Bradford Bishop

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William Bradford Bishop, Jr.
Age progression sculpture by Karen T. Taylor of fugitive William Bradford Bishop at about age 77.jpg
2014 sculpture by Karen T. Taylor
Born William Bradford Bishop, Jr.
(1936-08-01) August 1, 1936 (age 78)
Pasadena, California, United States
Disappeared March 2, 1976 (aged 39)
Jacksonville, North Carolina, United States
Status Missing for 38 years, 6 months and 15 days
Other names Bradford Bishop, Brad Bishop, Bradford Bishop, Jr.
Known for Wanted for Murder (5 Counts)
Spouse(s) Annette Kathryn Bishop
Children William Bradford Bishop III, 14
Brenton Germain Bishop, 10
Geoffery Corder Bishop, 5

William Bradford "Brad" Bishop, Jr., (born August 1, 1936) is a former United States Foreign Service officer who has been a fugitive from justice since allegedly murdering five members of his family in 1976.[1][2][3] On April 10, 2014, the FBI placed him on its List of 10 Most Wanted Fugitives.[4]

Known biography[edit]

William Bradford Bishop, Jr., was born in Pasadena, California. He received a BS in history from Yale, and an MA in international studies from Middlebury College.[2] Alternatively, he has been reported to have a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Yale University and a master’s degree in Italian from Middlebury College.[5] He also studied African Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.[6][7]

After his graduation from Yale in 1959 he married his wife Annette Wels. He then spent four years in Army counterintelligence. Bishop speaks five languages fluently: English, French, Serbo-Croat, Italian and Spanish.[8]

After leaving the army Bishop joined the U.S. State Department and served in the U.S. Foreign Service in many postings overseas.[2] This included postings in the Italian cities of Verona, Milan, and Florence (where he did post-graduate work at the University of Florence).[2] He also served as a foreign service officer in Africa, including posts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in Gaborone, Botswana.[2] His last posting, which began in 1974, was at State Department Headquarters in Washington as an Assistant Chief in the Division of Special Activities and Commercial Treaties. He was living in Bethesda, Maryland with his wife Annette (age 37), three sons, William III (age 14), Brenton (age 10), Geoffrey (age 5), and his mother, Lobelia (age 68).[2]

By early 1976 Bishop was anticipating a promotion at work. Bishop and his wife were both psychiatric patients.[6] Bishop suffered from depression and insomnia and was taking the medication Serax.[9] On the afternoon of March 1, he learned he would not receive the promotion he had sought.

The murders[edit]

After learning of this career disappointment, Bishop told his secretary he didn’t feel well and left work early.[1] Shortly thereafter, police believe that he first drove from Foggy Bottom (the neighborhood where he worked at the U.S. State Department headquarters) to the bank where he withdrew several hundred dollars. He then drove to Montgomery Mall and bought a ball-peen hammer and a gas can at Sears. He then filled the gas can and family station wagon up at a gas station next to the mall. From there, he drove to POCH hardware next to Safeway at the time at River Road & Falls Road, where police believe he purchased a shovel and pitchfork. He returned to his home in Bethesda, Maryland, at around 7:30 to 8:00 pm (19:30 to 20:00), after the children were put to bed. The police investigation shows that his wife was probably killed first.[2] His mother, who was returning home from walking the family's Golden Retriever, was killed next.[2] Finally, his three sons were killed while they slept in their beds in the upstairs bedroom.[2] They were all killed with a blunt instrument, and none had an opportunity to defend themselves.[citation needed]

With the bodies loaded into the family station wagon, Bishop allegedly drove 275 miles (443 km), about a 6-hour drive, to a densely wooded swamp off North Carolina highway 94, about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Columbia, North Carolina. There, on March 2, he dug a shallow hole where he piled the bodies, doused them with gasoline, and set them ablaze. Later the same day a North Carolina state forest ranger was dispatched by a spotter in a fire tower to an area where smoke was rising from the trees. The ranger discovered the burned bodies along with a gas can, a pitchfork, and a shovel with a label of "OCH HDW" which was tracked to POCH Hardware a week later..[citation needed]

It was later confirmed that Bishop visited a sporting goods store in Jacksonville, North Carolina that same day and used his credit card to purchase tennis shoes.[1] According to witnesses, he had the family dog with him on a leash, and was possibly, but not certainly, accompanied by a woman described as "dark skinned".[citation needed]

According to police reports, a week later, on March 10, a neighbor of the Bishops in the Carderock Springs neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland grew concerned about the family's absence claiming she hadn't seen them for about three weeks. The neighbor contacted local police who dispatched a detective to the nearby neighborhood. After meeting the neighbor, who had a key to their home, the detective decided to enter inside to see if anything was wrong. As he approached the front door, he found droplets of blood on the front porch and entered the house to discover spattered blood on the floor and walls. The children's room was covered from ceiling to floor, and wall to wall with blood, as well. The detective stated that in his 12 years as a police officer, it was the worst crime scene he had ever observed. Shortly afterward, dental records were used to confirm that the bodies found in North Carolina were of Bishop's wife, Annette, his mother, and three sons.[citation needed]

On March 18, the Bishop family car (a 1974 Chevy station wagon) was found abandoned at an isolated campground in Elkmont, Tennessee[10] in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few miles from the Appalachian Trail and about 400 miles (640 km) from the Columbia-area pyre.[1] The car contained dog biscuits, bloody blanket, a shotgun, ax and a shaving kit with Serax; the spare-tire well in the trunk was full of blood.[citation needed] According to a witness the car had been there since March 5–7. Police theorized that Bishop could have joined the flow of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, and attempted to follow his scent with bloodhounds, without success.

On March 19, 1976, a grand jury indicted Bishop on five counts of first-degree murder and other charges. Evidence included his disappearance, the sighting afterward in the vicinity of the bodies, and bloody stains inside the family home that matched both his fingerprints and the blood of his family members.[citation needed]


Bishop had approximately one week of advance time before the authorities even began looking for him and could have travelled on his U.S. diplomatic passport. Because of the methods of air travel and immigration in 1976 throughout much of the world, he could easily have avoided leaving a paper trail of any kind.

Since 1976 Bishop has been allegedly sighted numerous times in Belgium, England, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.[3] The three most credible sightings noted by the United States Marshals Service are as follows:

  • In July, 1978, a Swedish woman who said she had collaborated with Bishop whilst on a business trip in Ethiopia, reported she had spotted him twice in a public park in Stockholm, Sweden. She stated she was "absolutely certain" and made clear that the man was Bishop.[3]
  • In January 1979, Bishop was reported seen by a former U.S. State Department colleague in a restroom in Sorrento, Italy.[3]
  • On September 19, 1994, on a Basel, Switzerland, train platform, a neighbor on vacation in Europe who knew Bishop and his family in Bethesda, Maryland reported that she had seen Bishop from a few feet away.[3] The neighbor described Bishop as "well-groomed" and in a car.[11]

As of 2010, authorities believe he is alive, living in Sorrento, Italy, or some other location in Europe. He may possibly be still in the USA in California and may have worked as a teacher or been involved in criminal activities.[12] Although Bishop is legally American by nationality, it is widely believed that Bishop may be living his life footloose in Europe as a place of refuge; do to many more leads in numbers within this continent, compared to a lack of leads in his home continent of North America, and the rest of the world.

According to the FBI Bishop may have had his father's Smith and Wesson M&P .38 revolver and his Yale class ring with him when he vanished in 1976 and could still be in possession of them today.

In the media[edit]

After the initial national headlines, the Bishop case has been the subject of articles in national publications like Reader's Digest and Time Magazine at milestone anniversaries. It has been followed intermittently on an ad hoc basis by the Washington Post, the Washington Star, and the Washington Times as well as local Washington D.C. television stations. The case has also been featured on television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries, ABC's Vanished and America's Most Wanted. Bishop was profiled on America's Most Wanted Website 33 years to the day his family's bodies were discovered with a new age enhanced bust of him with facial hair. In 1978 the bluegrass group Coup de Grass recorded "The Ballad of Bradford Bishop," written by Steve Lasko and Steve Deady. It was featured in the album "Rhythm and Bluegrass." Carolyn Banks' 1980 Viking novel, "The Darkroom," was based on the Bradford Bishop murder case.

Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise revealed in his 2011 autobiography I Was a Dancer that he became a close friend of Bishop's parents, who were ballet fans, while he was still a teenager and that when he was seventeen and Bishop was fourteen, he lived with the family for a while. He described Bishop as very intelligent, reticent and intense. Years later, D'Amboise and his wife Carrie were meant to spend the night of the murders sleeping over at Bishop's home, but he was injured in a performance a few days earlier and they had to cancel. D'Amboise stated that he has wondered ever since if their presence that night would have prevented the murders or resulted in their being killed, as well.[13]

In 1997, investigators said they believed he was involved in spying.[14]

In 2010, U.S. Marshals released more information, revealing for the first time on America's Most Wanted that Bishop was corresponding with federal prison inmate Albert Kenneth Bankston in United States Penitentiary, Marion.[12] It is unknown why or how they were in contact.[12] America's Most Wanted posted the last letter, sent the day of the murders, on their website.[15]

In 2011, WUSA aired a story there were reports he died in Hong Kong and then in France, but police used fingerprints to confirm those reports were false.[16]

On April 10, Ronald Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, revealed the fugitive update sculpture done by Karen T. Taylor.[17]

In early April 2014, WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., launched a webpage to display multiple investigative reports and extensive information on the Bishop case. This includes samples of Bishop's handwriting, fingerprints, dental records and previously unseen Bishop family videos.[18]

On July 27, 2014, the search for Bishop was a featured story on The Hunt With John Walsh on CNN.

2014 age-progression sculpture[edit]

William bradford bishop expressions.png
William bradford bishop alternate looks.jpg

At the request of the FBI, forensic artist Karen T. Taylor created an age progression sculpture to suggest Bishop's projected appearance at about age 77. In addition to depicting anatomical facial aging in the sculpted bust, Taylor also focused on addition of facial expressions. The expressions were derived from accounts of Bishop's personality and from behavioral specialists' reports. In rotation, the sculpture shows intelligence, arrogance, deception and conceit. Using Taylor's sculpture, several alternate look images were created by Lisa Sheppard to show the addition of facial hair and glasses.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d "Bishop still wanted in family's death". The News & Observer. Feb 26, 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-10. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Bishop Murders". TIME. March 22, 1976. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Duggan, Paul (March 2, 2006). "Where Is Brad Bishop?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  4. ^ "New Top Ten Fugitive — ‘Family Annihilator’ William Bradford Bishop, Jr. Wanted for 1976 Murders". April 10, 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^ "After 30 years, Bishop killings still a mystery". Baltimore Sun. October 14, 2006. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Missing Bishop Car Found in Smokies", Donald Baker, Washington Post, March 19, 1976.
  11. ^ "William Bradford Bishop, Jr.". Reader's Digest. 1999. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  12. ^ a b c "William Bradford Bishop". America's Most Wanted. 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  13. ^ D'Amboise, Jacques. I Was a Dancer, Knopf, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4000-4234-0, Ch. 16: "A Close Call with Death", pp. 327-335
  14. ^ "They Have the Clues, So Where's Their Man?". LA Times/Baltimore Sun. August 11, 1997. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  15. ^ "Bradford Bishop Letter". America's Most Wanted. 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  16. ^ "William Bradford Bishop Wanted In 1976 Bethesda Murder". WUSA (TV). Feb 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  17. ^ "William Bradford Bishop Added to FBI's Ten Most Wanted List". NBC News. April 10, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  18. ^ "The Decades Long Hunt for William Bradford Bishop". NBC News. April 9, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  19. ^!/investigations/Creating-the-New-Bust-of-William-Bradford-Bishop/254578311

External links[edit]