It's official, DNA evidence has linked suspected serial rapist Robert Bruce, 47, to a 2006 rape in Pueblo. It took the Colorado Bureau of Investigations nearly two weeks to come back with results, but the wait was worth it, according to Sergeant Eric Bravo with the Pueblo Police Department. "There are cases out there that probably were never reported; that maybe these victims feel some sense of relief to know that this guy's behind bars," says Bravo.
In 2000, DNA was used to link several rapes in Albuquerque, New Mexico to a serial rapist known only as the "Ether Man." The rapist would break into a home, use a chemical soaked rag to render his victims unconscious, and rape them. Police believe at least 11 women were sexually assaulted by the "Ether Man" from 1991 to 2000.
Each of the women share several things in common. Most of them lived near a college or university, many shared the same body type, or had connections to the medical field. The same can be said about the victim in the 2006 Pueblo rape. At the time, the victim was in her mid-20's, lived near Pueblo Community College, and had the same body type as other victims, including dark hair.
Bruce's DNA has also been linked to another 2006 rape in Austin, Texas. The victim lived near the University of Texas at the time.
In 2007, Bruce was arrested and charged in a peeping-tom case here in Pueblo. The day the lead investigator, Officer Nathan Pruce, was scheduled to testify against him, Pruce found a makeshift bomb at his home. A propane tank, that was pumping an explosive gas into the home through a hose was seized and DNA found. Meanwhile, Bruce was arrested on a failure to appear warrant for not showing up at his court hearing that morning.
Suspecting Bruce may have been involved in the attempted murder of a police officer, investigators started looking into his past. When they went to Albuquerque they found information that led them to believe Bruce's alleged peeping-tom activities may have been the planning stage of something more insidious. Working with the Albuquerque police, investigators returned to Pueblo and secured a court order to take DNA evidence found on the propane tank and compare it to a sample taken from Bruce. With a court order of their own, the Albuquerque police were able to get a sample as well to compare it against the John Doe "Ether Man" rapist.
Four days later, Albuquerque announced the DNA was a match, the "Ether Man" rapist had finally been found. But that was just the beginning, now armed with new insight into the "Ether Man's" way of committing rapes, Pueblo police began looking at recent unsolved rape cases of their own. The rape from 2006 jumped out at them immediately.
Two and a half weeks after declaring Robert Bruce as a suspect in 12 rapes in New Mexico and Texas, a 13th rape was added. Wednesday, Pueblo police announced Bruce's DNA was indeed a match to evidence found at the scene of a rape that occurred on a July night in 2006. According Sergeant Bravo, Bruce did not act surprised when they served him with the arrest warrant in his cell.
In addition to the peeping-tom charge and two counts of attempted murder, a charge of sexual assault is imminent. Another $500,000 bond was given on this latest warrant. The warrant out of New Mexico carries a $3 million bond.
Currently, the Fort Collins Police Department is also looking at two unsolved rape cases they believe Bruce may be linked to. Other law enforcement agencies, in Colorado and surrounding states, are actively searching for cases that could be the work of the "Ether Man" as well.