Paulo Lima, Staff Writer February 14, 2001, Wednesday Copyright 2001 North Jersey Media Group Inc. The Record (Bergen County, NJ) February 14, 2001, Wednesday; All Editions
(HACKENSACK, N.J.) -- A pendant with her slain son's image dangles around Loretta Fisher's neck. Her husband, Robert Fisher Sr., wears a baseball cap bearing a small badge in honor of his son's profession.
The anguished parents watched from the second row Tuesday as the trial of a man accused of participating in their son's murder began in Superior Court in Hackensack.
The father sat transfixed, spending long stretches glaring at Alva McLean, the 26-year-old former stock clerk charged with the robbery and murder of Teaneck Police Officer Robert L. Fisher Jr.. Fisher was moonlighting as a security guard at the Sears in Hackensack when he was gunned down during a robbery April 19, 1996.
McLean, who has been jailed since his arrest a week after the slaying, is charged with murder, felony murder, robbery, conspiracy, and weapons offenses.
In her opening argument Tuesday, Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Baglivi said the killing was a classic "inside job," with McLean providing the information crucial to planning the robbery.
"If not for him, none of us would be here," Baglivi told jurors.
"There would be no murder. Robert Fisher would not be dead if not for Alva McLean."
Two other men, Kevin Lee and Kevin Richards, ambushed Fisher as he left the Sears Brand Central building after closing time, carrying a tool box filled with cash. As Fisher and Lee wrestled for the box, Richards shot the guard in the chest, killing him.
Lee and Richards have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the slaying.
Baglivi told the jury Tuesday that McLean, a Sears employee at the time, hatched the holdup with them and drove the getaway car.
"This was plotted and planned for over a month," Baglivi said.
"They sat at the house and they planned robbing the security guard of the money. It was all based on the information that Alva McLean provided."
Defense attorney Joseph Portelli countered by trying to focus jurors on Lee and Richards. He told them that no independent witnesses reported seeing McLean at 1 the Sears store the night of the murder.
Portelli also got an early start on undermining the credibility of several of the prosecution's planned witnesses, calling one of them a "one-man crime spree" and a "menace to society."
"This is a man Ms. Baglivi will try to use to convict my client of some of the most serious crimes in the New Jersey statutes," Portelli said.
Baglivi herself warned jurors that many of her witnesses have criminal records, but she said those are the people whom McLean called friends. Many of those witnesses frequented Lee's Paterson home and overhead the men planning the robbery, Baglivi said.
None of the eight witnesses who testified on Tuesday had such credibility issues, however. Four of them were Sears employees.
In addition, Karen Baker, the mother of Fisher's son, told jurors that she and Fisher had gotten engaged just six days before his death.
Baker visited Fisher at work the night he was killed. When asked whether she ever saw him alive again, Baker broke down in tears and said: "No."
The trial is scheduled to resume today and last through the end of next week.