Robert William Fisher, Family Annihilator

Source: Space Coast Daily

Inside the Mind of a Family Annihilator

Your family likely means the world to you. There’s nothing you wouldn’t do to protect them. The loss of a child would rip a massive chunk out of your soul and leave a hole that could never be filled.

If this sounds like you, it means you’re a normal person.

But there are people in this world who will stop at nothing to get what they want — or to get rid of what they don’t want — and even flesh and blood is not off-limits. We are all familiar with people who kill their families, including Josh Powell and Chris Watts, just to name a couple.

These people are known as family annihilators. Rather than protecting those who ought to be dearest to them, they destroy them for a variety of selfish reasons.

Source: Independent

Here are a few facts about family annihilators:

  • According to a team of British criminologists, family annihilators fall under four categories: self-righteous, anomic (defined by Dictionary.com as “a state or condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of societal norms and values, as in the case of uprooted people), disappointed, and paranoid. [1]
  • Family annihilators are overwhelmingly more likely to be men (95%) than women. [1] [2]
  • Family annihilators most often commit their crimes during the month of August when they were more likely to be with their children due to school holidays. [1]
  • Cases of family annihilation have increased since the year 2000, possibly because more men feel the need to exert power and control over their families. Moreover, the increase in family killings appears to have risen with the increase in unemployment. [1] [2]
  • David Wilson of Birmingham City University, U.K., stated that family annihilators were typically men who had invested “too heavily in a very stereotypical conception of what it means to be a husband and a father within an institution called a family.” [1] These men have a problem with women becoming more independent and career-minded. In a nutshell, they believe that women should be at home cooking, cleaning, and taking care of their husbands and children.
  • Most family annihilators have no criminal history.
  • Male family killers struggle with the notion that they’ve fallen short of societal ideas of manhood. [2]
  • Family annihilators are often victims of child abuse. Growing up with a sense of powerlessness leads them to exert strict control over their households in order to at least make it appear that they have the ideal family. In many cases, they derive their self-worth from the control they have over their families.
  • A lack of control often produces feelings of humiliation, and the only “solution” is to commit the ultimate act of dominance: Taking the lives of their family members.
  • In other cases, family annihilators may kill their families because they feel it is the only way to “save” them from a crisis, such as the shame and humiliation of bankruptcy.
  • Sometimes family killers turn to extreme violence out of pure revenge — anger over a restraining order or a custody disagreement, for example.

In the case of Robert William Fisher, an unwillingness to see his family broken apart may have fueled his decision to simply snuff it out.

The Early Life of Robert William Fisher

Robert William Fisher — Source: FBI.gov

The threads of Robert William Fisher’s life appeared to start unraveling when his parents got divorced. [3]

Born on April 13, 1961, Robert was the son of William Fisher, a banker, and Jan Howell. Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, William and his sisters saw their worlds fall apart when William Sr. and Jan divorced in 1976.

According to friends and family, William, in particular, struggled mightily with his parents’ split and suffered long-term problems as a result of the divorce. Even as an adult working as a respiratory therapist at Mayo Clinic Hospital, William often discussed the impact that his parents’ divorce had on him.

William once told a co-worker that he felt as if his life would have been different had his mother not left the family.

Before marrying Mary Cooper in 1987, Robert served as a firefighter in the Navy. It’s possible his stint in the military contributed to a sense of inferiority and failure, as he once tried unsuccessfully to become a Navy SEAL. [3] [4]

Source: Murderpedia

Robert and Mary had two children, Brittany and Robert II (Bobby). While he loved the idea of being a family man, he was cold and distant and had an awkward relationship with them. Some have even described him as “cruel.” It was important to him, however, that his family appeared close-knit and loving. He wanted his family to seem like a perfect one, even if it was crumbling behind closed doors.

Source: Murderpedia

Every aspect of Brittany and Bobby’s life was controlled by their father. [5] He told them when and what to eat, when to sleep, when to wake up, and even what to wear.

Robert wanted a son that he could hunt and fish with, but Bobby didn’t share his father’s hobbies and passions. Robert was unable or unwilling to accept this and chalked it up to a phase his boy would grow out of.

Rather than lovingly teaching his son and daughter how to swim, he opted to teach them the hard way by throwing them off of a boat.

Those who knew Robert said he showed more affection for his dog, Blue, than he did for his own children.

Brittany, Mary, Robert, and Bobby Fisher — Source: Murderpedia

Robert William Fisher even controlled the house his family lived in. The walls had to be painted white and only a minimal number of pictures were permitted to be hung.

Meanwhile, Robert didn’t associate with his extended family for fear that he would get close to one of his relatives, only to have that person abandon him. [4]

When it comes to Robert and Mary’s marriage, I’ve read two different descriptions of their relationship. The first is that Robert was domineering and controlling to the point that Mary was a doormat who never stood up to her husband.

Mary and Robert Fisher — Source: CNN

The second description comes from one of the couple’s neighbors. [9] Based on his testimony, Mary comes across as a strong woman who didn’t roll over in the face of her husband’s domineering ways.

Wade Rencsok told CNN:

“They did not have a happy marriage. They screamed constantly. Everybody 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 heard his wife screaming. Things like, ‘You’re worthless. I could have done better than you. We should get a divorce.’”

Wade Rencsok, a former neighbor of the Fisher family — Source: CNN

For a time, Robert and Mary attended a Baptist church in Scottsdale, where Robert participated in the men’s ministry. [4] However, at some point, Robert walked away from the church, though Mary continued to attend.

In 1998, the couple went to the church’s senior pastor for marital counseling. The session occurred shortly after Robert confessed to co-workers that he’d had a one-night stand with a prostitute, and he was fearful that Mary would find out that the encounter was the reason he had been sick for several days with a urinary tract infection.

Mary Fisher — Source: Crimeola

Robert told a co-worker that he wanted to work on being a better man. He was going to recommit himself to his faith and his wife and children, remarking that he “could not live without his family.” The comment seemed to suggest that he’d rather take his own life than get a divorce.

Mary had expressed to several friends that she planned on divorcing Robert. She had no idea to what lengths her husband would go to to ensure he maintained tight control over his family and their fate.

Anyone who exerts that much control over every aspect of his life can be undone by even the slightest slip in his grip.

The Ultimate Act of Control

The events of April 9, 2001, led to Robert William Fisher becoming the 475th fugitive added to the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on June 29, 2002. [6]

On the night of April 9, neighbors heard Robert and Mary arguing loudly in their home. [5]

The following morning, approximately 10 hours later, feeling his grip on his family slip from his hands, Robert re-exerted control in the more horrific way possible.

Robert murdered Mary by slitting her throat and then putting a bullet in the back of her head. [7] Then, he moved on to his children, whose lives he ended by slitting their throats from ear to ear.

At 8:42 a.m., neighbors of the Fishers awoke to a thundering boom. [5] The Fisher house had exploded and gone up in flames, creating such a concussion that the explosion was felt up to almost half a mile away.

The Fisher home in flames after a massive gas explosion believed to have been caused by Robert William Fisher — Source: Murderpedia

The large explosion was followed by several smaller explosions, which were believed to have been caused by the presence of firearm ammunition or paint cans in the house.

During the investigation, the police discovered that a gas line had been pulled out of the furnace at the back of the house to hide evidence, and the flame from a lit candle sparked the explosion.

When firefighters were finally able to extinguish the blaze, the bodies of a woman and two children were found inside, incinerated. Mary, 38; Brittany, 12; and Bobby, 10, were dead. Robert William Fisher, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found.

Investigators say Robert is the lone suspect in the case, and they believe he had a 10-hour window to escape.

The Hunt

On July 19, 2001, a state arrest warrant was issued for Robert William Fisher. Police charged the monstrous husband and father with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson.

However, the hunt for Robert began immediately after the fire, and it didn’t take long for investigators to find clues as to his movements immediately prior to and following the crime.

Investigators found footage of Robert at an ATM on the night before the murders. [7] The amount of money he took out of the ATM was odd — just $280. This was believed to be a way of Robert brazenly leaving behind a crumb of evidence for the police.

Robert Fisher was spotted on a Scottsdale ATM camera on the night before the murders — Source: Murderpedia

A week after the murders, Mary Fisher’s 4Runner SUV was found miles away in the woods near Young, Arizona. Robert’s beloved dog was founding guarding the vehicle, but Robert himself was not there.

Mary’s 4Runner SUV — Source: Murderpedia

The area where the 4Runner was found was one that Robert knew intimately. It was a frequent camping spot for the cold-blooded killer.

The Fisher family’s dog, Blue — Source: Murderpedia

Just days before Robert’s car was discovered, now-retired Scottsdale Police Detective T.J. Jiran received a phone call from a couple who saw a man walking toward the highway. As they passed him, the wife recognized him as Robert William Fisher. It is assumed that Robert left the area on foot and could be literally anywhere.

T.J. Jiran — Source: CNN

Police searched the nearby area, but they admitted that they didn’t do a good enough job of checking the many caves that dot the area. [5]

In February 2004, a man was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. [3] The suspect bore a striking resemblance to Robert, but fingerprints showed it was not him. The police held him for about a week until a family member correctly identified him.

Some individuals who are familiar with Robert believe he committed suicide. According to some friends, when Mary kicked Robert out of the house, Robert went to the woods and contemplated suicide. [8]

Others, including many investigators, believe Robert is still alive and left his 4Runner and his dog behind as a red herring. As an avid outdoorsman, Robert would be capable of living off the land for lengthy periods.

Robert William Fisher, an avid outdoorsman, is seen smearing the blood of a recently hunted animal on his body — Source: Murderpedia

Many tips have come into the FBI, but it’s not known if they’ve provided any legitimate information as to Robert’s whereabouts.

One thing the tips haven’t led to is the location and capture of Robert William Fisher. Almost 20 years after the murders of Mary, Brittany, and Bobby Fisher, there is no sign of the self-centered man who was so desperate to remain in control that he took his wife and children in his arms and sliced them open.

Important Facts About Robert William Fisher

An age-progression photo of Robert William Fisher — Source: Wikipedia
How Robert Fisher may look if he altered his appearance — Source: Wikipedia
  • Robert has a bad back and may need pain medication. [10] Scars from previous surgery can be seen on his lower back. Due to his back problems, he may walk with an exaggerated erect posture and his chest pushed out.
  • Robert has a gold crown on his upper left first bicuspid tooth.
  • He chews tobacco.
  • He is an avid hunter and fisherman and should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.
  • Robert has blue eyes, brown hair, weighs 190 lbs., and is six feet tall.
  • He may have been having an affair with a co-worker.
  • Robert likely changed his appearance and may have long hair and/or facial hair.
  • In 2001, the television show, America’s Most Wanted, received a phone call that the Scottsdale Police Department believes was placed by Robert. The call came from Chester, Virginia.
  • According to the FBI, Robert may be working in the medical field or living in a small town working a menial job.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Robert William Fisher is urged to call the Scottsdale Police Department at (480) 312–2716 or the Phoenix FBI at (602) 279–5511.

Sources:

  1. BBC News
  2. Newsweek
  3. Murderpedia
  4. CNN
  5. The World’s Most Wanted Network
  6. WickedWe
  7. AZFamily.com
  8. Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
  9. CNN
  10. ThoughtCo.

My name is Julie Fidler. I’m a writer, author, wife, and animal lover. I shed light on unsolved mysteries and shocking crimes.

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