'5 Investigates' team goes underground in Robert Fisher search - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

'5 Investigates' team goes underground in Robert Fisher search

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Robert Fisher is on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list -– wanted for reportedly wiping out his entire family some 10 years ago. But despite nearly a decade of searching for him, no one can seem to answer the question, "Where is Robert Fisher?" 

Our CBS 5 investigative team explores a theory that Fisher may have died in Arizona shortly after the murders. And not by suicide. Investigative reporters Tammy Leitner and Morgan Loew go underground to where some believe may be Fisher's final resting place. Here's their account of what they found.

"This is insane!" says investigative reporter Tammy Leitner, as she starts to repel down hundreds of feet into a black abyss.  

"This is one of those moments when you say to yourself, 'What am I thinking?'" says Leitner. 

The answer takes them back 10 years to what at first looked like an ordinary house fire. But it turned out, it was deliberately set to cover up a triple murder. A mother and two children were brutally killed.

The husband and father was a man named Robert Fisher, the lone suspect. Ten days later, authorities found the family's missing SUV and their dog in the forest near the town of Young.

Search crews scoured the forest, but those who knew the area suspected Fisher was hiding nearby.

"There are plenty of ways to disappear up here," Loew says. "But there's one place in particular that stood out back then and still does today."

That "perfect spot" is a cave.

At the time investigators searched the cave, they set off flash bombs and concluded Fisher was not down here. But now, there are questions as to whether they searched deep enough or whether this is even the right cave.

There are dozens of caves and all are within a short walk. Investigators only searched one.

"It would be easy to elude someone if you've got the upper hand and you know the terrain," said Brian Rackley, who has been caving in the area since 1985.

Now, he's taking Leitner and Loew to one of the "other" caves in the area to see if it's possible Fisher got away by hiding underground.

As they dropped down into the entrance, the walls immediately felt like they were closing in.

"This is muddy and wet and narrow," Leitner said.

The tunnel finally opens up  and that is when the crew begin to notice something about the way they're all breathing or trying to breath.

"There's a lot less oxygen than you're used to," Rackley said.  The carbon dioxide comes from decomposing plant matter.  It prevents your lungs from absorbing oxygen.

Rackley said if you hit a pocket of this "bad" air, all of a sudden it'll feel like the wind has been knocked out of you.

Leitner and Loew said they started to wonder how long Fisher could have lasted in the cave.

They said one thing is certain: There are plenty of places to hide.

"The search and rescue team searched for Fisher for more than three days up here, but let me show you something," Leitner says.

"Somebody could easily crawl through one of these small tunnels, pull the dirt behind them and disappear completely," she said.

The team is in a "wet cave," which means every time it rains outside, this becomes an underground river.

"The air will be worse down there," Rackley said. 

The only way down is to rappel. "Looks like I'm heading down into an abyss," Loew said. "I can't even see the bottom."

Loew reaches the bottom of the cave.  "You can really feel how the air is thicker down here," he said.

Leitner began to descend. "Every time we get a storm, this little crevasse essentially turns into a waterfall washing everything and anything out of here," she said.

And if Fisher hid down here for any length of time, Rackley said the carbon dioxide would eventually kill him and then he'd be washed down the drain.

"I'm going to crawl down this final passageway to see where all this water and debris would end up," Loew said.

He said it really does look like a tunnel that was created by rushing water and at the end, the tunnel heads underwater.

"This is the end of the line," Loew said. "If Fisher's body did get washed down here, it's covered by feet and feet of debris, dirt and mud."

Several years ago, a caver died in the very room where Leitner and Loew were standing, after hitting a pocket of bad air.

"I wouldn't want to be down here for more than four hours," Rackley said. "That would be the absolute limit."

Soon, the carbon dioxide was beginning to have an effect.  It was time for Leitner and Loew to leave. 

"Coming up, you can really feel how people freak out down here," Loew said.

They finally make it to the top of the falls. From there, it was a mad dash to the entrance.

Outside, storm clouds were moving in and any sign they left in that cave is about to get washed over the falls and disappear, just like Robert Fisher. 

Copyright 2011 KPHO. All rights reserved.

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    Thursday, April 10 2014 2:43 PM EDT2014-04-10 18:43:18 GMT
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