A convicted rapist and violent felon has been sentenced to 177 years in prison for a string of rapes and sexual assaults committed in Norman over a 15-year span. Robert Howard Bruce, 51, pleaded guilty in Cleveland County District Court to multiple sex crime charges for the attacks, which took place between 1985 and 2006.
Bruce pleaded no contest to one count of sexual battery and pleaded guilty to 18 criminal counts:
- 5 counts of first degree rape
- 10 counts of first degree burglary
- 1 count of forcible sodomy
- 2 counts of sexual battery
Police say Bruce attended the University of Oklahoma in the early 1980's, and although he moved away, he traveled back to the state to prey on women. Hisvictims were primarily single OU-coeds. Bruce is accused of stalking these women and breaking their porch lights or removing the bulb. When the women returnedhome alone after an evening out, he would incapacitate and restrain them, using chloroform, a stun gun, and/or handcuffs in many cases.
For years, it looked as if the break-ins and assaults would go unsolved. Then, about a year and a half ago, Bruce's DNA was entered into a national database after conviction of another crime. When his DNA matched that found in the Norman attacks, a Norman police detective traveled to Colorado, where Bruce was incarcerated in prison, to interview him.
The inmate confessed to the rapes and sexual assaults in Oklahoma. In addition to the 177 years Robert Bruce will spend in prison for the Norman assaults, he has been sentenced to 156 years in prison for a string of similar attacks on nine women in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In addition he was convicted of the assaults of two women in Colorado, and he is being investigated for serial burglary and rape in Austin, Texas, and Lubbock, Texas.
He has also been sentenced to 64 years in prison for attempting to kill a Colorado police officer by blowing up his home. Bruce was allegedly trying to prevent the officer from submitting a DNA sample to the national database after Bruce was arrested on a window peeping complaint. In that case, Bruce was convicted of two counts of attempted murder (one for the officer and one for his wife) and one count of possession of an incendiary/explosive device. He received 48 years for the first attempted murder count, 16 years for the second first degree murder count, and five years for the explosive possession count, which was ordered to be served concurrently with the consecutive attempted murder sentences.
The serial rapist became known as "The Ether Man" or "The Ether Rapist" because he broke into women's homes and overpowered them by using chloroform or ether-soaked rags. In an article for Marie Claire magazine, Joy Lynn Bruce, wife of "The Ether Man," described how she began to become suspicious of her husband after finding a video he made of him having sex with her while she was clearly unconscious. She said she realized there were several nights out with her husband in which she had only a drink or two, yet couldn't remember the evening when she awoke the next morning.
When she began to see reports of the serial rapes in Albuquerque, she thought her husband fit the profile, and finally relayed her suspicions to police after the questioned her about Bruce's attempt to blow up the officer's house after the peeping tom complaint.
We highlight more cases in the Norman Oklahoma area.