Who murdered Debra Joyce Bruce?

Debra Joyce Bruce/Grid AdS

Debra Joyce Bruce/Grid AdS

Debra Joyce Bruce (Nov 11, 1956 – Nov 10, 1976) was found murdered one day shy of her birthday in Slocum, Anderson County, Texas. She was a housewife and had married James Robbins just five months ago in June.

A passerby saw the house on fire and called the fire department. Fire fighters found Debra between the bed and the wall of a front bedroom. I am not sure if that was the master suite. A smoldering mattress on that bed had filled the house with smoke.

If the fire department’s reports were preserved it would be interesting to see what forensic arson experts think happened in that house. What was the point of origin? How long had the fire been going on and were any accelerants found?

According to the Brownwood (see resources below) Debra was shot once in the head. However, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal from November 16 stated there were two gunshot wounds. Also, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal mentions a woman and a child in the house however, a child was never found. The papers mentioned that an autopsy was scheduled for the same evening. I’d like to know the exact number of gunshot wounds and whether the autopsy showed that Debra had ever delivered a child.

Debbie and James, courtesy of the Robbins Family and used with permission

Debbie and James, courtesy of the Robbins Family and used with permission

UPDATE: I received an email from Debbie’s family. Here’s the missing information: Debra and James did not have children. A child could not have been in the house as Debbie had never given birth. She was not pregnant either at the time of her murder. Another family member sent me this picture with permission to use it on my blog. So grateful to the families for helping me!

Her husband told police that he had left the house around 530am to go to work. He said that at that time Debra was still in bed. Since Debra was found wearing her night-gown it seems the attack happened after James left but still in the early morning hours. I have not been able to find any information confirming he arrived at work e.g. his alibi. The only thing that James found missing in the house was an automatic .22 caliber rifle. The sheriff said that there were other weapons in the house as well. Was one of these the murder weapon? Was the murder weapon ever found?

Debra Joyce Bruce trial/Grid AdS

Grid AdS

Eventually, James Robbins was charged with Debra’s murder. During the trial the charges were dropped when it became known that potentially exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense in this circumstantial case. One piece of information concerned a black car seen parked in front of the Robbins home around 930am. That car had three distinct antennas.

I have not been able to find anything else online about this case. If you have links to more newspaper articles, please let me know.

Last but not least, Debra was dressed in a night-gown and her body was bound with a cord. If properly preserved that cord and the night-gown should be tested for touch DNA with the M-Vac.

If you have any information about this case please contact the Palestine Police Department at 1(903) 729-2254.

R.I.P. Debra Joyce Bruce



Ancestry Index

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal November 11, 1976


Lubbock Avalanche-Journal November 16, 1976

Brownwood Bulletin