Summarized by Kent Larsen
Man Convicted Of Slaying LDS Missionaries In 1974 Faces English Charges
Salt Lake Tribune 16Mar00 D2
By Kevin Cantera: Salt Lake Tribune
GRIMSBY, ENGLAND -- Robert Elmer Kleasen, once convicted of killing
two LDS missionaries, will face charged Friday in a British court for
lying to police when he applied for a gun dealer's license. Kleasen,
a U. S. citizen and former LDS Church member, spent time on Texas'
death row for the murder of Elder Mark Fischer and Elder Gary Darley
in 1974. Released when a search warrant was declared invalid, Kleasen
spent 15 years in prison for gun charges in New York. When he was
released, Kleasen went to England.
If convicted of the latest charges, Kleasen will likely be deported
to the United States. Kleasen's latest brush with the law came to
light last September, when English authorities became suspicious of
Kleasen and forwarded his fingerprints to the International Police
organization Interpol. Interpol discovered Kleasen's Wayne county,
New York police record and forwarded it to the English authorities.
While the charges do carry a possible 5-year prison sentence, if
found guilty Kleasen will most likely be deported to the U.S. as a
free man. "If he's a criminal, we don't want him," said Andrew
Horner, the prosecuting attorney with Crown Prosecution Services in
Grimsby, England who will try the case against Kleasen.
Before he murdered the LDS missionaries in 1974, Kleasen had a long
record with New York police. After meeting LDS missionaries both in
New York and Denmark, Kleasen moved to Austin, Texas, where he joined
the LDS Church. He invited the missionaries to his trailer in 1974,
and claims that they never showed up for dinner. Kleasen still
maintains he is innocent of their murders.
But police found a bloody watch belonging to Elder Fischer and his
missionary name tag punctured by a bullet hole. In 1975, Kleasen was
convicted of the murder, the jury taking just 20 minutes to
deliberate the finding. After he spent two years on death row, an
appeals court threw out the search warrant that tied him to the
missionaries. "We didn't just throw up our hands . . . We went down
every avenue we could think of," said Phil Nelson, an assistant
district attorney in Travis County, Texas who helped build the case
against Kleasen. "We needed something to tie [Kleasen] to the
missionaries, and the only thing we had was ruled inadmissable."
Kleasen was then convicted of firearm violations and assault charges
in Wayne County, New York from a 1971 incident in which he shot a man
near Palmyra, New York. After 15 years in prison, he went to England,
and after six years there, applied to be a gun dealer. Kleasen will
enter a plea on Friday in Crown Court in Grimsby.
Investigators in England are still not sure why Kleasen was given a
gun dealer permit. "Normally there's a quite thorough investigation
when one applies for a gun permit," said Horner. "There's a big
question how much checking was done in this case." But authorities
admit that they don't do as much checking on foreigners.