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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended January 19, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 18Jan01

By Kent Larsen

DNA Will Show Kleasen Murdered LDS Missionaries, Prosecutors Hope

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Prosecutors in Travis county, Texas have contacted the families of murdered LDS missionaries Mark Fischer and Gary Darley and collected DNA samples from them in the hope that the DNA will help convict Robert Elmer Kleasen of their 1974 murder. The lawyers are trying to have their case ready by June, when Kleasen, who is serving a prison sentence in England, is expected to be released and deported to the US.

The Prosecutors are trying to get the DNA evidence lined up in order to proceed in June. "We are queued up and ready to go forward," said Claire Dawson-Browne, assistant district attorney for Travis County, Texas. "What we are looking for is the young men's DNA on items collected well over 20 years ago." They also hope that the DNA provided by the families will be a close enough match to blood samples from blood-spattered clothing recovered outside Kleasen's home just days after the missionaries were missing.

The case is dredging up sad memories for the families of Fischer and Darley, who felt like they had put the murders behind them. "I would like to see [Kleasen] put away where he can't hurt anybody," says Melissa Fischer-Pietrzak, Mark's sister, who was 15 when her brother died. "But it has been so many years. [Our family] is at peace over Mark's death. It might be difficult to relive everything."

Police suspected Kleasen, who was disaffected from the LDS Church's Austin ward at the time of the murders, almost from the moment the missionaries were missing. Elder's Fischer and Darley had an appointment to see Kleasen, but had been warned not to see him by local Church leaders. In addition to the blood-spattered clothing, investigators discovered human tissue in the casing of a band saw in a taxidermy shop next to Kleasen's home. When investigators searched Kleasen's home, they discovered Fischer's bloody watch and his missionary name tag, with a bullet hole in it.

The evidence led prosecutors to arrest and then convict Kleasen in 1975, but the conviction was overturned in 1977 when an appeals court threw out the evidence discovered in the search of Kleasen's home. Prosecutors felt they were left without enough evidence to convict, so Kleasen was never re-tried for the crime. But he did serve 15 years in a New York federal prison on unrelated weapons charges, before disappearing in 1990.

Kleasen turned up in England in 1999 when authorities there discovered he had collected a cache of weapons. Convicted, he was sentenced to three years in prison in March of last year. But English autorities are expected to release him and deport him to the US in June. "We will need to be ready to go when [Kleasen] is released, or else he could wander off and disappear," Dawson-Brown said.

But Ken Driggs, an LDS Church member, Georgia defense attorney and author of a book on the murders, "Evil Among Us: The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders," says he doubts prosecutors will be able to convict him. "The DNA is not a smoking gun, but it might be pretty incriminating. Still, it has been so long. The first issue I would raise as a defense lawyer would be [Kleasen's] right to a speedy trial."


SAD CHAPTER: DNA Needed In Kleasen Investigation
Salt Lake Tribune 13Jan01 D2
By Kevin Cantera: Salt Lake Tribune

DNA tests planned in 1974 slayings of 2 LDS missionaries
Deseret News 15Jan01 D2

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See also:
Evil Among Us
More about Ken Drigg's "Evil Among Us: The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders" at

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information