Joel Jackson Fisher was born October 4, 1988, in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Wayne and Christine Fisher.
Elementary school records describe Joel as anxious, withdrawn, and exhausted and cite his belief that it was his job to keep the family functional as the likely cause. Despite the stress, Joel's report cards showed a solid B-plus average.
Entering Pontotoc High School, Joel found himself at a loss socially. Unlike his younger brother, Ned, Joel was painfully shy. The situation worsened when Wayne moved out for good and Christine filed for divorce. A withdrawn Joel was forced to attend school counseling sessions.
Even though Joel's home life was more stable without Wayne, finances were extremely tight. Stu Menton, the manager of the Fun Time Roll-A-Rena, hired Joel for after-school and weekend work. Joel spent most of those earnings helping to pay for Christine's outpatient alcohol treatment. Following rehab, Christine landed a part-time job at a hardware store.
After Wayne left, Joel's resentment transferred to Ned, who remained in contact with his father. Christine told friends that her boys were always at each other's throats. The brothers' mutual animosity resulted in the only disciplinary action on Joel's school record when he was a junior and Ned a freshman. The two got into a violent fight in the cafeteria when Joel allegedly overheard Ned calling Christine "a whore."
Joel might have gotten into further trouble if not for Stu Menton, who took the shy teen under his wing. Stu asked the youngster for help planning the renovation of the rink, and Stu's instincts proved right. Joel kept all the paperwork organized, came up with a plan to keep the snack stand open through construction, and helped select and install new video games.
Stu encouraged Joel to continue his education and wrote a recommendation for Joel's application to Ole Miss. When Joel was accepted on scholarship, he ignored his mother's suggestions that he stay in Pontotoc and started classes in the fall of 2006. His work-study jobs let him send money home to Christine, even as he bought books second- or third-hand.
Joel reportedly remained angry at Ned, who showed no ambition to do anything but continue sponging off their mother, and by extension, Joel as well. When Joel got an apartment his sophomore year, he severed ties with Ned, refusing to give him his new address. Joel visited home only when Ned was away, and he encouraged Christine to move to Oxford and leave Ned to his own devices.
After graduating in 2010, Joel needed a couple of computer prerequisites to pursue a library science master's degree. While enrolled through the university extension, he met Delia Winters, manager of a local bank branch. She was so professional-looking that Joel would never have dreamed of approaching her, so it was lucky that she had no qualms about making the first move.
Delia and Joel married in a small ceremony in Oxford in 2012. Christine attended the wedding, but Wayne and Ned were not invited. Pastor Ryan Gibbons recalls Joel telling him during premarital counseling that Wayne was dead as far as he was concerned.
When the couple's first child was born in 2016, Joel quit his job and took on the role of full-time parent. Christine was overjoyed to be a grandmother, and Joel frequently took little Charlie to Pontotoc for visits. When Charlie started preschool, Joel returned to work and also enjoyed volunteering for the local arts council, which published several of his poems in its annual newsletter.
In 2017, Joel learned through Christine that Wayne and Ned were in business together in Oxford. He ignored Christine's pleas to heal the rift between them and refused to tell Wayne he was a grandfather.
Joel told Delia he was certain Ned and Wayne were up to no good and vowed not to speak with them, fretting they would try to ruin his life. Delia confided to a coworker that she asked Joel to seek counseling to resolve his rage toward his father and brother, worried that her otherwise gentle and sensitive husband seemed to have so much hatred deep within him.