SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Two decades after he was accused of murdering his wife and children, blowing up their Scottsdale home, and disappearing, friends and investigators are still trying to make sense of the man at the center of the mystery.
Robert Fisher would turn 60 years old in April. He has never been found after his Scottsdale home exploded on April 10, 2001, with his wife, Mary, and two children, Brittney and Bobby, inside. Investigators later determined his wife and children were murdered and the home was rigged to explode.
A police report that spans more than 400 pages details a rocky marriage between Robert and Mary.
Their former Scottsdale pastor told ABC15 he was helping them deal with their issues.
"Mary was sweet," said Pastor Gregg Cantelmo. "He would probably say she was a little difficult at home… everybody has problems. They didn't have any unique problem that was different than anybody else in the church."
According to interviews compiled in the Scottsdale police report, Fisher had admitted to an affair roughly two years before the fire. Fisher was kicked out of the house, but he and Mary ultimately reconciled and continued their rocky relationship, according to the police report.
"That was the conversation, in the midst of some marital problems, we'd talk about how to get through those," Cantelmo said. "How to forgive one another and how to move forward."
Robert Fisher's own parents divorced when he was a teenager, and investigators have pointed to his aversion for divorce as a potential motive.
"Part of the difficulty was he had had difficulty with his parents and the divorce that they had gone through," Cantelmo said. "He had told me he'd never go through that again."
According to the police report, Fisher was an outdoorsman and had previously enlisted in the U.S. Navy but fell short of becoming a Navy SEAL. He previously worked as a firefighter and was working as a respiratory therapist at a Valley medical center when the fire occurred.
"He was a quiet guy," Cantelmo said. "I wouldn't say there was any one emotion that really presented itself other than he was just quiet. He was nice but he was quiet."
The Scottsdale police report details odd behavior from Fisher throughout his life, in interviews with friends and coworkers. According to the report, Fisher would randomly shoot his gun in the air when on a hunting trip with friends, and was also seen in a photograph covered in animal blood standing next to a deer he killed.
"Those two things can coexist, you can have somebody who's struggling with some mental health issues but who also has capacity to plan and cover up tracks and whatnot," said Dr. Tess Neal, a forensic psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University.
Neal has not worked on the Fisher case, nor interviewed anyone involved, but ABC15 asked her to weigh in on details that are publicly available, including the police report.
"If there were indications that this marriage may have been coming to some kind of end, and it looks like maybe there were some of those indications, that he really just did not want that to happen," Neal said. "[He] did not want his children to have to live through the kind of divorce-related trauma that he himself had experienced or his subjective interpretation of what that experience was like."
Neal also noticed two incidents detailed in the police report. The first, more than a year prior to the fire, when Fisher reportedly admitted to an affair and was kicked out of the house. Fisher, according to the report, invited Mary to a cabin to talk about their relationship. A friend warned Mary against going out of fear for her safety.
Another incident detailed in the report shows friends became alarmed with Fisher's behavior while out hunting, detailing a time when he had randomly fired his gun into the air. The unsafe behavior reportedly led friends to stop hunting with him.
"So, there's somebody else close to him in his life, who in multiple ways said, 'this is not a safe situation,'" Neal said. "Which I think is notable that somebody who knows him well was concerned enough to warn his wife away from him and to keep himself away from this guy."
Neal told ABC15 there are several interesting facets to Robert Fisher and how he lived his life.
"In terms of popular psychology, popular culture, people might think, 'oh this guy must be a psychopath to do something like this,’" Neal said. "He does seem to have some kind of flavor from this dark triad of personality, but he also had some pretty strong protective things I think that don't necessarily go along with that. It seems like he really did love his family. He did have this connection with his sister, as far as I can tell, and other people in his life. So, I think there's just some interesting flavors to this guy and also some things that are surprising, that you wouldn't expect from a pure psychopath."
Cantelmo still has a hard time coming to grips with the notion that Fisher allegedly killed his family.
"To think that I was not just his pastor but his friend," Cantelmo said. "We would talk, and I knew of some of the difficulties and yet, no concept whatsoever he would go there."
Twenty years later, Cantelmo still wonders what happened to Fisher, but admits there is only so much benefit to finding out.
"I have a feeling if we got that answer, it would probably raise a whole bunch of other questions, to be honest," Cantelmo said. "Family dynamics are one of those things that none of us really know what goes on behind closed doors."
Cantelmo said he hopes people remember Mary and the two kids, Brittney and Bobby, with a smile on their faces.
"We should remember them more than even Robert," he said.