We drove over to the Harkins movie-theater complex at Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road the other day to check out the new documentary about the infamous and horrific April 2001 Scottsdale murders of Mary Fisher and her two young children, Brittney and Bobby Jr.
It's called Where Is Robert Fisher? and concerns one of the Valley's more high-profile cases of the modern era. Most folks who were around the Phoenix area at the time recall the basics of the case:
Fisher, a nurse at the Mayo Hospital, split for parts unknown after apparently killing his wife and kids by slashing their throats as they lay in their respective beds (he also shot Mary in the back of the head).
Fisher then set a slow-burning fire in his south Scottsdale home, disconnected a gas pipe inside the home, ignited a candle, and split for parts unknown.
The home essentially exploded hours later, long after Fisher apparently left the area in his wife's vehicle with the family dog. The forensic evidence that survived the fire told a terrible tale of murder, though the motive for murder remains murky even now.
Fisher has evaded capture to this day, and a reasonable debate exists as to whether he is still alive or dead (most likely by his own hand) in the remote mountains north of Payson, where authorities later found Mary's vehicle and the dog (who still was alive at the time).
We attended the new movie with a pal who employed Robert Fisher as a weed sprayer for a year or so in the 1980s.
He recalled Fisher as an excellent, if somewhat diffident, employee who suffered from serious back pain, the remnants of a bad accident said to have cost him a career in the United States Navy.
Our friend said Fisher surely had been addicted to painkillers back then and hypothesized that continued use of the drugs may have spiraled him into an inexplicable homicidal rage.
We compared notes after the flick.
Our friend was disappointed that the filmmaker had no lay interviewees other than Robert Fisher's sister -- no old friends, no co-workers, just one oddball neighbor who later injected himself into the case when authorities believed for a fleeting moment in 2004 that Fisher had been captured in Canada.
The film had the feel of a Dateline or 48 Hours episode, only creepy, and was heavy on close-up interviews of cops and journalists.
Where Is Robert Fisher? slipped badly toward the end by giving a goofy psychic a few minutes of airtime. She boldly predicted (stop presses!) that Fisher will be captured somewhere south of the border in 2012 and extradited to Arizona for trial in 2013.
Talk about slowing a narrative!
Our favorite scene, by far, was an excerpt from a haunting home movie taken by Mary Fisher sometimes in the 1990s.
With her camera on, Mary walks into a dimly lit room at the Fisher abode, where Robert is seated in a big chair having a quiet moment with the children, who are then about 4 and 2, respectively.
Robert is clearly unhappy with his wife's (and the camera's) presence and tells her tersely to turn the damned thing off. She demurs, noting that the precious moment should be memorialized.
Robert tries to go along for a second, but he's really pissed about something.
He addresses his little daughter, Brittney, who is right next to him, telling her -- like he's addressing a circus animal -- to smile and to spin around a few times. Finally, he instructs her to scream, which she does at the top of her lungs.
It's very eerie stuff, especially in light of what this man did to the children and to Mary about years later. And the scene provides a telling little window into a distinct dark side of Robert Fisher's personality.
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We left the theater vaguely disappointed.
Not only were we no closer to knowing where Robert Fisher is, but also no closer to knowing who and what he is -- or was.
Until further review, we'll just consider Fisher a truly evil SOB, and leave it at that.