A Suburban House Fire Revealed The Scene Of A Gruesome Murder

A 12-year-old boy arrived home from school to his family’s Pennsylvania house on fire — and his mother murdered inside.

Joy Hibbs, pictured here smiling with two children, was found murdered in a house fire on April 19, 1991.

A 12-year-old boy arrived home from school to his family’s Pennsylvania house on fire — and his mother murdered inside.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from "People Magazine Investigates")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from "People Magazine Investigates")

The Hibbs family was excited when they moved into their small house on Spencer Drive in Croydon, Pennsylvania. Originally from Florida, Charlie and Joy Hibbs had moved their children, Angie and David, around the country several times for work. Charlie’s job in nearby Philadelphia allowed them to purchase a home for themselves, and life was idyllic in their tight-knit neighborhood.

Friday, April 19, 1991, was a half-day of school for 12-year-old David. The day started like any other — Charlie woke up early and headed to his job site in northeastern Philadelphia. David and 16-year-old Angie got up for school and played with their new puppy before catching the bus. Generally, Joy left for work after the kids were gone to school.

David arrived home around 1 p.m. and realized something was wrong as he walked down the driveway towards the back of the house. As he passed the bay window in the kitchen, he could see thick, dark smoke swirling inside. He was gripped with panic — his mom’s car was still in the driveway; she must be inside.

When he opened the back door, he was met by a wall of flames and smoke as the puppy scampered outside. He ran back around the front of the house, shouting for help.

Neighbors called 911, and David stood helpless as he watched the house burn.

Word about the fire made it to Charlie who rushed home just in time to see a stretcher rolled out his front door and into a waiting ambulance. The body on it was covered with a white sheet. Police confirmed it — they had found Joy inside the house after the fire was extinguished.

At the medical examiner’s office, an autopsy was performed on Joy’s body. It didn’t take long for the examiner to realize that the woman had been stabbed five times and then strangled. What looked like arson was also a homicide.

The home was heavily damaged, but it was not a total loss. Investigators combed through the evidence and were able to determine that the fire had been set intentionally. All the stove burners had been on, and somebody had lit a kitchen trash can on fire. Another fire had been started down the hall in David’s bedroom.

Investigators didn’t find the knife used to stab Joy, but they did find a computer cord near where her body had been found in David’s room. That cord, they determined, is what had been used to strangle her.

The fire left behind another clue — the clock had stopped at 12:54 p.m., just moments before David arrived home to find the house on fire.

Authorities began talking to the neighbors to establish a timeline. Find out what the close-knit community had seen along Spencer Drive just before Joy’s murder on People Magazine Investigates: “American Nightmare” on July 25 on ID at 9/8c. See more episodes on discovery+.

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