A man once sentenced to death for killing and dismembering a Mormon missionary is scheduled to be paroled from a New York prison after serving less than five years for an unrelated assault.
Robert E. Kleasen, 55, will be released May 9 from the Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn, N.Y., Edward Elwin, executive director of the New York State Division of Paroles, said Wednesday.The former Austin resident is scheduled for release under New York's good conduct time law, which provides automatic release when an inmate has served two-thirds of his maximum sentence.
Kleasen will have served four years and eight months of a maximum seven-year sentence for a 1971 assault in New York state. He had been denied parole twice in the past three years.
Kleasen was charged in Austin for the October 1974 deaths of two LDS missionaries, Mark Fischer of Milwaukee, and Gary Darley of Simi Valley, Calif., in one of the city's most sensational murder cases. Their bodies were never found.
Kleasen was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in the Fischer case, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction in 1977 on a technicality.
The court found that a faulty search warrant was used to look through Kleasen's trailer, and prosecutors decided that a new trial was impossible without the evidence obtained during the search.
Officers found a bullet-pierced name tag belonging to one of the missionaries and their wristwatches in Kleasen's trailer. Evidence indicated he disposed of the bodies at a taxidermy shop near his home, and traces of human blood, hair and tissue were found on a bandsaw at the shop.
"It was just a terrible murder," said Phil Nelson, an assistant district attorney in Travis County. "A jury said that, and it's always a shame to see a case come apart, but they do, and this one did."
Nelson said a retrial was just as unlikely today as it was in the 1970s.
Elwin said Kleasen will be paroled to an undisclosed city in New York.