Mar 20, 2016

How did the Tyler Ave double murder happen?

Authorities, experts share theories of the crime

When local attorney Robert Pruitt hired an exterminator, he probably never suspected that the company owners, Wayne and Ned Fisher, meant to commit a burglary that would ultimately lead to Pruitt's death.

"You see it all the time," says veteran police observer James Woodrow. "If a crime wasn't committed by a loved one or close business associate, it can probably be laid at the door of someone on the periphery."

Local psychologist James Raymond added, "The people whom we treat as if they are invisible often begin to feel that way. They not only resent the situation but often come to see their invisibility as a secret power, as it were."

Whatever the theories, the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney say they have little doubt as to what transpired on the evening of February 19, 2016.

What do authorities believe happened?

Investigators allege that Ned Fisher, 30, and his father, Wayne Fisher, 57, used their pest control business as a means to scout potential burglary targets.

Believing that Robert and Vanessa Pruitt were away that weekend, the Fishers entered the Pruitts' home with the intention of stealing any items of value.

But the father-and-son burglary team was only half-right.

Vanessa Pruitt had gone out of town, but her husband stayed home — a last-minute decision that would prove fateful and fatal.

According to the sheriff's department, Robert Pruitt was brandishing a gun when he surprised the thieves as they were gathering the entertainment electronics they planned to take.

Ned Fisher, under arrest for the two murders
Ned Fisher, under arrest for the two murders
With Wayne Fisher dead and Ned Fisher exercising his right to remain silent, exactly what happened next is unknown, but it resulted in Pruitt shooting and killing Wayne Fisher.

Ned Fisher then allegedly fatally shot his father's killer before fleeing the scene in the Fisher Pest Control van.

The bodies remained undiscovered until the following afternoon, when Pruitt's wife, Vanessa, returned from an out-of-town trip.

"I'm not sure I'll ever be comfortable allowing strangers into my home again," says Vanessa Pruitt, now widowed for the second time. "There's a basic level of trust that I think I've lost."

Not an isolated crime?

Sources close to the sheriff's department say the father-and-son Fisher team may have been responsible for several unsolved burglaries in Yoknapatawpha County.

According to YCSD Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones, Ned Fisher has only been charged with any crimes directly related to the Pruitt-Fisher homicides. However, Jones would not rule out the possibility that Fisher may face additional charges in the future.

Ned Fisher's attorney, Robert Hawkins, said, "My client's father was a victim of this tragic double killing, and now my client is a victim as well."

Hawkins added that Fisher is not responsible for the homicides or for any other crimes, vowing "if the District Attorney does not see the error of his ways and drop all charges against my client, we will prove Ned Fisher's innocence at trial."
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Mar 17, 2016

Suspect arrested in double homicide

Investigators not yet commenting on the how or why of what happened

A pest control worker was arrested this morning in the shootings of Oxford defense attorney Robert Pruitt, 38, and exterminator Wayne Fisher, 56, in a fatal encounter February 19.

Ned Fisher, 30, was taken into custody at his residence without incident, investigators say.

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department officials say Ned Fisher is facing murder charges in connection with the deaths of his father, Wayne Fisher, and Robert Pruitt as well as other charges related to the incident.

Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones declined to provide specifics of what investigators believe happened that night or whether anyone else was involved, saying additional information will be released at a later date.

A mystery from the start

On February 20, Robert Pruitt's wife, Vanessa, returned from an out-of-town trip and discovered the two men dead in the basement rec room of the Pruitt home.

Wayne Fisher was not immediately identified at the scene of the crime, and initially investigators struggled to find a connection between the two men.

Several former clients of attorney Pruitt confirmed that they were questioned closely about the killings.

"It was like the Keystone Kops," said Jackie Woodruff, who Pruitt unsuccessfully defended in a 2014 assault case. "You could tell they were fishing for anything and everything. I hated Rob Pruitt, don't get me wrong — but I'm not dumb enough to go back to jail."

Jones declined to comment on whether investigators blundered in their pursuit of leads.

Forensic evidence played a key role in the case, according to Jones, both in identifying Wayne Fisher and in determining that the men were shot with different weapons.

"Science doesn't lie," Jones said. "This was truly a team effort between our investigators in the field, our crime lab and the coroner's team."

The Fisher family reacts

Wayne Fisher's ex-wife, Christine Fisher, of Pontotoc, MS, was distraught and refused to comment on the case. But her son, Oxford resident Joel Fisher, said he hopes the arrest will bring closure to a tragic chapter in the family's history.

At times becoming emotional, Joel Fisher said that he had been estranged from brother Ned and father Wayne Fisher following his parents' acrimonious divorce nearly 20 years ago.

"This is a sad bookend to a painful situation," he said. "I only hope the best for my mom at this point."
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Mar 6, 2016

Why no leads in double murder?

On February 20, 2016, local attorney Robert Pruitt, 38, was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home. Also in the Pruitt residence was the body of exterminator Wayne Fisher, 56. Fisher was also killed by a gunshot wound.

Initially, no reason was given for why Fisher was in the Pruitt residence. Now, weeks after the discovery of the two bodies, no arrests have been made and sources close to the investigation claim the police are floundering.

All these bodies, just piling up, is unacceptable in this community. Every couple of months, there's another murder in this town, and our sheriff's department seems unable to stop it. Sure, they eventually solve the case, but that's not slowing down the homicide rate.

Oxford City Councilman Keith Palmer
I don't see how they're going to solve this one, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

A former member of the YCSD told me, "They're struggling. I've heard they don't have a link between the two victims, much less any suspects. They don't even know why Fisher was in the house."

Just talk to anyone on the Square, and you can uncover a number of possible suspects.

Fisher went through a very acrimonious divorce and was estranged from his ex-wife and elder son. He co-owned Fisher Pest Control with his younger son, Ned, and both men had criminal records.

Sheriff's department officials would not tell me whether the evidence indicates any possible involvement by members of Fisher's family but did say that they had spoken to the ex-wife and children as part of the routine investigation.

My question is: have they talked to them enough? Have they pressed hard enough? How hard is the YCSD really trying to solve this horrific double murder?

And the potential suspects don't stop with people connected to the Fisher family. Attorney Robert Pruitt is also said to have had enemies.

Defense attorneys who knew Pruitt told me, "I don't know about any specific troubles Robert might have been having, but in my own practice, I know people get mad. I've had a few people come to me looking for revenge."

If a mere civilian like me can identify so many potential suspects, why is the sheriff's department having so much trouble?

The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department continues to refuse to discuss the case in detail.

Public Information Officer Elizabeth Jones issued a statement that read "we are going through our normal investigation procedures, and we are confident that we will clear this case. The people of Oxford can rest assured that the killer or killers will be brought to justice."

Unfortunately, many in the community don't share the department's confidence. Even if this particular case is solved, there seems to be no slowing down of the murder rate.

"We consistently have several homicides every year for what seems like the last 20 years or more. In a town this small, that has to mean something," Reverend John Martin of Calvary Baptist Church told me.

Sheriff Taylor Sheldon and Mayor Claire Windham should step forward and publicly answer for their actions — or lack thereof — taken to solve this multiple homicide and to reduce the overall murder rate in Oxford.

They are accountable to the citizens of Oxford and are responsible for guaranteeing our safety, and we have a right to know what is being done on our behalf.

Mayor Windham and Sheriff Sheldon must take immediate, effective steps to resolve these critical problems plaguing our city. If they cannot, they should resign their offices and let Oxonians replace them with someone who can.

Keith Palmer
Oxford City Councilman
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