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The Delaware Christmas Murders of 1987

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Susan has a passion for plants and recipes, but she also dips into the world of true crime.

A heinous crime on a rural road the night before Christmas Eve

A heinous crime on a rural road the night before Christmas Eve

Double Murder and Kidnapping Stuns Rural Delaware

It was 1987 in a rural community near Hazlettville, Delaware. Crime was not prevalent here, and what unfolded that Christmas Eve morning was one of the most bizarre and grisly episodes to befall this county in many decades.

Christmas Eve Morning 1987

Five-year-old Rebecca Gibson woke up Christmas Eve morning in her family's mobile home and found her father facedown in the kitchen. He was lying in a puddle of blood and could not be awoken. Rebecca could not find her mother anywhere, so she tried to call her grandmother, who lived in the farmhouse near her parents' trailer.

She reached a wrong number, but her story of what was happening in her home alerted the recipient, who immediately contacted 911. The state police then responded to a scene they would never forget.

What the Delaware State Police Found

When the Delaware State Police arrived on the scene, they found Joseph Gibson Jr. 32, facedown in the kitchen, a gun shot to his side and one to his head. Beverly Gibson, 27, clad in a night gown, was slumped over in the car outside with one gun shot to the back and another to the buttocks.

Rebecca (5) and John (1) were found unhurt, but 9-day-old Matthew Gibson was no where to be found. He had vanished. The baby's nightgown, covered in his mother's blood, was later found with his abductor.

How or why little Rebecca had not woken up was perhaps a miracle in itself. However, she found what no child should ever have to see.

The Leads Police Followed

The leads were very slim, as the police looked at the scene of horror. A $2,000 reward was offered, which did not seem to produce any results.

However, the Delaware State Police did have just a few leads, which they wasted no time following up on. A neighbor across the street heard what they thought were gunshots the night before, and rushed to the window to see what it was. They saw a high performance car barreling down the driveway of the young Gibson's trailer. However, they did not report it.

There was also a vague report from several days earlier of a female who was asking a pedestrian for directions to the Gibson's home.

A Mysterious Phone Call

But the crucial lead was the information given to them by Joseph Gibson Sr. The senior Gibsons lived in the main farm house on the same property as Joseph and Beverly Gibson. An unknown person, who identified herself as Dawn, called Joseph Sr's residence and said she had befriended Beverly in the maternity ward and wanted directions to her home so she could visit her. The senior Gibson gave her directions right to his son's home.

The identity of the caller eventually turned out to be Joyce Lynch.

Back in Houston, Delaware

Meanwhile, on Christmas Eve in Houston, Delaware, about 30 miles from where the murderers and kidnapping occurred, Joyce and Richard Lynch were celebrating the birth of a newborn son. They had splurged on baby and maternity clothes, and were joyfully telling everyone about their new son.

The Delaware State Police eventually zeroed in on the phone call traced by Diamond State Phone Company, and it led them right to the Lynch's doorstep. As they approached the house, Joyce Lynch cordially invited them in to the living room, where baby toys lay strewn across the floor. She shared with deputies her wonderful news. The baby boy had brown eyes, she said, like her husband.

The Discovery of Baby Matthew

Back in the Delaware State Police station, a picture of baby Matthew was hung on the wall, and the investigators looked at it every day. After seeing the baby at the Lynch home, the lead detective was positive that he was indeed Matthew Gibson.

The Lynchs were asked to bring the child to headquarters, where police compared his footprint to the one taken at the hospital after birth. They realized they had indeed found baby Matthew, who was eventually returned to his paternal grandparents, the senior Gibsons.

The Arrest of the Lynchs

Joyce and Richard Lynch were arrested for two counts of murder and kidnapping. During an all-night interrogation, Joyce Lynch incriminated her husband as the shooter in the killings.

Joyce Lynch Tried and Convicted

In her trial, Joyce Lynch claimed that her husband, Richard, drugged her and convinced her she was pregnant, despite her having a prior hysterectomy.

During the search of the Lynch home, police found a 357 Magnum, spent shells and a piece of paper with directions to the Gibson home. Also found in the trash of the home was baby Matthew's night gown with his mothers blood on it.

Joyce Lynch was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in Delaware Department of Corrections. In 1991, the Supreme Court of Delaware denied her appeal.

Richard Lynch Tried Separately

Richard Lynch was tried separately. During his trial, his lawyers called a particular witness that changed everything.

The defense painted a disturbing portrait of Joyce Lynch, who, they claimed, preyed on disabled men.

The Twisted Mind of Joyce Lynch

Richard Lynch's attorney argued Joyce Lynch tricked her husband into believing she gave birth to their child when in fact she had kidnapped a baby and murdered his parents. His attorney described Joyce Lynch as having a twisted mind and a split personality, which caused her to have symptoms of a hysterical pregnancy.

They told a story about Joyce meeting a paraplegic man at a rehabilitation hospital in Philadelphia. She moved in with him and later told him she was pregnant with his triplets, who never existed (it was proven that Joyce Lynch had a hysterectomy in the 1970s) but who Joyce claimed were due on Christmas Day. One by one, she faked losing the children.

Apparently, Joyce tricked her loved ones and community members too, announcing in August that she was pregnant.

Employees of a grocery store used by the Lynches celebrated Joyce's announcement of her baby with an ″It’s a boy″ sign.

″We actually thought she had one,″ store owner, Ms. Moore, said.

After putting the paraplegic man in a nursing home, she replaced him with a gullible Richard Lynch. This time, Joyce Lynch proved to be not only unstable but murderous.

″I lived with her for 16 years," said Tracy Greenwood, Joyce's 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, "and I would never have believed her capable of this.″

Richard Lynch was acquitted of all charges and set free.

Author's Note

I am so glad that baby Matthew was not harmed by this disturbed women. I watched the case closely at the time because the neighbor who heard the gunshots was my sister and her husband.

Pain Has No Boundaries

Apparently, pain has no boundaries. Because my family knew the victims, I watched this case closely. I remember the empathy I felt for Beverly Gibson's mother, Nancy Webb. She commented on how it was unbelievable that someone could just walk into her daughter's home and take her life.

Little did I know, 28 years later I would experience the same feeling when someone walked up to my son's vehicle and put 12 bullets into the body of Richard L Jacobs Jr. It is unbearable.