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Thursday, July 8, 2021

      Wilmington Township resident Albert James Fisher, who went by Jim Fisher, passed away on ____. Mr. Fisher was born to parents Albert James Fisher and Helen Frances Fisher (nee McRory) on September 24, 1939 in the Brentwood section of Pittsburgh. When he was six his parents and infant sister Lynn Ann moved to Wheeling, West Virginia. Two years later the family moved to Weirton, West Virginia and two years after that to Wellsburg, West Virginia. When in 9th grade Jim's English teacher called one of his short stories obscene. Jim didn't know what "obscene" meant and took it as a compliment. He went home and bragged to his parents that he was an "obscene" writer. In 1953 at age 14 Jim traveled by train to Santa Anna, California as part of the national Boy Scout Jamboree.

     The Fishers in 1956 moved to Erie, Pennsylvania where Jim entered Academy High School as a junior. He became editor of the school newspaper and a member of the track team. 

     Upon graduation from Academy High in 1958 Jim entered Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. In his sophomore year he worked part time as a reporter with the "Randolph County InterMountain", a daily newspaper headquartered in Elkins. When his parents moved to New Wilmington, Pennsylvania at the end of his sophomore year Jim became a student at Westminster College. In New Wilmington he met his future wife, Susan G. Erdeky, a lifelong resident of the borough. 

     After graduating from Westminster College with a degree in political science in 1963, Jim enrolled at Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, Tennessee. A year later, on June 6, 1964, he and fellow Westminster graduate Susan Erdeky were married in the New Wilmington Presbyterian Church. His new wife accompanied him back to Nashville where she supported him as a law student by teaching eighth grade math in a Nashville city school.  

     Upon graduation from Vanderbilt University Law School in June 1966, Jim entered the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a Special Agent. Following fifteen weeks of training in Washington, D.C. and at the U.S. Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia he and Susan moved to St. Louis, Missouri, Jim's first FBI office. It was there their first child Leslie Diane was born. 

     After nine months in St. Louis Jim was transferred to the San Angelo Resident Agency in the Dallas, Texas Field Division where his second child Debra Sue was born. Three and a half years later he was transferred to Dallas where his son James Daniel was born. Mr. Fisher left the FBI in November 1971.

     In September 1972 while living in Erie, Pennsylvania Mr. Fisher began teaching courses in the Criminal Justice Department at Mercyhurst College. During his second year at Mercyhurst Mr. Fisher, in addition to his teaching responsibilities, was named Director of Campus Security. Two years later he started A. J. Fisher & Associates Inc., an investigative agency, contract security guard and private patrol car company. His wife Sue became the firm's treasurer and bookkeeper. Fisher Security was sold in 2007 to the longtime manager of the company. 

     Jim Fisher began teaching criminal law, criminal investigation, private security and forensic science at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 1974. He retired 30 years later as a Full Professor with Emeritus status. In February 1977 he and his family moved to New Wilmington, Pennsylvania where they took up residence in a house on Ligo Lane. 

    Jim collected rare and uncommon books in the true crime genre, eventually amassing a library of 1,000 works. In 1978, while looking for true crime books in a used book shop in Lake Milton, Ohio, a store owned by a Mr. Hill who had recently died, his widow offered Jim the entire inventory for $350. A few days later, with his 7-year-old son riding shotgun, Jim drove back to New Wilmington in a U-Haul box truck loaded with 7,000 books. Not long after that Jim, Sue and their three children set up tables and hauled books out of their basement in preparation for a massive backyard book sale. 

     In April 1982 Mr. Fisher, accompanied by his 11-year-old son Jim, traveled to Berkeley, California where Mr. Fisher, at the Bancroft Library on the campus of the University of California, studied the papers of August Vollmer (1876-1955), the so-called father of American policing. Studying Mr. Vollmer's correspondence and other documents pertaining to his life and career informed Mr. Fisher's articles on the history of policing, forensic science and scientific lie detection.

    Mr. Fisher wrote 13 nonfiction books published by Rutgers University Press, Southern Illinois University Press, Prentice Hall, Berkley Books and Preager Publishing. His research and investigative reporting led to his expertise in the Lindbergh kidnapping case, false confessions, literary scams, forensic science, police-involved shootings, murder-for-hire, pedophilia, police history and the abuse of SWAT teams. Perhaps he was best known for his books "The Lindbergh Case" about the infamous 1932 kidnapping and"Crimson Stain" that featured an Amish man who murdered his wife in Crawford County. In 2013 the TV network Investigation Discovery aired a part documentary-part drama about the Amish murder with actors playing the roles of the key characters in the case. The show was called "Murder in Amish Country." Jim Fisher appeared in the one-hour program as the narrator/voice-over. 

     Jim's interest in writing, writers and the writing life led to the publication of two literary quote books: "The Writer's Quote Book: Authors on Creativity, Craft, and the Writing Life" (Rutgers University Press, 2006) and "Literary Quotations: Genre" (CreateSpace, 2015). Mr. Fisher also published a blog designed by his son's wife Veronica Fisher called "The Writing Life: Literary Quotations". He was a frequent guest speaker at local and regional writer's conferences. 

     Jim's nonfiction books were favorably reviewed in major newspapers such as "The New York Times", "The New York Times Review of Books," "The Washington Post," "The Chicago Tribune," "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "Los Angeles Times." His books were also reviewed by "Publishers Weekly" and other book reviewing formats. In 1988 the publisher of "The Lindbergh Case" sent him on a national book tour that involved his appearances on dozens of local radio and television shows. 

      In 1981 "The Erie Daily Times" and "The Meadville Tribune" published a weekly column by Jim Fisher called "Crimefile". Many of the articles featured police history and the early history of forensic science. 

     From 1983 through 1984 Mr. Fisher, who taught a course called Arson Investigation at Edinboro University, hosted eight arson seminars for volunteer fire departments in Western Pennsylvania. 

     In the fall of 1988 Jim and Sue moved from Laury Lane in New Wilmington into a large farmhouse situated on six acres along Route 956 next to the Jacquelin House Bed and Breakfast.

     On Law Day, May 1992 the Erie County Bar Association awarded Mr. Fisher its Liberty Bell Award for his exoneration of a 13-year-old boy who had been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for ten years for a murder he did not commit. As a result of Mr. Fisher's investigation the wronged young man, Jerry Pacek, received a pardon from Governor Casey of Pennsylvania. The case was later chronicled in Jim's 1996 book "Fall Guys: False Confessions and the Politics of Murder." 

     In 1997 Mr. Fisher, for his book "Fall Guys: False Confessions and the Politics of Murder" was nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Alan Poe Award in the fact crime category. Two years later he was nominated again for the Edgar Alan Poe Award for his 1999 book "The Ghosts of Hopewell: Setting the Record Straight in the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case." The award ceremonies were held at the New York Hilton in New York City.

     In 1997 and 1998 Mr. Fisher hosted the Barnes & Noble True Crime Book Club that met Friday evenings at the store in Boardman, Ohio.

     Mr. Fisher in 1998 began investigating a literary agent, her husband and her stepson who, over a period of several years had defrauded thousands of aspiring writers out of millions of dollars. This investigation led to the federal prosecution and imprisonment of the literary agent and her family. The story of this case is told in Jim Fisher's 2004 book "Ten Percent of Nothing: The Literary Agent From Hell". In the course of his inquiry into the shady world of bogus literary agents Jim composed an annotated list of literary agencies aspiring writers should avoid. The booklet, called "The Fisher Report" was published by Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and was sent free to hundreds of writers across the country.

      Best-selling crime novelist Steve Thayer published in 1999 a novel called "Silent Snow" that revolved around a modern-day kidnapping patterned after the Lindbergh kidnapping. When the novel's protagonist, an investigative reporter looking into the case asked a police inspector what was the best book on the Lindbergh case he praised "The Lindbergh Case" by Jim Fisher.

     In 2001, four years after 12-year-old Jeremy Bell died under suspicious circumstances in a cabin along the New River in Fayette County West Virginia, a cabin owned by the boy's sixth grade teacher, a relative of the child who worked at Edinboro University asked Jim to look into the boy's death. The sudden death of this healthy youngster had been ruled "accidental" by the local coroner. The teacher, 58-year-old Edgar Friedrichs, was still teaching at the Beckwith Elementary School. An 18-month investigation by Mr. Fisher and his colleague, private investigator Daniel L. Barber, proved that Mr. Friedrichs was a pedophile who since 1964 had sexually molested boys in a dozen elementary schools in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In 2005 a Fayette County jury found Mr. Friedrichs guilty of murdering Jeremy Bell by fatally drugging him for sex. The judge sentenced the defendant to life without the possibility of parole. A year later "NBC Dateline" aired a one-hour documentary featuring the Fisher-Barber investigation. 

     The play "Baby Case", a musical based on the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping, opened at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia in 2001. Michael Ogborn, the man who wrote the music and the lyrics, based the play on Jim Fishers 1987 book, "The Lindbergh Case." In 2012 the award-winning play made its debut at the New York Musical Theatre in New York City. Mr. Fisher was invited to attend the play's opening and the events surrounding it. 

     A second play originating from Jim Fisher's book "The Lindbergh Case" called "Violet Sharpe," premiered in June 2011 at the Grey Box Theatre in Pittsburgh. The play featured the tragic story of the Lindbergh family maid Violet Sharpe who, in the wake of the Lindbergh baby's murder, killed herself. The play's author, William Cameron, was a professor at W&J College in Washington, Pennsylvania. 

     In 2011 Mr. Fisher launched his blog Jimfishertruecrime. The site, designed and set up by his son James Daniel Fisher, was for people interested in crime, law, criminal investigation, policing and forensic science. Veronica Fisher designed the blog's logo. Eventually the site consisted of 5,000 posts, 4,000 viewer comments and more than 7 million pageviews. 

     From January 2011 to January 2012 Mr. Fisher used the Internet to record every police-involved shooting in the country, compiling the first ever annual record of its kind. (The federal government at this time did not keep annual statistics of police shootings.) Fisher's findings, published on his blog, were reported in several national newspapers, Internet sites and magazines. His finding revealed that the police were shooting more people than generally believed. 

     During the years 2013 to 2016 the Amazon company CreateSpace published five of Jim's books. The print-on-demand books were formatted by his son James and the covers were designed by Veronica Fisher who had also designed Mr. Fishers official website. Jim's books "The Mammoth Book of Murder", "The Mammoth Book of True Crime" and "The G.E. Mound Case" are among the CreateSpace titles.

     Throughout the years Jim Fisher appeared on more than a hundred local and national radio and television shows. He was interviewed by well known broadcasters and journalists such as Geraldo Rivera, Gill Gross, Howard Cosell, Jim Bohannan, Richard Hayes and Michael Smerconish. During this time he also became a popular public speaker. His signature opening line was, "After that introduction I can't wait to hear myself speak." Over the years he also appeared as a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities. In 1988, at the University of Delaware, Mr. Fisher debated author Anthony Scaduto who had written a book accusing Charles and Anne Lindbergh of murdering their child and covering it up with the kidnapping. He was also the keynote speaker at three national forensic science conventions, and in 2013 gave a major talk on the Lindbergh case at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

      Over the years Jim and his wife Susan took long walks every morning along the back roads of Wilmington and Pulaski Townships. Between 2015 and 2020 Jim, with his wife helping by pointing out interesting sights, took landscape Amish scene photographs. These pictures were published on various  Internet sites and used to illustrate several calendars. His photographs also appeared in a couple of magazines and illustrated an Amish cookbook. Susan Hougelman's 2021 book "Simple Life: Finding Inspiration Among the Amish" was heavily illustrated by Jim's photographs. The pictures were also regularly published on Hougelman's Facebook page "Simple Life." 

     During their morning walks Jim and Sue, over the years, picked up enough roadside litter to fill a couple of commercial trash bins. 

     Jim and his wife enjoyed watching their children and grandchildren participate in sports and other school related activities. They also liked taking their children to places like Toronto, Canada, State College Pennsylvania and New York City. During this period Jim and Sue ran in several 5 and 10K races held in Western Pennsylvania. Jim also took part in two half-marathons. 

     Jim Fisher is survived by his wife Susan, his sister, Lynn Eastman and three children: Leslie Hutchison of Volant, Debra Fisher of New Wilmington and James Daniel Fisher of Erie. He has seven grandchildren.

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