When the home of Robert and Mary Fisher burst into flames in April 2001, authorities initially believed it was a terrible accident. However, they would soon realize that they were looking at a homicide case and that Robert Fisher was the main suspect in the murder of his wife and two children. Despite a massive nationwide manhunt and thousands of tips, Robert Fisher has yet to be found.
Robert Fisher spent 20 years on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list and was featured 10 times on America's Most Wanted. The show's host, John Walsh, even referred to him as "Public Enemy Number One" in an episode. This list unpacks how then-39-year-old Robert Fisher, an average, church-going suburbanite from Scottsdale, AZ, allegedly turned into a family annihilator.
The Fishers Appeared To Be A Happy Family, But Those Close To Them Knew There Were Problems
Robert and Mary Fisher met at a Baptist church social before marrying in 1987 and having two children together. Fisher was known to speak fondly of his family to friends and colleagues, and his coworker Adam Trahan described him as "just a normal guy." However, both Fisher's mother and mother-in-law noticed his controlling behavior, which worsened over the years.
Robert and Mary would engage in volatile fights that neighbors could hear from outside. Robert was also described as being "awkward" around his children and avoided getting close to them.
Fisher had been deeply affected by his parents' divorce in his teen years and was said to be adamant about keeping his marriage together. However, those close to Mary knew she was likely going to ask Robert for a divorce.
On April 10, 2001, A Huge Explosion Rocked The Fisher’s Scottsdale Neighborhood
On April 10, 2001, around 8:42 am, the Fishers' home suddenly exploded in a burst of flames. The explosion was reportedly so powerful that it was felt in homes up to half a mile away. Police and firefighters arrived at the scene in minutes, and it was initially thought to be an accidental gas leak that caused the explosion. Firefighters couldn't even get close to the house at first as smaller explosions began going off and flames reached 20 feet into the air.
When the scene was finally safe to search, investigators found the badly burnt bodies of an adult and two children in the debris. It was reportedly unclear if the adult body belonged to Robert or Mary.
Authorities Eventually Identified The Remains Of Three Bodies
Further investigation determined that the charred remains firefighters had found belonged to 38-year-old Mary, 12-year-old Brittney, and 10-year-old Bobby. However, investigators would soon realize the explosion was not what killed Mary Fisher and her children. Mary's body had a gunshot wound to the head, and her throat had been slit. Both Brittney and Bobby's throats were slit "ear to ear" as well. It was clear police were no longer dealing with an accidental death but a triple homicide.
Investigators would later confirm the explosion was the result of the gas line to the home's furnace being disconnected. A lit candle was placed nearby, and the home was doused in an undisclosed accelerant.
Worth noting is that Robert Fisher was a former firefighter who had to retire due to a back injury.
Details About Robert's Marriage And Personality Eventually Began To Surface
As the investigation into Robert's disappearance unfolded, friends and family came forward with details about his controlling behavior. Police also learned that Robert had solicited a sex worker while visiting a massage parlor and contracted a urinary tract infection roughly two years before the murders. Mary reportedly threw Robert out of their home, but the couple subsequently went to their pastor for marriage counseling.
When detectives interviewed Robert's hunting friends, they said he would randomly shoot his gun into the air on hunting trips. There was also an incident where he covered himself in the blood of a deer he was gutting. Robert was known to own at least six guns and numerous hunting knives.
Police Used Security Footage To Create A Timeline For The Murders
Neighbors confirmed hearing Robert and Mary fighting on the evening of April 9 sometime between 9:30 and 10:15 pm. Less than 30 minutes later, at 10:42 pm, security footage caught Robert in an Oakland Raiders baseball cap withdrawing money from an ATM a half-mile from his home.
The security footage also captured Mary's Toyota 4Runner in the background, but no one else was in the car. For some reason, Robert only withdrew $280, an amount that remains a mystery to this day.
Some believe that Robert had already killed his family and was leaving town, while others think it's more likely he committed the murders afterward.
By April 14, Robert Was Still Missing And Officially Declared A Suspect
Authorities initially believed that Robert was already at work when the explosion occurred and had no idea that his family was dead; however, a call to the Mayo Clinic where Robert worked as a respiratory therapist confirmed he had not shown up that day.
Determining the explosion was not an accident also cast suspicion onto Robert. After authoritiews were unable to locate him and realized that one of his guns and some of his other personal items were missing from the home, Robert Fisher was officially named a suspect four days after the house explosion. At this point, the Arizona Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin to officers across the state to arrest him.
The Arizona Superior Court would go on to charge Robert with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. A federal arrest warrant was also issued by the US District Court of the District of Arizona for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.