Age enhanced image.
|Born||William Bradford Bishop, Jr.
August 1, 1936
Pasadena, California, United States
|Disappeared||March 2, 1976 (aged 39)
Jacksonville, North Carolina, United States
|Status||Missing for 37 years, 9 months and 7 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) was a United States Foreign Service officer who has been a fugitive from justice since allegedly murdering five members of his family in 1976.
Bishop joined the U.S. State Department and served in the U.S. Foreign Service in many postings overseas. This included postings in the Italian cities of Verona, Milan, and Florence (where he did post-graduate work at the University of Florence). He also served as a foreign service officer in Africa, including posts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in Gaborone, Botswana. 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.
By early 1976, he and his wife Annette (age 37) had three sons, ages 5, 10 and 14. He was 39 years old, anticipating a promotion, and was using a prescription drug called Serax, which can be addictive. On the afternoon of March 1, he learned he would not receive the promotion he had sought.
After learning of this career disappointment, Bishop told his secretary he didn’t feel well and left work early. 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. From there, he drove to POCH hardware next to Safeway at the time at River Road & Falls Road, where police believe he purchased a ball-peen hammer, a shovel, and a gas can, which he filled at a gas station. He returned to his home in Bethesda, Maryland at around 7:30 to 8:00, after the children were put to bed. The police investigation shows that his wife was probably killed first. His mother, who was returning home from walking the family's Golden Retriever, was killed next. Finally, his three sons were killed while they slept in their beds in the upstairs bedroom. They were all killed with a blunt instrument, and none had an opportunity to defend themselves.
With the bodies loaded into the family station wagon, Bishop drove 275 miles (about 6 hours' drive) to a densely-wooded area off North Carolina highway 94, about five miles (8 km) south of Columbia, North Carolina. There, he dug a shallow hole where he piled the bodies, doused them with gasoline, and set them ablaze. The next day, March 2, 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 and a shovel with a label from a store at Montgomery Mall.
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. 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".
According to police reports, a week later, on March 10, a neighbor of the Bishop's 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.
On March 18, the Bishop family car was found abandoned at a campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about 400 miles (640 km) from the Columbia-area pyre. The car contained dog biscuits and a bloody blanket; the spare-tire well in the trunk was full of blood.
On March 19 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.
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. The three sightings noted by the United States Marshals Service are as follows:
- In January 1979, Bishop was seen in a washroom in Sorrento, Italy by Harrell. Bishop, whose hair and clothes were disheveled, panicked and ran when hailed by Harrell.
- On September 19, 1994 on a Basel, Switzerland train platform, a neighbor who knew Bishop and his family in Bethesda reported that she saw Bishop from a few feet away. The neighbor described Bishop as "well-groomed" and in a car.
- As of 2010, authorities believe he is alive, living in Sorrento, Italy, and may have worked as a teacher or been involved in criminal activities.
In the media
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."
Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise revealed in his 2011 autobiography I Was a Dancer that he became a close friend of Brad Bishop's parents, who were ballet fans, while he was still a teenager and that when he was seventeen and Brad was fourteen, he lived with the family for a while. He described Brad 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 Brad 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.
In 1997, investigators said they believed he was involved in spying.
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. It is unknown why or how they were in contact. America's Most Wanted posted the last letter, sent the day of the murders, on their website.
- "Bishop still wanted in family's death". The News & Observer. Feb 26, 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-10.[dead link]
- "The Bishop Murders". TIME. March 22, 1976. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- Duggan, Paul (March 2, 2006). "Where Is Brad Bishop?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
- "After 30 years, Bishop killings still a mystery". Baltimore Sun. October 14, 2006. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- "William Bradford Bishop, Jr.". Reader's Digest. 1999. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- "William Bradford Bishop". America's Most Wanted. 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- 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
- "They Have the Clues, So Where's Their Man?". LA Times/Baltimore Sun. August 11, 1997. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- "Bradford Bishop Letter". America's Most Wanted. 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- "William Bradford Bishop Wanted In 1976 Bethesda Murder". WUSA (TV). Feb 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- March 2006 Washington Post Article marking the 30 year anniversary of the Bishop murders
- Montgomery County, Maryland Sheriff’s page on Bishop
- Bishop's profile on America's Most Wanted
- "Bradford Bishop Letter". America's Most Wanted. 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
-  Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Top 10 Most Wanted