Voices, past, present, and future is going to take you into the life of Robert William Fisher. As I dive into the Most Wanted List, I am finding that more and more of these fugitives used to be or were part of the military or some version of the government. It brings up the question, in mind alone or maybe yours as well, that something happens in the mind of these people during their time in service that makes it hard, unusually hard, to cope with a normal life’s pressures. That their only recourse to troubles is what they were trained to do, elliminate the problem.
Robert William Fisher served in the United States Navy and then later worked as a firefighter and then in the medical field. For someone with this caliber of background it is hard to imagine the crimes he has committed against those he professed to love so much.
Fisher married Mary Fisher in 1987, and then they had two children, Bobby and Brittney. It is said they had a difficult family life. Fisher was described as being cruel and controlling towards his family, and on many occasions, he was reported as exhibiting disturbing and violent behavior. It is known that he was unfaithful to his wife at least once during their marriage. What is believed is that his own parents had divorced when he was 15, and that this was what had played the role in the difficulties that Fisher would later experience in his life.
On April 10, 2001 the Fisher family home exploded. Inside were Fisher’s wife and two children. Their throats had been slit and Mary had been shot in the back of her head. Robert Fisher and his wife’s car were missing. Fisher was named the one and only suspect in his family’s murders. Mary’s car would be discovered on April 20, in a forest near Payson, Arizona. On June 29, 2002 Robert Fisher would be named the 475th by the FBI on the Ten Most Wanted list and on November 3, 2021 he would be removed from this list, although he still remains a wanted fugitive.
As we take a look into Robert Fisher’s early life and what is believed to have played a part in the change in his psche to cause such haneous acts against his family, we find that his parents divorce may have been the trigger. For most, in the beginning a divorce is traumatic for children, but for Fisher, it had a lasting effect.
Robert Fisher was born April 13, 1961, in Brooklyn, New York to William Fisher, a banker, and mother Jan Howell. He has two sisters. His parents divorced in 1976, when he was 15, and after this , he and his sisters went to live with their father in Arizona. According to friends and relatives, the divorce had been turbulent and had a long-lasting effect on Fisher. He and his sisters attended Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Arizona, and Fisher’s friends from high school stated that he was “very bitter” about the divorce.
While Fisher worked at the Mayo Clinic Hospital, close to the time of the murders, he had reportedly spoke with co-workers about this parents’ separation, and confided in an associate that his life would have been different had his mother, Jan, not left the family.
Before the murders, Fisher had enlisted in the United States Navy and attempted to become part of the SEALS, but he was nont successful. He is said to be an avid outdoorsman, hunter, and fisherman. (again with the dating profile) Fisher later would become a firefighter in California, but later be forced to retire due to a back injury. Fisher would then move his family to Arizona and embark on a career in the medical field, where he worked as a surgical catheter technician, and respiratory therapist. He had been a surgical technician at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale at the time of these murders.
Fisher would marry, Mary Cooper in 1987, and be described as a cruel and distant control freak toward his family. He and his wife would often fight about sex and money, (typical of marriage problems). Mary would take a job, and told friends this was a “security fund”. It was said that Fisher at one point had taken a garden hose, turned it on Mary because he perceived her to have spoken out of turn. Fisher had been embarrassed by his son’s lack of enthusiasm for hunting and fishing, and had once tried to teach Bobby and Brittany how to swim by throwing them off of a boat. Fisher’s hunting partner, Sandy Gillespie said, “They were crying, and Brittany was screaming, anad he pulled them back in the boat and he said, ‘Now there, how’s that?”
Robert Fisher would not allow his the walls of the house to be painted anything other than white, and only a small number of pictures would be allowed on the walls. Mary’s friend, Kimberly Sue Davidson, had told the police, “Several times Mary had special things, like quilts, she was not allowed to hang them up. She had to store them in the closet. And then he would continually tell her, isn’t it time you got rid of this stuff?”
Fisher tried to hold on to an image as a devoted family man, although Mary’s mother, Ginny Cooper, told the investigators theat, “Fisher didn’t socialize often with family because of a fear of getting too close to people and losing them.” Fisher’s own mother, Jan, stated that she was a “yes-sir” wife who did not stand up to Fisher’s father. She had also stated that she had seen similar dynamics early on in Fisher’s marriage to Mary and that she did speak about her concerns. A close friend of Fisher’s stated that his family, Mary and the kids, bore a striking resemblance to that of his childhood.
I think back to some things that happened in my childhood. We all have something that resembles a traumatic event. I am thankful that I didn’t take the things my mother imposed on me as a young child and do those things to my own children. I took what I had been through and chose not to let my own children ever live a life like I had to live. While my memories are still very vivid and cause depression at time, I broke that cycle. I only wish Fisher had done the same and spared the lives of his family and just walked away.
What bothers me is that friends and family had noticed Fisher exhibiting disturbing behavior when he was a young adult. He had been an outdoorsman and hunter and friends noticed his behavior on hunting trips and other outdoor activities. In one case, after he had killed and Elk, Fisher began smearing its blood on his face. On at least one occasion, Fisher had sneaked up behind a family that was picnicking and emptied his gun in the air.
The acts of this one man do not stop here. Fisher, in contrast to Mary, had been an active participant in the Scottsdale Baptist Church men’s ministry, but began to withdraw from the activities just a few months before the murders. In 1998, he had gone to the senior pastor for marital counseling. He had told co-workers of a one-night affair with a prostitute he met while at a massage parlor, fretting that Mary would find out that this was the cause of a urinary tract infection that had left him ill for several days in December of 2000. Some of his friends stated that in 1998, he spoke of committing suicide because he despaired over the condition of his marriage. Wade Rencsok, a former neighbor, stated, “They screamed constantly. Everyone 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 hheard his wife screaming, things like, ‘ You’re worthless. I could have done better than you. We should get a divorce.”
According to psychologists, an intense fear of loss is not unusual among individuals who were traumatized by divorce in adolescence. Mary had told several friends that she was going to divorce Fisher in the weeks before the murders. Fisher had told a hunting companion that he was renewing his commitment to his faith and his marriage because he “could not live without his family”, possibly hinting that he would consider suicide over divorce.
Investigators theorized that Fisher murdered his family because he felt threatened by Mary’s intention to divorce him, and did not want Brittney and Bobby to go through what he did as a child.
While I could continue with the theories about his possible suicide or the possibility that he used his hunting and survival skills to live in the woods for a time after the murders, I would rather turn attention to the fact that we all know someone with a disturbing mental condition or someone who struggles with depression. While I feel that if I had gotten treatment for depression as a child and dealt with my traumatic events, I could have been a more social person earlier on in life and succeeded just a bit more than I have now.
I urge you, help your friends, your family, to seek help if they are in need. Help the children of your community to overcome and be who they should be and who they can be.
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