What Happened to Joyce Hibbs — and Where Is Her Murderer Robert Atkins Now?

The day of the murder, Robert Atkins went back to his home covered in blood and told his wife they were leaving.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Apr. 12 2024, Published 4:37 p.m. ET

The story of Joy Hibbs received the Dateline treatment, and reporter Blayne Alexander said this was one of the more emotional cases to cover. In a conversation with NBC Insider, Alexander said, "I think viewers will really be struck by the persistence of this family, especially Joy’s son David." Almost every person involved in this tragic tale grieved for Hibbs in their own way. Most of these individuals never got the chance to meet her, yet their sadness is palpable.

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Hibbs was murdered in 1991 and it took authorities over 31 years to catch up with the man that did it. His name is Robert Atkins, and he was a suspect since day one, but police couldn't find the evidence they needed to arrest him. Finally, one brave person came forward after years of keeping the truth of what happened locked away. Where is Robert Atkins now? Here's what we know.

Robert Atkins mugshot
Source: Youtube/CBS News Philly
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Where is Robert Atkins now? He is spending the rest of his life in prison.

In May 2022, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announced that Robert Francis Atkins, age 56, was being arrested in connection with the murder of Hibbs, per NBC Philadelphia. The outlet was able to catch Atkins being escorted into the police station, handcuffed and flanked on both sides by law enforcement. He did not make any statements and only looked down, stone-faced while chewing gum.

Almost two years later in February 2024, NBC Philadelphia again reported that Atkins was "convicted of first-degree murder, arson, and other offenses for the 1991 murder of Joy Hibbs." He was then given a life sentence without parole as well as an extra 15 to 30 years. He is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill in Camp Hill, Penn.

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A statement from Hibbs's family thanked District Attorney Matt Weintraub, Chief Deputy DA Jennifer Schornm, and Detective David Hanks for doggedly searching for answers. They also expressed gratitude for the "outpouring of love and support from the community and ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."

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What happened to Jennifer Hibbs?

The image of coming home to his house on fire will stay with David Hibbs forever. According to NBC Philadelphia On April 19, 1991, 12 year-old David was let out of school early and arrived home to find the kitchen of their house was engulfed in flames. Terrified, he ran next door to his neighbor's house so they could call the fire department. Once the fire was out, authorities discovered Hibbs's body in her son's room. Initially, they thought it was an accident.

An autopsy would later reveal that Hibbs had been stabbed multiple times. Although she died from asphyxiation, no smoke was found in her lungs, and Hibbs's ribs were broken. Prior to her death, Hibbs had cashed her paycheck but authorities could not find any money at the crime scene. Witnesses observed a blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo parked outside their home during the time Hibbs was most likely killed. Authorities linked it to Robert Atkins, a former neighbor.

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Atkins used to occasionally sell marijuana to Hibbs and her husband, but in a strange twist, he was also a confidential informant for "Bristol Township Police Department at the time of the murder, and had a 'good relationship' with Bristol Township narcotics detectives." It's possible this kept the authorities off of him until there was a break in the case in January 2022.

The case was handed over to the Bucks County Investigating Grand Jury, and Atkins's ex-wife April was called to testify. She told the grand jury that on the day Hibbs was killed, her then-husband came home covered in blood. He told April what happened and demanded she "call out of work and get their children because they were taking a trip to the Poconos." April remained quiet until she was finally forced to talk.

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