A Murder in Central Gardens Part I
The story behind a horrific Midtown murder that took a dozen years to solve.
She had red hair, blue eyes, and a memorable laugh that she often aimed at herself. She swam so well that her nickname was "Fish," and her tennis lobs could bring opponents to their knees. Friends knew her as unpretentious, brilliant, generous, and funny, and as a hostess who could calm the most nervous guest.
She was Emily Klyce Fisher, wife, mother, sister, friend, arts patron, philanthropist, and advocate for the poor. She was also the victim of a murder — among the most horrific and heartbreaking murders in Memphis history and one that took a dozen years to solve.
Shortly before noon on February 27, 1995, Emily was seen by a neighbor talking to three young black men at the side door of her elegant home at 1649 Central. The neighbor told police he paid little attention because she showed no signs of distress.
Within 30 minutes, however, sirens shattered the peace of the prestigious Central Gardens neighborhood. The scene inside the house shocked even hardened police veterans. Blood was spattered throughout most rooms of the three-story mansion, showing signs of a desperate chase. Blood smeared the walls where the victim had probably stumbled on her hands and knees as her assailant repeatedly stabbed her.
Emily was rushed to the Regional Medical Center, where doctors tried to save a woman whose brain and lungs had been relentlessly pierced, but she died at 1:28 p.m.
Her elderly housekeeper, LeeEster Redmond, who had been beaten, forced upstairs, and bound by Emily's murderers, was treated and survived. Redmond later identified two men — Rodney Blades, 30, and George D. Tate, 24 — as those who attacked her and murdered Emily. They were tried in July 1996 but acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Then in 2004, a tipster led police to Alfred Turner, who had no felony record but whose DNA matched blood found at the Fisher house; he was charged with capital murder. But in January 2007, after deliberating over two days, the jury convicted Turner of a lesser charge, facilitation to commit felony murder. Jurors never doubted he left blood at the scene, but weren't convinced he committed the act.
Adding a stunningly tragic element to the crime was the role of Emily's own son. Early in the investigation, police and prosecutors learned that Hubert Adrian Fisher IV was a drug addict known on the streets as "Snow" for his abuse of cocaine and other illegal substances. Not only did he have ties to the defendants in both trials, he often bragged to them about the safe in the family home where valuables were kept.
Today, Turner, who has appealed the verdict, is serving a 25-year sentence at West Tennessee State Correctional Center. However, because of sentencing guidelines that credit inmates for time served, good behavior, and prison overcrowding, he has already had one parole hearing, which was denied, on September 13th. He will be eligible for another hearing in six years.
Emily's family may never know exactly what happened that February day 12 years ago — a span of time in which six witnesses have died, including the victim's son, husband, and housekeeper. Certainly, they have conflicting feelings about a young man who, intentionally or not, betrayed his mother in the worst possible way, a father who protected him, and a pal who kept quiet until an informant turned him in.
For this article, the first in a two-part series, we talked to family members and others who knew Emily during different periods of her life. They tell of her pursuit of excellence, of her commitment to the arts, and of her passion for social justice.
They also tell of a child she felt helpless to control and how her acceptance of his friends made her a target for their violence.
While bitterness still lingers and questions beg for answers, Emily's loved ones share memories both happy and horrendous of her life, her death, and her lasting legacy.
"We'd clear the dinner table so Emily could study."
Sitting on the floor of her Delaware home, Katherine Klyce is sifting through photographs and other mementos, recalling an older sister she remembers with love, anger, sorrow — and laughter. "We fought like cats and dogs," she smiles. "We were only two years apart in age. I was the bad kid. I had to be. She was so good."
Emily and Katherine were the oldest children born to Arnold and Mary Byrd Klyce. In a comfortable house at 265 North McLean, the couple raised four girls and one boy (another boy died shortly after birth, and a daughter, Mary Elise Klyce, was killed in a car accident in 1972). Arnold kept a finger in many business pursuits — from Memphis White Rose Laundry and Peacock Rug Cleaners to car dealerships and real estate holdings — and also managed the 1960 mayoral campaign of Henry Loeb.
His wife flung herself into the city's culture, appearing in productions of what is now Opera Memphis and Theatre Memphis, and gradually becoming known as the grande dame of the Memphis Ballet Society. Through the years the Klyces hosted numerous dancers, including Rudolf Nureyev. Says Kathy: "We put up every wandering actor, performer, and dancer that came to Memphis."
The Klyce children were taught to embrace education and the arts, and they learned ballet as well as piano, guitar, and other musical instruments. "One summer on a family trip to Mexico, my mother bought a guitar and Emily came home and started playing it," says Kathy. "She said I never would because I wouldn't cut off my fingernails. I thought, I'll show you! And I cut 'em off and never grew them back."
Kathy recalls her sister being serious about everything she tried, especially her education: "After supper every night, we'd clear the dinner table so that Emily could spread out her books and study."
As a senior at The Hutchison School for Girls, where she was salutatorian, Emily was an officer of the Student Council and the Honor Council, co-captain of the basketball team, and was chosen "Best All-Around" by her classmates. Though she had her faults — the 1960 Hutchison yearbook, Lantern, noted that she was "always talking in Study Hall" — she excelled academically, acing the Latin portion of her SAT test with a perfect 800.
Emily went on to college at Wellesley, transferring a year or so later to her mother's alma mater, the University of North Carolina, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Upon her graduation with a degree in history, she knew what her parents expected her to do. "My father believed a girl should be able to teach, so if she married a scoundrel she would be able to support herself," says Kathy. "So my mother charged ahead and signed her up at Memphis State to take education courses."
But Emily would have none of that. When her parents left on a trip abroad, she upped and moved to New York, eventually earning a master of arts degree from the Teachers College of Columbia University. Upon returning home, she got her teaching certificate and taught seventh-grade social studies at Melrose Junior High. Later, she went back to Memphis State and earned a degree as a certified public accountant.
As a young woman Emily dated occasionally. "She never considered herself accomplished in that way," says Kathy. "At Hutchison [an all-girls' school], you had to be aggressive and go looking for boys. She didn't do that." Still, she had her admirers, including longtime friends who escorted her to debutante and Cotton Carnival balls.
In her mid-20s, on a blind date, Emily met Hubert Fisher III, whose father was an executive with the Memphis-based conglomerate Cook Industries; the couple married in 1969.
As a young wife, Emily pursued her work with arts groups, including Memphis Ballet, The Chamber Music Society, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and Art Today, an arm of Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. She also became a mother, in 1970, to Rebecca, and, in 1974, to Hubert Adrian Fisher IV, whom the family called Adrian.
" If you ever got inside her there were stories to be told."
Rebecca Fisher, now a San Francisco-based writer, performer, and teacher, remembers a home where the arts were discussed at the dinner table and fund-raisers were planned and hosted. For a few years the family lived on North McLean near the elder Klyces, but in the early 1980s, they moved to the stately residence on Central. "My aunt Kathy and her husband had been living there and they traded homes with my parents," Rebecca explains.
Social pressures and her parents' need to keep up appearances caused tension in the Fisher household. At the same time, Emily was "overly sensitive to people who had suffered in the world," says Rebecca, "and bore a burden of guilt over privilege and success." She also tried to expose her daughter to another way of life by having her ride the bus to St. Mary's elementary school in East Memphis. Says Rebecca: "My friend, Kate Newton, and I would laugh at how it was just us and the black maids."
Emily's concern for the poor — especially, as her daughter calls it, a "naive enthusiasm for supporting black youth" — found an outlet in the church where she'd been raised, St. John's United Methodist. Reverend Mark Matheny, now senior pastor at St. Luke's UMC, was an associate pastor at St. John's from 1971 to 1979, and remembers Emily chairing the missions committee, and volunteering for the reading program at Bruce Elementary School and with a youth project in the Bellevue-Lamar area. "I was much impressed at how committed she was to neighborhood outreach, in contrast to a lot of people of that financial background," says Matheny. "She had a heart for everybody."
Although Hubert Fisher maintained membership at another church, he would sometimes attend with the family at St. John's. Frank McRae, senior pastor at St. John's from 1976 to 1995, believes the couple's relationship was strained. "Emily was friendly and bouncy," he says, "but I always felt she was holding something back, that if you could ever get inside her, there were stories to be told."
As for Adrian, says Matheny, "the boy had a lot of troubles. In Sunday school, even veteran teachers would express frustrations about working with him." Adds McRae: "There was something not exactly kosher about Adrian from the beginning. He was not a normal child."
"A real crossing of the border."
Life in the Fisher household had its pleasant routines. Among Rebecca's happier memories are that of National Public Radio's theme song awaking the family each morning, of her parents listening to Prairie Home Companion and the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. She remembers her mother's endearing quirks of tucking her hair off her face with bobby pins, driving a rattly station wagon when she could well afford a new car, and her daily workouts of bending and stretching through the house.
But Emily's academic reputation posed problems for Rebecca: "She had been such a good student, so when I would come home and have to tell her I hadn't done well, she would look so sad. Or she'd yell and scream and be very unreasonable. Those high school times were very hard between us and I had trouble feeling relaxed." Some nights, after these eruptions, Emily would crawl in bed with her daughter: "It was her way of saying she was sorry."
What troubled Rebecca most, however, was the guilt imposed upon her for going about her life with friends and activities. "My parents wanted me to stay home with Adrian," she says, "to deflect from his failures."
At Presbyterian Day School, Adrian experienced social and academic difficulties. At Memphis University School, he survived "one painful year." In middle school, during a short stint at Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal, he was expelled for setting up a drug deal. Rebecca says her mother believed Adrian only wanted to fit in, but "she overlooked the larger issue, that Adrian's desire to fit in would lead him to such a bad idea."
During his childhood, Adrian spent many hours alone, a fact that at times could break Rebecca's heart. Then one day, a young black boy named Leslie came over to mow the grass. He and Adrian seemed to hit it off, and his parents were elated. "What's sad is that they'd pay Leslie to come back," says Rebecca. "They'd give him a job to do but they were really paying him to be Adrian's friend." Once, during the 1980s, Adrian took his new friend swimming at the then-all-white University Club, an act that set tongues wagging. "That was bold," says his sister, who was out of town at the time. "I heard it was a big day at the club."
Despite Adrian's difficulties, his life had some bright spots. He played the drum in the school's marching band, went to Sewanee's summer music camp, played classical piano, and belonged to the Memphis Youth Symphony. He loved electronics and computers, and often took things apart to see how they worked.
Meanwhile, since he couldn't find a niche in the world of his white peers, Adrian charted new territory. As a student at the public Snowden Middle School, he adopted the speech and mannerisms of African-American youth and made friends with a few black schoolmates. The closest was a boy named Aaron Williams. "It was an absolute transformation," says Rebecca, "when he would interact with the black kids. He had this whole family over there. It was complicated and intimate, a real crossing of the border."
Throughout Adrian's teenage years, Aaron and his brother, Teont Austin, visited the Fisher house so often that they knew of Hubert's habit of going out for yogurt every night, and they would laugh as they mimicked, "in a white lady's voice," Emily slipping into Adrian's bedroom at night and asking, "Have you boys been drinking beer?" The Fishers would also take Adrian's friends fishing, gave Aaron a used car, and sometimes helped pay his family's bills.
More often Adrian could be found at Aaron's house in the Sherwood Forest area. "He really loved Aaron's mother, Mrs. Austin," says Rebecca. "He would take her photos of his family and ones of him as a baby. Sometimes she'd call our house looking for him. She'd say, 'He's my godson.' And that's what he considered himself."
These friendships disturbed Rebecca, "not because the kids were black," she says, "but because of the twisted dynamics. It was all about impressing boys who didn't have the things Adrian had. It got dangerous."
"Put limits on him!"
After failing his freshman year at Central High School, his parents sent Adrian to Oxford Academy in Westbrook, Connecticut. It was expensive, exclusive, and involved one-on-one tutoring, "and Adrian actually liked it," says Rebecca. Two months before he was scheduled to graduate, he was suspended for drug use, but he returned and graduated that summer.
While at Oxford Academy, Adrian experienced seizures and an X-ray revealed a bruise on his brain. "He convinced mom that it was because he took diet pills when he was young," says Rebecca, "but I'm sure it was from his drug abuse." She believes her brother was experimenting with cocaine while at Oxford: "The school was for troubled boys, so they had ways of getting drugs."
After graduation in 1993, Adrian briefly attended Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, got kicked out for having marijuana mailed to him, and enrolled at the University of Memphis. By then, Adrian was using powder cocaine, which he bought as he cruised through the Klondyke area of North Memphis, and soon he had a $300-a-day habit. Clearly, a crisis was looming, as the Fishers tried to deal with their son.
"My father felt responsible because he was drinking a lot when Adrian was young," says Rebecca, who moved to Chicago in 1994, but kept in close touch with her family. "Part of it may have been the mirror looking back at them, because both my parents were a bit crippled by their own shame about alcoholism in the family. My mother kept giving and giving, thinking she could compensate for Adrian's loneliness — which was the worst thing to do. I think the best thing would have been for him to go to jail way back when the drug abuse started, or have my parents shut him out."
Instead, Adrian revolved in and out of rehab, and his sister remembers one dreadful afternoon in the summer of 1994, when they had a family intervention in a counselor's office. "Put limits on him!" she cried in hysterics at her parents. "He can't put them on himself!" And to the counselor she shouted, "Is it really such a surprise that he has a drug problem of this magnitude when they never tell him no?"
Afterwards, Rebecca recalls, "it was as if all the air had been ripped out of the room, my parents looked like paper dolls, and Adrian was like a half-child, half-lonely-beast in the corner."
"Everything revolved around Adrian."
While Rebecca saw her brother as a lonely, needy child, his Aunt Kathy remembers him far less kindly. "He was a bad kid," she says. "He had all the signs of a sociopath. He set fires. He was emotionally detached. He didn't seem to love his parents. I think he was born that way."
Emily, she adds, was in denial about her son. "She wanted him to be like other kids. And she had a tendency to put things in the best light. In life in general, she did that. But I don't think she enabled Adrian. She just kind of stood around helplessly wanting everyone to get along."
Hubert, though, was another story. "I saw him do the most amazing thing," says Kathy. "I was at Emily's house and Adrian was in some rehab clinic, and they had talked to him on the phone. He wanted some potato chips. So Hubert went to the airport and FedExed the boy potato chips. I thought at the time, this is beyond bizarre. And if a fight started, Emily would try to maintain some kind of order, but Hubert would just walk out."
Also distressing to Kathy was how Rebecca always got the short shrift. "Everything revolved around Adrian," she says, and she tells of the day in 1993 when her niece graduated from Wheaton College. The whole family had plans to go to lunch afterwards but Hubert and Adrian disappeared. "Adrian wanted to see a friend [in a nearby city] and Hubert would do anything Adrian wanted. Rebecca was crying and saying, 'I just wish for once, this could be about me.'"
Adrian stole from her, Kathy claims, when he was only 9 years old, and again when she was living in Connecticut, and he was enrolled at Oxford Academy. After he visited her briefly, she discovered her video recorder and some gold coins were missing. "He'd come to steal from us, buy drugs, and go back to school," says Kathy.
He also scared her daughter, Byrd: "We'd make an attempt for them to spend time together, but she'd come back with stories about riding around in back of the car in bad neighborhoods where people called him Snow."
"Someone was bound to die."
Kathy, who moved from Memphis in 1984, sorely regrets that she didn't know the extent of Adrian's problem: "I learned that he had had seizures, but Emily played that down. I wish so much I could have done something to help."
Rebecca agrees that her mother kept a lot to herself. But many of those in her social circle knew about Adrian's addiction. "They had children his age so they could figure it out," she says.
"I picked up hints," says Emily's longtime friend Ainslie Todd. "Emily was not really the kind to talk about that kind of problem." Such reticence, she adds, "is a Southern thing, like the elephant in the living room, you just didn't mention it."
Bearing their burden alone, and already "crippled," as Rebecca puts it, "by who they were, and what was expected of them socially," the Fishers sought release in different ways. For Hubert, that release came from taking the family to Big Sky, Montana, on vacations. For Emily, it came through working out at the Baptist Healthplex. "No one there knew about her troubled son," says Rebecca. "They just knew that she was sparkly and bright and real. She loved hanging with the secretaries and nurses, black and white, and just being a regular person."
No doubt those workouts with casual friends gave Emily comfort in the months before her death. Otherwise, that last year was "a nightmare," says Rebecca. Her parents were at their wits' end, ill-equipped to handle a drug-addicted son who regularly stole from the family safe, and "whose pain, anger, and loneliness were so large" that they'd appease him to keep his rage at bay. "I think my parents grew closer during that time," says Rebecca, "I believe they were both very scared of him." They took Adrian to a psychiatrist, who, according to Rebecca, told them their son was "'manipulative and headed for trouble if they didn't act responsibly,' but my parents were in avoidance and denial." At times, however, her mother would cry and plead with her son, a memory that causes Rebecca to say, "Oh, it was terrible for her."
On occasions, Adrian's friends — or "associates," as Hubert called them, from the shadowy neighborhoods his son frequented — would come by the house wanting money for drug debts, as they did the weekend before Emily's death, while the Fishers were hosting a recital for the Memphis Chamber Music Society. "Dad told them they needed to leave," says Rebecca. "It was scary, like a train wreck waiting to happen. And if no one stopped it, someone was bound to die."
"Mama's been killed."
Early afternoon on February 27th, Brig Klyce was heading to lunch with a friend at the University Club when he approached the Fisher house. A cousin of Emily and her siblings, he had shared happy times with them growing up and, to some extent, he idealized Emily. "She seemed awfully good to me," he says.
That afternoon, driving down Central, he noticed several police cars with flashing lights at his cousin's house. He stopped, told the police he was a relative, and asked what had happened. "When the police said she was badly injured," Brig recalls, "something about his demeanor prompted me to say, 'You mean like she might die?' His answer was yes."
Soon Hubert, who worked at FedEx, arrived on the scene and he and Brig rode together to The Med, where Emily had been taken by ambulance. Within 30 minutes, doctors informed them of her death. When asked if they wanted to see the body, both men declined. "I called Emily's siblings, Kathy, Henry, and Ellen," says Brig. "I didn't know how to go about it; I probably just blurted it out."
That same day in Chicago, around 6:30 p.m., Rebecca had come home from work to find her answering machine blinking. Her father had called, saying he was at his sister's house and to call him. "It wasn't like my dad to go visiting people in the middle of the day," says Rebecca. Her Aunt Kathy's message was just as baffling: "Flying to Chicago tonight." Confused and worried, Rebecca reached her father and in a voice that nearly froze her blood, he said, "Mama's been killed." Rebecca screamed and hurled herself against a large laminated wall map her mother had given her: "I still have it and I can't give it away," she says. Friends and family called all evening, telling her the murder was on every news station: "I was probably one of the last people to hear about it."
She also called her parents' house and listened to messages there. She heard one she herself had left probably around the time her mother was killed. "The day before had been my father's birthday," explains Rebecca, "and I had called to see how it went."
In addition to her own message, Rebecca heard one from Adrian. He had been at a rehab center in Minneapolis when the murder occurred, and his mother had called him shortly before the stabbing attack. Apparently he had tried to return her call and got no answer. On the message, Rebecca heard, "Oh my God, oh my God," and the sound of her brother crying as he dropped the phone.
When her Aunt Kathy arrived, the two women spent the night on a futon in Rebecca's living room: "She was very worried about me. I don't think we slept at all. I remember lying there and thinking — I might have actually said it — 'Could this have to do with Adrian?'"
In Memphis, Rebecca went straight to the home of Hubert's sister, Mary Ann Eagle. "I didn't go to the house," says Rebecca. "I wish I had, but they didn't want me to see the blood. I do remember the yellow crime-scene tape and my father saying, 'We can't go back there.'"
When she saw Adrian, he was acting "not quite right" and smoking in the back of their aunt's house. "I wanted to tell him some of my secrets," says Rebecca, "so he'd open up and tell me things, if he felt guilty, if things got out of control. But he never said anything like that to me."
"At least 50 stab wounds . . . too many to count."
Emily's funeral was held in the overflowing sanctuary of St. John's church. Pastor McRae conducted the service, describing Emily as "a compassionate woman committed to progress who dearly loved her city."
As if the funeral wasn't hard enough, the family also had the mind-boggling job of scrubbing away Emily's blood from walls, floors, and carpets after an intensive police investigation. "It was still wet after three days because there was so much of it," recalls Kathy. Though Rebecca was spared this grim endeavor carried out by Emily's husband, siblings, and cousins, Adrian made an appearance and did a disturbing thing. Later that day, says Kathy, "I saw where somebody had dipped his finger into the blood and written, 'I love you' with the blood on the floor. Adrian said he did it."
As the Fishers and Klyces reeled from the murder, homicide investigators pressed for-ward. On March 2, 1995, after a tip from Crime Stoppers, they arrested two suspects, George Tate, a friend of Adrian's who was known to have visited the Fisher home; and Rodney Blades, whose fingerprints were found on items taken from the Fishers' 1994 Taurus, which the assailants had used as a getaway car after the murder. The men were identified by Emily's housekeeper, LeeEster Redmond, and in July 1995, Blades and Tate were indicted on first-degree murder charges. They pleaded not guilty; if convicted, they faced the death penalty.
The trial, which began July 18, 1996, started with testimony from neighbors and police who were first on the scene. Daniel Holloman, who lived just west of the Fishers, said he was doing some house repairs when he saw, through a window, the victim standing at her back door speaking to three individuals, ages 15 or 16, all "small in stature," all dressed in baggy clothes. He testified that the victim did not appear to be upset or concerned.
About 30 minutes later, another neighbor and witness, Peggy Hill, was alerted to the crime by a knock at her door. She opened it to see "a short black lady," LeeEster Redmond, who said she needed help. Asked about her impression of Redmond, Hill said, "She was lucid, intelligent. She told me three boys tied her up with a phone cord, but she got free." Inside the house, Hill, a 22-year veteran nurse with trauma training, saw the victim lying on the floor in the "agonal" — or final — stage of life. "Miss Emily's nailbeds were blue, she was blue around the mouth. Her breathing was short, fast, sporadic. Her lungs had collapsed."
Shortly after Hill got to the house, Officer Sheryl Stanback of the Memphis Police Department arrived and was met by Hill, who implored her to "hurry, hurry, hurry." Inside, "Mrs. Fisher was on the [breakfast room] floor lying on her stomach, bleeding real bad," Stanback testified. She said the dishwasher door was broken and hanging open and furniture was knocked over. By then, Redmond was "hysterical, disoriented, and complaining of chest pains."
Also taking the stand was Paulette Sutton, a forensic serologist who saw blood patterns on the walls, ceilings, and floors of the house, evidence of Emily's frenzied struggle. At one point Sutton described a gap in the blood trail, where Emily was likely trying to stop the bleeding as she moved through the house. Under the staircase near the breakfast room, the largest amount of blood had pooled with bits of brain and skull.
In all, according to Dr. Jerry Francisco, who performed the autopsy, Emily sustained at least 50 stab wounds, or "too many to count" — to the chest and back, and through the skull and lungs — and some to her hands and arms, indicating she tried to fight her attacker.
"A bag of white powder . . ."
For the prosecution, Hubert Fisher took the stand. He was questioned by special prosecutor Alan Glenn, whom Hubert had hired to work with assistant attorney generals Jerry Harris and Reginald Henderson. Rebecca calls this hiring "a continuation of the terrible way my parents had of protecting Adrian and catering to him."
Giving dates that differ significantly from what Rebecca remembers, Hubert testified that he first became aware of his son's drug addiction when the boy was sent home from Wheaton College in October 1993. In 1994, he said, Adrian was attending Memphis State and living for awhile in an apartment near the university; there, his parents discovered a bag of white powder. "It wasn't cocaine," said Hubert, "but something you add to it. We called the police and reported it." That one "event," he added, "sparked our curiosity to get more involved in the situation" — a situation Rebecca claims had been going on for years.
Also in 1994, Hubert noticed items stolen from a safe that was located in an upstairs hallway closet. Among the missing items were bonds, his Rolex watch, and Emily's jewelry. "One day Emily asked me to check the safe for a choke chain. It was not there. We confronted Adrian with it, told him it was an heirloom, and Adrian said, 'Come on, Dad.' And we got in the car and went to this dope area and he [retrieved] the choke chain. Driving back, [Adrian] said, 'I'm going to have to go to treatment.'"
Then Hubert told of the various rehab facilities where he and Emily sought help for their son — in Memphis; Jackson, Mississippi; and Minneapolis. At each place, Adrian would show some progress but always relapsed. In July 1994, his parents sent him to Progress Rally in Minneapolis, where, said his father, "he became a model patient and has been living in Minneapolis ever since." Hubert also testified that Adrian, as required by the program, had a job with an electronics firm and had worked his way up to warehouse manager.
Asked if he'd ever met defendant George Tate, Hubert said he had on four occasions, including one when he came to the house with Adrian. Because of a hearing problem, the conversation taking place wasn't clear, said Hubert, but he knew that Adrian and Tate were in the kitchen with Emily. "I didn't think anything of it . . . and went upstairs to do my work . . . . "
Under cross examination by Tate's attorney, Glenn Wright, Hubert revealed how little he knew — or was willing to tell — of Adrian's involvement with other drug dealers in the Klondyke area of North Memphis. Ticking off at least half a dozen names, Tate's attorney said, "Were you aware that he had been to all of the houses of the people I've just named?"
"No," said Hubert.
"I'm responsible for getting her killed."
Then Adrian took the stand, looking neat in his dark suit, and even a bit cherubic. He too was questioned by special prosecutor Alan Glenn. Asked when his drug addictions started, his dates differed somewhat from his father's and from Rebecca's account. "It probably began at the age of 18 or 19," he said, "with alcohol and marijuana, when I was at Oxford Academy."
Adrian also told of going to the Klondyke area every day; of acquiring the nicknames Snow and Snowball because he always bought powder cocaine in "eightball" increments; of a habit that ran more than $2,000 a week; of his "buddy-buddy" friendship with George Tate that started in the summer of 1994; and of the day he brought Tate to the house.
While Hubert claimed to "think nothing of" that visit, Adrian told a different version. Hoping to borrow money from Emily to buy cocaine, he went into the kitchen accompanied by Tate. "My mother and I started arguing fiercely," he said, "moving to other rooms downstairs." Asked if his father and Tate saw each other, Adrian said, "They did. My father, from what I can remember, was basically just like a zombie. I remember him walking around downstairs, his eyes just staring straight ahead. He just couldn't believe that this addiction was going to this extreme."
From that point, the state's case took a nosedive. Prosecutor Jerry Harris was heard to say later, that when Adrian started talking, "I felt the boat start to sink."
Tate's attorney, Glenn Wright, asked Adrian to describe various young black males he knew from the Klondyke area; Adrian's description of most of them included the words "short" and "small." Asked about those he'd taken to the house, or left outside in the driveway, Adrian went on a roll: "Fredrick Turner. D.W. Green. Boo, oh, he's bad news. Jimmy Smith, we used cocaine together, he's messed up terrible, homebound now . . . ."
Several, he acknowledged, asked about his wealth: "I often tried to conceal the fact . . . but sometimes it's just too obvious."
Missing from Adrian's testimony was a statement he made to homicide investigator John Botting in March 1995, not long after the murder. Botting told the court that when he questioned Adrian, and showed him a picture of George Tate, Adrian responded by saying, "I'm responsible for getting her killed." That comment came as no surprise to Adrian's Aunt Kathy: "Botting had already told me he'd said it, and I was glad it came out at the trial."
Botting also interviewed LeeEster Redmond, whose testimony was ultimately questioned because of her age and mental state. Yet parts of her statement to police were painfully vivid, even poignant. Redmond, who had worked in the Fisher home for three decades, told Botting that as the intruders pulled her down the steps on her chest with a telephone cord, "I hollered, 'They coming, they coming!' And I heard Ms. Emily calling, 'Oh, LeeEster . . . .'"
In impassioned closing arguments, prosecutor Harris reminded the jury that Emily wasn't dead when the neighbor found her and that Tate stabbed her five times in the head to assure she died — "because she knows me."
Tate's attorney said there was nothing linking Tate to the scene and charged the state of "a rush to judgment." Blades' lawyer, Loyce Lambert, zeroed in on all the "short, [small], teenage male blacks" — as neighbor Daniel Holloman had described the men at Emily's door — whom Adrian had taken to his home and knew of his wealth. "What about questioning [these men]?" she demanded. "What about the analysis of their blood?"
On July 24th, after seven hours of deliberation, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict for Blades and Tate. They cited insufficient evidence and the impaired memory of LeeEster Redmond, who identified the defendants. But what really damaged the state's case was lack of DNA evidence linking Blades or Tate to the murder — and blood found at the crime scene belonging to an unknown third person.
"There was no comfort. None at all."
After the verdict, the glaring swarm of TV lights and cameras awaited the families. The Klyce siblings tried to shield a tearful Rebecca from the media; one of her aunts even threw a book into the maelstrom.
Hubert managed to tell reporters he was stunned, that he needed closure. Adrian sat quietly near his father — but later, when other family members declined to comment to the press, he relished the role of TV star, telling a reporter that he thought it was a good case and that the jury did their job. "He was so casual," says Rebecca, "like he was talking about a football game."
That evening, she went home with her father to the house on Central, where they sat smoking, watching the news, and feeling, "This is what we're left with."
Compounding Rebecca's misery were family tensions. "Mom's siblings understandably had [harsh] feelings toward Adrian and essentially toward my family. So there was this division, with no sense of peace in sight."
Kathy acknowledges the anger she felt toward Adrian — who would talk loudly on his cellphone during court breaks, saying, 'We've got to find the third man!' and showed no remorse or empathy for family members and planned a celebration after the verdict. She also feels anger toward his father, who she believes protected Adrian every step of the way.
"What about Emily?" she demands. "Who was there to protect her?"
Looking back at the days following the murder and the aftermath of the first trial, she contrasts it to the death of another family member.
"When my mother died," says Kathy. "We all got together at Emily's house. Somebody brought over a big pan of peas and we sat around and shelled them, and we talked and were silly, and that's comforting. But when Emily died, there was no comfort. None at all."
Over the next three years, the murder haunted not only the Klyce and Fisher families, but also assistant attorney general Jerry Harris. In 1999, he hired former homicide detective Charles Shettlesworth to take a fresh look at the case, hoping a $26,000 Crime Stoppers reward — $25,000 of which came from Emily's family — would prompt some calls. It did, and led to disturbing revelations about what Adrian's longtime pal Aaron Williams was doing the day of the murder — and how Adrian, though he knew who killed his mother, protected the guilty, and ultimately himself. Also, with DNA evidence and an eyewitness, why wasn't Alfred Turner convicted of first-degree murder? Did the prosecution drop the ball? Read the final installment of this story as it appeared in the November issue.