Editor’s note; On Oct. 26,
Toledo Free Press reported that Jamie Madrigal, convicted for killing 18-year old Misty Fisher during a robbery in 1996, will get a new trial after a federal appeals court overturned his conviction and sentence. Fisher’s father, Ray Fisher, shares memories of his oldest daughter and his frustration with the justice system.
Ray Fisher sits in his armchair with a tiny poodle cradled in his lap.
”If anything ever happened to this dog, I’d … ,” his voice trailed off.
The dog, less than six pounds, seemed even smaller in his owner’s hands. His smallness spoke volumes of the fragility of life, and of the strength of a father who lost his oldest daughter in a violent and senseless crime.
Fisher remembers his daughter Misty with a smile.
”She lived hard,” he said.
He remembered how she would help him set up his drums when he played in a band to supplement the times he was laid off from Jeep.
”She was my little helper. She loved music,” he said, adding she played clarinet in the Clay High School band. He remembered how she loved babysitting, watching the sunrise, animals and trying hard to beat him at euchre.
”She used to torture me, because she couldn’t sing. The poor girl couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket,” he laughed. ”She’d sing a Garth Brooks song and I’d tell her, ‘Misty, please don’t do that to me.’ ”
It was times like those, Fisher said, he felt Misty and he were tremendously close: ”You couldn’t stay mad at her for anything. She’d pipe up and say something off the wall that would just make you chuckle.”
Fisher said Misty could ”walk into a room not knowing anyone, but would leave knowing everyone.”
She dedicated special days to take her younger sisters out for a meal and a movie. A teenager, she liked to hang out with friends, go to church, and make a mess.
”I used to tell her, ‘Misty, one day when you move out, I’m gonna come to your house and trash it like you trash our house. I’m gonna eat chips and leave the bag open on the table,’ ”Fisher said. ”She’d tell me, ‘I aint gonna leave, Dad.’
”I guess she never will.”
Misty wanted to be an accountant and exhibited a work ethic that made her father proud.
”She didn’t miss work. She never missed band practice,” he said. ”She got promoted at her new job. She loved her job. She was saving up to buy a new car.”
Fisher prided himself on raising three daughters with a strong work ethic: ”I raised them the same way I was raised, with an ethic to work and to never expect handouts.”
Misty worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Maumee as an assistant manager.
”She wasn’t even supposed to be working at that store on South Street,” he father said. Because Misty was hardworking and reliable, he said she would be called to fill in for absent workers at other stores.
Misty was shot during a robbery on April 12, 1996. According to witness statements, she was forced to try to open a safe and was shot in the head after she could not open it. She died en route to the hospital.
On May 13, 1996, the Lucas County grand jury indicted Jamie Madrigal, charging him with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. Later that year, a jury convicted Madrigal on all charges and recommended Madrigal be put to death. Since then, Madrigal, who is in the Mansfield Correctional Institution, has filed numerous appeals with the courts. Until federal judge James S. Gwin ordered a new trial — after ruling jurors in Madrigal’s original trial were privy to hearsay confessions of co-defendant Chris Cathcart, potentially tainting their opinions by implicating Madrigal in the slaying — all appeals had been denied. The new trial is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Cathcart, also convicted in Misty’s murder case, was indicted Sept. 20 on charges of aggravated robbery and involuntary manslaughter in the slaying of Larry Loose on April 30, 1995.
”When my mother passed away, Misty always went to the cemetery to put flowers on her grave,” Fisher said. ”So we buried her next to her grandma.”
Since Misty’s death, Fisher has had to relive the crime against Misty through trials and multiple appeals.
”I’m mad at the whole system,” he said. ”I’ve seen the justice system work and it’s all backwards.
”Every time I go to something, I have to hear about Jamie Madrigal’s rights. Misty didn’t have no rights. She had no appeals; it was done. And everything that they’re doing now, you and I are paying for it.”
Fisher said he has had to go through unimaginable situations — all while missing work and losing pay.
”I’ve been to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and had to listen to a female judge say, ‘If she hadn’t fumbled with the safe, none of this would have happened.’ ”
The sting of such a statement hasn’t deterred Fisher. He vows to be at every hearing regarding Misty’s killer.
”I’m going to be there,” he said. ”And I’m gonna look him in the eyes every time.”
Fisher said he went into Madrigals’ 1998 trial with an open mind.
”I told myself they had to prove to me that this was the guy,” he said. ”What proved it to me was that a 16-year-old [witness] that’s down on her knees, scared to death, remembered that he had cuts on his pants. When they pulled out these pair of pants that [police] found with him in Cleveland, they had those cuts. Now that’s something.”
Fisher said of Madrigal’s assertion that he did not pull the trigger, ”He admits to being there, but now all of a sudden, it wasn’t him. If I’m going to jail for something I didn’t do, I’m singing from day one.”
Fisher said Madrigal wouldn’t look at him during court appearances.
”[Cathcart] was man enough at his trial to turn around and look at me and say he was sorry,” Fisher said. ”I think what’s happened is that Jamie is down there on death row and they’ve started executing people and now Jamie is scared. Because he knows his day is coming sooner or later.
”That will be a happy day for me,” Fisher said. ”I’ll watch him and smile at him the whole time, because what he did accomplished nothing. He didn’t get no more money; he was 10 foot from a door. If he would’ve walked out of there with what he had, then nobody would have got hurt. But he didn’t.
”Truth be told, just put me in a room with him somewhere. Whoever wins gets to come out. Save the taxpayers’ money — just go somewhere and get it done.”
”Because what he done was cowardly. A man would have just walked out. Just go and leave those kids alone. They’re trying to work to make money and he’s out there stealing it.”
Fisher said Madrigal’s defense attorneys tried to gain sympathy with jurors by revealing he had children.
”He should have been home with those kids that night. I have no sympathy for that. I don’t agree with killing, but there’s one person I could without thinking twice about it.”
Fisher said he feels sorry for the witnesses — the teenagers who were at the restaurant during the robbery.
”Most of those people have left town,” he said, noting he still keeps in touch some of them. ”They don’t even want to be here anymore. When you are 16 years old and you go through something like that; they’ll have that for the rest of their lives.”
He said he has witnessed the justice system work in favor of the criminal too many times.
”At the first trial, they had a picture of Misty on the prosecutor’s table and they made them turn the picture over so the jurors wouldn’t see, because it could affect what they think,” he said. ”Doesn’t she have the right to be at the trial that she’s not here for?”
He said he has committed himself to attending every proceeding because he wants to see Misty’s killer serve a full sentence.
”There ain’t going to be no back-room deals as long as I can help it,” he said. ”I’ll be there every time. I’ll stare at him and say ‘I’ll see you in hell, because you took something you had no business taking.’ ”
Fisher said, despite whether her killer gets life imprisonment or death, there is never really closure.
”She was spontaneous, carefree. She laughed a lot,” he said. ”She packed a lot of living into those 18 years.”