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Published on April 12, 2024
Dateline NBC's "Justice for Joy" Revisits Convicted Murder of Bucks County Mother after Long-Standing Cold CaseSource: Bucks County Government

A new "Dateline NBC" episode titled "Justice for Joy" is set to revisit the chilling 1991 murder of Joy Hibbs, a Bucks County mother whose case went cold for over three decades before recent developments. The program, airing Friday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC10, promises to delve into the details of the crime and the long path to a conviction, NBC Philadelphia reports. Hibbs was found deceased in the smoldering remains of her home after her 12-year-old son, dismissed early from school, discovered a fire on the 1200 block of Spencer Drive in Bristol Township.

Initially believed to be an accidental blaze, deliberation on the cause of Hibbs' death took a turn when her son David later questioned whether his belongings might have inadvertently caused the fire, an unshakeable burden of guilt he shouldered for years. However, it was not until the subsequent arrest and conviction of Robert Francis Atkins, now 57, that the pieces began to fall into place. Atkins, a one-time neighbor and controversial figure entangled in disputes with Hibbs over marijuana, was found guilty in February at a bench trial of first-degree murder and two counts of arson, Levittown Now detailed.

Atkins' implication in the case was mired in complexity, marked by initial refusals to cooperate with the police and his undisclosed status as a confidential drug informant for Bristol Township police. Authorities' efforts to link Atkins definitively to the crime at the time were hamstrung by alibis that, they argued, checked out and a lack of evidence to associate him with the blue Chevy Monte Carlo seen outside the Hibbs residence just before the tragic fire, as outlined by

The turn of the tide in the investigation, and the consequent gratitude of the Hibbs family, is owed in part to the district attorney's office and newer investigators. The Hibbs family has been vocal in their criticism of the initial police investigation, citing a failure to aggressively pursue leads and to disclose Atkins' role as an informant. Expressing relief, the family believes "strong circumstantial evidence implicating Atkins was ignored for decades" and it took the persistence of news media interest to reignite the case, according to statements obtained by