Robert Howard Bruce 2

Robert Howard Bruce hides his face after pleading guilty and no contest to multiple counts including burglary and first-degree rape in Cleveland County District Court. (Photo by Jay Chilton / The Norman, Okla., Transcript)

A Colorado man was sentenced to 177 years in prison Tuesday in Cleveland County District Court after pleading guilty to nearly 20 charges, including first-degree rape and several sexual assaults on Norman college students over a 15-year span.

Robert Howard Bruce, 51, pleaded guilty to 18 of 19 charges and no contest to a sexual battery charge. The charges he pleaded guilty to included five counts of first-degree rape, 10 counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of sexual battery and one count of forcible sodomy.

“This is a very important day for all of the victims of this fellow,” Norman Police Capt. Tom Easley said. “I hope this will help them go on with their lives.”

Bruce was familiar with the Norman area after attending the University of Oklahoma in fall 1982, spring 1983, summer 1983, fall 1983 and spring 1986.

Last year, a Norman police detective who worked the cases for nearly a decade, said Bruce confessed to 14 incidents and was able to pinpoint the location of the attacks using a laptop computer and Google Earth. Police matched 11 of the incidents with old reports.

Most of the incidents occurred in southeast Norman, where Bruce lived while he attended OU.

When Bruce left Norman for work, he would return to Dallas on business trips, rent a car and come to Norman where he knew the area, police said.

In some incidents the victims were knocked out with chloroform. In others, he used tape or cords to bind them. A stun gun was used in one occasion, and it didn’t matter if others were in the home, police said.

Victims who attended Bruce’s sentencing in Cleveland County today were given the chance to make a statement in court but declined.

Norman police pinpointed Bruce as a suspect in the cases after Bruce’s DNA was entered into a national database and with the help of Texas, Colorado and New Mexico detectives. His DNA was entered into the database after being convicted of window peeping in Colorado.

After the window-peeping incident, he was sentenced to 64 years for trying to kill a Pueblo police officer by blowing up the police officer’s home. The charges stemmed from trying to keep the officer from submitting Bruce’s DNA to the national reporting system.

Police said once Bruce’s DNA was entered into the national system, “he started popping up all over.”

After his 64-year sentence, Bruce was sentenced to six years for sexual assault and 24 years for burglary in Colorado. He also was sentenced last year to 156 years in New Mexico after pleading guilty to nine rape charges.

“This fellow was essentially a pro at burglary and committing rapes,” Easley said, “not just in Oklahoma but in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.”


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