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True crime. Casually done.

Most Wanted: Robert William Fisher

At 8:42am on Tuesday the 10th of April, 2001, the residents of North 74th Place in Scottsdale, Arizona were rudely awakened by a thunderous alarm clock; a massive gas explosion tore through the Fisher family home at number 2223, sending flames spewing from the windows.

The blast was so powerful, it blew out sections of the brick walls, and rattled the windows of every house in a half-mile radius.Neighbours dropped their morning toast and ran out to see what was going on. They found the entire single-story house engulfed in flames.

It just like blew up!” One of them told a 911 operator.

Were there people inside the house?”

Yes there were, and they’re probably dead.”

With the house entirely engulfed in flames within seconds, it was unlikely any of the family of four inside stood a chance. Firefighters arrived to find the next door neighbours attempting to keep the 6 meter tall blaze away from their own homes with garden hoses (not much better than ‘pissing on a bonfire’ but I admire their enthusiasm).

It took an hour longer for the professionals to extinguish the blaze, after which the Fisher house was just a smouldering pile of rubble. Then began the grim business of checking what was left of the inside. Even for a seasoned fire investigator, it would have been a tough sight to bear.

Lying on one of the beds were the remains of Robert Junior (or Bobby), just ten years old when he passed. Next they found his 13-year old sister, Brittney, also still in bed. And lying in the master bedroom, was the body of their mother, 38-year old Mary Fisher. Only three out of four were accounted for — the father, Robert Fisher, was unaccounted for.

And since, with your uncanny powers of observation, you’ve already noticed that his name is the title of today’s episode, I reckon you can work out where this is headed. After hours of picking through the rubble, Robert Fisher’s remains were nowhere to be found. Even more suspiciously, the cops discovered he had skipped out on work that day with no explanation.

Then, when the bodies of his wife and kids were moved to the morgue, the full horror of the situation became apparent: it wasn’t the explosion that killed them at all. Hours before their suburban home was blown sky high, they had met an even worse fate at the hands of the man meant to protect them — a man who would soon become one of the most infamous murders ever to grace the state of Arizona.

This is the story of the hunt for Robert William Fisher, the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitive #475.

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The Powder Keg

powder keg
Powder KEG illustration. By Pi3.124, is licensed under
CC-BY-SA

Before he was added to that rogue’s gallery of the USA’s most dangerous criminals, our missing man was — as is often the case with blood-curdling murderers — a thoroughly ‘normal guy’. A navy veteran and devout Christian, on the outside Robert appeared like your average ‘all-American’ family man.

He was born on April 13th 1961in Brooklyn, New York, and family moved to Tucson, Arizona when he was young. After graduating from Sahuaro High School, he went on to serve as a Petty Officer on a warship in San Diego. However, that was never his dream job; Robert always dreamed of being the best of the best — a chest-thumping, ‘hoo-rah’-ing Navy SEAL.

And according to my extensive research (ie: watching the occasional war movie over the past 20-odd years), becoming one of those is actually somewhat difficult. When he attempted the intense trials required to join the special forces, Robert never quite made the grade — a blow to his ego that he would never recover from.

So after being discharged in 1982, he returned to civilian life to work as, of all things, a firefighter. Which as you might guess, requires a pretty in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of domestic gas explosions… But for now, Robert was quite content just fighting fires, not starting them.

It was around then that he made the acquaintance of one Mary Jean Cooper — a deeply religious young woman from Chicago, who went to the same baptist church as him. They would eventually get married in 1987, with their first kid Brittney following soon after, and Robert Junior joining them in 1991.

By the time their second-born came along, they had settled into a life of domestic bliss at a peaceful, ranch-style home on North 74th Place, Scottsdale (the setting of the explosive start to our story). On the surface, they were so normal that it’s honestly quite tough to flesh out their biography.

Robert started working part-time as a cardiovascular technician and respiratory therapist at the local Mayo Clinic, and spent his weekends off in the woods hunting and fishing (despite the lingering back injury that ended his firefighting career). Meanwhile Mary poured her energy into looking after the kids at home, and helping out at the local church. One of her best friends Lori Greenbeck said of her:

Mary was very easygoing, she was easy to be friends with, always willing to help. We were the Girl Scout leaders together for our girls’ troop. She really enjoyed doing activities with all the kids. She and Robert came to functions together and they both participated with the kids’ functions.”

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Drill Sergeant Dad

But behind that rosy facade hid a deeply unhappy household. Dad Robert appears to have taken out his frustrated military ambitions on his wife and kids, by turning their house into a domestic boot camp. As the self-appointed drill sergeant, he was incredibly strict about the way the house was kept, and would take every opportunity to undermine Mary.

He once allegedly even hosed his wife down in the garden as a punishment for perceived insubordination. In case anyone out there needs to be told this: do not, under any circumstances, turn a hose on your spouse (I mean, unless they’re on fire — I guess, that’s the one exception).

Robert Fisher clearly had a pretty messed up idea of how a marriage should be, which can potentially be traced back to his own parents’ divorce when he was 15 (another thing he seemingly never got over).

But I doubt his kids were complaining; when their dad did choose to spend time with them, it wasn’t all Disneyland and ice cream — he once tried to ‘teach’ them how to swim by throwing them both off a boat into a lake! Mary’s friend Lori Greenbeck described the kind of guy he was:

I can’t even say that Robert wasn’t normal. He wasn’t a bully, but he was the king of his castle. That was just their relationship.”

No Lori, he was not normal. If you think so, then maybe you want to take a look at your own marriage. It’s abundantly clear to me that the man was an emotionally and psychologically abusive cock. And apparently the thought of losing this control of his own little world was, to him, the worst thing imaginable

And although our domineering dad was a stickler for order and discipline when it came to others, it turns out he had some pretty severe problems with self-discipline…

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Burning Love

A few years before Robert’s disappearance, Mary actually kicked him out of the house when he revealed to her that he was having an affair. Several reports suggest that he didn’t come clean willingly: it was the fact he contracted an STD from this other woman that forced him to spill the beans. The raging hypocrite of a man reacted by retreating to the mountains on a camping trip, telling his friends he would rather die than lose his wife and kids.

Perhaps out of fear of what he might do to himself, Mary agreed to take him back a few days later, on the condition that they go to marriage counselling with their pastor, Gregg Cantelmo. He said of the couple: “They didn’t have any unique problem that was different than anybody else in the church.”

Again, if all the men of Scottsdale are having affairs, hosing down their wives, and trying to drown their children, then the city really has bigger problems than we have time for today. Regardless, with their pastor’s guidance, Mary and Robert managed to dodge divorce, but their marriage was still as tempestuous as ever.

Then towards the end of the year 2000, it appears as if our devout husband once again gave into the temptations of the flesh again! Several news articles report that in the winter of 2000, Robert told his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic that he had contracted another STD, this time from a prostitute from a massage parlour.

Which makes me wonder, have you ever heard of condoms Robert? They’re these brilliant little latex socks which could have prevented all your troubles. I guess a Christian fundamentalist sex education skips over the finer points of massage parlour safety.

Thus, the world’s best husband and father once again found himself with an itch deep down in his nether regions, and panic brewing deep down in his chest; he was terrified that Mary would put 2 and 2 together, and this time, there would be no forgiveness. As I always say, give me chlamydia once, shame on you; give me chlamydia twice, shame on me… give me chlamydia thrice, and I should probably stop texting you while drinking.

Which brings us to the spring of 2001. The figurative powder keg was charged, the fuse lit, and every day it burned shorter and shorter. It appears as if Mary might have finally come to terms with the fact that Robert was not the changed man he claimed to be — in the weeks leading up to her death, she told several friends that she was finally looking into divorce proceedings. Which to Robert, was as good as the end of the world.

As I said before, he’d rather die than be separated from his family… or rather, he’d rather they die than go on with their lives without him…

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The Spark

On the 9th of April, a little less than 24 hours before that massive explosion would shake the entire neighbourhood awake, life went on as normal in the Fisher household. In the morning Robert left for his shift at the Mayo Clinic, and afterwards picked up Brittney from school.

Being a straight-A student, she was due to be inducted into the National Junior Honour Society at a ceremony later that day. While dad took Brittney to receive her award, mum accompanied little Bobby to a gun-safety class for kids (this is Arizona, after all).

Robert was apparently irate throughout Brittney’s induction ceremony, and forced his daughter to leave before receiving her certificate. She had spent enough late nights lying awake, listening to her parents scream at each other, to understand why.

Not long after he pulled up in the driveway, the neighbours heard him and Mary having at it once again — something they’d grown abundantly used to over the years. This continued all evening, peaking at around 10pm, soon after which the house went eerily quiet.

The exact sequence of events that transpired behind those doors is a mystery, but the long and short of it is this: Robert William Fisher — filled with fear, jealousy, and malice — massacred his entire family in cold blood.

He started with Mary, creeping in while she slept, and slitting her throat. In a horrific feat of overkill, he then fired a single revolver shot into the back of her head. Then he went to the bedrooms of his own children, and subjected them to a similar fate. Scottsdale PD detective John Heinzelman told ABC News: “They died brutally. […] both Bobby and Brittney had their throats slashed, almost from ear to ear.”

In Robert’s twisted mind, this was better for his kids than splitting up their dysfunctional household with a divorce. Solid logic Robert: I’m sure your kids would have hated having two Christmases, and not having to listen to their mum scream at you for contracting the clap for the umpteenth time.

Then, with his entire family lying dead in their beds, he then set to work on the cover up. Robert Fishergrabbed a 20 gallon canister of gasoline, and went room to room, dousing the floors and bodies. He then ripped the natural gas line from the house’s water heater, and lit a candle on the kitchen table.

Since natural gas is lighter than air, he knew it would slowly fill up the house over the following hours, gathering at the ceiling and working its way down until the moment it touched that little flame and then… Well, you saw what happened then…

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The Head Start

Just like the blast rumbled throughout the neighbourhood that morning, the news of these horrific murders soon shook the entire state of Arizona: there was a killer on the loose, to be considered armed and dangerous. Our fugitive child killer should’ve been at home celebrating his 40th with his family just three days after the blast, but where he actually commemorated that milestone birthday was anyone’s guess.

After killing his family and rigging the house to blow, our twisted fire-starter fell off the radar completely. Warrants were issued for his arrest on charged of first-degree murder, arson of an occupied structure, and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Absent from his house were a high-powered rifle, and a 38 caliber revolver.

A check of his credit cards revealed that the last sighting was at a gas station ATM at 10:42pm the night before the blast, where he withdrew $280. The cash machine’s camera caught footage of him taking out the money, wearing an Oakland Raiders cap, with his wife’s Toyota SUV in the background.

It’s not known if he had already carried out the killings by this point or not, but there’s a good chance we’re seeing him in the process of skipping town. If so, that meant he had more than a ten hour head start on the cops. Hardly ideal: with that much time on the road, he could be anywhere from San Francisco to Albuquerque. Or even, seeing as Scottsdale is just 3 hours from the border, deep into Mexico.

Meaning that, by the time the alarm was raised, it appeared as if he might have slipped through their fingers forever…

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The Mind of a Murderer

As Robert Fisher was beginning his new life on the lam, the reality of what he had done was just beginning to set in back home: ”I’ve been asked if I was surprised Robert had done this.” Mary’s friend Lori recounted. “But honestly, in those first days after the fire, it was just inconceivable to me.”

That’s because for normal people, the idea of murdering the people you love to ‘protect them’ is totally incomprehensible. But that’s exactly what the FBI’s psychological profilers believed Robert’s motive was.

Early on, federal investigators out of Phoenix lent a hand to the Scottsdale PD. They set to work creating a portrait of the suspect, hoping to predict his next move. What they discovered was that there were certain red flags showing all along (no shit).

On top of what you already know, an old friend of the killer’s said he was never the same after his Navy SEAL knockback, and took to organising military exercises in the woods with his friends, always desperate to impress them. This meant doing things like sneaking up behind a family having a picnic, and unloading his revolver into the air. Or shooting down an elk, then smearing its blood over his face for a picture. Not what you’d generally consider, good, wholesome banter.

Police believe he even once baited a stray dog into attacking his Labrador, just so he would have a reason to shoot it dead. Clearly there were some violent propensities bubbling below Robert’s quiet, emotionless demeanour.

Which is why to me, it almost seems like the whole thing was one big, sociopathic, malicious mid-life crisis: the jealousy whenever his wife talked to other men, the insults she made about his sexual prowess, the prostitutes, the angst from his failed military career — Robert Fisher was clearly a deeply frustrated man looking back upon a lifetime of failures.

And because he was also a total coward of a man, he was willing to burn it all to the ground just to take back some sense of control. So even though the potential of divorce may well be how he justified the murders to himself, it seems pretty clear to me that that’s just a story he tacked on after the fact, because even people who slaughter their whole family don’t want to see themselves as some kind of bad guy. A textbook narcissist like Fisher would find the ‘Angel of Mercy’ angle a lot more palatable.

But what do I know? I got my degree in forensic psychology from the University of Wikipedia. This is the Casual Criminalist after all…

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The Caveman of Arizona

But enough about my glaring lack of qualifications — let’s get back to the hunt. Now we know exactly what kind man we’re dealing with here, will the authorities be able to use that information to bring him in?

More than a week passed after the killings, with no indication as to Robert FIsher’s whereabouts. Several reports had come in from the night of his disappearance, including one from a truck driver who said he helped someone who looked like Fisher tow his car out of a ditch. Beyond that, not much else of use.

Ten days is plenty of time to reach basically anywhere in North America, but as it transpired, Fisher may have been closer to home than anyone expected all along. After ten days of dead ends, the cops got their first break: Mary Fisher’s SUV was discovered at a remote car park in the wilderness near the town of Young, about 90 miles to the northeast of where Robert was last seen.

The report came in after a group of campers had spotted the family dog Blue cowering underneath the vehicle, half starved to death. The only signs of the man himself were his Raiders cap, left on the passenger seat, and a pile of human faeces on the ground outside the door (as usual, a moment of silence for the poor forensic technician who had to deal with that).

As for the prior owner of said faeces, it appeared as if he must have abandoned his dog, and walked off into the Tonto National Forest: 2.9 million acres of rugged scrubland and mountain woods. After all, this was basically his home turf — he claimed to know the terrain in those parts even better than the native Apache people, whose reservation was situated just one mile from where the car was found. In fact, he and Lori Greenbeck’s husband rode ATVs in the same area one week before the murders, and she believes: “he was up there scouting it while they were camping.”

Not only that, he was an accomplished woodsman who had all the necessary skills to survive in the wilderness if need be. For a fugitive looking to start a new life off the grid, Arizona offers plenty of relatively comfortable housing, in the form of hundreds of limestone caves which are scattered over the landscape, many of them connecting in underground honeycomb-like formations. If you don’t mind the odd rattlesnake bite, they make for some pretty nice real estate: all the comforts that Palaeolithic life has to offer.

The question remained though: did Fisher intend to live in these caves, or was he planning to die there? After the car was found,one of the state’s biggest ever manhunts commenced, with 100 police officers joined by spelunking groups and hunters familiar with the land.

After a couple of days scouring the area, the cops found signs of recent activity at an easily accessible cave popular among local explorers. They secured a special kind of camera usually used for inspecting sewers to find out, but neither our murderous mountain troll nor his remains were inside. A further week of false alarms, and the search was called off.

Either Robert had gone so deep into the caves that he ran out of oxygen and will never be found; he was holed up in one of the hundreds of caves which weren’t searched; or he never actually went into the wilderness at all. Perhaps the Toyota in the car park, like the house explosion, was just another diversion…

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Wanted: Generic Human Male

Scottsdale Police Detective T.J. Jiran, who worked the case back then, believes it’s option 3. Not long after the car was found, he received a call which suggested that Fisher may have left those woods alive, and they could have been painfully close to catching him:

I got a call from a couple that was actually up there a few days before we found the truck, and they were on the Old Young Road. And as she passed him, she looked at her husband and said, ‘That looks like Robert Fisher.’ So, he walked out of there.”

Unfortunately, the couple sat on their hands and never reported the sighting, so Robert Fisher was able to slip through their fingers once again, and the cops wasted an entire week chasing their tails in the wilderness. All that spelunking for nothing.

Even if Robert was living in the woods for a while after the murders, it appears as if he eventually decided to take off (which would explain why poor Blue the dog was abandoned there — perhaps it was unable to follow when he got into another vehicle). That doesn’t mean the murder-suicide theory is wrong as such: maybe the killer initially planned on completing the final act of a murder-suicide, but wasn’t able to go through with it.

So where did he move onto next? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Or rather, the $100,000 question: that’s how much the FBI offered up as a reward when Fisher made it onto their Top Ten Most Wanted list the year after his presumed escape from Arizona.

Over the following years, he became a regular feature on crime-fighting TV shows like America’s Most Wanted, and a steady stream of tips came through as a result. But the problem was, loads of people look a lot like Robert Fisher.

You know when you create a character in a video game and it starts off with a default template for a human male? Well, that nondescript character is basically Robert Fisher: 6’1”, white, buzz cut, normal as hell.

Each time his face appeared on TV, generic white men across America were picked up by the police in case after case of mistaken identity. Like the time a guy was dragged off in cuffs from a pizzeria in Virginia a few years after Fisher’s escape, or later on when the cops kicked down an innocent man’s door in Colorado.

Each time one of these default adult males was arrested, Scottsdale held its breath, thinking the nightmare of the Fisher Family Massacre might finally be coming to a close. And every time, they were disappointed. Then came the most promising break of all.

Three years after the murder, multiple reports came in describing a man who fit Fisher’s description down to the very smallest detail. It was a compelling twist, because while most people assumed he would have fled south to Mexico, it appeared as if he had tricked them all by heading north instead…

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Cornered in Canada

On February 4th 2004, a team of three dozen Canadian SWAT officers (they’re like regular SWAT just a bit more polite) surrounded a house in the affluent town of White Rock, just one mile north of the US border. The day before, a local man had been browsing the FBI’s most wanted website, and discovered that his neighbour’s boyfriend looked a hell of a lot like a certain family-killing fugitive out of Arizona.

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team members, some armed with assault rifles, preparing for an exercise. By Oregon Department of Transportation,
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team members, some armed with assault rifles, preparing for an exercise. By Oregon Department of Transportation, is licensed Under CC-BY

A cluster of other sightings of the same individual had been reported from the Vancouver area in recent weeks, suggesting that Robert Fisher was living under a false identity as a Canadian citizen. It was his new girlfriend’s house — perched on a seaside hill, looking out over to American waters — which the cops besieged early that morning.

Fisher and his girlfriend were still asleep inside when they battered in the front door. A group of armed police stormed the ground floor, and the fugitive tried to make a break for it out the back, where more lay in wait. With a half dozen guns trained on his back, Robert Fisher fell to his knees, and surrendered.

Ladies and gentleman, we got him.

This time, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind: this was the guy, Robert William Fisher of Arizona. He looked exactly the same as he did during his past life, and even the key identifying marks matched up. This fake Canadian had a surgical scar on his back, exactly where Fisher was operated on after a back injury brought an end to his firefighting career.

And his upper-left canine tooth was missing — Robert Fisher’s had a golden crown (the exact sort of identifying mark you might want to haul out with a pair of pliers, if you were on the run). Even one of the killer’s own neighbours picked the arrested man out of a lineup, confirming his identity.

So you can imagine the excitement of Special Agent Bob Caldwell, the FBI’s lead detective in Phoenix, when he flew up to Vancouver to look his prey in the eyes for the first time. His three-year hunt had finally come to an end.

All that was left was to finish up the paperwork, and have this monster extradited home to face justice. Orso they thought…

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The Double Bluff

See, when Robert Fisher was brought in for booking at the jailhouse in Vancouver, the detectives hit a minor little road bump: his fingerprints — they didn’t match. The FBI had sent up a copy of Fisher’s old 1979 US Navy file for the Canadians for reference, but somehow the arrested man’s were different.

The Mounties could see the face of Robert William Fisher staring back at them from across the interrogation room, but somehow the data denied what was right there in front of their eyes. Impossible! They were 100% certain this was their guy.

And there was no sign at all that his prints had been intentionally altered (that would leave all kinds of scarring). For the top minds over at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, there was only one explanation for this strange turn of events. Prepare yourself for a twist that even M. Night Shyamalan would probably think is a bit over-the-top.

See, the more the RCMP looked into this man’s past, the more they started to believe he really was the person he claimed to be: a natural-born Canadian citizen. But that didn’t mean he was innocent of the Fisher Family Massacre, far from it.

See, from the years 1991 to 2001, there was a massive gap in this guy’s life story. In those years, the cops couldn’t account for his whereabouts, and neither could anyone he knew. Before and after that timespan, he had a verifiable history in Canada — multiple family members confirmed he was born and grew up there.

So what in the world was he up to when he fell out of sight for a decade? RCMP officer Tim Shields answered that question with a shocking revelation:

We have to cover off the very real possibility that this 45-year-old Canadian man had not moved to the U.S. and assumed another identity and actually had a family there before moving back to Canada.”

Yes, he’s saying it was actually this random guy who had been living in Arizona under the false identity of Robert Fisher! This would mean that the fingerprints on the Navy file were from the real Robert Fisher, who was now presumably dead or otherwise unaccounted for.

Whatever happened to the real man, this sneaky Canuck identity thief had taken his place, married Mary, and lived ten years of a fake life before murdering his family and returning to his old identity up north. Imagine living with someone for an entire decade and finding out they were Canadian the whole time — truly chilling stuff.

I don’t know about you, but my mind is well and truly blown. As was FBI Agent Caldwell’s… but for all the wrong reasons. He wasn’t so much blown away by the unexpectedness of this twist as much as its… utter, jaw-dropping stupidity.

Yes, I know I might have got you all hyped up with these mad revelations, so I’m sorry to inform you that none of it turned out to be true. Blame the Mounties — it was them that pushed the theory. When the press pressed Agent Caldwell on the possibility, he replied:

“That’s absurd. We know who Robert Fisher is. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He moved to Arizona, lived in Tucson for quite a long time. His family has all been here in the state of Arizona. We’ve tracked Robert Fisher throughout his life. His parents — we’ve had contact with them the whole time.”

Remember, Robert Fisher didn’t just appear out of the ether in 1991: he met his wife way before that. Even his eldest kid was born before then! So are we to imagine that some Canadian, who in this theory looks nothing like him, came down and replaced him without Mary or his parents noticing?

Of course not. You usually have to scroll down to the bottom 10% of the Reddit threads to find a theory this dumb. If anything, this little side plot to the story just proves the power of confirmation bias: some RCMP detectives were just so damn convinced they had the right man, they were willing to propose absolutely ridiculous B-movie plots to explain away the evidence.

In reality, it was just such an unfortunate coincidence that Fisher and this unnamed Canadian citizen — despite living separate, independently verifiable lives — looked exactly the same, had the exact same physique, got surgery on the exact same spot, and messed up the exact same tooth. They were essentially each other’s doppelgängers.

Since the less-evil twin was being held on an immigration offenses warrant, he was able to walk free after one week, when his fingerprints verified he was in fact a citizen.

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As Things Stand

But Callum,” I hear you ask. “What happened to the actual Robert Fisher? You just spent 10 minutes rambling on about the plight of some Canadian lookalike, but what we really want is justice, damnit!”

Well first of all, I apologize for misleading you, sincerely. And second, I’m sorry to inform you that that 2004 case of mistaken identity is as close as we’ve come to closure for the case. This April marked the 20th anniversary of the murders, and Robert Fisher is still out there — dead or alive, we don’t know.

That sighting by the couple up near the Apache reservation is perhaps the last time anyone saw him. Not for a lack of exposure, of course: Fisher has remained on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List that entire time, and there’s still plenty of buzz surrounding his case. Detective Heinzelman said earlier this year:

We still get tips on a weekly basis, if not daily basis. The tips we get vary from any number of things, it could be something as simple as, ‘I was looking at Facebook and I saw a person named Bob or Robert Fisher.’”

That’s some top tier web-sleuthing: read the most wanted list, search the names on Facebook, and wait for the reward money to come flowing in. But sadly, Fisher has even managed to evade these brilliant armchair Sherlocks.

In lieu of a satisfying conclusion to his story, let’s take a second to review the possibilities for where he is now…

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Murder-Suicide

One of the most popular theories, and probably the most anticlimactic, is the idea that Fisher may really have wandered into the woods way back in 2001, and ended his own life. You may think we’ve ruled that out already, by virtue of the fact that nobody has come across his remains in two decades, but it can’t be discounted completely.

After all, he had threatened to kill himself back when Mary kicked him out three years prior — this was the exact same area where he had contemplated suicide at that time. It would also explain why his bank accounts were never touched after withdrawing that measly $280. Even if he was spotted by that couple potentially leaving the forest, he could have returned to the area some time after the fact.

And you’ll remember that a search was conducted after the car was found, but there remains the fact that the wilderness up there stretches out for hundreds of miles; a completely thorough search would take years. If he really is dead and gone, Robert Fisher’s remains could be hidden deep inside some remote ravine, picked to pieces by animals until there’s not much left to find at all…

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The Troglodyte Life

However, some people maintain that our killer was probably too narcissistic to go through with ending his own life. With that in mind, another theory goes that Fisher, who knew the wilds of Arizona like the back of his hand, could have retreated from the world entirely after the murders, and is still living wild.

He would probably have known dozens, if not hundreds, of hiding places which he could move between to avoid detection (not to mention the fact that he’d be many, many miles from the nearest person most days). And to make matters more difficult, Detective Heinzelman said earlier this year: “The other part to that is, [the car was] less than a mile away from the Apache Indian Reservation. That is a sovereign nation that we don’t travel onto.”

The jurisdiction of the Arizonan police ends at the borders of that reservation, meaning that Fisher could have escaped from their influence by walking just one mile from where his car was abandoned. I’d wager that the killer was very aware of that little loophole, and used it to his advantage during his escape. But does that mean hecould still be there, chewing on squirrel meat and tapping the sap from cactuses to survive?

Some people believe so, but I think it’s a bit far-fetched to say he was living wild in the Apache Nation for any significant amount of time; the idea he’s still alive up there is probably little more than an urban legend.

Still though, if you happen to be planning a trip up into the wilderness to the northeast of Phoenix, Arizona, and you happen to spot some bearded Gollum creature crawling out the mouth of a cave with a rifle on its back, you may want to call the FBI.

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A False Identity

So let’s circle back towards the realm of plausibility once again, and consider the most likely scenario. It’s improbable that Robert Fisher would have settled into a life of a cave-dwelling prehistoric man for very long, especially given his bad back.

If he is still alive, it’s much more likely that he’s hiding in plain sight, with a different postcode, a different name, and a different appearance. Detective Heinzelman believes that Fisher: “[…] could be living in a small town, where he gets paid cash and he works as a handyman. Or he could be in a big city and blend in.”

According to the FBI there could be as many as 200,000 American fugitives living under fake identities like this, which means there’s a solid chance you’ve crossed paths with one at some time or another. Maybe you’ve even met Fisher himself — or lived next to him, or worked with him, or dated him.

And that doesn’t only apply if you’re living in the USA. Agent Bob Caldwell (the guy who went up to Canada to debunk the RCMP bodysnatcher theory) believes there’s a solid chance Fisher is in fact living abroad: maybe in Canada, maybe Mexico, or even somewhere in far-off South America. Consider the fact that in 2008, a group of tourists in Guatemala actually got in a bar fight with a man that looked a lot like him.

Could it have been our guy, living out his final years under the South American sun? If so, then I sincerely hope his cushy retirement is one day interrupted by the sweet sucker punch of justice. So, with that in mind…

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Wrap-up: The Wanted Poster

Wherever he is, it falls upon you the public to inject new hope into the hunt. Hopefully, in a few months or years, we’ll be doing a follow up episode on how this despicable child-killer was finally brought to justice for his crimes. Let’s run over the details one more time.

– Robert William Fisher is described on the FBI website at 6’1”, 190 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair (which in the old days was cropped short).

– Key identifiers include a surgical scar on his lower back, and a golden crown on his upper left canine.

– Due to lasting pain from the surgery, he’s said to sometimes walk with a strange posture, puffing out his chest: this may have exacerbated with age.

– In his past life, he was known to chew tobacco, particularly a brand called Copenhagen.

– And bear in mind that Fisher would have turned 60 this April, so add an extra 20 years onto any photos from the years preceding the crime. In 2016, the FBI actually released age-progressed pictures showing what might look like nowadays.

If that sounds like someone you know, then there could be a $100,000 reward in it for you!

However, I cannot stress enough, if you also happen to live in the Vancouver area, then there’s a solid chance you’ve just spotted that gap-toothed Canuck from before. Please exercise due caution before having the poor guy dragged off to jail again.

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And that just about concludes our coverage of the decades-long hunt for Scottsdale’s most notorious murderer, and one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted. Since the inception of that list in the 1950s, about 90% of those featured have been captured or otherwise accounted for, with around 60% being caught within a year of being added.

Which means that, with his tenure approaching the two decade mark, Fisher has the dubious honour of being one of its longest-featured members of all time. Here’s hoping his hot streak can be brought to an end soon.

That’s the least his family’s memory deserves, after having their lives cut short by the one person that was supposed to protect and care for them most, all because he was too cowardly to face the consequences of his own actions.

And lastly, please remember, if you’re currently googling the number for the FBI hotline to drop the tip that blows this case wide open, be sure to give us a namecheck in the report (if you’re feeling generous, a little cut of that $100k reward wouldn’t go awry either — let’s call it 50-50?).

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Dismembered Appendices

1. As always, I wouldn’t let you go without answering the question on everyone’s minds: what happened to Blue!? Well, when the 2-year-old Queensland Heeler mix was found approached by the cops, he was extremely irate: porcupine quills in his muzzle, circling the SUV, barking at anyone who came near. It took the soft touch of veterinarian Patti Blackmore to calm him down and tranquillise him. He then lived out the rest of his days “happy and healthy,” according to the vet. Nice to have one little happy ending, to plaster over all the horror.

2. You might also be wondering how Robert William Fisher’s 20-year stint on the Ten Most Wanted list stacks up against the all-time record. That belongs to a man named Victor Manuel Gerena, who took off with $7 million from his Wells Fargo armoured car job back in 1983. He was on the list for an impressive 32 years before being taken off, meaning that Fisher might be able to make a run for the record after another decade and a bit (I sincerely hope someone’s able to cut his streak short before then).

Useful Images

https://www.azcentral.com/picture-gallery/news/local/arizona-investigations/2021/04/07/look-inside-robert-fisher-fugitive-case-20-years-later/7081925002/

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