Showering her with gifts and affection, he was also a dedicated father to his own three kids.
As they lived two hours apart, the pair’s relationship was long-distance for three years.
During that time, Howard bought Joy expensive perfume and took her on romantic getaways.
But when they married and Joy moved to Albuquerque, USA, to be with him, he suddenly changed.
He’d make insulting remarks about the way other women dressed and wouldn’t let Joy buy make-up.
Two years later, things took a sinister turn. Joy found a tape in Howard’s bag that horrified her.
Her husband had recorded himself having sex with her while she was unconscious. Sickened, she packed her bags.
But Howard turned on his charm and wooed her back. However, Joy couldn’t shake her worry.
Three years later, Joy spotted a news article. Police were on the trail of a serial rapist, known as Ether Man, who attacked students in their own homes after knocking them out by holding a chemical cloth over their faces.
The crimes dated back to the 1990s and included attacks in Albuquerque, as well as other towns Howard had made business trips to.
Could Howard be the Ether Man?
Joy quickly dismissed the idea as crazy.
But just two days later, in October 2009, Howard was arrested.
Joy was unaware that he’d been due in court that day, charged with being a peeping Tom.
Then, a homemade bomb had been found outside the home of an officer due to testify against him.
When police questioned Joy, they couldn’t understand why Howard would go to such an extreme length to avoid a peeping Tom case.
But Joy knew.
‘I think he’s the Ether Man,’ she told them, sharing her darkest thought.
If found guilty of the lesser charge, Howard would have been made to give DNA samples, revealing his terrible crimes.
After Joy voiced her suspicions, Howard was arrested.
In 2011, Robert Howard Bruce was sentenced to 64 years for attempted murder, followed by a total of 333 years for his various sex attacks.
This article was first published in Issue 14, 2017 of that's life!