Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

A Wanted Fugitive: Robert William Fisher

Robert Fisher has been on the run for 22 years, 7 months, and 28 days.

Scottsdale, Arizona (AZ) is a city in the desert east of Phoenix. It has some violent crime, but far less than the nearby capital, and isn’t known to be a dangerous place to live. However, there is one infamous unsolved case that continues to stump authorities from the local police to the FBI. 

It was the morning of April 10, 2001 when a house in a Scottsdale neighborhood burst into flames. Panicked neighbors frantically dialed 911, and authorities responded quickly but were unable to do anything to help the victims inside. The house belonged to the Fishers: Robert, Mary, and children Brittney and Bobby. 

While the home explosion originally was thought to be a tragic accident killing everyone inside, more investigation revealed that there were only three victims inside and that they were already dead — their throats cut — before the fire even started. The prime suspect? Husband and father Robert William Fisher, and he went on the run in 2001 and hasn’t been seen since.

Now, over 20 years later and even after being on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Fisher still hasn’t been found. Where is Robert William Fisher? And where has he been hiding for the past several decades?

Table of Contents

About Robert William Fisher

As much as I hate going into detail about alleged killers and their lives (because they often get enough attention as it is), I think it’s important to this case that it be discussed as Fisher may have said something about his personal life to someone out there. For that reason alone, I’ve included a brief biography of Fisher in this article.

Fisher’s Younger Life

Robert William Fischer was born on April 13, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents divorced when he was a teenager, and he and his sisters went to live with his father in Arizona. The divorce was hard on him and his sisters, and reportedly had long-lasting effects.

A photograph of Robert William Fisher.
A photograph of Robert William Fisher (FBI).

Fisher attended Sahuaro High School in Tucson, AZ and graduated in 1979. He enlisted in the US Navy and tried to become a Navy SEAL, but he failed to qualify for the program. Instead, he worked a variety of other jobs, including as a surgical catheter technician, a respiratory therapist, and a fireman.

For activities, Fisher enjoyed hunting and fishing. He was physically fit and a practiced outdoorsman who could survive in the wild.

An Odd Duck

Those who knew Fisher described him as “aggressive and controlling,” along with having some odd behaviors. Friends described a time when he’d hunted an elk and then smeared the elk’s blood all over his body, or when he was seen swimming across a lake with a Bowie knife clenched in his teeth.

There were also reports of Fisher pulling “practical jokes” (which I put in quotations for reasons which will become obvious momentarily). Some of his “jokes” included sneaking up behind picnicking families in parks and emptying the clip of a 9mm pistol into the air to frighten them. Another “joke” was to point the barrel of the pistol at one of his friend’s heads.

A “Family Man”

Robert and Mary had met in high school and were married in 1987. Together, they had two children: a girl named Brittney and a son named Robert Jr., although he often went by Bobby.

A photograph of the Fisher family.
A photograph of the Fisher family (AZ Central).

About the Victims

I tried to find as much information about the victims as I could, but unfortunately in so many cases like this, there is limited information about them. 

Mary Fisher

From what I could gather about Mary Fisher, her faith was extremely important to her, and she was very involved in the Scottsdale Baptist Church. She served as a leader for Awana (a world-wide nonprofit ministry focused on providing Bible-based evangelism for kids) and the Vacation Bible School. She also was committed to the women’s ministry and helped to organize the annual retreat.

A photograph of Mary Fisher.
A photograph of Mary Fisher (Find a Grave).

Mary’s employers were a couple named Herb and Lori Greenbeck, and she worked as an office manager for their company. Both Herb and Lori loved having Mary as an employee because she was prompt and organized. However, even they knew that there were some troubles at home.

I think this was Robert’s life, not Mary’s life,” said Herb when watching old VHS videos taken of the family, “I think what Mary was trying to do was become a little more independent, and I think that maybe that was a threat to him — her independence.”

At the funeral for Mary, her mother read off a paper about her murdered daughter: “We saw her as a bright and shining star among her peers, such a beautiful young lady — so precious, so unique, so special. We love you, Mary.”

Brittney Fisher

Brittney Jean Fisher was born on April 27, 1988. In 2001, Brittney was a 12-year-old girl in seventh grade at Supai Middle School. She enjoyed riding her purple and pink bike around the neighborhood and playing with the family pets. Active in her family’s church, she participated in the youth ministry, Awana JV, and the bell choir. 

A still from a home video of Brittney Fisher riding her bike (AZ Family).

Robert Jr. “Bobby” Fisher

Robert “Bobby” Fisher Jr. was born on September 21, 1990. In 2001, Bobby was a 10-year-old boy in the fourth grade at Pima Elementary School. Like his sister, Bobby was also very involved in the family’s church, participating in the Awana Color Guard, Awana Pals, TuneTown children’s choir, and the children’s bell choir.

A Troubled Marriage

By 2001, Robert and Mary had been married for 16 years, and most sources described the Fisher marriage as a troubled one. According to news sources, Fisher’s mother, Jan Howell, had been a “yes-sir” wife and saw a similar pattern in her son’s marriage and had spoken with her daughter-in-law about it. However, nothing ever seemed to be done about it. 

Fisher as a Control Freak

According to news sources, Fisher was extremely controlling in his marriage. For example, he wouldn’t let rooms in the home be painted any color other than white. Mary also wasn’t allowed to hang up quilts that her mother had made for her, and was rather encouraged to get rid of them. 

Robert was an ultra-control freak. He said he would tell the kids what time to get up, what time to go to bed, what clothes to wear, what to eat,” wrote one detective after interviewing a family friend. There were also reports of humiliation, like the time Fisher turned a garden hose on Mary after he thought she’d spoken out of turn. 

Herb Greenbeck, Mary’s employer and a friend of the Fisher family, also recalled that Mary was afraid of Fisher: 

“I knew one time that when Mary was at work, Robert called her ’cause he’d left for the weekend to go up north, and he called her to go up north. She wanted to have someone go with her ’cause she was afraid he would do something to her.”

Herb Greenbeck (Source: AZ Family)

Fisher’s Infidelity

There were also reports of infidelity in the Fisher’s marriage, with Fisher writing a note to his wife confessing that he’d cheated on her. They apparently worked through that hurdle and continued to maintain the illusion of a “good” family: attending church, going on vacations, and renewing their commitments to marriage.

An image of Brittney (left) and Bobby Fisher from a home video.
An image of Brittney (left) and Bobby Fisher from a home video (AZ Central).

Divorce Not an Option

Due to his experience with his parents’ tumultuous divorce, Fisher was adamant that he would never put his family through what he went through. The family’s pastor later explained to a news outlet: “He was adamant about not going through a divorce or putting his family through a divorce. He had strong feelings about it and a bad experience.”

So, although there were a number of troubles in the marriage, divorce didn’t seem to be on the table, even when Fisher was unfaithful and abusive towards Mary.

The Night of the Murders

It was the night of April 9, 2001 in Scottsdale, AZ when the murders are believed to have happened. Around 10 PM that night, a neighbor reported hearing the Fishers loudly arguing, although it’s not clear what they were arguing about. No one called authorities at that time to report the disturbance.

Fisher Goes to ATM

Around 10:45 PM, Robert Fisher was seen on a security camera at an ATM about a half-mile from the family home and withdrew around $280. The family’s 4Runner is seen in the background, and Fisher appeared to be alone at that time

Security footage from an ATM showing Robert Fisher walking to his 4Runner on the night of the murders.
Security footage from an ATM showing Robert Fisher walking to his 4Runner on the night of the murders (AZ Central). 

Police aren’t sure whether he stopped at the ATM before or after the alleged murders as it could have been either situation, although they believe it was after. The withdrawal is also the last known bank activity on Fisher’s account, and no one has seen him since.

April 10, 2001: A Strange Call

Around 8:20 AM on the morning of April 10, Herb Greenbeck thought it was odd that Mary hadn’t shown up to work yet because she usually was punctual. He soon received a call from someone else who’d heard that the Fisher home was on fire, then immediately rushed to the scene to try to help the Fisher family any way he could.

The charred remains of the Fisher home.
The charred remains of the Fisher home (AZ Central).

In an interview on a local news station, Greenbeck explained what happened once he arrived on the scene:

“We went over there fast as we could, and that yellow tape was up and we just ducked down and went right to the end of the cul-de-sac, and then we could hear they found one body, they found another body. We didn’t understand why Robert’s truck was still there.”

Herb Greenbeck (Source: AZ Family)

Originally, Greenbeck thought that the whole Fisher family had been burned alive. Somehow, the reality would be even worse. 

The Investigation

Authorities had received a number of 911 calls on the morning of April 10, 2001 to report that a home in the Scottsdale area had suddenly exploded in a sea of flames. It was through the grapevine that Herb Greenbeck had heard that the Fisher’s home had been the one to burn, and since he only lived a few minutes away, he’d gone to the scene to see if he could help, but there was nothing to do. 

All three victims were found in their beds — something that would be unusual for a normal house fire situation. Typically, once someone hears the smoke alarm going off or smells smoke, they will get out of bed and try to escape the home. However, because all three were found in bed, authorities believed that something more nefarious was afoot, and they’d learn the awful truth soon thereafter.

Autopsy Results

Autopsy results for the three victims confirmed that they were dead before the fire occurred. Mary had been shot in the back of the head, and all three had their throats cut. The deaths of all three were ruled as homicides, and it seemed that the home had been rigged to catch fire at some point, no doubt with the goal being to destroy the evidence of the murders.

Some age-progressed images of what Robert Fisher might look like today.
Some age-progressed images of what Robert Fisher might look like today (FBI).

Gas Line Severed

Arson investigators discovered that a natural gas line in the house had been severed, leading them to believe that the home’s explosion was intentional. Additionally, an accelerant (a flammable liquid) had been poured throughout the home to help the fire spread more quickly. 

A candle was thought to be the source of the flame as it had been put at the start of a trail of accelerant. Authorities believe that the candle was lit when the assailant left the home, and it took some hours to burn down low enough to ignite the accelerant or the gas floating around in the air inside the house.

Strange Items in the Fisher Home

Other strange items were found in the home, including some documented in a search warrant: “They found a firecracker in the home and a battery attached to a wire and foil paper — possible ignition devices.” Additionally, there were a number of guns stored in an expensive gun safe which were recovered after the fire.

Guns that were found in the gun safe in the wreckage of the Fisher’s burned home.
Guns that were found in the gun safe in the wreckage of the Fisher’s burned home (AZ Central).

Focus Turns to Robert Fisher

Authorities soon turned their focus onto Robert Fisher, the only one of the family whose remains weren’t found in the home. Hugh Lockerby, a former lead detective on the case, told a news outlet:

“[Robert Fisher] thought that the house was gonna burn to a point that no one would be able to recognize anyone and maybe he would just be lumped into the remains, and therefore he’s no longer on the run. He’d been planning this for a while.”

Fmr. Det. Hugh Lockerby (Source: AZ Family).

Still, it was hard for Mary’s family to grasp the idea that Fisher had somehow been involved in their deaths. At the funeral service, her father told a media source, “[Robert] was the greatest dad. He was the greatest husband. I miss him. I miss him terribly.” 

4Runner Found

The Fisher’s 4Runner was located on April 20, ten days after the victims’ bodies were discovered. It was abandoned in a forest east of Payson, AZ, and the family dog, Blue, was also located nearby. It seemed that Fisher had dumped both the car and the dog at that location.

A manhunt in the area surrounding Payson ensued, trying to see if Fisher had run off somewhere in the nearby forest. Unfortunately, authorities found no evidence of the man anywhere nearby, and that combined with poor weather meant that the search was soon called off

Fisher Charged with Murder

On July 19, 2001, several months after the murders took place, Fisher was charged with three counts of first degree murder and one count of arson of an occupied structure. Since he disappeared shortly after the murders, he was also charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

A memorial page from the funeral service for Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher.
A memorial page from the funeral service for Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher (AZ Family).

FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted

For a while, Fisher was on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list from 2002 through 2021. Despite being removed from the top 10 list, he is still considered a dangerous and wanted fugitive by the FBI. In a statement released to the media, the FBI explained:

“Because the extensive publicity Fisher’s case received during its nearly 20 years on the list has not resulted in his successful location and/or capture, the case no longer fulfills that requirement.”

FBI Statement (Source: AZ Central)

Possible Sightings of Fisher

The FBI has revealed that they get a number of tips about people thinking they see Fisher every year. Two high-profile potential sightings have happened over the years, with one in Canada in 2004 and another in Denver in 2014

Although there have been reports from all over the world claiming to have seen Fisher in the years since, none of them have been substantiated and the FBI (and other agencies) are still trying to locate him. 

And That’s It

Since Fisher was last seen on that ATM surveillance footage, no one else has reported seeing him. He’s been missing for over two decades now, despite many leads being followed and searches conducted. The search for Fisher continues to this day.

Theories on What Happened

Although some will debate whether Fisher was the one to commit the murders in the first place, I think the evidence points to him being the prime suspect. There is no publicly-available evidence that points to anyone else having been in the home the night of the murders, nor did anyone else have a motive. For that reason, the theories are based on the assumption that Fisher is responsible for the death of his family. 

There are three main theories about what happened to Fisher after he fled: he is living elsewhere, he committed suicide, or he has since died. I know there are additional theories out there, but I prefer to discuss the most probable ones for the sake of not getting too far out in the weeds with cases like this.

Memorial plaques for Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher.
Memorial plaques for Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher (Find a Grave).

Fisher is Living Under Another Name

Many think that Fisher planned the murders months in advance and had an escape plan in place for after the crime took place. Herb Greenbeck, the family friend of the Fisher’s, thinks that Fisher stashed a motorcycle up in the desolate area near where the 4Runner was eventually found: 

“He stashed a motorcycle up there, and when he went up there with the dog and him — he loved his dog, Blue — he said goodbye, jumped on that bike.”

Herb Greenbeck (Source: AZ Family)

Additionally, Fisher might’ve traveled to other states or countries in an effort to escape being caught by law enforcement, potentially to countries with no extradition treaties with the US.

Fisher Committed Suicide

Others think that, after the murders took place, Fisher might’ve gone off and committed suicide somewhere. (As an aside, if you’re struggling yourself, please reach out to the 988 National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.) Some of Fisher’s friends revealed that he’d been suicidal before, citing the struggles in his marriage as being the main catalyst for his depression. However, no evidence has been found that he committed suicide.

Fisher Passed Away

The last theory is that Fisher managed to get away, survived for a time, and then passed away. If he was alive today in 2023, he’d be 62 years old, which means that he certainly could still be alive and out there somewhere, living under another alias.

What Do I Think Happened?

Aside from Fisher allegedly killing his family before fleeing (which I whole-heartedly believe happened), I don’t know what to make of this case. It’s such a heart-breaking example of a family annihilator, predating other famous cases like Chris Watts, Anthony Todt, and Christopher Coleman, where men have murdered their entire families. Fisher is just another name to add to the infamous list, as far as I’m concerned.

Suicide Doubtful

I doubt that Fisher committed suicide after carrying out the murders simply because he could’ve done it there, in the home with his family. Why bother taking out money at an ATM if you’re going to commit suicide? Why drive off in one of the family’s cars to a remote location if you’re planning on taking your own life?

Photographs and flowers at the memorial service held for Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher.
Photographs and flowers at the memorial service held for Mary, Brittney, and Bobby Fisher (AZ Central).

Fleeing More Likely

I think Fisher was “lucky” in the sense that he was able to flee before September 11, 2001, because the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center ultimately ended up with many more restrictions on international travel. Since he fled before the September 11 attacks, he could’ve gone anywhere in the world and disappeared without a trace — which seems to be exactly what he did. 

Can This Case be Solved?

If Fisher is still alive out there, then it will take someone recognizing him and reporting his location for this case to have any chance of being solved. Please, you recognize him or have any information about where he might be, do the right thing and reach out to the relevant authorities.

Do You Have Information?

A reward for up to $50,000 is being offered for information directly relating to the arrest of Robert Fisher. At the time of his disappearance, Fisher was 6’0 and about 190 lbs. He has blue eyes and brown hair, with a medium build and light complexion. He also has a gold crown on his upper left first bicuspid tooth. If you have any information, please reach out to your local FBI office or submit an anonymous tip online, or reach out to the Scottsdale Police Department at (480) 312–5000.

A wanted poster for Robert William Fisher.
A wanted poster for Robert William Fisher (FBI).

Cold Case Questions

  • Do you think Robert Fisher is still alive?
  • Where do you think Fisher is hiding (if he is still alive)?
  • Would Fisher have committed suicide after the murders? Or did he try to mislead authorities?

Let me know your thoughts about this case in the comment section below!

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