Similarities between rapes in Colo., NM
PUEBLO, Colorado – Authorities in Pueblo say they’re investigating whether a man suspected of raping 11 women in New Mexico and Texas may be responsible for unsolved assaults in Colorado.
Forty-seven-year-old Robert Howard Bruce was arrested Oct. 6 in Pueblo after he allegedly tried to blow up the home of Pueblo police officer set to testify against him in a peeping Tom case.
Investigators said Monday that there are similarities between the New Mexico rapes and a 2006 rape case in Pueblo.
Bruce is accused of breaking into victims’ homes and rendering them unconscious by placing a rag soaked in a chemical compound over their mouths. That earned him the title “Ether Man” even though the chemical used wasn’t ether.
Pueblo Police Chief Jim Billings said anyone who may have been assaulted with the aid of some kind of chemical to contact law enforcement.
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Authorities were able to make the connection between Bruce and the cases out of state thanks to the help of Pueblo police detective Mark Bravo, who was suspicious that Bruce would try to kill a police officer over a misdemeanor case.
Bravo investigated and said he learned that Bruce was afraid of being convicted as a sex offender, which would require him to provide a DNA sample that could then be compared to DNA collected from other crime scenes.
Bravo also said he interviewed Bruce’s ex-wife in California who said that she had been questioned by the FBI during an investigation of a serial rapist and murderer there. She said she was also suspicious of his behavior.
“She said that when she saw the article about the ‘Ether Man’ in Albuquerque, it sent cold chills down her spine,” Bravo said. “She said that she felt it could be Howard.”
Worried about how long it normally takes to get someone’s DNA entered into a national database in Colorado, Bravo pushed to get a judge to issue a court order for a DNA sample to be taken from Bruce so they could be compared to evidence in the cases in Albuquerque. The order was granted and Bravo said he drove the sample to Albuquerque himself on Oct. 27.
“After doing this for 22 years, I know when there’s a good horse to bet on. I bet it all on this one and I won,” he said.
Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com