Murder suspect faces US retrial

The Scotsman (Scotland), Aug. 17, 2002
John Innes

A man wanted in the United States for the murders of two Mormon missionaries 28 years ago should face extradition, a London court ruled yesterday.

District Judge Timothy Workman, sitting at Bow Street Magistrates Court, agreed to a request by the US government to send Dr Robert Kleasen, 69, back to Texas for a retrial for the murders of Gary Darley and Mark Fischer.

Announcing his ruling, which must be approved by the Home Secretary, Mr Workman said: “I am satisfied that the documentation in this case is now correctly authenticated and certified.

“I am satisfied that the charges are extradition crimes and that the defendant is the person being sought by the government in the United States of America.”

Peter Cadman, solicitor for Kleason, who is wheelchair-bound, said after the hearing: “We will be appealing to the divisional court within the next 14 days.” Kleasen sat silently yesterday as the judge told him that there was a case for him to answer regarding the murders of Mr Darley, 20, and Mr Fisher, 19, on 28 October, 1974.

Mr Workman said he accepted assurances from the Travis County authorities in Texas that Kleasen would not be executed for the offences, which are punishable by death.

Kleasen was found guilty of murdering Mr Fisher and spent two and a half years on death row in Texas before his conviction was quashed.

He was originally acquitted on appeal in 1977 because of an illegal search warrant.

He moved to the UK in 1990 and married pen-pal Marie Longley, from Barton-Upon-Humber, near Scunthorpe, after serving a sentence for federal firearms violations. But advances in DNA testing had revealed new evidence linking him to the scene of the crime and prompted lawyers to seek an extradition.

Kleasen knew the two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – the Mormons. The two men vanished after going to his trailer when he asked them over to eat venison, according to US prosecutors.

Kleasen allegedly harboured a grudge against the Mormon church because he felt that it had neglected him when he was in jail for buffalo poaching.

Mr Workman ruled yesterday that Kleasen would have a fair trial abroad, dismissing defence arguments that it would be “unjust and oppressive” to return him for prosecution so long after the alleged offence.

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