Summarized by Kent Larsen
Suspect in Missionary Deaths Sentenced for Gun Violations
Salt Lake Tribune 10Jun00 D2
By Kevin Cantera: Salt Lake Tribune
GRIMSBY, ENGLAND -- Robert Elmer Kleasen, once convicted of murdering two
LDS missionaries in 1974 and sentenced to death, was again convicted on
Friday on weapons violations and sentenced to 3 years in prison. Kleasen's
1974 conviction was overturned when a search warrant was held invalid, but
last year Police in England discovered his cache of illegal weapons and
arrested him again.
Judge Michael Heath, who sentenced Kleasen, told him at sentencing Friday,
"You are an intelligent but devious man. I consider your continued presence
in this country to be potentially detrimental. . . . You are likely to
commit further offenses." The judge went on to say he would recommend to the
British Home Office that Kleasen be deported after serving his time.
But Kleasen may return to the US earlier if prosecutors in Travis County,
Texas have their way. They are seeking new evidence, including potential DNA
analysis of evidence that Texas already has, to re-try Kleasen for the 1974
murders of Elders Gary Smith Darley, 20, and Mark Fischer, 19. The two
Elders disappeared on Oct. 28, 1974, the day they were scheduled to eat
dinner with Kleasen.
That and other circumstantial evidence indicates that Kleasen, who had
joined the LDS Church in Austin in 1973, murdered the two Elders. And after
investigators discovered a blood-spattered watch belonging to Fischer in
Kleasen's trailer, a jury convicted Kleasen of Fischer's murder and
sentenced him to the death penalty. But the search warrant that turned up
the watch was later ruled invalid, and Kleasen was released.
Travis County prosecutor Rosemary Lehmberg says that they are still trying
to see if they can get enough evidence to convict Kleasen, "We have located
a surprising amount of the original evidence," she said. "The issue of DNA
and other forensic work is still in the process of being examined." Among
the evidence thay may be available is bloody clothing found in a trash can
outside Kleasen's trailer, which may tie Kleasen to one or both missionaries.
The story of Kleasen and the murder of the two LDS missionaries will make
its debut in book form later this summer as Signature books releases a book
by Ken Driggs, "Evil Among Us : The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders"