Skip to Content

Life Sentence Imposed on Pennsylvania Resident for 1991 Cold Case Homicide and Arson

A man has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of a Pennsylvania woman over thirty years ago and for setting fire to her home in an attempt to conceal the crime.

Robert Atkins, aged 57, received his sentence in Bucks County Court following his conviction for first-degree murder and two counts of arson related to the death of Joy Hibbs, 35, in Bristol Township in April 1991.

Following an arson fire at the suburban Philadelphia residence, Joy Hibbs’ body was discovered, revealing signs of both stabbing and strangulation. Authorities alleged that a disagreement stemming from a marijuana transaction turned deadly when Atkins purportedly threatened Hibbs and set fire to her house. Atkins was taken into custody in May 2022.

During the trial, defense attorney Craig Penglase contended that the prosecution’s case was founded on uncertainty, influenced by pressure from Hibbs’ relatives and media coverage. Penglase criticized the detectives for mishandling evidence and neglecting other potential suspects.

Judge Wallace H. Bateman Jr., prior to the sentencing, expressed how Atkins had not only taken Joy Hibbs’ life but also stolen her family’s future. He described the level of violence as horrific and emphasized the profound impact on the victim’s loved ones.

Atkins was handed a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, in addition to five to seven years for one arson charge and a concurrent 10 to 20-year term for the second arson offense, as confirmed by prosecutors (FOX News).

David Hibbs, the youngest child of Joy Hibbs, shared with The Philadelphia Inquirer outside the courtroom that after three decades of seeking justice, the family was finally beginning to find closure.

“We regret that it took 32 years to reach this point, but we have finally achieved justice for Joy,” he remarked.