Robert William Fisher

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Robert William Fisher
Age-altered images of what Fisher may look like years after his disappearance
Age-altered images of what Fisher may look like years after his disappearance
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
Charges
AliasBobby Fisher
Description
BornRobert William Fisher
(1961-04-13) April 13, 1961 (age 59)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
Height182 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Weight86 kg (190 lb)
OccupationSurgical technician, respiratory therapist and firefighter
ParentsWilliam Fisher
Jan Howell
Siblings2
SpouseMary Fisher† (m. 1987, died April 10, 2001)
ChildrenBrittney Fisher†
Robert "Bobby" William Fisher, Jr.†
Status
StatusUnknown
AddedJune 29, 2002
Number475
Currently a Top Ten Fugitive

Robert William Fisher (born April 13, 1961) is an American fugitive wanted for allegedly killing his family and blowing up the house in which they lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, on April 10, 2001. He was named by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the 475th fugitive to be placed on the list of FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives on June 29, 2002.[1] Fisher remains at large and is the longest currently searched fugitive listed on this list.

Early life[edit]

Robert William Fisher was born on April 13, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York.[2] His parents were William Fisher, a banker, and Jan Howell. He has two sisters with whom he attended Sahuaro High School in Tuscon, Arizona. Fisher's parents divorced in 1976, when he was 15. According to friends and relatives, the divorce was very turbulent and unsettling, leaving long-lasting effects on Fisher. He reportedly spoke of it with co-workers at Mayo Clinic Hospital and once confided to an associate that his life would have been different had Jan not left the family.[3]

Adult life[edit]

Fisher enlisted in the United States Navy and attempted to become part of the SEALs, but was not successful.[4] He has worked as a surgical catheter technician, respiratory therapist, and firefighter, and was an avid outdoorsman, hunter, and fisherman.[1]

He married Mary Cooper in 1987.[5] He was described as a cruel and distant control freak toward his family, having once turned a garden hose on Mary after he perceived her to have spoken out of turn. The couple fought about sex and money, with Mary taking a job that she told friends was a "security fund." Fisher was embarrassed that his son Bobby did not like to hunt or fish, and once tried to teach him and daughter Brittney how to swim by throwing them off a boat. Hunting partner Sandy Gillespie said, "They were crying, and Brittney was screaming, and he pulled them back in the boat and he said, 'Now there, how's that?'"[6] Fisher nonetheless tried to hold on to an image as a devoted family man.[3]

Mary's mother, Ginny Cooper, told investigators, "Fisher didn't socialize often with family because of a fear of getting too close to people and losing them."[7] Fisher's mother Jan told investigators that she had been a "yes-sir" wife who did not stand up to Fisher's father. She added that she saw similar dynamics early in Fisher's marriage to Mary and that she had spoken to her about her concerns. A close friend of his stated that his family bore a striking resemblance to that of his childhood.[3]

Fisher had been an outdoorsman and a hunter since he was a young adult. Friends noticed him exhibiting disturbing behavior on hunting trips and other outdoor occasions. In one case, after killing an elk, he began smearing its blood on his face.[4] On at least one occasion, he snuck up behind a family that was picnicking and emptied his gun into the air.[6] Fisher had also been an active participant in the Scottsdale Baptist Church's men's ministry, but (in contrast to Mary) had begun to withdraw from these activities a few months prior to the murders.[7] In 1998, the Fishers went to the senior pastor for marital counseling. Fisher told coworkers about a one-night affair with a prostitute he met in a massage parlor. He fretted that Mary would find out that it was the cause of a urinary tract infection that left him ill for several days in December 2000.[3][6] "They did not have a happy marriage," said Wade Rencsok, a former neighbor. "They screamed constantly. Everybody heard it. You could hear it in the house next door. And you never really heard him scream, which is kind of weird. I mean he had a way about him, but you never heard him scream. You always heard his wife screaming. Things like, 'You're worthless. I could have done better than you. We should get a divorce.'"[4]

Fisher told a hunting companion that he was renewing his commitment to his faith and marriage because he "could not live without his family", possibly hinting that he would consider suicide over divorce. According to psychologists, an intense fear of loss is not unusual for an individual traumatized by divorce while an adolescent.[3] In the weeks before her death, Mary told several friends that she was going to divorce him.[6]

Triple homicide and arson[edit]

A neighbor reported hearing a loud argument inside the Fisher home on April 9, 2001, at 10:30 pm, approximately ten hours before it blew up in an explosion.[7] However, police theorized that the murders took place between 9:30 pm and 10:15 pm. At 10:43 pm, Fisher was spotted on an ATM camera, where he withdrew $280. Mary's Toyota 4Runner was in the background.[4][8]

Mary Fisher was shot in the back of the head, and Brittney and Bobby's throats were slashed from ear to ear.[7] At 8:42 am, the house exploded. Firefighters were immediately alerted to the explosion, which was strong enough to collapse the front brick wall and rattle the frames of neighboring houses for one-half mile (800 m) in all directions.[9] Firefighters kept the 20-foot-high (6 m) blaze from spreading to other houses. A series of smaller secondary explosions, believed to be caused by either rifle ammunition or paint cans, forced them to keep their distance. One suffered minor injuries to his leg when he lost his balance and fell near the blaze.[9]

The gas line from the back of the house's furnace had been pulled. The accumulating gas was later ignited by a candle that Fisher had allegedly lit, waiting for the gas to accumulate and descend to the flame hours after being lit. This delayed fuse would have given him an approximate ten-hour head start in his successful attempt to evade law enforcement.[9] Fisher's decision to have the house explode is believed to have been an attempt to conceal evidence of his crimes and possibly to cause police to believe that he had died.[4] The burned bodies of a woman and two children were found lying in bed in the burned-out remains. They were identified as Mary (age 38), Brittney (age 12), and Bobby (age 10).[7] Investigators theorized that Fisher murdered his family because he felt threatened by Mary's intent to divorce him, and did not want Brittney and Bobby to go through what he did as a child.[6]

Investigation[edit]

Fisher, who disappeared at the time of the murders, was named as an official (and to date, the only) person of interest in the case on April 14, 2001, when Arizona Department of Public Safety officers were instructed in a statewide bulletin to arrest him. On April 20, the last physical evidence of his whereabouts surfaced when police found Mary's Toyota 4Runner and their dog, Blue, in Tonto National Forest, near the towns of Young and Payson, Arizona, a hundred miles north of Scottsdale.[10][11][12] A pile of human excrement was found near the passenger door.[6] Although police searched the area immediately around where the vehicle was found, they only searched one out of dozens of nearby caves. Several professional cavers have suggested that Fisher used them as a hiding place before either escaping, killing himself, or dying from low oxygen levels.[13]

The spot on which the Toyota was discovered was located less than a mile from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, an area which police never searched. A couple reported seeing a man resembling Fisher walking along the nearby Young Road several days before the discovery of the truck. According to them, when the woman saw him, she said to her husband, "That looks like Robert Fisher." However, they waited until after the truck was found to report the tip.[8] Lori Greenbeck, an acquaintance of the Fisher family, said that her husband had gone camping with Fisher in the area where the truck was found shortly before April 10. She said that her husband believed that Fisher was scouting the area. According to her, he was very familiar with the region.[8]

On July 19, a state arrest warrant was issued in Phoenix, charging Fisher with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. Subsequently, he was declared a fugitive and a federal arrest warrant was issued by the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.[1] On June 29, 2002, Fisher was named by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as the 475th fugitive to be placed on its Ten Most Wanted list. He was also on the America's Most Wanted's "Dirty Dozen" list of its most notorious fugitives, and was profiled on The Hunt with John Walsh. The FBI offers a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to Fisher's capture.[1] As of April 2003, FBI had received "hundreds and hundreds of leads."[14] However, all reported sightings of Fisher have been inconclusive or false.[5]

In the years immediately following Fisher's disappearance, some people living in his old neighborhood reported seeing a man resembling him driving in the area. In February 2004, an individual with a striking physical resemblance to Fisher was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The man had a missing tooth where Fisher had a gold bicuspid as well as a surgical scar on his back, also like Fisher. However, his fingerprints did not match. He was held by Canadian police for approximately one week until a relative correctly identified him. Responding to speculation that his fingerprints had been altered, Scottsdale Detective John Kirkham said that there was no scarring on them to suggest this. The man's identity was not released.[5] The FBI alerted local law enforcement in 2012 that Fisher may be living in the Payson area in Gila County, Arizona.[12] Detective T.J. Diran suggested that Fisher may have used his survival skills to continue living in the wooded area near Payson.[4] In October 2014, police raided a house in Commerce City, Colorado, after receiving a tip that he was hiding there. Despite arresting two occupants, they did not find any sign of him.[15]

Fisher is considered armed and extremely dangerous and has ties to Florida and New Mexico.[1] There has been speculation that he has committed suicide or started a new life under an assumed identity.[6][16] FBI agent Bob Caldwell's sense of his personality and habits is that he is "arrogant. He's cocky. He's a know-it-all...and a loner." Fisher chews tobacco and favors the Copenhagen brand, sometimes walks in an odd, erect manner with his chest out due to back pain, and is an avid hunter and fisherman.[14]

In April 2016, FBI officials and Scottsdale police displayed new age-enhanced photos of Fisher during a news conference on the fifteenth anniversary of the murders.[17][18]

FBI-age-enhanced-photos-of-Robert-William-Fisher.jpg

Due in part to such factors as the small amount of money that Fisher is believed to have had with him and the lengthy period of time that has gone by since his disappearance, some people believe that he committed suicide, although others have said that he is still alive. "Maybe this is the best we have, knowing he did it, and never finding him again," said Detective John Heintzelman.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Fisher was the subject of a documentary entitled Where is Robert Fisher?, released in 2011. It relied heavily on interviews with journalists and detectives, and also featured interviews with his sister and one of his neighbors. The documentary included home footage of Fisher taken by Mary, which was described as eerie and disturbing.[19]

The backdoor pilot of the CBS show FBI: Most Wanted depicted a story nearly identical to Fisher's. It aired on April 2, 2019, as Episode 18 of Season 1 of the CBS show FBI.[20][better source needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "FBI Press Release". Federal Bureau of Investigation. June 29, 2002. Archived from the original on April 11, 2010. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
  2. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Robert William Fisher". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Baker, Nena (June 18, 2001). "Slayings likely rooted in marital strife, divorce fears". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Patterson, Thom (August 12, 2016). "Police: Fugitive dad killed family, burned down house". CNN. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Bittner, Emily (February 6, 2004). "Mounties got their man, but he isn't Fisher". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Tom, Zoellner (August 7, 2002). "Report portrays suspect in family killing as cruel, controlling". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e Zoellner, Tom (April 14, 2001). "Family in blaze slashed, shot". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d Whitney, Briana (November 8, 2019). "Robert Fisher: Dead or alive?". Arizona's Family. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Zoellner, Tom (April 10, 2001). "3 dead as explosion, fire destroy Scottsdale home". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  10. ^ Collom, Lindsey (June 30, 2002). "Fisher added to FBI list of most wanted". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  11. ^ "FBI releases age-enhanced photos of Robert William Fisher". April 9, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "12 years later, hunt for Scottsdale murder suspect Robert Fisher continues". Arizona Central. April 29, 2013. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
  13. ^ Loew, Morgan; Benson, Phil; Leitner, Tammy (November 9, 2011). "'5 Investigates' team goes underground in Robert Fisher search". Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Wagner, Dennis (April 11, 2003). "FBI still hunting for Fisher". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  15. ^ "Two arrested as police raid home in search of murder suspect". October 11, 2014. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  16. ^ Golfen, Bob (April 4, 2002). "Robert Fisher likely alive with new identity". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  17. ^ "FBI to show new images of 'Most Wanted' fugitive Robert Fisher on 15th anniversary of Scottsdale killings". azcentral.com. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  18. ^ "Robert William Fisher". Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. Department of Justice. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  19. ^ Rubin, Paul (October 13, 2011). "Robert Fisher Murder Case Documentary: Great Story, Not So Hot Story Execution". The Phoenix New Times. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  20. ^ "Most Wanted". IMDb. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2019.

External links[edit]