The true story of the 1974 murders in Travis County
By KEVIN GARCIA
The Brownsville Herald
Inspired by a true story. That is the tagline that has helped keep the Texas Chainsaw Massacre a cult classic since if was released in 1974. It is the story of a killer in Travis County who murders innocent motorists with vicious consistency.
But what really happened in Travis County in 1974 and is the county really a hotbed for dangerous psychotic lunatics?
Travis county has grown quite a bit since the 1970s, were now an urban county as opposed to a rural county, said Roger Wade, public information officer for the Travis County Sheriffs Department. I dont really agree with the fact that they say it is based on a Travis County case.
He added that the only case that resembles the movie involves Robert Elmer Kleasen, who in 1974 was accused of murdering two Mormon missionaries and chopping their bodies up with an electric bandsaw, a floor mounted devise similar to a chainsaw.
If it was this case then it would be called the Texas Bandsaw Murderer, Wade said. Allegedly it was in a taxidermy shop when he cut them up.
The victims were 19-year-old Mark Fischer and 20-year-old Gary Darley.
Brian Case of the Travis County District Attorneys office described the incident.
These two Mormon missionaries had kind of struck up an acquaintanceship with Kleasen and they would go into the routine of visiting Kleasen who would feed them venison, Case said.
Suspicious grew about Kleasens intentions because of his strange behavior and because of a previous conviction for illegal poaching. The local church asked the missionaries to stop witnessing for Kleasen.
They said they already had a meeting scheduled and that they would tell him that they couldnt minister for him any more, Case said. When they never came back suspicions went on for a while.
Police eventually arrested Kleasen on an unrelated shooting case from New York and obtained a search warrant for his property.
In 1976 Kleasen was convicted of the murders and put on Texas death row, but the verdict was reversed when the search warrant used to access Kleasens property was found to be deficient.
Kleasen was then sent to New York to face time for the prior shooting. While in prison he began a pen-pal relationship with Marie Longley of England.
He told her he was a warden as the explanation as to why the mail came from prison, Case said. He got out and then married this woman.
Living in England, he told people he was a Korean War hero, awarded a Medal of Honor, an ex-CIA operative, a doctor and a weapons expert.
I guess they were believing these stories about his military background, Case said. He actually ended up being a consultant to the Humberside Police department as a weapons expert.
At some point someone in England visited a website that listed Medal of Honor winners and Kleasen wasnt on the list. Further checking found that he had lied on his application to become an arms dealer.
That was in 1999 and that got the ball rolling as far as extradition and prosecutions, Case said. He kept his wife as a house slave and she was terrified of him by the time he was arrested.
After lengthy extradition proceedings, Kleasen was about to be returned to Travis County where DNA evidence conclusively connected him to the missionary murders. Before he could be extradited, Kleasen died on April 21, 2003 of heart failure in England. He was 69 years old.
In a nutshell that was it, Case said. He was a very bizarre and weird guy to say the least.
Although both the actual murders and the movie take place in the early 1970s, with victims chopped up using a looped electronic blade, and the victims themselves were visitors who innocently came to the door of a rural Travis County home, the movie was not based on the Kleasen case.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed in 1973 and vaguely inspired by the case of Ed Gein, a Wisconsin serial killer in the 1950s who inspired movies such as Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre premiered Oct. 17, 1974, the murders occurred on Oct. 28, 1974.