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Fri, Nov. 22

Murder suspect suffers from schizophrenia

KINGMAN – Medical records from previous criminal proceedings showed that murder suspect Robert Lee Fisher was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia possibly caused by alcohol and methamphetamine abuse.

The 30-year-old Kingman man is suspected of murdered his mother at their house in the 3500 block of Lory Lane on Jan. 9 then setting the mobile home on fire.

Records reveal a man who knew he was a threat to his family and pleaded for help from the legal system.

The files also show his mother, Vivian Neal, as a woman who cared about her son and was willing to work with him to overcome his substance abuse problems.

Fisher’s legal problems began as a teenager in his hometown of Riverside, Calif.

He dropped out of high school as a sophomore and admitted to doctors that he had been using drugs since he was 12. Along with several juvenile convictions, Fisher served 16 months in a California prison when he was 18 years old for DUI.

Fisher’s legal problems in Kingman began on Christmas Day, 1999.

Police arrested him in the fenced-in parking lot at Colorado River Ford after he damaged eight vehicles in the lot.

He was sentenced in May 2000 and served 27 months in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Neal wrote a letter pleading with the judge to not enforce the maximum three-year sentence contained in the plea agreement.

“I hope you can find in your heart to give him less than the 3 years cap,” she wrote.

Neal threw Fisher out of the house earlier in the day because he was drunk and behaving poorly, according to her letter.

He was released on Feb. 10, 2003.

Four days later while sitting on the couch with his girlfriend at his mother’s house, Fisher lost control, and punched his girlfriend in the nose. Neal told police that he grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen and asked that someone stab him. She said he was also continually saying someone was after him. He was gone by the time the police arrived. Neal asked the officers not to hurt him.

Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies found him about an hour later and he was belligerent. He kicked out two windows of a patrol car and fought with the deputies.

It was this incident on Feb. 14, 2003, that started to reveal that Fisher suffered from a serious psychotic disorder.

He volunteered to undergo treatment on March 3 at the Mohave County Mental Health Clinic in Kingman. The following day, now represented by the county Legal Defenders Office, his attorney filed a motion to conduct a Rule 11 mental health evaluation. During a subsequent hearing on March 28, Superior Court Judge Robert Moon dismissed the need for an evaluation due to lack of evidence that he was mentally unstable at the time he committed the assault and damage. Fisher tested positive for methamphetamine the day he was arrested.

However, according to court documents, Fisher had been treated for paranoid schizophrenia and was on anti-psychotic medication while in the Arizona state prison system. The drugs were prescribed to control the voices in his head.

The Mohave County Mental Health Clinic diagnosis was that Fisher suffered from methamphetamine-induced psychosis and alcohol dependence. There was no indication that he ever suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, according to the medical report.

Records from the Mohave County Jail stated he was diagnosed with impulse control disorder and was given Zyprexa and Tegretol. Zyprexa is used to treat long-term schizophrenia. Tegretol is used to control seizures that are sometimes a side effect of Zyprexa.

On June 16, 2003, Fisher accepted a plea agreement in which he would admit to criminal damage and assault. He received three years in ADC. He appealed the verdict on the grounds that he was mentally unable to enter a plea and that his attorney did a poor job presenting his psychological condition. The LDO withdrew from the appeal citing a conflict of interest. An attorney from the county Public Defender’s Office was appointed to defend Fisher in the appeal.

ADC medical records dated Jan. 6, 2004, stated Fisher was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and was prescribed corresponding medication while awaiting a decision on his appeal. The Arizona Appeals Court Division I overturned the agreement and declared Fisher had not entered into a “voluntary, knowing and intelligent plea.”

“The trial court was provided with independent evidence that … he (Fisher) did not understand the nature of the proceedings against him at the time he considered and/or ultimately entered his plea. There was also evidence that he was unable to assist in his defense or consider alternatives to his plea,” the judgment read.

During the sentencing hearing, Moon asked Fisher if he had taken any drugs or medication prior to the hearing. Fisher told him he had not. The Appeals Court determined the medical records showed he did take his medication within 24 hours before the hearing.

On June 7, 2004, Moon ordered a Rule 11 pre-screening evaluation. The screening would determine if a full competency exam would be necessary. The psychiatrist who performed the screening recommended Fisher undergo the full evaluation but Moon denied it. Las Vegas psychiatrist Daniel Malatesta performed the pre-screening evaluation.

In a letter to Malatesta dated May 12, 2004, Fisher wrote that his mother was trying to poison him and that “the bones in my face were going soft.” His only escape was to “kill her (my mother) before she kills me – but I just couldn’t do it.” Malatesta’s report said the letter also read that Fisher had “homicidal delusions” toward his grandparents. He also pleaded again for help in the letter to Malatesta. “I would like to continue my treatment program so I can deal with these problems before I wind up hurting someone,” Fisher wrote.

Malatesta said he believed Fisher was not competent to stand trial or enter into a plea agreement.

“Mr. Fisher was clearly impaired at the time of his offense,” his report stated. “This impairment encompasses more than ‘voluntary intoxication’ from the influence of illegal drugs.

“He clearly has a history of major mental illness, which apparently was not adequately treated in the past.”

In his letter, Fisher said he thought that at the time of his arrest that the police were going to take him to a secret location to torture him for “some sick snuff video.”

Malatesta also stated that Fisher’s defense attorney did not provide the judge with adequate information to order the examination nor consider his mental health as a mitigating circumstance in his sentence.

Fisher’s sentence was set to expire on Feb. 3. He was available for parole on Nov. 4. Since his parole was near, Fisher asked the PDO to drop the appeal in October, according to court documents.

Fisher told Malatesta during the evaluation that he needed help because he thought he might hurt his mother.

Neal’s already-lifeless body was found Jan. 9 on her porch when paramedics arrived. She was 48 years old.

Later that day, sheriff’s deputies found Fisher wandering around town and tried to apprehend him. Fisher became combative and spit on the deputies as he was transported to Mohave County Jail, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Fisher could face the death penalty or life imprisonment if he’s found guilty of first-degree murder. He’s also charged with arson and aggravated assault, both felonies that could add an additional 40 years to his sentence.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

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