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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended April 16, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12Apr00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Prosecutors May Reopen Missionary Killing Cases
Salt Lake Tribune 12Apr00 D2
By Kevin Cantera: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Prosecutors in Austin, Texas say they may seek to again try Robert Elmer Kleasen for the 1974 murders of two LDS missionaries. Kleasen has been in the news recently for an arrest in Britain for lying on a gun dealer application about his criminal history. Authorities in Britain are expected to deport him for the crime, which would put him back in the United States where Texas could try him again.

Kleasen was convicted of the murder of Elder Mark Fischer of Milwaukee, who had served in the mission for just two weeks before he was killed. Elder Gary Darly of Simi Valley, California was also killed. After conviction in the murder of Fischer, Kleasen was sentenced to death by a jury. But an appeals court overturned his conviction two years later, saying the search warrant used to obtain crucial evidence was faulty. Police never persued the matter, both because the appeal left them without enough evidence, and because a court in New York later convicted Kleasen on weapons charges, for which he served nearly 12 years. Released in 1990, he went to England.

Last September, English officials became suspicious of Kleasen's application to become a gun dealer, and sought additional information about him through interpol, the international police organization. New York police then provided them with information about Kleasen's criminal past, proving that he had lied on his application. On Monday, April 10th, Kleasen was arrested again for trying to jump bail and leave England by car.

The arrest may mean that Kleasen will be imprisoned until his trial for lying on the application. Should he be convicted, he has already been served with a deportation order, which will then be enforced. "Even if he is sentenced to prison [in England], the sentence may be suspended . . . leaving him to be deported," said Andrew Horner of the British Crown Prosecution Service.

Now, Texas authorities are examining whether new technologies could aid them in making a case against Kleasen for the murders of the two missionaries, "We are looking at what evidence is available to us after this long period of time, and what is left that has not been ruled inadmissable," said Rosemary Lehmberg, assistant district attorney for Travis County. "We are investigating whether new technology will help us in any possible retrial."

But Atlanta defense attorney and author Ken Driggs is skeptical of Texas' ability to convict Kleasen in the 1974 murders, "If I were Kleasen's [lawyer], the first motion I would file would be to preclude reopening the case on due process grounds. There's a huge problem. [Kleasen] has a right to speedy trial." Driggs has written a book, "Evil Among Us : The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders " about the murder of the two missionaries which is scheduled to be released next month.


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