The brutal 1995 murder of Emily Klyce Fisher, a wealthy Memphis socialite, shocked the community. What level of depravity would push a person to stab an innocent woman over 50 times? The autopsy showed that at least five blows penetrated Fisher’s skull. 

Fisher’s vicious murder made no sense. Drug murders in cities like Memphis were commonplace in the 90s, but people like Fisher weren’t the typical victims. Investigators opined that it was a crime of opportunity and that Fisher was, sadly, a victim of circumstance. 

The case went cold for several years until a tip revealed that Fisher’s son inadvertently caused his mother’s death. 

Emily Fisher was allegedly killed over a $20 cocaine debt owed by her son

Emily Fisher seemed to have an idyllic family: her husband, Hubert Fisher 3rd, was wealthy and respected, and her children, Rebecca and Hubert 4th, aka Adrian, seemed to be doing well in their expensive colleges. 

However, the murder revealed that Adrian had a crippling drug problem. Starting in middle school, Adrian had been expelled numerous times due to drug use. Adrian allegedly stole money from his parents and sold family property to get drug money. 

In the Memphis neighborhood where Adrian purchased drugs, he was known as Snowball, a name befitting his excessive cocaine use. Kathy Klyce, Fisher’s sister, told Memphis magazine that Adrian was emotionally detached and ‘didn’t seem to love his parents’.

Aaron Williams, Adrian’s close friend, told investigators that on 27th February 1995, three men knocked on his door and demanded to see Snowball. After the men left, Williams asked Alfred Turner to accompany him to Adrian’s house so they could warn the family about the men looking for Adrian. 

Williams claimed he didn’t know Adrian owed Turner a $20 drug debt. He stated that, out of the blue, Turner attacked Fisher with a pocket knife while demanding money. “Why are you doing this?” Fisher allegedly asked. “I want my money!” Adrian retorted. 

The defensive wounds on Fisher’s arms and hands showed that she fought her attacker before succumbing to her injuries. Turner tried to threaten LeeEster Redmond, the family maid, into revealing where the family safe was. 

Turner finally gave up, bound LeeEster, and fled the scene with Williams in the family’s Ford Taurus. Williams told investigators:

“I backed over the median in the middle of Central, and [Turner] said, ‘Don’t say shit, shut the fuck up. If I don’t get my money, I’m going to get his [Adrian’s] ass too.”

Two men were tried and acquitted of Emily Fisher’s murder 

Williams said that he and Turner abandoned the vehicle at Fern and Annie Place. The car was ransacked, with some of the property showing up in pawn shops. 

Fingerprint evidence led the police to Rodney Blades and George Tate, career criminals with stints in prison for felonies ranging from home invasion to kidnapping. 

Tate and Blades insisted that they’d stolen from the car but had nothing to do with Fisher’s murder. Despite lacking physical evidence tying the pair to the scene, prosecutors placed them on trial for the murder. 

A jury acquitted Blades and Tate. Detective Charles Shettlesworth, the officer who eventually cracked the case, told Memphis magazine: “He [prosecutor Jerry Harris] was devastated that he lost the case. He was one of the best prosecutors I know.”

Shettlesworth conceded that Tate and Blades weren’t guilty: “I concluded they didn’t have the evidence, just fingerprints from the victim’s car, none from the house, no DNA match to the accused, and a 90-year-old woman with dementia to identify them. They were found not guilty because they weren’t guilty.”

Fisher’s son allegedly knew who killed her mother and why but he kept quiet

Two months after Fisher’s murder, Williams opened up to Adrian about his mother’s killer. “He [Adrian] didn’t even act upset,” Williams said. “Once before he tried to have his parents robbed to pay back money owed to drug dealers.” Adrian allegedly suggested that Williams refrain from reporting the murder.

It’s unclear how much Adrian knew about the murder – he passed away in April 1999 due to a heroin overdose. Adrian’s stints in rehab seemed to have the undesired effect – they sank him deeper and deeper into addiction. 

Rebecca, Adrian’s sister, opined that Adrian used drugs to cope with his mother’s death and his contribution to it. She said: “I thought then, ‘He probably doesn’t want to stay clean because the truth of what happened to Mom has started to sink in.”

Hubert, Adrian’s father, told Rebecca that he knew his son would either die or get incarcerated. The Fishers buried Adrian next to Emily Fisher. Kathy Klyce, Emily’s sister, said in retrospect that Adrian’s death filled her with sadness and resentment:

“Maybe I was thinking too, ‘Why couldn’t he have [died] a few years earlier so that Emily could still be alive and able to live without worrying about Adrian?’”

Hubert, who’d remarried after Fisher’s death, didn’t live to see Turner’s trial – he died of cancer in September 2006. Klyce told Memphis magazine that she suspected Hubert knew something about the murder. 

“The division [between us after the first trial] was complete and final. I always wondered if the police questioned him after Turner’s arrest. I feel angry that he died without telling us what he knew.”

Alfred Turner was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the Supreme Court granted him a new trial

DNA evidence placed Turner in the Fisher residence during Emily Fisher’s murder; Williams testified that Turner stabbed Fisher repeatedly. Yet, the jury didn’t find him guilty of murder – they convicted him of facilitation to commit felony murder, earning Turner a 25-year sentence. 

Jurors speaking to Memphis magazine stated that Turner’s lack of violent history and the criminal backgrounds of testifying witnesses weakened the prosecution’s case. Juror Jodi Ball said:

“The defendants from the first trial [Rodney Blades and George Tate] were career criminals, in and out of prison. Turner seemed to have led a quiet life. I believe he was there, his blood was there, but maybe he tried to stop the murder and that’s how he got cut.”

“If ever the maximum sentence was deserved in a case, this is it,” Judge Otis Higgs Jr said as he sentenced Turner. Williams received a reduced 8-year sentence in exchange for his testimony. 

Turner, a model prisoner who taught Bible class, was eligible for parole almost immediately. The state’s attempt to reduce overcrowding, combined with sentencing guidelines and Turner’s good behavior, qualified him for parole. 

He was denied parole after claiming that he was wrongfully convicted. Kathy Klyce told Action News 5 that she agreed with the decision:

“If he would sit there and say to us, I’m sorry and this is what happened.” And then you could maybe think of him as a human being that you could forgive, but he just sits there and says I wasn’t there, I didn’t do it – that’s terrible.”

In June 2010, a judge overturned Turner’s sentence, handing him a new trial. The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld the decision because prosecutors could have prejudiced the jury by informing them of Rodney Blades and George Tate’s acquittals. It’s unclear whether Turner was tried again or he signed a plea deal. 

In 2007, Rebecca, the last of the Fisher clan, launched The Magnificence of Disaster, a solo performance about her family. Rebecca reprised the award-winning show on the 20th anniversary of Voices of the South in April 2016.