The Alleged Crimes Of Robert Fisher, The Navy Veteran Charged With Murdering His Family And Blowing Up Their Home

Published April 11, 2024
Updated April 14, 2024

Robert Fisher spent nearly two decades on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after his wife and children were found murdered in their Arizona home in 2001.

Robert Fisher

Scottsdale Police/FBIRobert Fisher has been charged with murdering his wife, Mary, and their two children.

On a spring morning in 2001, a home in Scottsdale, Arizona, burst into flames. Inside, Mary Fisher and her two children were soon found dead, their throats slashed. But her husband, Robert Fisher, was nowhere to be found.

He has been on the run ever since.

A fugitive who spent two decades on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, Robert Fisher disappeared after that bloody April night. He left few clues in his wake, and law enforcement has been left to theorize about what happened to him after his family’s murder.

Who Is Robert Fisher?

Born on April 13, 1961, Robert Fisher grew up in Tucson, Arizona. According to The Arizona Republic, his parents divorced when he was 14, and their painful, messy separation left Fisher with deep emotional scars.

After graduating from high school, Fisher joined the U.S. Navy. He purportedly failed in his attempts to become a Navy Seal, and decided to leave the military in 1982. Soon afterward, he met Mary Cooper through a church group and married her within a year. The newlyweds then moved to Scottsdale.

There, Robert began a career as a respiratory therapist and a cardiovascular technician. The couple had two children: Brittney and Bobby. Robert Fisher could be a doting father to his children. But while he publicly presented himself as a God-fearing family man, some of his own friends would later claim that he had a cruel streak.

Violence, Affairs, And A Fateful Argument

Robert Fisher sometimes acted erratically. In 1989, he shot a stray pit bull that had allegedly wandered into his yard. Though he claimed that the stray had attacked his Labrador, Arizona Central reported in 2001 that police determined he’d incited a fight between the two dogs.

Years later, a Scottsdale police report found that, while on hunting trips, Fisher sometimes fired his gun randomly into the air; he was also photographed covered in blood next to a deer that he’d killed.

Fisher Family

Scottsdale Police Department/FBIThe Fisher family: Robert, Mary, Brittney, and Bobby.

His hunting friend Jim Roden remarked in 2021 that Fisher had a dark side — and that he had to work hard to “to keep the monster down.” Sometimes the monster came out. When the Rodens went camping with the Fishers on one occasion, they observed Robert relentlessly berating his wife for forgetting salt and pepper.

Indeed, Mary and Robert Fisher had problems in their marriage. Mary complained to friends about her husband’s constant need for sex, and Robert confessed in 1998 that he’d had an affair.

Mary reportedly threw him out of the house after this, and Robert left to camp for a few days in the woods. Distraught, he wrote Mary a letter, telling her he couldn’t live without her and threatening to kill himself.

When he returned home, he promised to be a “Godly father and husband.” He also started carrying around cards with Bible verses.

“I saw a guy that, at times, was really pursuing goodness,” Roden said.

But at the end of 2000, Robert told a co-worker that he’d contracted a urinary tract infection after visiting a masseuse. Though he denied that they’d had sex, he was reportedly paranoid that his wife would find out.

Then, on April 9, 2001, neighbors heard Mary and Robert Fisher arguing loudly in their Scottsdale home.

The Murder Of Mary Fisher And Her Children

On April 9, between 9:30 and 10:15 p.m., Mary and Robert Fisher’s neighbors heard the couple arguing. Shortly thereafter, at 10:43 p.m, Fisher was captured on camera withdrawing $280 from an ATM half a mile away.

At about 8:30 a.m. the next day, their Scottsdale home exploded.

Robert Fisher At Atm

Scottsdale Police DepartmentThe last known photo of Robert Fisher, taken by an ATM camera on April 9, 2001. The next day, police found the bodies of his wife and two children.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and found the house in flames. Even more shockingly, they found the bodies of Mary, Brittney, and Bobby inside. All three were in their beds. Their throats had all been slashed, and Mary had also been shot in the back of the head. According to the FBI, the children’s wounds were so deep they were nearly decapitated.

Robert Fisher, however, was nowhere to be found.

As investigators examined the scene, they found that someone had severed a gas line and poured a flammable liquid around the house and over the bodies of Mary and the children. Police suspected the individual had lit a candle, which caused the explosion.

Ten days later, investigators found Mary’s Toyota 4Runner abandoned in a remote forest near Payson, Arizona after receiving a tip from a camper. The Fisher family’s dog, Blue, was discovered nearby.

Robert Fisher, charged with three counts of first degree murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, hasn’t been seen since.

Robert Fisher, FBI Fugitive

For nearly 20 years, Robert Fisher was on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list. (He was replaced in 2021 by Yulan Adonay Archaga Carias, the alleged leader of the MS-13 gang in Honduras). But despite the thousands of tips that have poured in, and two debunked sightings of him in Canada and Colorado, the missing man hasn’t been seen since April 2001.

Fbi Poster

FBIRobert Fisher spent two decades on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

So what exactly happened that night?

No one knows for sure, but investigators have some theories. Scottsdale Police Detective John Heinzelman told ABC 15 Arizona in 2021 that Robert Fisher’s intense fear of divorce probably played a role in the murders. Robert may have believed that Mary was going to leave him, and so he killed her and the children.

Heinzelman also believes blowing up the Fisher family home was a “delay tactic.”

“He knew that the bodies were going to be found,” Heinzelman explained. “Maybe in his thought, if the entire house is incinerated, maybe it’s believed that he perished in the fire along with his family. Maybe it’s purely an evidence eradication.”

From there, Robert Fisher must have driven into the woods. But it’s unclear what happened next. Fisher had threatened suicide a few years before, but Heinzelman noted that if he had died by suicide, his dog Blue likely would have stayed with his body.

Since Blue was found alone at the scene, it’s possible that Fisher got into a second vehicle and left the dog behind. He may have disappeared into the nearby Apache Indian Reservation, which Heinzelman noted “is a sovereign nation that we don’t travel onto.”

The Investigation Continues

Robert Fisher hasn’t been seen since 2001, though Heinzelman noted that the Scottsdale police still receive tips “on a weekly basis, if not daily basis.” Investigators suspect that he is living somewhere under an assumed identity, that he died by suicide, or that he was on the run and has since died, but that his body was never found or identified.

That said, some people think that the police are way off. Robert Fisher’s sister, Jean Rountree, told The Arizona Republic that her brother is “not a monster” and that she’s hopeful the investigators have it wrong.

“Just because someone doesn’t want a divorce in their life doesn’t mean they are going to kill people because of it,” Rountree said.

To date, Robert Fisher is seemingly still on the lam. And though he’s no longer on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, investigators are still hoping to track him down.

“We’re still looking for him,” Heinzelman said, “no different than before.”

After reading about fugitive Robert Fisher, discover the story of Assata Shakur, the first woman on the FBI’s Terrorist List. Or, learn about John List, the man who got away with killing his entire family for 18 years.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "The Alleged Crimes Of Robert Fisher, The Navy Veteran Charged With Murdering His Family And Blowing Up Their Home.", April 11, 2024, Accessed June 21, 2024.