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,"
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