Missing: Gene Fish

Gene FishEugene “Gene” Francis Fish (May 24, 1950 – missing June 21, 2004), a retired federal agent, went missing on June 21, 2004 from his home in Canon City, Colorado.

He is 5’11, white, has strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, and a crippled finger on the left hand. Alas, his NamUs profile does not say which finger on the left hand is crippled. This could be crucial when an unidentified male skeleton is found of the same height as Gene.

His case was added to the NamUs database in 2014 so 10 years after he disappeared. It needs a better picture. It also says that finger prints, dental information, or DNA are not on file. All that should be in his employment files as he was a federal agent.

Gene needs a better digital profile so his is the Case of the Month for February 2018.

Case Overview

Gene Fish is an Air Force Veteran from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As you can see, that alone is plenty of reason to be instantly suspicious. He retired in 2003 with a pension of more than $4,500 per month. He is married to Lynn Fish but according to the papers had several girlfriends (not clear if that was before marriage or not) and possibly children.

Gene was born and raised in New York. Most of his family still lives there. He graduated from Fonda-Fultonville High School in 1968 and from Siena College in Loudonville, New York. He was a pilot in the Navy. His father, William “Bill” Fish, was a retired railroad investigator from Fultonville, NY. Together with his wife Agnes, Bill hired a private investigator to search for Gene. They spent about $100,000 searching for their only son and heir.

In 2007, Bill and Agnes filed a wrongful death suit against Lynn and a neighbor, Johnnie Ray Florez. The parents alleged that Lynn killed Gene and Florez helped bury the body. Florez later moved to North Carolina and worked for a construction company. Allegedly he bragged “that he could bury a body with a backhoe and no one would ever find it,” the lawsuit says. The suit was dismissed in May 2007.

Bill died at the age of ninety. He had cancer and Parkinson’s disease. In his will, he left money in a trust fund to continue the search for Gene. Agnes died in October 2009. She had Alzheimer’s. Gene, as their only child, is the sole heir to the estate estimated at $500,000.

The parents hired retired Colorado Springs Police Homicide Detectives Dave Spencer and Lou Smith. These experienced investigators think that there is enough reason to go to a grand jury. So far, the Fremont County authorities have ignored their findings.

Married life

On Feb 18, 1997, Gene and Lynn were married in Las Vegas. They met in 1993. This was Gene’s first and Lynn’s second marriage. She has a daughter from her first marriage. I have not been able to find how old this daughter is.

From what I saw in the papers, Lynn did not have an ambitiously oriented work history. She may have been completely financially dependent on Gene. If there was trouble in the marriage, friends and family said that they didn’t see it. This could mean that they really didn’t know or that they cannot believe that there were issues.

Gene’s work took them to Utah, Nebraska, Texas, and New York. When Gene retired in 1999, they moved to Colorado. They bought a remote 35-acre property 36 miles west of Canon City. In 2003, they started building a home there.

What attracted them to a remote location? According to friends, Gene loves to hunt. He had several guns on the property. How remote was it? According to the papers, your neighbors are far away so they may not hear any gun fire.

As for disappearing, Lynn said Gene wanted to be free of responsibilities. The house had become a burden and he didn’t like the area. Lynn also mentioned that he struggled with himself, I quote: “he didn’t know himself as well as he thought he did.” This isn’t surprising. Many people feel like this after retirement. It is really a life altering experience. Gene went from super busy to being at home. That’s what his story sounds like. It doesn’t surprise me that he became restless.

Lynn claimed that Gene told her that he knew how to disappear. I do not know whether he indeed said that but I do not doubt that he knew how to disappear. He was a trained federal agent.

The Disappearance

Gene was last seen at home on June 21, 2004. According to Lynn, he left in an agitated mood after they argued. Strangely enough, she didn’t worry too much when she didn’t hear from him. She only called Gene’s parents after Gene was gone for a week. So maybe she didn’t care enough or she was used to him disappearing for days. Either way, it tells you a lot about the state of their marriage.

According to NamUs, Gene “smashed his computer and cut up his credit cards before leaving the house, and left his cell phone behind. She believed he was planning to go to Mexico or South America to “disappear.” She stated that when he left, he was driving his red 2000 Ford F-150 pickup truck and that he had allegedly said he would send the truck back to her later. She stated that the truck reappeared in the driveway days later, three miles inside the locked gate to the property.”

This doesn’t make any sense at all. Remember that we are talking about a federal agent. He knows that a smashed computer still holds a hard drive. So do we still have the hard drive? Can we check his browser history? It isn’t mentioned in the papers whether a hard drive was found or if it was destroyed as well. The search warrant doesn’t specify this either. More about the search below. Cutting up credit cards doesn’t mean that there isn’t another credit card or another bank account. Leaving a cell phone behind isn’t an issue either. You can transfer contacts with another memory card. The search warrant (link below) doesn’t specify if the authorities took a mobile phone or a memory card.

If the truck came back to her within three days this curious reappearance falls within the period that she didn’t tell Gene’s parents he left. But the reappearing truck is weird enough to warrant a call. I could not find whether the truck was searched for prints, blood, fiber, mud, and pollen but I suspect that it was wiped clean. Last, if Gene left in the truck who drove it back?

In August 2004, two months after she last saw her husband, Lynn tried to report Gene missing. Apparently she was told that an adult leaving on his own is not a missing person case. On September 1, Gene’s friend, New York State Police Officer Chuck DeLuca, filed a missing-person report. More about that below.

The papers all say that from the moment he left, Gene has not used his pension money, his credit cards (but they were cut up so only transactions on his bank account matter), or his passport for travel. So if he really disappeared, he got another ID and/or maybe never left American jurisdiction, and/or had access to funds elsewhere.

The Parents

Gene had a good relationship with his parents. Bill said that he called them every week. The last call was on June 20, 2004 for Father’s day. During that call, Gene apparently complained about the construction bills, his computer acting up, and visiting his parents in July. The latter is interesting: if Gene voluntarily disappeared it would be cruel to make his parents look forward to seeing him in a month. If their relationship was as good as everyone says he probably would not do that. However, it could have been used as a mercy ruse. His parents could hold on to the thought that he didn’t wanted to leave them while in fact, if he did leave on his own he accepted leaving his parents forever too. Of course, if Gene didn’t plan to leave at all this was just a son making summer plans with mom and dad.

Lynn has a different version of that last call. She said Gene argued with his father. Supposedly, he felt a “general type of anger” towards his father. I have not been able to find any reference in other papers to tension between father and son.

The papers say that Gene emailed his parents the day after Father’s Day. That is the last time they heard from their only son. At what time was that email sent? Did it refer to the phone call or was it a generic email? The time can serve as a starting point from when Gene went missing. If it was generic we could doubt that he sent it himself. In other words, we could have a few hour gap in the time line (from the time of the call to the time the email was sent).

Bill & Agnes showered Gene with gifts. Land, funds, investments, a tractor, a truck, and a car. He is the sole heir to their $500,000 estate. Is it possible that over the years Gene put some amounts away on an account unknown to Lynn and parents? Of course, that isn’t difficult at all. So now I wonder whether Gene had a post office box either in New York, Colorado, or even at a law office. Does anyone know?

I checked various websites and read comments below news articles. This one caught my eye: according to an old friend Dr. Faith Leibman, Gene would never leave without some sort of good-bye to his mother. And that didn’t happen.

Money

Lynn testified that she consulted with a lawyer after Gene disappeared. On June 28, 2004, so just seven days later, she transferred $42,000 from two jointly held accounts into an account on her own name. Moreover, she appointed a beneficiary to that account: her daughter from her previous marriage. How old was this daughter at the time? Did she live with Lynn and Gene? If so, what is her take on her mom’s second marriage?

Lynn explained she made this transfer because she was afraid that Gene might try to empty the accounts. This really is an interesting point. Stay with me here: Lynn transfers money while everyone is made to believe that Gene left on his own. Can you smell it? IF he left on his own and Lynn still cared, she would not cut him off funds so soon. You would hope he’d calm down and use the funds to get back home. Maybe she transferred the money because she knows that he most likely won’t come back. But there is more. Bill & Agnes were financially savvy. Lynn transferred this money so soon after Gene disappeared to make sure that it could not become part of a parental conservatory of Gene’s assets. Gene’s automatically deposited pension payments were transferred to her account to pay for her living expenses.

Just one month after he disappeared, on July 21, 2004, Lynn filed for divorce. She dropped those proceedings just a few months later when Bill Fish got temporary conservatorship of Gene’s assets. More interesting details: a week after filing for divorce, Lynn had to call back Chuck Deluca, the above mentioned New York State Police Officer. He went to college with Gene. DeLuca had heard from Bill that Gene was missing. On the phone however, he pretended not to know. He said, Lynn was “very nervous” and “out of breath.” She told him that Gene couldn’t come to the phone (so implying Gene was not missing and alive) and that he could not attend a golf tournament he always attended with DeLuca. After this, DeLuca reported his old friend missing on Sept. 1, 2004.

The Search Warrant

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant more than two years after Gene vanished.

Interesting points:

1: Gene had several weapons. He had four or five pistols and several long guns in the barn. Lynn claimed that she didn’t know about these weapons. However, Bill Fish remembered that Gene bought a gun for Lynn after they moved to Colorado. Gene even taught her how to use it. If Bill is correct, Lynn knew about at least one gun.

2: Taken from the property were a grey metal box with the following content: money, letters, a birth certificate, and a passport. Furthermore, a Compaq Presario Tower A636HXV3F453 and a Memorex 3′ disk in a letter envelope. I am curious what digital forensics found on the computer and the disk. Where to letters addressed to Gene? Content?

3: The notes on the search warrant mention blood spots on the east rock wall. What were the test results?

4: The Gazette further mentions what “Fremont County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Robert Dodd’s affidavit notes as “suspicious” elements. Lynn bought a mattress on July 6, 2004. When that new mattress was delivered, no old mattress was hauled off. Mr. Ogden, in charge of trash in the neighbourhood, said that he never saw an old mattress in the dumpster. Dodd “finds it suspicious that Lynn Fish purchased only a mattress, when it is customary for people to replace both the mattress and box spring at the same time.” This doesn’t have to mean anything. Many people have a spare frame from earlier purchases. The real question is: were all the bedrooms searched? Does the house have a basement? Was it checked for spare furniture? Was any burn pile found somewhere around the house?

5: Necrodogs, capable of finding human remains, were used during the search. However, the warrant inventory does not list that any remains were found.

Lynn Fish

Around August 2014, Lynn switched all joint bank accounts to her name only. According to court documents, Lynn was named conservator of Gene’s estate. She collects his monthly pension of $4,500. What would be noteworthy is any change in spending habits right after Gene went missing. I wonder if Lynn is Gene’s heir to inherit from Gene’s parents. Did Gene have a last will?

Fremont County District Court Judge David Thorson gave conservatory over Gene’s assets to Lynn instead of his parents. “The most likely option is, he left because he wanted to and intended to give his assets to his wife.” There is a lot online about the conservatory. And, money really brings out the best in people. Lynn didn’t mind using Gene’s money to pay off her credit cards but objected to using money to keep searching for Gene. Check the links below under resources to find more articles.

If Gene had illegitimate children, would he have left them something in his will? Phil Joukoff, a former co-worker, doubts that Gene had any children. “We were close enough friends that if he had a son or daughter somewhere, I think he would have told me that,” he said. Maybe. It really depends on how Gene himself felt about their friendship and how comfortable he was sharing such private details. As he was a federal agent, I doubt that he would have said something.

While going through Gene’s personal papers and briefcase, Lynn claimed that she found evidence of three or four illegitimate children. When asked about Gene’s illegitimate children she said “I’ve never met any, never seen any. I know that he told me that he got women pregnant,” she said. “What happened after that, I don’t know, and that was years ago.”

In the papers, you can find details about a “shoving” incident. On Jan 3, 2004, Lynn called police to report a domestic incident but said too that she was not afraid and didn’t need a deputy to come to the house. A deputy did call them the next day. Gene described the incident. Apparently then both spouses confirmed to the deputy that everything was ok now. Bill told the papers what he knew about the shoving incident. Lynn had told him that Gene had “hit her in the mouth, broke her teeth, had thrown her over a table.” If true, that is domestic violence.

During the conservatory procedures, this incident came up. In her deposition Lynn said that Gene “took me by the arms and shoved me across the room” because he was mad about the dog, the weather, the house, and retirement. She said that he’d never struck her before or since. Now what is the truth? In 2003 (so before the shoving incident), Lynn told one of the people working on their property that Gene beat her. She didn’t report this to the police.

I found this article that describes Gene as somewhat arrogant. It also mentions that Gene may have wanted a divorce.

Only after Gene Fish disappeared did Lynn tell Gene’s father about domestic incidents. If the 2003 beating was true, it could have made a lasting impression on her. It could explain her lukewarm attitude and lack of concern for her husband. We only know about these physical incidents but we do not know whether any financial abuse (such as withholding funds) or emotional abuse took place as well. Again, I am not accusing Gene but if these incidents happened as alleged in the papers, it explains a lot about Lynn.

On Sept 8, 2004, Lynn agreed to take a polygraph test. However, two days later her attorney wrote to the authorities: “this letter is to advise members of your department that they are to have no further direct or indirect contact with Mrs. Fish,” noting that she “is under extreme emotional strain as a result of her husband’s abandonment and disappearance” and “does intend to exercise her constitutional rights.”

On Dec 1, 2011, Lynn sold the house and acreage for $249000 according to the papers who cite property records. That amount doesn’t sound as suspiciously high or low to me but I am not a realtor.

Could it be possible that Lynn has nothing to do with Gene Fish’s disappearance? Of course that is possible. They lived in a remote area. Gene could have accidentally hurt himself, fallen somewhere, or become ill. It is also possible that when that happened she may have taken advantage of such weakened state by not tending to her husband or by leaving him somewhere. All I wish to point out is that we continuously face different scenarios: Gene could have left on his own, he could have accidentally died or, he could have been murdered. As long as we have no other evidence all three scenarios must stay on the table as valid options.

Note: The Gazette has disabled many links to Eugene’s story however, you can still see some captures if you search under his name.

Contact info

If you have any information please call the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office at 719-276-5550. Gene’s file number is 04-3013.

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In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and often more information can be found online and in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is just to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.

If you have any thoughts about Gene’s Fish’s disappearance I urge you to post them on your own social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. Every time we mention Gene’s name online we enhance his digital footprint.

We must make sure that Gene Fish keeps his web presence if we ever wish to find answers in his case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post. If you do, the post will show up in new news feeds, reach new people and networks with new connections. And who knows, we may reach someone who can help advance the case. And that is the goal.

Thank you for remembering Eugene “Gene” Francis Fish with us.

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Resources

Missing Veterans

Colorado Bureau of Investigations

Search Warrant

Colorado Springs Independent

NamUs