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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 03:51 GMT
Reviving painful memories
Bob Kleasen
Bob Kleasen, pictured outside a Texas court in 1978
The grisly murder of two Mormon missionaries, killed as they spread the gospel in the heart of Texas, shocked America in 1974. But an extradition bid being heard in the UK will mean reviving painful memories for the victims' families.

When Bob Kleasen told police his guests for dinner had not turned up, they immediately became suspicious.

Gary Darley, 20, and Mark Fischer, 19, like many Mormon missionaries, ran their lives to a strict schedule and if they made an appointment they kept it.

Gun caches taken from Kleasen
Dec 1950: Buffalo, New York: 13 rifles, 12 Japanese swords and machetes seized
Sep 1971: Buffalo: 126 rifles, 32 handguns, four machine guns, 100lb of explosives
Nov 1974: Austin, Texas: Ten guns and quantity of ammunition
Apr 1999: Barton-upon-Humber, UK: 44 guns, including a Thompson submachine gun
Oct 1999: Barton-upon-Humber: Two handguns
The pair had been missing from their apartment in Austin, Texas, for almost a week and there had been no reports of their car - an American Motors Hornet - having been involved in an accident.

Their disappearance pointed to foul play and, when Mr Fischer's name tag was found in the undergrowth close to Kleasen's trailer in the suburb of Oak Hill, the game was up.

On 5 November 1974 Kleasen's trailer was searched and in a drawer under the sink police found a bunch of keys, which happened to belong to the missing missionaries.

Kleasen, a carpenter and part-time deer hunter who also smuggled rare hawks from Mexico, was arrested and later charged with two murders.

Following the murders the Church of Latter Day Saints introduced safety guidelines for its missionaries, including imposing a limit on the time they should spend alone with potentially dangerous individuals.

Ken Driggs' book
Ken Driggs has written a book about the case
At his 1975 trial Kleasen claimed to have been a former CIA operative and said the agency had framed him for the murders because of his anti-Vietnam war stance.

The jury, ignoring his conspiracy theory, returned after 15 minutes and recommended a death sentence.

But the Texas appeal courts overturned the conviction in 1977 because the warrant used to search his trailer had not stated a "probable cause".

'Delusional'

In that same year a psychiatrist from the Texas Department of Corrections said: "Mr Kleasen is an emotionally unstable person of above average intelligence who displays considerable evidence of a severe psychological disorder involving delusional thinking."

Kleasen was transferred to New York state, where he spent the next 13 years in prison on firearms and assault charges.

He was released in 1988 and in 1990 Kleasen, then aged 58, became free of his parole restrictions and vanished.


I'm a death penalty specialist and I've worked with a lot of dangerous people but I have never encountered anyone like him

Ken Driggs, lawyer and author
Ken Driggs, a defence lawyer and death penalty expert who is also a Mormon, first read about the Kleasen case when he moved to Texas in 1994.

He became fascinated and eventually wrote a book, Evil Among Us: The Texas Mormon Missionary Murders.

In May 2000 it was ready for publication when Mr Driggs received a call from a police contact telling him that Kleasen had reappeared - in England.

Mr Driggs rapidly caught up on events in north Lincolnshire and added an extra chapter to his book, which was published in August 2000.

But the Kleasen story is by no means over.

Mr Driggs told BBC News Online: "I understand from the District Attorney's Office in Austin that they are expecting a very drawn out process.


"Kleasen has the right to appeal through the British legal system, which might drag it out for three or four years."

He said the victims' families had slightly different views on the process.

Mr Driggs said: "The Darleys are anxious for him to be retried but the Fischers are fairly ambivalent.

"They do not want him on the streets, where he could do more harm, but they have come to live with the murder of their son and they are not over-anxious to relive all this."

Mr Driggs said: "I'm a death penalty specialist and I've worked with a lot of dangerous people but I have never encountered anyone like him.

"He's much smarter than most criminals. He wins people over, and gravitates towards the gullible and the young, those who have little life experience.

"I thought he must be dead, because he has never gone for so long without getting in trouble," said Mr Driggs.

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 ON THIS STORY
Ken Driggs, author of Evil Among Us
"A number of young Mormons had been to see Kleasen. They were fascinated by his stories"
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