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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Decemystery (2019) 8: Robert William Fisher

Fisher with his wife and two children.
The image of a well-to-do, happy family is one that I believe most look up to as the definition of happiness. However, behind closed doors, that image can change into something much different. Today’s story is one of those instances.


The name Robert William Fisher is probably unfamiliar to most reading this, unless they grew up in Arizona in the early 2000s or religiously followed national news. Nowadays, his name may be familiar to those who follow true crime. For those who don’t, he’s been on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for nearly two decades—eighteen to be exact. He’s been on the run for nineteen.


This isn’t without good reason. Fisher’s actions that led to him ending up on that list are easily some of the most cruel I’ve ever read; his motivations being as selfish as can be. The man is, in my eyes, pure evil. So today, we’ll be taking a look at a different kind of mystery. I’ve not had the type of variety I would’ve liked so far this month (largely thanks to me falling a bit behind on writing). Let’s go on the hunt for Robert Fisher and discover who exactly this man is—or perhaps was.


Profile


Full Name: Robert William Fisher


Nationality: American


Sex: Male


Race: Caucasian


Date of Birth: April 13, 1961 (58 Y.O.)
Brooklyn, New York


Hair Color: Brown


Eye Color: Blue


Height: 6’0” (182 cm)


Weight: 190 lb. (86 kg.)


Medium Build


Job[s]: Surgical Catheter Technician, Respiratory Therapist, Fireman


Nationality: American


Identifying Scars/Marks: Fisher has surgical scars on his lower back; this is tied to a lower back problem that ultimately put him on disability. He also has a gold crown on his upper left canine tooth.


The Duality of Man: The Mystery of Robert William Fisher


Born to William Fisher—a banker—and Jan Howell in 1961 in Brooklyn, New York, Robert Fisher was the only son to the family, having had two sisters while growing up. The family eventually relocated to Arizona, where Fisher attended Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Arizona.


Life for Fisher was more or less normal, but that changed in 1976 when Fisher’s parents divorced. Described by Fisher’s friends and relatives as a “very turbulent and unsettling” divorce, the event had an extremely troubling effect on him; Fisher later told a coworker of his at a hospital where he was employed that life would’ve been different for him if his mother hadn’t left. As for Fisher’s mom, she would later explain to authorities after the triple homicide  that she had been a, “yes-sir” wife who never stood up to her husband. As such, when things finally got to be too much, she divorced him.


As for Robert himself, he would later join the United States Navy and be honorably discharged. He held jobs as a surgical catheter technician, respiratory therapist, fireman. He also enjoyed fishing and hunting. However, during his time as a firefighter, Fisher sustained a serious injury in his lower back that left him living on disability checks, and in extreme physical pain. This also caused him to walk in a peculiar manner, with his chest pushed out.


In 1987, life began to look up for Fisher. It was in this year that he married a woman by the name of Mary Cooper, who he had began to date in high school. He had two children with her: a daughter, Brittney Fisher, and a son, Robert Bobby William Fisher, Jr. To friends and family, the image of the Fisher family was one that was picturesque; happy, easy-going, and well-to-do. It was the ideal family life that most would hope to one day have.


For her part: Mary She an avid gun fan and would frequent the firing range with her husband. She was also an active member of the Scottsdale Baptist Church—specifically the men’s ministry. She was a kindly woman who loved her family dearly, though many say that she was controlled heavily by Fisher himself.


Fisher, despite being a man who presented himself as a man who was the all-American family man, was someone who aspired to be the alpha male of the situation. Everything was in his control and nothing could ever be out of it. This likely stemmed from his parents divorce as a child; that was out of his control and as such, he never wanted anything to be outside of it. Should his wife be outside of his control or reach, he would make sure that never happened again.


Now despite the picture perfect family image that the Fisher family had, it’s said that Fisher himself was a very cruel man and a control freak who was “awkward with his children.” It’s also said that he was a loner and didn’t socialize much. According to Mary Cooper’s mother, Ginny Cooper, Fisher, “didn’t socialize often with family” because he had a fear of “getting too close to people and losing them.”


Fisher’s fear likely stemmed from the divorce his parents went through. He no doubt desired to keep his family close to him at all times no matter what and as we’ll see, this desire would soon bubble to the surface in a way that would lead to the ultimate act of evil.


For now, Fisher’s life was one that could best be described as a roller coaster. Neighbors would report hearing him and Mary argue during the night, though exactly what they were arguing about I’ve never been able to find. It’s likely she was infuriated by Fisher’s controlling nature as he would want her by his side every waking second. One of the most interesting events in his life occurred in 1998, which was when Fisher and his wife went to their church’s senior pastor for marriage counseling. Supposedly, Robert had a one-night-stand with a prostitute that he met at a massage parlor. This would later lead to a urinary tract infection that left him sick for several days in December of 2000, something he feared his wife would discover.


Exactly what the timeline of events is here, I cannot discover. However, what I do know is that the counseling actually worked and the two ended up being remaining a couple. This is evident by something that Fisher would later tell a hunting partner of his, which was that he’d renewed his commitment to both his faith—something that he’d begun to withdraw from in the months leading up to the triple homicide—and his marriage. The exact reason for the latter was that he, “could not live without his family.” This comment has led some to speculate that Fisher would commit suicide should Mary ever state she wanted a divorce, something Mary had apparently told her friends she was planning on doing and something she likely told Fisher mere hours before she was murdered.


On April 9th of 2001, at 10:30 P.M., a massive fight broke out at the Fisher household. This is likely what the argument I mentioned before was about; though whether or not it was related to the divorce is unknown. Whatever the case, the arguing eventually subsided. Then, ten hours later—on the morning of April 10, 2001—the Fisher household exploded; the blast being powerful enough to collapse the home’s front brick wall and rattle the frames of nearby houses for half a mile in every direction. This was followed by a series of smaller explosions, which is believed to have been caused by either rifle ammunition or from paint cans. These blasts forced the firefighters to stay back from the inferno, which reached 20 feet in height.


Ultimately, only one of the firefighters sustained an injury, which happened when he lost his footing and fell near the home. When the fire itself had been put out, investigators began their search for what had happened, though it seemed like it might have been a horrible accident. However, that theory was quickly thrown out the window when the scorched bodies of Mary (who was 38), Brittney (12), and Robert Jr (10). were discovered in their beds.


Mary had been shot in the back of the head. Meanwhile, Brittney and Robert Jr. had had their throats slashed from one ear to another. Robert Fisher however was nowhere to be found, nor was the family’s dog. The explosion—which had been caused by the furnace’s gas line having been pulled out and a candle having been lit—and subsequent fire hadn’t been hot enough to burn a body to ash. As such, Fisher was the one and only suspect the police had, and didn’t take much for them to figure out what his motive was.


According to authorities, Fisher murdered his family after being told by Mary that she wanted to divorce him. This likely caused Fisher to snap and, not wanting to subject his children to the same grueling process that he had gone through as a child, murdered his family. As such, he waited for his family to go to sleep. Once they had, he shot Mary in the back of the head and then slit her throat. He then slashed the throats of his children before pulling the gas line out and lighting a candle. He then poured gasoline throughout the house to cover up any evidence he may have left behind. Once all was said and done, Fisher and his dog, Blue, fled the scene.


This theory was more or less accepted by everyone (though I am unable to find out why no neighbors heard the gunshot). It also meant that Fisher’s plan had succeeded and as such: it gave him a ten hour head start to get away from the scene.


It was at this point that information began to rise to the surface about who Robert Fisher truly was. For starters: Fisher’s own mother also told authorities that she saw similarities with her son’s marriage to Mary and her own marriage to Fisher’s father. She had spoken to Mary about her concerns, which no doubt contributed to Mary’s decision to divorce Robert. Meanwhile, a close friend of Robert told police that Fisher’s family closely resembled his childhood family. An unnamed source—or at least one that I’m unable to find the name to—also told police that Mary had claimed that Robert would frequently yell and scream at Robert Jr. and Brittney. It was also stated that when Mary learned of Fisher’s affair, she kicked him out of the house.


On April 14, the Arizona Department of Public Safety issued a statewide bulletin for Fisher’s arrest—and it’s to date the only time one has been issued for the murders of Fisher’s family. There have never been any other suspects in their murders.


Six days later, on April 20, police got a lucky break when Mary’s SUV, a Toyota 4Runner, was found in a ditch near a cave. Immediately, authorities swarmed to the scene and deployed a specialized sewer camera to search the cave. To their dismay however, Robert Fisher himself was nowhere to be found. Blue, on the other hand, was found to be in the 4Runner and was no doubt happy to finally be out of the vehicle.


Police theorized that the SUV had been placed there as a red herring and to date: it’s the last physical trace that police have ever had of Robert himself.


Or was it?


If you’re to go by what some claim—and by extension, Wikipedia—police scanned the immediate area where the 4Runner was discovered. However, there are those that say they didn’t search the nearby cave network well enough. There have been several professional cavers who’ve come forward and said that Fisher may have used the networks as a hiding place for one of a few reasons. These include:


Using them as a place to hide before fleeing to another town or (more likely) another state.


Using them to hide before killing himself. He had considered this should he have ever lost his family and given he just murdered them, it’s possible he was wrought with guilt and wanted to kill himself now that he realized what he’d done.


Using them to hide before dying from a lack of oxygen. Whether this was by accident or deliberately in some sort of self-induced retribution is up for debate.


At some point during the manhunt, one of Fisher’s sisters—Jean—was quoted as saying the following:


“My brother loved his kids and his wife. A year ago, there’s no way I would have imagined any of this. I trusted my brother with my life. There’s no way I would have thought he would be capable of this.”


Jean—or Fisher’s other sister—also stated that she had no idea where he would have gone as he didn’t like to travel.


At yet another point, it came to light that at 10:45 P.M. on April 9th, a mere 15 minutes after the loud argument that neighbors heard, Fisher was seen on an ATM’s security camera at 74th Street and McDowell Road in Scottsdale. It was here that Fisher was seen withdrawing the maximum amount that was allowed: $280. The camera also showed that he was alone and using the Toyota 4Runner. As for why I mention this now: I cannot find a source for when this was revealed. This will be important later though.


Moving on though: on July 19th, a state arrest warrant was issued for Fisher in Phoenix. The warrant charged Fisher with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. Not long after this, a federal arrest warrant was issued by the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. This warrant charged Fisher with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.


The following month, in August of 2001, a phone call was made to America’s Most Wanted after Fisher’s case was aired. The call, which came from Chester, Virginia, is believed by Scottsdale police to have been made by Robert Fisher himself. However, this has never been proven and as far as I can tell: Fisher has no ties to Virginia. Given Fisher’s prideful nature though, it’s possible he did this as a way to taunt police and to have a sense of control over the investigation in some capacity.


Ten months later, on June 29, 2002, the FBI named Fisher as the 475th fugitive to be added to their Ten Most Wanted list and are offering a reward of $100,000 for information that leads to his arrest. Seventeen years later and Fisher remains on the list, now holding the #1 spot on the list. Although the position that one holds on the list doesn’t correlate to how wanted the individual is, I personally find it rather fitting. Fisher was also added to America’s Most Wanted’s “Dirty Dozen” list. As a side note: I also recall Fisher being ranked as “Public Enemy Number One” on the AMW website, though I never recall John Walsh—the host of the show—ever mentioning Fisher by that title. That said, Fisher was later profiled on The Hunt With John Walsh, a successor show to AMW that aired on CNN.


Since he was added to their Most Wanted list, the FBI has received “hundreds and hundreds of leads” in regards to Fisher’s whereabouts. Alas, all of these supposed sightings have either been fruitless or false. Around this time, Sargent Douglas Bartosh of the Scottsdale police department was quoted as saying the following:


“There's nothing to indicate he's taken his life. In fact, we don't want people to write him off and begin to think that's a possibility. Obviously, if people begin to believe that, then they're going to stop looking for him.”


FBI Special Agent Bob Caldwell echoed this sentiment in 2003, stating:


“My gut feeling is he's out there, he's alive and he's just avoiding public contact. He's pretty much disappeared off the face of the Earth.”


To this day, the FBI and Scottsdale police both firmly believe that Robert Fisher is still alive. Caldwell would later state that Fisher’s personality is, “Arrogant. He's cocky. He's a know-it-all… and a loner.”


Two years later, in 2004, a man who bore a striking resemblance to Fisher was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The man had an extremely similar facial structure, the same short haircut, a scar from back surgery, and even had a missing tooth where Fisher’s crown would be. Constable Tim Shields was would later tell Canadian reporters:


“in this case it's just not as clear cut as it normally could be. Things have become somewhat more complicated, and we're going to have to look at other means, even including dental records, to try and identify this man and determine if he is the man who we think he may be.”


Ultimately, while the man ended up bearing an uncanny resemblance to Fisher, the man’s fingerprints didn’t match Fisher’s and he was released from custody. As fantastical as this story may seem, stories like this have happened; doppelganger’s of fugitives have sometimes been falsely arrested due to their incredible resemblance to a man wanted for murder or rape.


Another two years later, in 2006, a hunter discovered a makeshift cabin within the national forest lands of Arizona. The cabin itself, which was illegally owned, was ultimately able to be traced to the owner thanks to a vehicle that was associated with it and it was ruled to not belong to Fisher.


Five years later, in 2011, the FBI and Scottsdale police enlisted the assistance of local cavers to check for any traces of Fisher, be they remains or otherwise. Nothing ended up coming of this and it’s likely that if Fisher had ever been within any of the cave networks, he was long gone or his remains were consumed by any wildlife that took refuge within the caves.


The following year, the FBI released a fifteen second home video onto their YouTube channel. The video is of Fisher walking, holding one of his children. You can view it here, however the video has no sound.


Two years later, the Scottsdale police department asked Arizona Game and Fish employees, and their associates, to keep an eye out for anyone who may have encountered Fisher. Nothing’s yet come of this.


The following year, in October of 2014, police in Colorado arrested two individuals after they acted upon a tip that Fisher was in Commerce City. John Jacoby, who was 44-years-old at the time, and Andrew Hurtando, who was 39, were taken into custody for intention to distribute a schedule two substance, obstruction and possession of an illegal weapon. However, despite the tip stating that Fisher was in the city, the two men were in no way connected to Fisher.


In April of 2016, on the 15th anniversary of the murders, the FBI and Scottsdale police released age-enhanced photos of what Fisher may look like today. Take a look.



With the release of the new photo, the FBI ended up seeing a surge of tips. The Supervisory Special Agent, Lance Leising, was later quoted as saying:


"There have been a ton of tips, It's not known yet if any of those tips will be promising. But we follow the facts, so we don't dismiss anything."


Leising later went on to state the following:


“We've gone back to the very beginning, where it all started. We've gone back and scrubbed the case—every interview, every report that was done, every item of evidence that was found. And we start with each one to see if there is anything we've glossed over or missed. So we're working on that now.”


Leising went on to state that there are still several theories as to what happened to Fisher. In one final quote, he explained why they were still pursuing Fisher after 15 years.


"We work these cases for the victims, The FBI doesn't forget. We're gonna keep him on this 'Top Ten' list ‘til we feel like we've exhausted all means to find him, or prove he's dead."


With that, the story of Robert Fisher comes to an end—or at least that was the last time the case was updated in some capacity. To date, there has never been an adequate lead that’s lead to anything of substance. There’s never been a body discovered, nor have there ever been any remains. For all intents and purposes: Robert Fisher vanished without a trace. There are a few theories however, so let’s take a look.


Theories


1. Fisher is alive


The first and perhaps the most commonly accepted theory is that Fisher is alive and well, living a quiet life in a small town. After committing the murders, Fisher likely fled to a small Arizona town—or out of state—and settled down as a man of God; becoming a member of the local church, holding a menial, but steady, job, and potentially even remarrying. It’s also likely that Fisher changed his appearance (possibly growing a beard).


I mentioned some evidence for this theory during the story. Fisher was seen after the murders, having withdrawn some money and eating breakfast. However, he also abandoned his truck. Given that he was an outdoorsman, it’s likely that Fisher wanted to throw the authorities off his trail by going out into the wilderness; off the radar and potentially living a nomadic lifestyle for a bit as they searched the town and surrounding area[s] near where he lived. After that however, it’s open season on where he went, what he did, and how he went about surviving.


As I stated earlier in this write-up: since Fisher began his life on the run, there have been plenty of sightings of him, but none have been fruitful in the slightest. This isn’t uncommon when it comes to sightings of fugitives. There are instances of mistaken identity that happen quite often. Others do it in the hopes that maybe they’ll get their fifteen minutes of fame. Some even do it as a prank. However, the number of false sightings of Fisher, and the lack of anything of substance to come of it, has led some to suspect that maybe Fisher never did survive. This, in turn, leads into our second theory, and it’s one that’s fairly popular itself.


2. Fisher died after fleeing


Let’s face it: the Arizona desert isn’t a place that one would willingly go out into unless they were either insane, desperate, or had the proper equipment to survive it. During the day, it’s blisteringly hot and you’ll succumb to the heat rather quickly. At night, the temperature drops like a mob victim into the local river.


For this particular theory, I’m going to cite a Reddit comment—not the best of sources, but they make a decently comprehensive listing of why they believe Fisher is now dead. If you want to view the entire comment, click here.


The commenter—whose account is now deleted—states that they personally believe Fisher to be dead and that they don’t believe Fisher’s disappearance was at all planned. Their first bit of reasoning is that Fisher only took out a mere $280 from the ATM. This is an oddly specific number; the daily limit is generally around $500, but can be significantly higher depending on the bank and what their credit is. If Fisher had planned to go on the run, it’s likely he would’ve withdrawn his maximum limit and hit the road. That is, unless Fisher had intended on taking his own life. The commenter states that it’s possible that Fisher had intended to do this and wanted enough money to find the right place and time to do so.


Their second bit of reasoning is a statement made in a documentary on Fisher that states he was an “outdoors expert”, one who could’ve lived for months out in the wilderness. The commenter’s counterargument to this is one Fisher’s disability: his lower back injury. Within the same documentary, Fisher’s family, friends, and doctor all say that Fisher was in no condition to be capable of living outdoors long-term, let alone a single day. 


The commenter’s third argument I mentioned early on: Fisher had been living off of disability checks and his wife’s own income. Most murderers—serial or otherwise—generally take up work doing manual labor or take up a job similar to the one they had prior to becoming wanted, though under a new identity and look. Unless Fisher by some miracle found a way to acquire a sustainable amount of money to survive, it’s unlikely that he was capable of filing for disability without being caught.


The final bit of reasoning the commenter gives is one that they freely admit they may be stretching with. They say they don’t believe that Fisher didn’t plan the murders long in advance. According to them, the documentary “painted Fisher as an angry philanderer who hated his wife and plotted her murder for years.”


While it is true that he cheated on his wife, that was a decade prior to the triple homicide that Fisher committed. In fact, the two had gone to counseling and mended fences. As such, the evidence against Fisher being a cold, calculating psychopath isn’t exactly strong; the closest you can find of him being an aggressive, meanspirited man is a video where he says demands his wife telling his wife to turn a video camera off, not desiring to be filmed. Fisher’s portrayal as a consistently angry man has been contested by Fisher’s wife’s family, who say that he was a generally happy person who was troubled by the pain his disability brought upon him. Whether or not this is entirely true, I personally can’t say for certain; Fisher could’ve easily masked his real personality behind a convincing persona.


The argument presented here is from one individual however. There are others that generally believe that Fisher likely tried to flee through the wilderness, desert, or somewhere else and ultimately succumbed to the elements thanks to his disability, the elements, or even wildlife. However, there’s never been any skeleton or even a single bone that’s been found to prove that he did so. For all we know, he hitchhiked his way to another part of Arizona or even another state.


2a. He committed suicide


A subcategory of Fisher having died, this one posits that he didn’t succumb to exposure of the elements or something else along those lines. Rather, Fisher ultimately took his own life out of cowardice or guilt.


This isn’t implausible to a degree, though the biggest issue I have with it—and the issue that others often have—is Fisher’s personality is one of immense pride. He would do anything and everything to ultimately be the victor in any sort of situation. As such, it doesn’t really seem logical that he would take his own life. However, should Fisher have felt boxed in or felt defeated, he may have died at his own hands. Exactly where however is a mystery.


3. Fisher was innocent and was instead a victim of murder himself


This theory is a bit unique and goes against the generally accepted version of events. However, it’s not technically implausible to a certain degree. The idea is that Fisher wasn’t the killer, but rather a victim himself. This is in spite of the supposed reports of him afterward; some chalk that up to mistaken identity.


Now exactly why he was a victim is a bit murky. Perhaps it was a robbery gone wrong. Perhaps Fisher had some unpaid debts that he kept a secret. Or perhaps he pissed off the wrong people (this is the most convincing in my eyes given his personality). However, this is merely speculation and isn’t generally accepted as a serious theory in the long run. It is food for thought to some though. Fisher has been on the run for nearly twenty years and there’s never been a solid lead in that time. So perhaps he was disposed of by his killer—or killers—in the Arizona desert.


My Take


If I’m to be perfectly honest: I’m not sure what I believe in regards to Fisher’s ultimate fate. I think it’s possible that he’s still alive and that he may have died—be it out in the Arizona desert, a forest somewhere, or under a different name from some unknown circumstances.


Fisher’s health problems dictate that him living a nomadic lifestyle would be very difficult and impractical. I’m also doubtful the man would’ve been capable of living somewhere locally to where the crimes took place. Rather, I think he would’ve moved to a remote or rural location, likely become a member of a church, and has become a beloved member of the community. Although his sister says that Fisher didn’t like to travel, I don’t think he’s in Arizona should he still be alive. I’d personally suspect him to be in New Mexico or Nevada, though the FBI has said that he has ties in Florida. I think he could’ve moved as far as Kansas, Montana, Idaho, or the Dakotas. I believe this since Fisher likely would’ve felt the heat of the FBI adding him to their most wanted list and the general intensity of the search[es] by law enforcement.


Does this mean that I believe he’s alive though? No, this is merely speculation on my part. It’s entirely possible—even a bit plausible—he died. His actions after the murder don’t scream the intentions of a man who was going to travel hundreds or potentially even thousands of miles (should Fisher have gone to the east coast by some off chance) to escape local law enforcement searches. Though his prideful nature doesn’t fit the bill of a man who’d either give up or take the easy way out of facing justice. At least, not so quickly.


If I had to pick one of those two options though, I’d say I lean towards him being alive. His personality isn’t one that would concede so easily. I also don’t think he was at all the victim of murder himself—nor do I think he’s remarried, though that’s up for debate if he‘s still alive.


Conclusion


Robert Fisher embodies a different kind of evil in my eyes. It’s one thing when you read the story of Ted Bundy and what he did to his victims. In the long run, Bundy had no emotional connection or attachment to his victims; they were merely targets that he picked. The same goes for numerous murderers—serial or otherwise—out there.


Fisher on the other hand didn’t randomly pick his victims. They were his family; his wife and two children. They were people that, for all intents and purposes, he loved the most. Yet, he didn’t just murder them and flee. He murdered them and blew them up like they were nothing more than disposable trash. His actions are, in my eyes, among the worst and most inhumane I’ve ever read. The man is—or perhaps was—a monster. If he’s still alive, I pray that he hasn’t remarried.

If you have any information that could lead to the arrest of Fisher, I suggest clicking here and submitting a tip. If you know him personally—or believe him to be living near you, it’s highly recommended that you do not approach him or attempt to apprehend him on your own. He’s believed to be armed and extremely dangerous.

1 comment:

  1. Tyler "Bio" RodriguezDecember 8, 2019 at 11:22 PM

    I can definitely see evidence of him being dead. Abandoning the car and no reports of stolen vehicles are telling. But as you said, hitchhiking is a possible solution. I say he either died not long after the murders or is still alive. There is a precedent for both. Since the FBI strongly thinks he is alive, I'll defer to them. I do hope he is found one day.

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