David Fisher, Butt-inski
A profile of David Fisher, volunteer sleuth in the Rodney Reed murder case
Elgin-area resident David Fisher, 48, has been called many things. Some consider him a glorified pest, others say he's a conspiracy nut -- akin to Mel Gibson's character in the movie Conspiracy Theory. But Fisher has a better term: "Butt-inski." "That's what I am, a big Butt-inski."
Fisher admits he has a knack for getting himself involved in investigative and legal battles. Although neither a licensed private investigator nor an attorney, he has found himself involved in situations usually dominated by one or the other. He says he helped a Southern Californian piano-playing lounge singer settle a personal injury claim, in which the singer was awarded over $250,000. He helped the Houston Postal Police track down and terminate an employee for disability claim fraud. He won a good-sized settlement in a fight with a Louisiana oil company that reneged on a drilling contract they'd signed for some property Fisher owns in Colorado. He says he even had a good bit of influence in saving the Treaty Oak, after Austin's legendary tree was poisoned in 1989. In each instance, Fisher says, he became involved in the controversies quite by accident. "And as time goes on," he said, "it seems I get into bigger and bigger messes."
The latest mess Fisher fell into is the case of Rodney Reed.
In February 2001, Fisher was looking for some journalistic help exposing the trouble he was having with illegal dumping of the highly toxic chemical chlordane onto his Bastrop County property, so he met with Smithville Times reporter Tyanna Tyler. During their meeting, Fisher said, Tyler asked Fisher a little about himself and then asked him if he might have some time to look into something that had been nagging at her. "She went to a file cabinet and pulled out a letter that Sandra [Reed, Rodney's mother] had written to the paper," -- a letter in which Sandra Reed questioned the prosecution's motives for "willingly" suppressing a DPS lab report that showed other suspects could not be eliminated as contributors of DNA on two beer cans found near Stacey Stites' body. "But I was a death penalty proponent," Fisher said, "and so I thought it would take a week or two to look this stuff over, and then it would be out of the way. Boy, was I wrong."
Since then, Fisher says, he has been diligently working on the case, amassing a massive file of official documents, statements from friends of both Reed and Stites, attorneys, investigators, law enforcement officials, and other county insiders.
Fisher says he has come to an inevitable and disturbing conclusion: "Fraud. The whole thing, from start to finish, is a fraud." It's been a weird year, Fisher adds, marked by intimidation and not very subtle attempts to get him to keep his nose out of the Reed case. He says that shortly after he first talked to Tyler at the Smithville paper, he learned that the DPS was circulating a "wanted" poster with his photograph, taken from an old driver's license. The poster, he said, alerted Bastrop County officials to consider Fisher "armed and dangerous." He believes certain county officials still have copies of the inflammatory poster. If these were indeed attempts to scare Fisher from looking into the Reed case, they were miscalculated. "Oh, that just made me sure I had to look at this stuff," he said.
Just over a year later, Fisher is still digging, and he says he's slightly optimistic that, because of the evidence he has accumulated, state and perhaps federal officials may finally take seriously the disturbing revelations of the case. When all the facts of the case finally come to light, Fisher believes, Texas' criminal justice system will be forced to change, as he himself has -- because of what he's learned in the course of his investigation, he no longer supports capital punishment.
"As it is operating now," he said, "you just can't get a fair shake, and the state knows this."