victim’s killer.
Joy's husband, Charlie Hibbs, went on to say after the murder: "I don't believe in God anymore. If there was a God, this would not have happened. She never hurt anyone in her life. She had me on a diet and not smoking. Now, I'd die tomorrow, and I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me. I am concerned about my children, but I do not care about living like I used to.”
Six days before she was murdered, Joy and Charlie had celebrated their 18th anniversary. Joy worked as a medical assistant for a Bensalem Doctor named Leon Cattolica and was described as a country girl who loved the outdoors.
The couple would go everywhere together and Charlie, who had to move into an apartment after the fire, planned to renovate the fire-damaged home, despite how difficult it was for his children, 12-year-old David and 16-year-old Angie, to even think about returning to the place in which their mother was murdered by an assailant who still had not been caught.
Recently, Robert Francis Atkins, a 56-year-old Pennsylvania man residing in Falls Township, Bucks County, was arrested in connection with Joy Hibbs’ murder after his own wife supplied police with information. She told officers that on the night of Joy’s murder, the suspect returned home covered with blood. She added that Atkin’s told her that he had killed Joy and set the house on fire before urging her to pack bags and get the kids into the car so they could drive to the Pocono Mountains for a couple of days- which they did, arriving that evening at around 5:00pm. While she packed, Atkins washed his blood-saturated clothes and jumped in the shower to wash away the evidence.
When asked why she did not inform police earlier she said she was scared of Robert Atkins.
Investigators knew of Atkins, due to his time as a police informant in various drug cases over the years. According to reports, Atkins lived a couple of houses away from the Hibbs’ family and used to sell marijuana to Joy and Charlie back in the 1990s. He also owned a 1980s dark blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Atkins was one of several suspects at the time and although he was interviewed by police on at least two occasions, he was not arrested for Joy Hibbs’ murder.
Atkins was charged with murder in the first degree on May 25, 2022, and denied bail.
He also faces charges of- one count of second-degree murder, seven counts of Arson and two counts of robbery.
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