SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Where is Robert Fisher? A man believed to have murdered his entire family exactly 20 years ago has seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. Even two full decades later, no one is sure whether one of Arizona's most notorious alleged killers is dead or alive.
"It’s mind-blowing to me that it’ll be 20 years this year since this happened," said Lori Greenback, who was a close friend of the Fishers for many years. She shared her thoughts about the case with Arizona's Family. "When I think about it, it’s as if it was yesterday," she told us.
On the morning of April 10, 2001, the Scottsdale home where Robert Fisher lived with his family exploded into flames, with his wife Mary, his 12-year-old daughter Brittney and his 10-year-old old son Bobby inside. “The whole house exploded,” a frantic caller told 911 that day.
"He's a monster."
But police say it wasn’t the fire that killed Mary, Brittney, and Bobby. Investigators later determined that the blaze was deliberately set to cover up a triple murder. Police have long-believed that Fisher slit his family's throats while they were sleeping in bed. Evidence later showed a natural gas line was cut, and an accelerant was spread throughout the house and over the three bodies, leading to the explosion.
“He’s a monster. It's that simple," retired Scottsdale Police Detective T.J. Jiran has said of Fisher. Jiran had been one of the lead detectives on the case.
Fisher was never seen again after the fire. He is, and has always been, the lone suspect. "I’ve been asked if I was surprised Robert had done this. But honestly, in those first days after the fire, it was just inconceivable to me," said Greenbeck. "My husband came around to accepting the possibility that Robert had killed Mary and the kids much sooner than I."
"They were our friends."
Greenbeck knew Fisher's wife, Mary, very well. The two women were close friends and Girl Scout leaders together for their daughters' troop. The murders of Mary, Bobby and Brittney hit Greenbeck and her family hard. "They were our friends; our children were friends. We all did normal things: school, work, baseball games and church," she told us.
Greenbeck even worked in Fisher's office at one time. But she says there were no red flags with his behavior that would indicate the grim fate of his family. "I thought we surely could have seen something that would have given us some clue as to the depth of Robert’s problems," she said. "I had some guilt over it all. How can you spend years with someone, day after day working together and never suspect anything?"
"I don’t know if he’s alive or dead."
Ten days after the 2001 deadly explosion, authorities found the family's missing SUV in a forest near Young, Arizona, about 3 hours northeast of Phoenix. Their dog "Blue" was guarding the vehicle. Search crews scoured the area but no trace of Fisher was ever found.
Some believe he died shortly after the murders. Others believe he's still alive out there somewhere. "I don’t know if he’s alive or dead; I don’t know where he disappeared to when he left," said Greenbeck. "I can’t imagine having to live with what he did to Mary and his own children. He has to be tortured by it every day. I know there are people that believe he is alive and are still looking for him. Hopefully, their efforts pay off."
Retracing the steps
Our team drove out to the wooded area to check out where the car was found. It’s so vast, you could walk 100 yards in any direction and get lost from the place that you started. But friends say Fisher knew the area like the back of his hand, even in the dark. One week before the fire, Robert had taken Greenbeck's husband up camping and riding quads.
“If he did it once, why not do it again?”
Countless theories regarding Fisher's whereabouts have been considered. Thousands of tips have poured in over the years, but so far, none have led authorities to Robert Fisher. The case has gone cold, but many still wonder what might have happened to Robert Fisher.
On her True Crime podcast, Arizona's Family's Briana Whitney talked to detectives who were close to the case. “Do you believe Robert Fisher is dead or alive?” Whitney asked Jiran. “I lean that he is still alive,” Jiran told Whitney. And if he is, Jiran continued, he believes the danger is still there. "Let’s say he is with somebody. Now he needs to leave again. What’s he gonna do?” asked Jiran. “If he did it once, why not do it again?”
FBI's Most Wanted List
Fisher remains one of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted, with a $100,000 reward being offered for his capture and arrest. The website shows a series of age-enhanced photos of Fisher, giving us an idea of what he might look like now. The most-wanted page says he is being sought on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, 3 counts of first-degree murder, and arson of an occupied structure. The page describes him as Fisher is physically fit, and an avid outdoorsman, hunter, and fisherman. The FBI says he has ties to New Mexico and Florida and is believed to be in possession of several weapons, including a high-powered rifle. The FBI says he should be considered armed and dangerous.
"If he is alive, I want him caught."
Meantime, 20 years later, the memories of her friend remain strong for Greenbeck. "Mary was very easygoing, she was easy to be friends with, always willing to help. We were the Girl Scout leaders together for our girls' troop. She really enjoyed doing activities with all the kids. She and Robert came to functions together and they both participated with the kids' functions."
"They had hiccups like any couple, but Mary never bad-mouthed Robert to any degree that would raise any red flags. She was very respectful and protective," Greenbeck continued. "Mary was committed to her marriage and family but did say if Robert didn’t make some changes, she wasn’t willing to tolerate some behavior. I didn’t pry, I didn’t know specifics, but I knew to her the kids were top priority. Then came April 10, I couldn’t believe Robert did it, but eventually, I had to accept he was responsible."
Greenbeck says that if Fisher is still out there, she thinks it's just a matter of time until he's caught. "If he is alive, I want him caught. Even if he is caught, there is no justice for Mary, Brittany and Bobby. He’s had 20 years free, even if on the run."