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February 17, 2012

Charges filed against former OU student

NORMAN — The Cleveland County District Attorney’s office on Thursday filed 19 felony charges ranging from first-degree burglary to first-degree rape against a former OU student who police say confessed to raping fellow students over a 15-year period.

District Attorney Greg Mashburn filed 10 counts of first-degree burglary, five counts of first-degree rape, three counts of sexual battery and one count of forcible oral sodomy against Robert Howard Bruce, a Colorado prison inmate who lived in Norman while he was a student at OU in the early 1980s.

Prosecutors say Bruce confessed to 14 Norman assaults that occurred between 1985 and 2001, many in the southeast part of the city. They were able to confirm most of them by reviewing old reports.

Police allege he selected victims at random and often used chloroform to knock them out before the assault. Bruce is suspected of a consistent method of breaking into windows and adjusting thermostats, according to probable cause affidavits.

Bruce is suspected of assaults on women on Drake Drive, South Flood Avenue, Harvard Drive, Donna Drive, Biloxi Drive, Deonne Circle, Kenwood Drive, Page Circle, Manor Drive and Canterbury Avenue.Though Bruce is now a suspect in several of Norman’s previously unsolved crimes, Norman Police Det. Jim Parks said it took a long time before he could even find a suspect.

“It wasn’t until almost the end of ’09 when we finally got CODIS hits letting us know that we had a suspect down in Colorado whose DNA matched,” Parks said.

CODIS, short for Combined DNA Index System, tied Bruce’s DNA to incidences that occurred not only in Norman, but also in Albuquerque, N.M., and in Austin and Lubbock, Texas.

Though Bruce is now incarcerated in Colorado after he was sentenced to six years for sexual assault, 24 years for burglary, 64 years for trying to kill a police officer and five years for possession of an explosive/incendiary device, the district attorney’s office said this is only a small hurdle in prosecuting Bruce.

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