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.