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6:25 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Trial begins for Kingman man charged with murder

KINGMAN - A jury was seated and opening statements in the Robert Fisher murder case were heard Wednesday morning.

Fisher, 32, of Kingman is charged with felony first-degree murder, arson of an occupied structure and aggravated assault.

He is accused of stabbing his mother, Vivian Neal, to death, setting fire to their home and later striking deputies while resisting arrest.

Before the jury was seated at the start of Wednesday's trial, Defense Attorney Michael Hruby asked Judge Steven Conn to reconsider his decision to grant Deputy County Attorney Jeremy Huss's motion to suppress phone conversations between the defendant and his family.

Huss had argued that the conversations were hearsay.

Hruby argued Wednesday that the conversations fell under an exemption of the hearsay rule.

Conn stated that Huss had filed his motion to suppress quite a while ago and Hruby had had more than enough time to respond to the motion.

"I don't like to have things popped on me like this," Conn said. He affirmed his previous order making the phone records inadmissible.

Once the jury was seated in the courtroom, Huss started his opening statements.

He took the jury through the events of Jan. 9, 2006, the day Neal was killed. He told the jury that some of Neal's relatives had visited her earlier that day and noticed Fisher acting strangely. He was giving people strange, mean looks and not speaking to people.

Around 20 to 30 minutes after her relatives left, they received a call that Neal was injured and the house was on fire, Huss said. It was three neighbors, a woman and two men, across the street that first noticed the smoke coming from the home. The woman raced off to call 911 and the two men attempted to put out the fire. It was the two men who found Neal on the floor with her head two feet from the front door covered in blood, he said.

Approximately 4-1/2 hours later, Mohave County Sheriff's deputies found Fisher wandering around near Bank Street in a black shirt, boxer shorts and shoes covered in blood, Huss said. A red sweatshirt with blood on it was found in a nearby ditch. A lot of the blood found on Fisher's clothes came from a cut on Fisher's hand, he said. However, blood from Neal was found on Fisher's shorts, shoes and on the red sweatshirt.

Neal's blood was also found on two knives in the home. One of the knives was found with a broken handle and a shoe print nearby similar to the ones made by Fisher's shoes.

Fisher's blood was also found in a bathroom sink at the home.

Huss said at first Fisher was cooperative with deputies when they arrested him and placed him inside a cruiser, but as he was transported to the county jail, Fisher spit at the deputy.

As deputies tried to restrain him, Fisher kicked and fought and had to be tazed. "The defense is going to try to prove he didn't do it or that he was insane when he did," Huss told the jury. "There is no doubt there's a mental defect. The issue for you is to determine if he knew what he was doing was wrong. There are facts in the case that show he knew what he was doing was wrong."

In his opening statements, Hruby argued that the county did not have sufficient evidence to prove Fisher killed his mother and no evidence that Fisher had a motive to kill his mother.

"She had always loved him and he had always loved her," Hruby said.

Fisher had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic quite a while before the incident occurred, he said.

Neal's relatives knew that Fisher had been acting weird for quite a while before the incident occurred, he said.

Hruby stated that an emergency medical technician had estimated that around six pints of blood was found on the walls and floor of the house.

He also pointed out that the attack occurred in the kitchen and Neal was found with a second-degree burn near the door about 15 to 20 feet away from a couch that had been the source of the fire. However, when Fisher was found later, only a few small drops of blood were found on his shorts, sleeve and the bottom of his shoe. Hruby also pointed out that Fisher's shoes had a very common tread pattern.

He also pointed out that one of the stab wounds Neal suffered had severed one of the major arteries in her neck. Usually when an artery in the neck is severed, a large amount of blood is lost. "This is very, very inconsistent with the evidence found on Fisher," he said.

Also, officers did not find Fisher's fingerprints on any of the items in the house including the two knives.

"He was at the time insane, legally, medically, in any way possible," Hruby said. "This trial will take you through many worlds. The world of a murder. The world of a police investigation and the world of schizophrenia."

He read the jury a definition of schizophrenia from a book. What causes the disability is poorly understood, but its effects are well understood, he said.