Bradford Bishop

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Bradford Bishop
Age progression sculpture of Bishop by Karen T. Taylor
Age progression sculpture of Bishop by Karen T. Taylor
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
ChargesFive counts of first-degree murder
AliasBradford Bishop, Brad Bishop, Bradford Bishop Jr.
BornWilliam Bradford Bishop Jr.
(1936-08-01) August 1, 1936 (age 83)
Pasadena, California, U.S.
SpouseAnnette Kathryn Bishop
AddedApril 10, 2014
RemovedJune 27, 2018
Removed from Top Ten Fugitive List

William Bradford Bishop Jr. (born August 1, 1936) is a former United States Foreign Service officer who has been a fugitive from justice since allegedly killing his wife, mother, and three sons in 1976.[1][2][3] On April 10, 2014, the FBI placed him on the list of its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.[4] On June 27, 2018, Bishop, who would be 81, was removed from the list, making room, the FBI said, for a "dangerous fugitive." However, he is still being actively pursued by the FBI.[5]


William Bradford Bishop Jr. was born August 1, 1936, in Pasadena, California to Lobelia and William Bradford Bishop Sr.[6][7] He received a BS in history from Yale University 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 and a master's degree in Italian from Middlebury College.[8] He also holds a master's degree in African Studies from UCLA.[7][9]

After graduating from Yale in 1959, Bishop married his high school sweetheart Annette Weis,[7] with whom he had three sons. He joined the U.S. Army and spent four years in the counterintelligence area. Bishop also learned to speak four foreign languages fluently: Italian, French, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish.[10] After leaving the Army, Bishop joined the U.S. State Department and served in the 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) from 1968 to 1972.[2] He also served in Africa, including posts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in Gaborone, Botswana, from 1972 to 1974.[2] His last posting, which began in 1974, was at State Department Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an Assistant Chief in the Division of Special Activities and Commercial Treaties. He was living in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife and three sons as well as his mother, Lobelia.[2]


On March 1, 1976, after learning he would not receive a promotion he had sought,[11] Bishop told his secretary he did not feel well and left his office in Foggy Bottom.[1] Police believe he drove to his bank, where he withdrew several hundred dollars, then to Montgomery Mall, where he bought a sledgehammer and gas can;[12] he also filled the gas can, and the tank of his station wagon, at an adjacent gas station.[12] From there he drove to a hardware store, where he purchased a shovel and pitchfork.[12]

He returned to his home in Bethesda between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Police believe Bishop's wife was likely killed first,[2] then his mother as she returned from walking the family dog.[2] Finally, his three sons (aged 5, 10, and 14) were killed while they slept in an upstairs bedroom.[2]

Bishop allegedly drove the bodies 275 miles (443 km) in a station wagon to a densely wooded swamp about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Columbia, North Carolina,[12] where on March 2, he dug a shallow hole where he piled the bodies and set them ablaze with gasoline.[12] Found with the burned bodies were a gas can, a pitchfork, and a shovel with a label of "OCH HDW", which was determined to be from "Poch's Hardware".[12]

Bishop is known to have purchased tennis shoes at a sporting goods store in Jacksonville, North Carolina later that same day.[1] According to witnesses, he had the family dog with him and was possibly accompanied by a woman described as "dark skinned".[13]

On March 10 a neighbor contacted police, after not seeing the family for some time. A detective found blood on the Bishop home's front porch and on the floor and walls of the front hall and bedrooms.[14] Dental records were used to confirm that the bodies found in North Carolina were of Bishop's family.[15]

On March 18, Bishop's 1974 Chevy station wagon was found abandoned at an isolated campground in Elkmont, Tennessee[16] at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a few miles from the Appalachian Trail and about 400 miles (640 km) from Columbia, North Carolina (where the bodies were found).[1][12] The car contained dog biscuits, a bloody blanket, a shotgun, an ax and a shaving kit with Bishop's medication; the trunk's spare-tire well was full of blood.[12] A witness believed the car had been there since about March 5 through 7. Police theorized that Bishop joined the flow of hikers on the Appalachian Trail and attempted to follow his scent with bloodhounds but without success. The following day, a grand jury indicted Bishop on five counts of first degree murder and other charges.[12]


Motives and stressors[edit]

Bishop's motives have never been fully explained.[9][17] A 1977 article in The Washington Post reported that there was "no evidence of infidelity, or financial or job problems."[17] Although Bishop had been passed over for a promotion, there was no history of work-related issues; his being passed over has been described as "the first glitch in the storybook tale".[9]

It has been reported that Bishop's career had caused some marital tension. Bishop was unhappy at his desk job and interested in another foreign posting, but his wife Annette was reluctant.[9] She had begun to study art at the University of Maryland despite Bishop's desire for her to remain a stay-at-home mom.[7]

Most sources agree that the Bishops were experiencing some financial issues, but there has been disagreement as to their severity. The Washington Post reported in 1986 that the issues were "mild" and "familiar to most upwardly mobile families."[9] John E. Douglas described them as "nothing terribly unusual for people in their thirties living in that kind of neighborhood."[18] In 2013, Bethesda Magazine reported that the Internal Revenue Service had been auditing the family's taxes due to financial troubles.[7] The existence of an audit has not been confirmed by the FBI or the IRS.


Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver in Bishop's case.

The FBI states that Bishop is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys camping and hiking; also, that he had a pilot's license from when he was stationed in Africa. He enjoys riding motorcycles and working out every week. He has a history of depression and insomnia, having been afflicted with both conditions and taking Serax (oxazepam) in the time leading up to the murders.[17] He is fond of dogs. He also enjoys scotch, peanuts, and spicy foods. He has a six-inch vertical scar on his lower back from surgery and has a cleft chin and mole on his left face cheek. Bishop may have had his father's Smith & Wesson M&P .38 Special revolver with the serial number C981967 and his Yale class ring with him when he vanished. He is also believed to have taken his diplomatic passport with him, as the family's diplomatic passports were all found at their home but his was missing.

Possible sightings[edit]

Bishop had approximately one week of advance time before the authorities began looking for him. It has been suggested that he could have traveled on his diplomatic passport. The FBI Special Agent in Charge, Steve Vogt, stated in 2014 that neither Bishop's wallet nor passport have ever been found.[19] It has also been speculated that Bishop may have had intelligence training in the 1960s which may have helped him evade detection in 1976.[20]

Since 1976, Bishop has allegedly been sighted a number of times in various European countries, including Italy, Belgium, England, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.[3] The three most credible sightings noted by the United States Marshals Service are:

  • In July 1978, a Swedish woman, who said she had collaborated with Bishop while on a business trip in Ethiopia, reported she had spotted him twice in a public park in Stockholm during a span of one week. She stated she was "absolutely certain" that the man was Bishop.[3] She did not contact the police at the time because she had not yet realized he was wanted for murder in the U.S.[21]
  • In January 1979, Bishop was reportedly seen by a former U.S. State Department colleague in a restroom in Sorrento, Italy. The colleague greeted the bearded man, whom he personally believed to be Bishop, eye-to-eye, asking the man impulsively, "Hey, you're Brad Bishop, aren't you?" The man panicked suddenly, responding in a distinctly American accent; "Oh no." He then ran swiftly out of the restroom and fled into the Sorrento alleyways.[3]
  • On September 19, 1994, on a Basel, Switzerland, train platform, a neighbor who had known Bishop and his family in Bethesda was on vacation and reported that she had seen Bishop from a few feet away.[3] The neighbor described Bishop as "well-groomed" and said that he was getting into a car.[22]

Possible current whereabouts and new information[edit]

As of 2010 authorities believed Bishop was living in Switzerland, Italy or elsewhere in Europe, or possibly in California; he may have worked as a teacher or become involved in criminal activities.[23]

In 2010 it was revealed that before the murders Bishop had been corresponding with federal prison inmate Albert Kenneth Bankston in United States Penitentiary, Marion,[23] though it is unknown why or how.[24] Bishop evidently had instructed Bankston to send letters to his U.S. State Department office address. America's Most Wanted posted on its web site the last letter, which Bankston mailed 16 days after the murders without knowing they had happened and without knowing Bishop was now a fugitive unable to receive mail at his office.[24][25] Bankston died before law enforcement discovered his connection to Bishop, hence Bankston became a dead end.

In 2014, the body of an unidentified man resembling Bishop, who had been killed by a car while walking along an Alabama highway in 1981, was exhumed by the FBI.[26] A DNA test indicated the man was not Bishop.[27] In 2011 the FBI used fingerprints to determine that reports that Bishop had died in Hong Kong or France were false.[28]

In 2014, at the request of the FBI, forensic artist Karen Taylor created an age progression sculpture to suggest Bishop's projected appearance at about age 77. Using Taylor's sculpture, several alternative images were created by Lisa Sheppard to show the addition of facial hair and glasses.[29][30]

In the media[edit]

After the initial national headlines, the Bishop case was the subject of articles in national publications like Reader's Digest and Time Magazine at milestone anniversaries. It was 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 was featured on television shows such as NBC's Unsolved Mysteries, ABC's Vanished and Fox's America's Most Wanted. Bishop was profiled on AMW website 33 years to the day since his family's bodies were discovered, with a new age-enhanced bust of him with facial hair.

A German TV show, Aktenzeichen XY … ungelöst, also featured the case in its 250th episode on November 6, 1992, to find possible evidence of Bishop living abroad.

Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise revealed in his 2011 autobiography that, as a teenager, he had lived with the Bishop family in South Pasadena, California for a while.[31] This situation resulted from Brad's mother Lobelia's love of ballet and d'Amboise's engagement near South Pasadena with a traveling ballet troupe. He remembers Brad Bishop as very intelligent, reticent and intense. They played chess together. D'Amboise remained in regular contact with Bishop's mother Lobelia, via mail and international phone calls, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, though they never met during this time period. D'Amboise met Brad's wife Annette once; it was when Brad and Annette were newlyweds visiting his parents' house in South Pasadena. It was before Annette announced her first pregnancy.

In February 1976, when Jacques d'Amboise was scheduled to perform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lobelia invited him and his wife Carrie to spend Sunday night, February 29, at the Bishops' home in Bethesda. D'Amboise cancelled his appearance at the last minute due to a foot injury, but failed to notify the family. About a week later, he saw a newspaper report of the five burning bodies in North Carolina; it occurred to him that Lobelia had not contacted him to express concern about his absence. D'Amboise subsequently wondered whether his planned visit on February 29 and March 1 would have prevented the murders or resulted in him and his wife being killed as well.[31]

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 included samples of Bishop's handwriting, fingerprints, dental records and previously unseen Bishop family videos.[32]

On July 27, 2014, the search for Bishop was a featured story on The Hunt with John Walsh on CNN.[33] The titular host of the program has described Bishop as "a sociopathic cold blooded narcissistic killer [sic]" as well as "a horrible coward bully."[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Bishop still wanted in family's death". The News & Observer. February 26, 2006. Retrieved October 10, 2008.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Bishop Murders". TIME. March 22, 1976. Retrieved October 10, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Duggan, Paul (March 2, 2006). "Where Is Brad Bishop?". Washington Post. Retrieved October 10, 2008.
  4. ^ "New Top Ten Fugitive – 'Family Annihilator' William Bradford Bishop Jr. Wanted for 1976 Murders". April 10, 2014. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014.
  5. ^ Wall Street Journal. June 29, 2018. p. A3. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "WILLIAM BRADFORD BISHOP, JR". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e Meyer, Eugene L. "The Man Who Got Away". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  8. ^ "FBI — FBI Adds William Bradford Bishop to Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List". FBI.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Brutality Unsolved: The Bishop Mystery". Washington Post.
  10. ^ "After 30 years, Bishop killings still a mystery". Baltimore Sun. October 14, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  11. ^ Douglas & Olshaker 1999, p. 175.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thompson, Tisha; Yarborough, Rick. "Inside the Evidence Room in the Hunt for William Bradford Bishop". Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  13. ^ "Getting away with murder Manhunt: The 21-year-old search continues for a Bethesda man who murdered his family but kept the dog". Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  14. ^ Douglas & Olshaker 1999, p. 174.
  15. ^ "William Bradford Bishop Jr., former State Department diplomat, added to FBI's "Most Wanted" list". Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  16. ^ Baker, Donald (March 19, 1976). "Missing Bishop Car Found in Smokies". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2017 – via
  17. ^ a b c Baker, Donald P. (February 27, 1977). "Brad Bishop home sold year after five in family slain there". Washington Post. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  18. ^ Douglas & Olshaker 1999, pp. 179–180.
  19. ^ "How You Can Help Find William Bradford Bishop". NBC4 Washington. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  20. ^ James, Michael (August 11, 1997). "They Have the Clues, So Where's Their Man?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  21. ^ Douglas & Olshaker 1999, p. 176.
  22. ^ "William Bradford Bishop Jr". Reader's Digest. 1999. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  23. ^ a b "William Bradford Bishop". America's Most Wanted. 2010. Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Bethesda magazine in 2013
  25. ^ "Bradford Bishop Letter" (PDF). America's Most Wanted. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  26. ^ "FBI exhumes body in hunt for '10 Most Wanted' fugitive search", by Andrew Russel, Global News.
  27. ^ Thompson, Tisha. "FBI: Body Exhumed in Alabama Not That of William Bradford Bishop". Archived from the original on October 16, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  28. ^ "William Bradford Bishop Wanted In 1976 Bethesda Murder". WUSA (TV). February 23, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  29. ^ Jones, Steve (April 10, 2014). "Video – NBC4 Washington".
  30. ^ "William Bradford Bishop Added to FBI's Ten Most Wanted List". NBC News. April 10, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  31. ^ a b D'Amboise, Jacques (2011). "Chapter 16. A Close Call with Death". I Was a Dancer. Knopf. pp. 327–335. ISBN 978-1-4000-4234-0.
  32. ^ "The Decades Long Hunt for William Bradford Bishop". NBC News. April 9, 2014. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  33. ^ a b Walsh, John (July 27, 2014), "The Hunt for Brad Bishop.", Hunt With John Walsh, The, CNN, sec. News; Domestic, retrieved May 19, 2019 – via NewsBank
Works cited

External links[edit]