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Posted 05 Aug 2001   For week ended July 27, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 24Jul01

By Kent Larsen

Texas May Try Again in 1974 Mormon Missionary Murders

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Prosecutors may try again to convict Robert Elmer Kleasen for the 1974 murder of two Mormon missionaries when he is released from an English prison in November. But Kleasen says he plans to move to Germany to live with his new German wife, after his release. Kleasen, who has a history of violence, was first convicted of the murder of Elder Mark Fischer in 1975, but was released in 1977 after evidence against him was thrown out. Now, prosecutors think they may have a case against him using DNA evidence.

Fischer and his companion, Elder Gary Smith Darley, were killed October 28, 1874 at about the time they went to visit Kleasen in his trailer home. Their bodies were never found, but prosecutors discovered tires and a license plate from their car in Kleasen's yard and a blood-spattered watch belonging to Fischer in the trailer. That evidence was thrown out when Kleasen's attorney argued that the search of his property was illegal. Kleasen then spent 13 years in a New York prison on unrelated weapons charges before he quitely disappeared. He turned up two years ago in England, where he was later arrested and convicted of weapons charges.

But long before he met the missionaries in Austin, Kleasen had a violent history. The New York weapons charges came from a cache of weapons that he had collected there and from an incident near Palmyra, New York where he shot a man in the foot. He met LDS Church missionaries both in New York and in Europe, but joined the LDS Church only when he settled in Austin, Texas in 1973.

Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas have been re-examining evidence from the nearly 30-year-old murders to see if they can build a new case against Kleasen since last Winter. Assistant District Attorney Claire Dawson-Browne told The Salt Lake Tribune that a determination on whether to refile charges should be made by early next month, "If we choose to go ahead [with murder charges], we will pursue [Kleasen's] extradition. If he's released, we'll never see him." British Judge Michael Heath has ordered that Kleasen be deported upon his release from prison.

Meanwhile, residents of Barton-on-Humber, the English town where Kleasen lived starting in 1990, hope that the Texas prosecutors are successful, and Kleasen's English ex-wife, who says he beat her, worries that he could easily return to England under the European Union's policies that allow easy movement between member countries. While in prison, Kleasen married a German pen pal and has permission from German immigration officials to live there after his release, according to British Member of Parliament Shona McIsaac who represents Barton-on-Humber. While McIsaac says it will be illegal for Kleasen to re-enter Britain once deported, officials may not be able to prevent it, even though his name is kept on file at all points of entry.

Texas prosecutors are waiting for a DNA analysis of blood-spattered clothing and human tissue found in a taxidermy shop next to Kleasen's home to see if they can be linked to one or both of the missionaries. If the tests are positive, charges will probably be filed, according to Dawson-Browne. That evidence would then open the door for a wealth of circumstantial evidence against Kleasen.

The story of the murder of the two missionaries and of the subsequent prosecution of Kleasen was told last year in a book by lawyer Ken Driggs, "Evil Among Us: The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders." But Driggs, who has followed recent developments in the case, said earlier this year that he doubts Kleasen could be convicted at this point, "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."


Charges May Be Filed in 1974 Missionary Deaths
Salt Lake Tribune 21Jul01 D2
By Kevin Cantera: Salt Lake Tribune

See also:

Mormon News' Coverage of the Robert Elmer Kleasen


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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