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10 Years Later, Still No Trace of Suspected Killer

I usually keep it light here. You get some nice stories about Arizona or travel or mountain biking stories. But now and then, something comes into my mind and I have to share it. So I’m taking us back nearly 10 years to April 10, 2001.

Back in those days, I’d roll into the Scottsdale bureau of the East Valley Tribune around 9 a.m. There, I’d cover a crime beat encompassing Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Fountain and bits of Phoenix.

Yeah, it was hardly East L.A. But we’d just had a freaky spate of violence. I was riding herd on investigations for an execution-style home-invasion murder and a murder-suicide. That’s in addition to the usual relatively goofy stuff.

That morning, I stepped outside my door and saw helicopters, swirling air beneath their main rotors, jockeying for the best shot of a scene. They weren’t far away. I don’t even remember whether I called the newsroom. Probably did, because “ya got art?” is the first question editors ask about breaking stories.

I drove my truck just about a mile away to the scene of a house blown to shreds. A sturdy 1960s tract home blasted into splinters, shattered block, smoldering metal. I started taking notes, tracking down neighbors who were willing to talk, working my way through a thicket of police and fire spokespeople.

The night before, Robert Fisher had lived there with his wife, Mary, and their children.

What I learned over the next few days is summarized (somewhat sloppily, but well enough) on Wikipedia:

On the morning of April 10, 2001, Mary Fisher was shot in the back of the head and her children’s throats were slashed from ear to ear in the hours before their home exploded.

Firefighters were immediately alerted due to a natural gas explosion and fire in a Scottsdale house. The explosion ripped through the ranch-style house in the 2000 block of North 74th Place at 8:42 a.m. The blast appeared to be centered in the living room, and the subsequent fire burned the house into rubble. The initial explosion was strong enough to collapse the front brick wall and rattle the frames of neighboring houses for a half-mile in all directions.

Rural/Metro Fire Department firefighters were on the scene within minutes and kept the 20-foot-high blaze from spreading to neighboring houses. A series of smaller secondary explosions, believed to be either rifle ammunition or paint cans going up, forced firefighters to keep their distance. One firefighter suffered minor injuries to his leg when he lost his balance and fell near the burning house.

Evidence of the homicide had allegedly been tried to be concealed by pulling out the gas line from the back of the home’s furnace. The accumulating gas was later ignited by an ignition source, possibly the pilot light on the water heater. Burned bodies of a woman and two children were found lying in bed in the remains of the house. The victims were identified as Mary Fisher (aged 38), and her two children, Brittney Fisher (aged 12) and Robert “Bobby” William Fisher, Jr. (aged 10). Investigators have considered that Robert Fisher murdered his family because he felt threatened with his wife’s intent to divorce. Despite their marital difficulties, he vowed that his marriage would never dissolve.

On April 20, the last physical evidence of Fisher’s whereabouts surfaced, when police found his Toyota 4Runner and dog “Blue” in Tonto National Forest, a hundred miles north of Scottsdale.

Fisher is considered armed and extremely dangerous and has ties to Florida and New Mexico. He has been speculated to have committed suicide or started a new life under an assumed identity. Fisher has been described as a loner and is thought to live alone in an isolated area.

Obviously, not a great guy. The Wikipedia story links to many articles from The Arizona Republic (The Tribune was even more stubborn and turgid in failing to harness the Internet than other newspapers, thus making its competitor the de facto paper-of-record. Today, it’s a shadow of its former scrappy self.). Read the entry and those links for a portrait of a truly vile person.

Every time I see a reference to a captured Arizona fugitive, I feel hope that it’s Robert Fisher – finally! But here we are 10 years later.

And still I’m waiting to see him get hauled in.

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