Married to Robert Howard Bruce
In 2009, police say DNA evidence identified Robert Howard Bruce, 47, as the person responsible for dozens of rapes across the southwestern United States. Authorities believe that Robert broke into homes and knocked out his victims with an ether-soaked rag. As police closed in on Robert, he was arrested for trying to blow up the house of an officer who was set to testify against him in an upcoming peeping tom case. Police say DNA from the rape kits matched DNA found on the bomb they say Robert assembled. Robert was sentenced to 64 years for attempted murder of a police officer and 24 years for two attempted sexual assaults, sentences to run concurrently.

[AD]Joy is Robert’s second wife. She is still married to him, and refers to him by his middle name, Howard.

“When Howard and I started dating, he was very charming,” Joy says. “Howard treated me like a queen." She says that after their wedding in Hawaii, things started to change. “He got more aggressive, angrier, and he fought with me all the time,” she says. She recalls that he wouldn't let her wear makeup, do her hair, was strict about the way she dressed, and demanded to know who she spoke to. She said he called her names and told her that she was a bad mother. “Howard would say women are sluts and gold diggers — at that moment, I knew that I’d made a mistake,” she says. “But I felt trapped.”
Joy says she first grew suspicious of Howard in April 2006. She says she went to retrieve something from his car and found a mask, gloves and a knife under his seat. “I just knew something wasn’t right,” she says.

Joy says that her husband traveled for work at least one week out of every month. During one of those absences, Joy says she discovered a list in her husband’s handwriting of women’s names, addresses and phone numbers. She says she initially suspected him of being unfaithful.

During another absence, she claims she discovered a video tape of him allegedly having sex with her while she was unconscious in her bed. “I have no memory of it,” she says.  “I confronted Howard and told him that I found his video. He asked me if it turned me on watching myself get raped. It was unimaginable.” She says she left him and moved out of state, but he still tried to win her back. Then, she says everything changed.

Joy describes how it felt to see the newspaper composite sketch that she thought resembled her estranged husband.


Joy joins Dr. Phil on stage.

Joy tells Dr. Phil, “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I married someone so evil."

[AD]Dr. Phil shares a timeline of Robert’s travels, pointing out that many of the places he visited, rapes were reported. Dr. Phil says that authorities suspect that Robert may be responsible for as many as 40 rapes dating back 19 years.

“Do you think you missed [the warning signs]?” Dr. Phil asks.

“I definitely missed them,” she says.Rosa is Robert’s first wife. The couple was married for 11 years and has three children together. She says she had no idea she was married to someone the police believe to be the "Ether Man" rapist. “The news came completely out of the blue,” she says. “I thought, ‘How could I have been married to this man for 11 years?’" Rosa remembers their early courting days. “He swept me off my feet,” she says. “He was beyond romantic. I would come home to candlelight dinners. I thought, ‘I’ve met my knight in shining armor.’ She says she saw no red flags of anything inappropriate. However, after the birth of their first child, she says he grew distant and spent more and more time away from home. Rosa joins Joy and Dr. Phil. Why does Rosa say, despite being his ex-wife, she feels just as much involved? Joy shares the last letter that Robert wrote to her in July 2010. In it, he writes: I actually thought you loved me. When you ratted me out to the [police], it brought out the worst in you. You essentially signed my death sentence. I’m pretty mad at you for kicking me to the curb right before my first trial. This * sucks! I really don’t want to die. [AD]I wasn’t going to write [I love you] in this letter and should erase it, but this is the last [letter], and I’m writing it, so * you. I said it, and you can’t do a damn thing about it, but read it, so there. I’ll be dead soon anyway. “Did he think you were going to come to his defense?” Dr. Phil asks, puzzled. “He’s just distorted in his mind,” she says. Dr. Phil asks Joy and Rosa what they think about Robert spending the rest of his life in prison, and both say they are OK with it. “Those women need to be protected,” Rosa says. ADVICE How Families Can Overcome Difficult Times