Did Robert Fisher set off an explosion in his own house to kill his entire family?

Robert Fischer smiling

Wanted: Robert Fisher

Suspect:

Gender: Male
DOB: 4/13/61
Height: 6’
Weight: 190 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Brown
Defining Characteristics: Has surgical scars on his lower back and a gold crown on his upper left canine tooth
Remarks: Reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest

CASE DETAILS

A powerful explosion rocked a quiet residential neighborhood one morning in Scottsdale, Arizona. The force of the blast ripped through the roof of the house, causing it to burst into flames. Most of the home was destroyed before firefighters could contain the blaze.

Firefighters arriving at the scene of a house fire in a quiet residential neighborhood

An explosion set the house ablaze

The house was owned by Robert and Mary Fisher, who lived there with their two children; 13-year-old Brittney and 10-year-old Bobby Jr. When rescuers were finally able to get inside the house, they found the remains of Mary and the two children still in their beds. They appeared to have died in their sleep. But Robert was nowhere to be found.

Autopsies of the victims produced a stunning revelation: all three had been stabbed to death. Could Robert, the seemingly dedicated family man, have killed them? Detective John Kirkham of the Scottsdale Police Department was one of the investigating officers:

“Robert was a very private person. Outwardly, he was perceived as a good father and good husband, a church-going man. During the investigation, we found that Robert Fisher had a number of faces, a number of masks that he wore.”

A man crouching down breaking the gas line of a house

Police think Robert broke the gas line

Most people took Robert Fisher at face value, like his sister Jean:

“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.”

Robert and Mary met in high school and they’d been married for 16 years. Robert had served as a firefighter, until a back injury ended his career. Investigators learned that there had been tension between Robert and Mary following the injury. One day, Robert came to Mary with upsetting news; he was having an affair. Mary was shattered and asked Robert to leave.

News paper article titled "Massive hunt for Fisher"

A full scale manhunt turned up few leads

Robert headed north to the forests where he usually went to hunt. When he returned a few days later, he and Mary decided to go to counseling at their church. Robert had apparently suffered deep emotional scars after the divorce of his own parents, and he was determined that his children would not experience that same emotional pain. Myrna Bitzer is Mary’s sister:

“Robert had told my dad often that divorce was not an option. He would not be divorced like his parents were. Robert stated that several times.”

But Mary may not have shared those feelings, as Det. Kirkham discovered:

“We spoke with a very close friend of Mary’s and learned that she had confided in her that she was thinking about divorcing Robert.”

Neighbors told investigators that on the night of the murders, the Fishers had a loud argument. Det. Kirkham believes that if Robert did, in fact, murder his family, it may not have been pre-meditated:

“I don’t think that he planned that, ‘On this particular day, this is what I’m going to do.’ I think that it precipitated over a long period of time and there was that one thing that triggered it. And that could have been the argument.”

Two police officers armed with rifles patroling a snowy forest

Police searched the remote area

Could Robert Fisher have murdered his wife and children rather than put them through the heartache of divorce? The crime scene investigation uncovered intriguing clues. A disconnected natural gas line, an out of place candlestick holder, and the residue of some form of highly flammable liquid were all discovered.

Detectives began to piece together a chilling scenario of what happened on the night of the murders. The stabbing wounds clearly could not have occurred during the fire. Investigators theorize that several hours before the explosion, Robert Fisher slashed the throats of each of his children, and then his wife. In addition to having her throat cut, evidence showed that Mary was shot. Also, the fire was too intense to be caused by a gas explosion, leading to the speculation that some other type of flammable material was used. Investigators believe that after spreading gasoline around the house, Fisher disconnected the line leading to the gas furnace. Det. Kirkham:

“As a source of ignition, we believe that a candle with a candleholder was used as a timing device in order to allow Robert time to leave the residence. Robert committed the arson in order to cover up the murders, believing that the bodies would be burned beyond recognition, covering up any sign of what had happened. But it didn’t cover it up quite as well as expected.”

A full-scale manhunt for Fisher initially turned up few leads. Then, ten days later, Mary’s SUV, which disappeared on the night of the murders, was spotted by a hiker. According to Det. Kirkham, it had been abandoned near Fisher’s favorite hunting area:

“It was clean. There was no dust on it. It was underneath pine trees and there were very few pine tree needles on top of the vehicle or in the vehicle, which indicated to us that it had probably been dumped there within 24 hours of discovery.”

Investigators hurried to the remote area. But the landscape was riddled with hundreds of caves and days of searching produced nothing. But two theories did emerge. One, that a despondent Robert Fisher took refuge in one of the caves, where he eventually committed suicide. The other theory suggested that a cunning Fisher left the SUV behind to divert the attention of investigators and then vanished.

Robert’s sister, Jean, is left to wonder what became of her brother:

“Where would he be? How could he have gotten to where he would be? He didn’t take any money with him. And he would be in so much physical pain from his back. I don’t know if he did this. I don’t know how he could be alive, knowing how much my brother loved his family.”

However, Det. Kirkham believes Fisher is still alive:

“The vehicle itself was about a quarter of a mile off an improved forest service road. It’s a fairly active area with a lot of traffic. And there are various places that one could use a phone, catch a ride, that sort of thing. He has probably started a new life under an assumed identity.”

Mary’s sister, Myrna, also believes that Robert is alive:

“If Robert wanted to kill himself, he would have done it when he killed Mary, Brittney and Bobby, that’s my belief. So I do believe Robert is alive.”

Robert Fisher has been indicted for the murders of his wife and children.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season twelve with Robert Stack and in season eight with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina.

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64 Comments

  1. Nick

    I was reminded of this case after watching a truly awful documentary on the subject, 2011’s “Where is Rober Fischer” by Charlie Minn. Just a poorly made film, full of terrible self-inserts. Not exactly Herzog here is what I’m saying.

    Anyway, the documentary is worth a watch if only for watching a psychic eat it with bad predictions. She thought he would be caught in 2013. It is a master class in why psychics are grifters and why you should never involve them in a case. It’s nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

    Reply

  2. Stevie Miller

    Dont know why, but I feel like he went off to Canada. He could blend in, speak the language already, and it’s a massive country with much of it being wilderness and very untravelled. I see these Youtubers making shows about living off the grid and camping out in homemade shelters in the backwoods of Canada, and I always thought someone with survival skills is the only kind of person who could do that. It’s fairly obvious that there would be some kind of hurdles to this—notably that nobody can actually go without money and just live out in the middle of nowhere and survive. Honestly, I feel like he had to have more cash than what he did to be able to survive—he likely stashed some (probably from his massage trips to be kept secret). Staying in AZ would have been disastrous for him, especially in the direct aftermath of the crime—he would have been highly recognizable. Additionally, why would he even go through the trouble of hitting an ATM just to off himself? Some say he didn’t want the world to know he killed himself because of being a narcissist and then perceived as taking a loss—but for a narcissist to let an entire world know he killed his family with that level of ruthlessness would already be a loss taken.

    The proximity to Mexico is what I am sure many people thought when thinking about his escape, but he would stick out like a sore thumb as a pale gringo who isn’t a Spanish speaker. As opposed to a place like Canada where he would fit in, go unnoticed, and if he were to live in a very rural/backwoods kinda place, he would likely be able to survive with little to no attention—and be able to subside off odd jobs. Everyone keeps on talking about him as if he didn’t have to completely change his lifestyle to hide who he really is—I doubt he’s arrogant and cocky now, same as I doubt that he’s gonna be bragish—he is probably quiet, low key, and works odd jobs for cash such as being a ranch hand, handyman, or something of the like.

    I highly doubt he would have another family also, as doing so would be a huge risk for him to take—the chances of him getting into a relationship with someone and his identity not coming to light are slim. Not only would he have a hard time with being in a serious relationship and not being able to marry without proper documentation, but with this case being so high profile—him being able to keep the secret would be impossible.

    Reply

  3. C.R. Alsbrooks

    I remember this guy from the Navy many years ago. I have an exceptional memory of faces and have always had. I’m pretty sure it was the USS Jason. Fisher was one of several Seal drops who had been transferred to us from the Amphib base Coronado, Ca. where Seal training was conducted at that time. I spoke with him on several occasions or more. The guy looked sort of menacing, he stared at you as though he was looking through you, but was fairly easy to talk to. He was discharged to Florida, I think it was someplace in northeast Florida. I worked in personnel which is how our meeting came about.

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  4. Debbie

    Also could have been a hired assassin.

    Reply

  5. Debbie

    Someone else could have done it and kidnapped him or murdered him somewhere else.

    Reply

  6. Jonathan

    Some of you are dumb…..ties to Florida, still in AZ, get out dude. The dude has evaded capture for 22 years. He’s nowhere you think he is doing anything you think he’s doing. I promise you that.

    Reply

  7. Pam

    Sorry, but I heard he had many degrees like nursing with many modalities? I’m a nurse. Allot of employers do not do their background checks like they use to. I have ran into old nurses and doctors working under defaulted license or they traveled and came from other states, even fake doctors and nurses that never went to school or never passed boards. I had 26 licensure in the USA and was offered,begged, to go overseas also. One can work in many aspects of nursing and since there are not many men back then I thought I saw him, most likely not since I was in the st.Louis metro area. Soo many floaters, agencies, varieties, certifications , ect.. all police have to do, if they have not , is report and ask the federal board of nursing to check the fingerprint database since we use to get fingerprinted for certain states, wish they still required it. Nurses and doctors now can be jetted from one state or country to another seamlessly. Also, nurses have to do frequent drug test. If he has a back problem he might have been issued a positive test for prescription medications. BLood and urine also is typically taken in some jobs for routine physicals, this may require warrants to obtain. But, I’d give it a try if not already done. Alsoif were injured at work , like a needle stick o bite, human resource record would have his files on everything medical on him . Did this man have any identifying birth marks? Was he circumcised? I know they checked dental records. Also we have had nurses ide ties stollen, like I had happen once and used by con artist. If not caught most nurses do not know. Look up his name in every state database, all nurses licensure are public.

    Reply

  8. S. Smith

    Well this is abt 20 yrs too late, but abt a year after it happened I swore I saw him at a Walgreens in Phoenix at 43rd/cactus. I looked up (he was tall) right into his eyes. He was wearing a white short sleeved shirt & navy colored shorts. Hair was exactly the same. I was very creeped out but didn’t call in a tip becuz I said ‘it couldn’t be him”. At the time I knew ppl who worked at SWG who were on scene at the time & they were so traumatized by seeing the bodies in the rubble. I know that area around Payson/young, I used to live there. I believe he’s a smart survivalist who’s still alive & may never be caught.

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  9. Jim

    Does anyone know if search dogs were used to try to track him when they found the 4runner. Maybe the scent would have been too old, but if not it was a major blunder by the investigators not to use dogs to try to find him. I agree with the theory that he found a deep remote cave and killed himself. It’s been too long for him to live under the radar without someone finding him or for someone he knew not saying anything.

    Reply

    • Kevin

      Dogs are a standard method used in a manhunt. Wouldn’t doubt they already ran a full grid search through the area with cops and k-9s. Even then, someone would’ve found something after 20 years if he really was in those woods.

      Reply

  10. Lacy Barnes

    I remember that Robert Fisher had ties to Florida. Is this NAMUS person found in secluded woods in Florida in 2019 not him? Skeletal remains, sketch provided looks eerily similar to aged Robert Fisher. No one will listen to me about this. Check the link please… https://namus.nij.ojp.gov/case/UP65585

    Reply

    • Alex

      I’ve reached out to NAMUS to see if they’ve compared the remains to Robert Fisher / DNA testing

      Reply

    • Missa

      The unidentified is too short to be him

      Reply

    • Spencer

      I agree, a side by side looks very familiar look at the bridge of his nose and his left eye dna needs to be done on this.

      Reply

      • Alex

        They haven’t provided any update to me since I submitted it to them asking if they’ve tested the DNA for Robert Fisher.

        They said investigate teams are looking into it back in January 2023.

        Reply

    • G.F.

      Nice find! I believe this is worth looking into as well! I hope they do listen to you or the other who have commented and reached out. RE: people saying that it could not be him because he was wearing size 8 shoes… NO he was not, that is NOT what was said, and those kind of errors create further confusion. The shoes appear new and they were “found nearby”. That is an assumption that the shoes were his… for all we know, he acquired them, they were too small, and he tossed them nearby. This looks to be the best lead by far… well done, Lacy! My father was a former homicide detective and Police Chief… I believe in your discovery enough that if my father were still alive, I would ask him to look into it, but sadly he is no longer with us. Perhaps put this connection you found in front of them again, contact the Sheriff’s office for both cities in FL and AZ, contact CrimeStoppers, contact America’s Most Wanted, contact retired detectives who help victims, etc… you say enough via many avenues, you will find someone to listen!

      Reply

  11. Hockeyfan158

    Pretty sure this guy was my Uber driver ten days ago is there anyway i can contact Unsolved Mysteries to report this?

    Reply

  12. DDH

    Today is Saturday, April 10, 2021. 20 years ago today and Robert Willam Fisher still has never been found. Unbelievable. I think today is time to consider that he could be deceased. I think so because I cannot imagine how could he be hiding for so many years. He could have been found years sooner if he was alive hiding in the wilderness or elsewhere in plain sight. Remember Eric Rudolph? Ira Einhorn? John Milton Feiga was found dead and was dead the whole time I thought he was on the run. What happened to Feiga could be the same for Fisher that he could have been deceased this whole time. In addition, I don’t believe in psychics.

    Reply

  13. Hunter J

    I hunt that area exclusively. Nowhere else. I’ve been up, down, in, out and around that entire area often. And did so a ton in that timeframe. We would park my Polaris and hike, sometimes 20+ miles into the country. I’ve explored caves, abandoned mines etc and never have I seen any evidence of someone having been there. Not to mention that water can be sparse and would require him to come down closer to the town of Young which is filled with retired police and hunters. He got a ride out of there abs I think his sister knows a lot more than she’s leading on!

    Reply

  14. gw

    what if he was not the one who killed his family think about it
    what if he was forced to kill his family. one of the many reasons I think this is the way the car was if it was why leave the mug or even clean the car of his prints and any other DNA. if someone told him what t do treating other people or even his life he would comply with what he was told to do with the bad back so he was the one who did it but was forced to

    Reply

    • Steven Seagull

      what difference does that even make? that would mean he still did it, that doesn’t magically absolve him of any crime and I don’t know about you I’d rather be killed than kill my own family, I couldn’t live with myself after. He wasn’t forced, he had a motive, his wife was leaving him for his infidelity and he couldn’t stand that

      Reply

  15. Evie

    It took 17 years to catch John List. If Robert Fischer is still alive, they will catch him. At least I hope so. You know he did it, now it’s time for him to serve his time incarcerated.

    Reply

  16. Joey Bats

    How did they not take DNA from the guy they arrested in camera who even his MOM said “that’s my son.” Also, why was the name and photo of the person that was arrested never released to the public? Are arrest records in Canada public? Something real shady here..

    Reply

  17. Tracy Zehnder

    I know him. He. Is. Alive.

    Reply

    • Maximilian

      Surrrre you do. Okey Doke.

      Reply

    • G.F.

      And IF that is true, then it is your duty as a humanitarian and citizen to report what you know. You can do so anonymously. But to comment as you have without providing what you know to the appropriate agencies can only be construed as nothing more than attention-seeking. Do the right thing.

      Reply

  18. John

    Hope this “man” is caught soon. I’ve been following this case for years to see if he’s been caught. This case really gets me because when the murders occurred I was a student in middle school and one of my teachers was Bill Cooper. Mary’s father, and the kids grandfather.

    Reply

  19. KG

    A poster called “anonymous” posted on 5-17-17 that they believe he’s in Dallas Texas. How curious, considering a man matching the description of one of his age enhanced photos (with a grey beard) tried to apply for a credit card in a hardware store in Alabama. On the application he listed his last address as 2223 N 74th, in Scottsdale Az. (Robert Fisher’s address prior to blowing up his house). He got nervous evidently when the application process took too long and left the store. He was seen driving a Chevy Silverado pickup, with Texas plates.

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  20. DSL

    I think he used that $280 to board a bus in Payson. Investigators should look at routes and the price of one-way tickets back in 2001. He’d probably keep some cash on him for motels/food/etc., or he might have just slept in shelters until he was able to find a job. I bet he’s not as far away from Scottsdale as everyone thinks. His sister said he hated to travel. I bet he’s within one or two hundred miles of the scene.

    Reply

    • J

      There is no bus service in Payson. But, I believe he spent some time here. I remember hearing of some sightings during the days before they found his 4 Runner.

      Reply

  21. DJ

    I feel that Robert’s sister knows more than she’s telling and that her state of disbelief is either a ruse or is overplaying it.

    Reply

  22. Tom

    I am very dubious about the possibility of Robert Fisher still being alive. In the Tonto National Forest, there are caves all over the place, the overwhelming majority of which have never been searched by authorities; only a few in the relatively immediate vicinity of where his SUV was located. He could have easily wandered much farther, if he was so inclined, and shot himself inside a more distant cave. In the documentary produced about this incident, experts agree that there are many caves in the area where the sound from a gun shot, made in a suicide attempt, would not be heard for any substantial distance from such a cave. Over the years, the local wildlife would have consumed most of his remains. At least, this is my speculation. The money he withdrew from the ATM would not be enough to keep him going for very long. He had military training and, most probably, survival training. However, today this man would be about 57 years old, supposedly living off the grid for some 17 years. If you’ve ever tried to do such a thing, then you know how difficult and precarious such an undertaking actually is, even for a relatively short period of time. Yet there have been no other traces found in the area that might indicate that some other human was actually attempting to live there or in the vicinity of where his SUV was located. I cannot say that his escape and re-integration into some other community is impossible. Certainly, it is possible. However, I think it more likely that he probably killed himself not long after he abandoned his dog and SUV in the Tonto National Forest and the remains of his body are lying in some remote as-yet-unexplored cave.

    Reply

  23. Jay

    This guy looks just like James Franco (the actor)

    Reply

  24. Anonymous

    I had this strange dream , that I was hiding in a house and RF was sitting there and all at once his eyes got really cold, like you mentioned. But before that he seemed really nice like a basket ball coach, and he was in an old house ,1950, and I woke up. A couple of weeks they tore the house down and 3 years later they still havent built anything there. I think that ,also that he didnt take lots of money ,only because he desirs to be poor, probably he moved back to san diego, and runs over t o mexico on the weekends.

    Reply

  25. Anonymous

    Dallas, Tx

    Reply

  26. Anonymous

    Why don’t you mention Blue, his dog, was found with the SUV? WHAT HAPPENED TO BLUE? Did family members keep him?

    Reply

  27. K

    I went to school with Bobby and Britney and played on the same basketball team as her. I remember them being very quiet, well behaved children and very bright. I watched their house burning live on the news early morning in Scottsdale where we lived and it seemed like it took forever for the fire fighters to put the blaze out to see who was in the house. There were many rumors circulating around about what actually happened. The affairs were known about. I remember Robert attending the basketball games we played in and just the look in his eyes were like ice. To this day thinking about him sitting on the stands not smiling and dead silent still gives me the creeps. The other rumors that no one ever found to be true or not, were that he was in a lot of debt with some scary people, that he was actually a victim as well and part of his punishment was to watch his family die. I don’t believe this. His family held out a lot of hope saying he wasn’t that kind of man. But people snap and he definitely looked the part. I believe he did it. I believe he ran and is still living his life somewhere while his wife and children lie in graves. He was an avid outdoors man and could have survived out there in the woods for a good amount of time. He knew those woods better than the police. His dog was found with the SUV seemingly unharmed. I believe he left his dog and car to throw people off. Of course they are going to catch him if he’s driving around in his deceased wife’s vehicle. People who have dogs and know their loyalty, know the dog would have waited there forever for him to come back. I hope they catch this monster. Britney, Bobby, and their mom deserve justice and Robert deserves to rot in prison like the pathetic, selfish person he is. I have a feeling he fled to Mexico. We were close enough to the border and everyone knows that if you are running from the feds go to Mexico and you’re pretty much safe. The little amount of money he took from the ATM would have given him a fine start in the poor country. He is on America’s top ten most wanted list. Most of America has seen his face and he would have no safer choice than to be in Mexico. If he killed himself he would have done it in the woods. They would have found his body. I just hope that either one day he steps foot back in the US and gets caught or dies a painful death like he put his wife and children through.

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  28. tanya

    What do they mean when they say ” He fell in love with his massage woman?” Is this just a make-believe story? Do they know where she worked? I saw a television show about Scottsdale , they said “most people who live there are divorced and are really trying to sell the houses they live in and nobody will by them because of the economy.” Maybe he is really poor and living at a salvation army in Texas somewhere. I dont belive someone would marry a man who just killed his whole family,especially, a massage woman.

    Reply

    • The Messenger

      Believe it . ..and it can happen to your friends , sisters , daughters , grand daughters , Always be Alert , Involved , Protective . It almost happened to me too .

      Reply

  29. Sarah

    Exactly! What definitive proof is there? Couldn’t someone have kidnapped him with his own gun and threatened with killing his family so he would take out the max amount of ATM money then murdered anyway? There has been no definite ID since 2001, no mention of going back to the caves to search, and if he were out there alive the dog would not have been waiting at the vehicle.

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  30. JOHN NELLS

    WAS THERE ANY PROOF HE DI D THIS ON HIS OWN

    Reply

  31. ihetu ramsey

    he probably fled the country to mexico or central or even south america

    Reply

  32. ihetu ramsey

    I think its possible that he had help fleeing the country maybe to mexico, central or south America. think about it he in Arizona. the Mexican border is not far.

    Reply

  33. Michele Doucette

    He was gorgeous!! Maybe he became a woman and that’s why they can’t find him. He would have made a beautiful woman

    Reply

  34. Anonymous

    he’s gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!!….maybe he is a transsexual and that’s why they can’t find him.

    Reply

  35. thomas

    What the Feds need to do is come to Reno, NV and walk the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. There are 100’s of hobos that live in tents all along it. They are called Tent City community. Breakout the scwab and fingerprint machine.

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  36. ROSE ANDREWS

    this man be put a way .and naver see the light of day I know that he did it .he is nothing but a monster .get him be fore hurt some one he is out there find him. two kids did not get two kids live life .

    Reply

  37. Anonymous

    He’s still in the woods in Scottsdale Arizona

    Reply

    • unsolved

      Please email us with more information at unsolved@unsolved.com, or contact us through our tips form: https://unsolved.com/content/tips

      Reply

    • Beezer

      There are not woods in Scottsdale. It is Sonoran desert!

      Reply

      • G.F.

        The original commenter could be right despite using verbiage that you disagree with. There ARE mountains and forest areas in Scottsdale, AZ. Not forests at that location as per how one might mentally picture, but Tonto National Forest and more is right there, which includes both trees and cacti. There ARE “woods”, mountains, forests (hence Tonto National “Forest”). So the original commenter is correct… he could be in the forests there and there are tons of places to hide out in and around that area (I lived there for 12+ years and when this crime occurred).

        Reply

  38. jay

  39. Anonymous

    He was a hunter that solves the food problem.

    Reply

  40. megadude

    he probebly died why because if a person run away then when are the going to find food so they probebly rob at a market and hide and rob again so my comment is that he is probebly deid

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  41. Sam Madsen

    I think he is probably hiding in the remote mountain wilderness of the west somewhere, in a cabin, trailer or tent. I think he is definitley catchable if we can figure out the area he is residing in, which will be a great challenge on it’s own. This guy can’t run forever, the instant he comes out of his habitat (which will happen eventually) and into society, he WILL be busted.

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  42. DJ

    Dumping the SUV at the Tanto National Forest, was to throw everybody off his trail. The last known photo of Robert Fisher was of him, withdrawing money from an ATM machine. He often frequented sex shops and strip clubs and was very selfish and greedy who had no love for anyone but himself.

    Reply