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Robert Fry: How One Thanksgiving Night Kicked Off A Four-Year Murder Spree

Four people fell victim to Fry's thrill for violence.

Robert "Bobby" Fry was a disturbed young man who was out of touch with reality. After a difficult upbringing marked by fistfights and trouble at school, Fry grew into an unruly individual who spun wild tales about fighting and chaos. But on November 24th, 1996, Fry’s obsession with violence went too far.

On that Thanksgiving night in Farmington, New Mexico, Fry and his friend Harold Pollock paid a visit to The Eclectic—a store that sold occult items, crystals, role-playing booklets, and ornate knives and swords. After stealing a bundle of knives, Fry and Pollock fled to the desert to secure their loot. But then Fry demanded they return to the scene of the crime. It was then that the violence began.

Related: Taken on Thanksgiving: The Disappearance of the Skelton Brothers

Fry first murdered Joseph Fleming, a twenty-four-year-old security guard and a familiar face at The Eclectic who was at the store that night. Fry crushed Fleming's windpipe with his heavy work boots before slitting the victim's throat with a knife. Eighteen-year-old Matthew Trecker, another Eclectic regular, was the next to die; he was brutally beaten and stabbed multiple times.

Bobby Fry Monster Slayer Robert Scott
  • Photo Credit: Open Road Media/Robert Scott

Fry and Pollock were people of interest in the shocking crime. Yet authorities had other suspects, individuals who at the time seemed far more likely to have committed the murder. Consequently, Fry escaped justice, and his spree of violence continued. On March 31st, 1998, Donald Tsosie, a member of the Navajo Tribe, was out drinking at Farmington’s Turn Around Bar when Fry and his new accomplice, Leslie Engh, offered him a ride. The journey ended in a brutal altercation. Fry emerged from the brawl and rolled the bruised, bleeding, and barely-breathing Donald off of a cliff to his death.

After evading arrest once again, Fry’s final murder took place on June 8th, 2000. Betty Lee, a Navajo mother of five, accepted a ride from Fry and Engh that night. Tragically, Betty never made it home. After being sexually assaulted, stabbed, and bludgeoned with a sledgehammer, Betty's body was left under the cover of bushes on the side of the road.

Related: The Brutal Murder Spree of John Norman Collins

Bobby Fry was finally arrested three days later for the Betty Lee murder, thanks to the exhaustive efforts of Detectives Bob Melton and Tyler Truby. In April of 2002, Fry was convicted of kidnapping, attempted rape, and murder. He was sentenced to death for these crimes, and when he was later tried for the murders of Joseph Fleming, Matthew Trecker, and Donald Tsosie, he received additional life sentences. In 2009, the state of New Mexico abolished the death penalty. Fry remained in limbo on death row while the legal system debated whether the murderer's pre-2009 death sentence should be upheld. In 2019, the New Mexico Supreme Court vacated Fry's death sentence and re-sentenced him to life in prison. 

Bestselling true crime author Robert Scott examines the cold-blooded and hate-fueled killer Robert Fry in Monster Slayer. Scott offers chilling insights into Fry’s rough and tumble beginnings, his brutal four-year murder rampage, and the dogged efforts of police that finally brought him to justice.

Read on for an excerpt of Monster Slayer, and then download the book.

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Monster Slayer

By Robert Scott

Monster Slayer

By Robert Scott

In many ways the party at the apartment near the Animas Valley Mall on Thanksgiving night, 1996, was nothing out of the ordinary for Robert Fry. There was plenty of beer, booze and bullshitting, as usual. The music of choice was loud, raucous and raunchy. A group called the Misfits were one of Fry’s favorites, singing songs of monsters, blood and death. Their lyrics only intensified his already insatiable lust for bloodletting in such games as Vampire: The Masquerade. The Misfits were a band out of New Jersey whose heyday was from 1977 to 1983. Dressing in ghoulish costumes and elaborate face paint, they had a driving, frenzied, almost hypnotic, sound. In the song “All Hell Breaks Loose,” they sang of evil twins, broken bodies in a death rock dance hall and sending out a murdergram. The murdergram in the song was signed by the blood of parents.

Related: 46 Gripping True Crime Books from the Last 54 Years 

In the song “Bloodfeast,” they sang of pulling out someone’s tongue and severing heads. In one particularly graphic line, from “Skulls,” they sang of headless corpses with blood draining down like devil’s rain. Fry enjoyed the imagery of bloodletting and death. He tried to convince his friends that he was just as “bad” as anyone sung about in the Misfits songs.

At some point during the party, Fry got it into his mind that a prostitute would liven things up. Pollock was not enthused about driving Bobby Fry around town on his quest, but he went along. Pollock knew how irritated Fry could get when he didn’t get his way.

Related: 4 Serial Killers Who Didn't Act Alone

In the long run it was unfortunate they didn’t find a hooker on the cold streets of Farmington that night. Once Bobby Fry chose The Eclectic as his pit stop, it began a lethal series of events that would destroy all of them.

The knife display case was like a magnet for Bobby Fry. He had absolutely obsessed about knives over the years. In his stories to his friends at the coffee shops and bars, he told of getting into knife fights and slaughtering his opponents. He had supposedly learned to fight well in the navy and even claimed to have taken Navy SEAL training. Once again, these were taken as flights of fantasy on Fry’s part, as far as his friends were concerned. But good friend Larry Hudson also knew that Fry had a collection of at least a dozen exotic knives, everything from jackknives with inlaid turquoise to huge bowie-type knives. Hudson said Fry had even named some of them. “One of them he called Baby Bubba.’”

Once Joseph Fleming had returned to his computer game at The Eclectic, the allure of the unlocked knives was just too much for Fry. According to Pollock, Fry stole a handful of them. Pollock also mentioned later that Fry stole a sword as well, but Pollock’s stories of the theft varied in their details. The rest was almost a blur to Pollock; the trip to Chokecherry Canyon to bury the stolen loot, waves of nausea and fear, and Fry’s insistence on returning to The Eclectic after burying the knives. Fry never did explain to Pollock his reason for going back there, other than to say that he had to go to the bathroom again, but Pollock did not wholly believe this. If Fry had pulled over and used a gas station rest room or even the side of a building, it wouldn’t have been the first time. Perhaps Bobby Fry had already decided what had to be done at The Eclectic.

The Eclectic Monster Slayer Robert Scott
  • The Eclectic in Farmington, New Mexico—the scene of Fry's first murder.

  • Photo Credit: Open Road Media/Robert Scott

Whatever the circumstances, the second version of Pollock’s account at The Eclectic delved into more details than the first. He said that when he stumbled out of the bathroom at The Eclectic, things were already out of control. Pollock later said in one police report, “I saw Bobby on top of Joe wrestling with him. Bobby had his hands around Joe’s throat. Then he stood up and stepped on Joe’s throat. He was wearing work boots. He was acting scared. Joe had a lot of blood around him and wasn’t moving. I saw Bobby wiping blood from his hands and arms.”

Related: The Rest Area Killer: The Brutal Crimes of Donald Leroy Evans

In this report Pollock did not implicate himself. He said, “I don’t think I had anything to do with the murders, but I don’t remember. When we were leaving, I noticed that Matt had his throat cut. There was a lot of blood around him.”

It would be years later when Pollock finally would admit to what really happened after Joe Fleming already was dead.

He said that Matthew Trecker came into the showroom from where he had been sleeping in the back of the store. He was startled by seeing Joseph on the floor, after Robert Fry had sucker punched him. According to Pollock, Trecker was knocked out. Then, according to this second version of the story, Fry moved back to Fleming and slit his throat. Pollock said that he was afraid of Fry and wanted to run away. But he thought if he did, Fry would kill him. At this point, Pollock said, Fry pulled Trecker’s shirt up and stabbed him in the chest. Then Fry handed his knife to him and implored him to do the same. “We can do this!” Fry was supposed to have said. “We can be each other’s alibi.”

According to Pollock, he didn’t want to stab Matt, but he was so afraid of Fry that he did. He plunged Fry’s knife into Matt three or four times.

Robert Fry was only getting started with the bloodletting at The Eclectic. According to Pollock, Fry lurched over to a display case and grabbed two swords. One had a long, wavy blade and the other one was a samurai sword. Fry handed the samurai sword to him and said, “Let’s cut his head off.”

Related: Wayne Nance: The Suspected Serial Murderer Who Was Shot and Killed by His Own Victim

Then Fry started chopping on Trecker’s neck with his sword. Browbeaten by Fry to do the same, Pollock began hacking at Trecker’s neck with his samurai sword. He would later recall, “It was like chopping wood.”

But for some reason, the swords would not chop through Matt’s neck. Pollock later surmised the swords were just too dull for such work. He was freaking out by now. If Bobby Fry looked energized by the murders, Pollock was aghast. He was no stone-cold killer. He could barely believe he had been involved in the bloodbath. He said, “We decided to cover up our being there. Bobby went back to the showroom, but I’m not sure what he did there.” Pollock later was under the impression that Fry stole some more knives and possibly swords from the showroom. The plan was scatterbrained at best. In their rush to leave the store, Fry broke the key off in the door lock. Both he and Pollock knew that the other door to the store was electronically set to an alarm, and they didn’t know the code. They were now locked inside.

Want to keep reading? Download Monster Slayer.

Monster Slayer

By Robert Scott

Featured photo: Open Road Media/Robert Scott

Published on 26 Nov 2019

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