Cleveland County prosecutors are expected to file as many as 20 felony charges ranging from burglary to first-degree rape and forcible oral sodomy against a former OU student who police say confessed to sexual assaults on Norman college students during a 15-year period.
Norman police say Robert Howard Bruce, 50, confessed to 14 incidents in Norman between 1985 and 2001. He is currently serving a prison sentence in Colorado.
Bruce’s DNA was entered into a national database after he was convicted of window peeping in Colorado. That — along with a longtime collaboration with detectives in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico — helped local detectives narrow in on Bruce as a suspect.
“He would just pick out a college girl when she was leaving one of the clubs and follow her home and wait for her,” Norman Police Det. Jim Parks said. “When the lights would go out, he’d wait about an hour. As long as she didn’t have a big dog or a boyfriend, he’d go in.”
Parks, a veteran Norman police detective, has been working the cases for nearly a decade. He said Bruce lived on three different streets between 1982 and 1984. OU officials confirmed Bruce was a student in the fall 1982, spring 1983, summer 1983, fall 1983 and spring 1986.
“He didn’t have a preference for a certain type of female or body type,” he said. “His only conditions were college age and healthy looking.”
Parks and fellow Norman Detective Derrick Hopkins recently interviewed Bruce while he was awaiting transport from a Pueblo jail to a Colorado prison.
With the help of Bruce’s attorney, a laptop computer and Google Earth, police said Bruce pinpointed the Norman attacks for detectives. Police have been able to match up 11 of the 14 incidents with old reports. Most were in southeast Norman, where Bruce lived while a student here.
In some incidents, the victims were knocked out with chloroform. In others, he used tape or cords to bind them. On at least one occasion, he used a stun gun. It didn’t matter if others were in the home, Parks said.
“He remembered a lot more than I thought he would remember,” Parks said Tuesday. “It was amazingly accurate.”
In later attacks, Bruce allegedly selected his victims through online social networks and through websites. When he left Norman to work in the oil patch, he would return to Dallas on business trips, rent a car and come to Norman where he knew the area to find his next victim, Parks said.
“When his DNA was put in the national system, he started popping up all over,” Parks said.
He said they have made contact with all but two of the local victims.
“A lot of them have been shocked at first, and it takes them a few days to let it sink in,” Parks said. “They are becoming a lot more satisfied knowing someone is already locked up and being held accountable.”
In Colorado last month, Bruce was sentenced to six years for sexual assault and 24 years for burglary. He had been previously sentenced to 64 years for trying to kill a Pueblo police officer and five years for possession of an explosive/incendiary device. The charges stem from his trying to keep the officer from submitting Bruce’s DNA to the national reporting system.
Parks acknowledged that it’s doubtful Oklahoma authorities will ever get a chance to try Bruce, but police don’t want to leave the door open for him to leave prison.
“Because of everything this guy has done and the escalation of the attacks, we think he needs to die in prison,” Parks said. “We’re trying to ensure that if something strange happens in Colorado and he gets released, he just goes to another prison.”