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David James ROBERTS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Serial rapist - Revenge
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: January 20/November 1974
Date of birth: January 1944
Victims profile: Bill Patrick, his wife Ann, and their year-old daughter Heidi / Six-month-old child
Method of murder: Arson (smoke inhalation) / Abandoned in some nearby woods, where he died of exposure during the night
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to death, 1975. Resentenced to six life sentences in prison

A native of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, born in January 1944, Roberts logged his first adult arrest at age 22. 

Preying on women in Gary and Crown Point, Indiana, he had raped and robbed at least two victims, leaving them locked in the trunks of their cars, before police picked him up.

Conviction on reduced charges of armed robbery earned him a twelve-year sentence in the state reformatory, where Roberts took part in a bloody 1969 riot. Listed as one of the 46 wounded, he carried scars from knife and bullet wounds sustained in the melee. After serving half his sentence, Roberts was paroled on December 12, 1972. 

Eight months later, he purchased a set of new tires from a White River, Indiana, shop and drove off without paying. Manager Bill Patrick signed a complaint against his elusive customer, but Roberts was still at large on the night of January 20, 1974, when he dropped by Patrick's home with cans of gasoline in hand. Smoke inhalation was listed as the cause of death for Patrick, his wife Ann, and their year-old daughter Heidi. 

Indicted on triple murder charges in March 1974, Roberts was held without bond until September 17, when a sympathetic judge set bail at $10,000. Undaunted by the prospect of a death sentence, Roberts reverted to type in early November, abducting a 19-year-old Indianapolis woman, raping her twice before leaving her locked in the trunk of her car. The victim's six-month-old son was abandoned in some nearby woods, where he died of exposure during the night.

Roberts was armed with a pistol when police picked him up on new felony charges, and this time there would be no bail. Convicted on four counts of murder, with additional charges of kidnapping, arson, and rape, the defendant was sentenced to die. Subsequent commutation of his sentence left Roberts facing six terms of life imprisonment, but the killer had no intention of serving his time. 

In October 1986, Roberts complained of breathing difficulties, requesting a medical examination. Returning from a local hospital on October 24, he drew a gun on his escorts, handcuffed both officers, and drove them to Hammond, Indiana, where they escaped after Roberts stopped to make a phone call. (Both officers were subsequently disciplined for negligence in handling their prisoner; one of the guards confessed to trafficking in contraband for prisoners and was summarily dismissed.)

Federal warrants charged Roberts with unlawful flight to avoid confinement, his name reaching the "Ten Most Wanted" list on April 27, 1987, but the fugitive was nowhere to be found. 

On February 7, 1988, his case was profiled on the first edition of a new television program, "America's Most Wanted." By February 11, at least 75 callers had identified Roberts as one "Robert Lord", director of a shelter for homeless men on Staten Island, New York. 

Federal agents arrested Roberts on the job, from which he had been earning $18,000 yearly, and he was returned to Indiana for completion of his sentence.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans


AMW Capture #1

Watch Television. Catch Fugitives.

The case of David James Roberts is a very special one at America's Most Wanted. Not only was he the first fugitive profiled on AMW, he was also the first

Roberts was profiled on the show's premiere episode, February 7, 1988. Although the program launched with the grand proclamation, "Watch Television. Catch Fugitives," no one really knew if it would work. FOX was a young network then, and AMW only aired in a few markets.

Roberts' case was the first one aired that fateful night, and as soon as the first commercial break started, the hotline erupted. Most of the tips came from people in the New York City area.

Fugitive #1 = Capture #1

AMW staff manning the hotline kept hearing the name Bob Lord. People living in Staten Island, New York knew Bob Lord as the director of a homeless shelter. But when AMW aired, those who knew the man from the shelter noticed a striking resemblance to the convicted murderer.

In fact, a woman called the hotline claiming she was Bob Lord's girlfriend and lived with the fugitive. She explained he had become ill and checked into a hospital. When authorities arrived at the hospital, they discovered that Lord had suddenly checked out. When detectives visited his room they discovered why -- a copy of TV Guide laid on the bed opened to a promo for the story of David James Roberts on AMW.

Thanks to AMW, the heat was on and Roberts was captured February 11, just four days after the first show aired, hiding out in Staten Island, New York.

Roberts pleaded guilty January 27, 1989 to escape and kidnapping charges. He's serving several consecutive life sentences at Indiana's Pendleton Correctional Facility.


David James Roberts

Ruthless Criminal Leaves A Violent Path

Roberts was sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment for the heinous, vile crimes he committed during a one-year span in the mid-1970s. David James Roberts has been in trouble with the law his whole life. But Roberts is no two-bit criminal: he has been convicted of some of the most heinous crimes on the books.

Roberts had several brushes with the law prior to January 1974, but he joined a whole new league when he burned down the home of a Whiteland, Ind. family -- a home with three people inside.

Investigators found that Bill Patrick and his wife, Heidi, were killed before the fire even began -- and even more tragically, their one-year-old daughter died from smoke inhalation during the blaze.

Over the course of their investigation, detectives learned that Roberts was their man. They eventually caught up with him, arresting him for the arson and multiple counts of murder.

Thanks to a soft judge, Roberts was released from jail after posting bond. But most people who bond out while facing murder charges do their best to maintain a low profile. Not Roberts.

Several months after Roberts' release, a young woman in Indianapolis was raped in her car at gunpoint. Throughout the traumatic ordeal, the victim's main concern was for the safety of her infant son who was also in the car.

After the rape, the attacker locked his victim in the trunk of her car and kept the infant with him in the front. Eventually, the rapist finally bailed from the vehicle, leaving his victim confined in the darkness.

She ultimately pried her way out of the trunk, only to find her precious son nowhere in sight.

A few hours later, a concerned citizen called the police to report finding a baby's body lying by the side of a road. Left outdoors, all alone, on that frigid November morning, the infant succumbed to the elements and passed away.

Once detectives pieced the events of that tragic day together, they suspected Roberts might be their man. After the victim identified him, he was charged with rape and murder.

In addition to savagely raping an unsuspecting woman in her car, and killing two other adults in their home, authorities said Roberts killed not one, but two infants -- all within a year's time.

Law enforcement officials made it their mission to keep this cold-blooded killer behind bars -- but unbeknownst to them, Roberts, himself, had other plans in the making.

Roberts had been strip searched before the trip and shackled throughout the ride -- yet somehow, he managed to gain possession of a .38 caliber handgun.

Convict Makes Mysterious Escape

After being convicted for murder, kidnapping, arson and rape, Roberts was condemned to serve six life sentences in an Indiana State Prison.

Roberts has chronic lung problems and requires frequent hospitalizations. On October 24, 1986, Roberts was on one his routine trips to Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis.

At some point during his three-hour trip from the prison, it seems Roberts decided he'd finally had enough of prison life.

Roberts had been strip searched before the trip and shackled throughout the ride -- yet somehow, he managed to gain possession of a .38 caliber handgun.

On the drive back to the correctional facility, Roberts pulled the weapon on the two prison guards escorting him.

With the gun in hand, Roberts demanded the guards unlock his handcuffs. He then shackled the two guards together and stripped them of their own sidearms.

Roberts then took control of the vehicle, driving it in the opposite direction toward the Illinois state line. When Roberts decided to stop to make a call from a payphone, the guards managed to escape. But before the guards could notify authorities, Roberts hit the road and vanished into thin air.

Six months later, on April 27, 1987 the FBI placed Roberts on their infamous Ten Most Wanted List.



MO: Serial rapist who killed one victim's infant; also burned home of a man who reported him for theft, killing three.


David James Roberts


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