Evil Among Us
by Ken Driggs
[p.27] Jill Darley and Cathy Fischer met separately with Bob Kleasen in the Travis County Jail to plead for their sons. Jill visited him for fifteen or twenty minutes one or two days after her November 10 arrival in Texas.
“I was trying to be courteous to him and see if perhaps he would talk from the heart to me as Gary’s mother,” she said. Still holding out some hope her child was alive if Kleasen would just say where, she felt enormous pressure meeting with him. She described the experience as “a mother’s heart pleading for her son.”
She thought she had begun to develop a connection with Kleasen, but ten minutes into their conversation Sheriff Raymond Frank came up and said in a loud voice, “Well, did you get out of him what you wanted?” She felt that pretty much destroyed the fragile rapport she had developed.
Jill was accompanied by her son Kelle, who had also served a mission in Texas. Kelle spoke to Kleasen privately, but the mother and son never learned anything about the fate of the missing Gary.
Jill tried again a few days later, this time meeting with Kleasen for another fifteen or twenty minutes. She complimented him on his efforts to make the shacks around the trailer habitable. The Darleys had been part of the thousand-person search on November 9, thus giving Jill a chance to inspect the taxidermy studio and grounds. Kleasen went into great detail on how much he’d done and what the efforts meant to him.
Then Jill took out a leather key case with her name tooled on it. The gift meant a great deal to her, especially now. She told Kleasen Gary had made it for her. “He was such a beautiful artist, he did such beautiful things,” she told him. Then wistfully she added, “Isn’t it too [p.28] bad that Gary won’t be able to do this anymore?”
“How can you, his mother, talk about your son as though he were dead?” Kleasen snapped. “I just can’t imagine how you could do such a thing being his mother.”
Jill began to cry and said how much she loved her son. Kleasen began to cry with her, saying that he loved Gary too.
They talked a little longer, but she couldn’t recall just what was said. Again she wept for her son and for her family. She left without having learned anything about Gary’s fate.
A few days later Kelle and Clark visited Kleasen. Kelle’s hopes of getting some information about his brother were dashed almost immediately when the jailer who brought the suspect to them loudly stated, “Maybe you can get something out of him when everybody else has failed.” Kelle was furious.
Kleasen gave the young men a limp handshake and played dumb. “At that point he just wanted to be Mr. Innocent,” Kelle recalls. The two brothers left without learning anything new.
Cathy Fischer also tried. After flying from Milwaukee to Austin, Cathy first then Jim a day later, the Fischers stayed in the home of Bishop McCullough and his wife Norma. The bishop accompanied Cathy to the jail but remained at the prisoner’s meeting room so that she could meet with Kleasen privately.
Cathy Fischer is a warm, outgoing, deeply religious woman, not threatening in any way. But on this day her natural vivaciousness was subdued—all she could bring with her were sorrow and anxiety. Even face to face with Kleasen whom all believed had killed her son she did not carry any hatred.
She greeted him with a handshake at the visiting room door. She had even brought him cookies and banana nut bread made by Mormon Relief Society women in an attempt to ease her pain, but a jailer at the door would not let her give it to him.
“We talked. He cried for a good part of the time that I was in there,” she said of the encounter. “I told him I was concerned about the welfare of my son because the boys had been in short sleeves when they were last seen and it was cold and rainy. He said to me that he did-[p.29]n’t think the boys were alive. It was a week and a half since they had been gone. We talked again and I told him that our family didn’t have very much materially but that there was a lot of love in our house and I was concerned and I was frightened and I was worried. And he told me that if it was any comfort to me that he would be dead too.”
Kleasen told her about cooking venison steaks for the missionaries. At other times he had denied that the missionaries had come to his Oak Hill trailer on October 28. This statement to Cathy suggested otherwise, however, and was probably the only time Kleasen had met Mark Fischer.
The two prayed together before Cathy left. As they parted, Cathy gave Kleasen a Book of Mormon. She wrote her name and address in the book so he could write if he had anything more to say.
Kleasen never wrote.
Like Jill Darley, Cathy Fischer left the jail without learning anything about the fate of her son.