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Amy BISHOP

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: A former biology professor - Shooting rampage at the University of Alabama Huntsville
Number of victims: 3 - 4
Date of murders: December 6, 1986 / February 12, 2010
Date of arrest: February 12, 2010
Date of birth: April 24, 1965
Victims profile: Her brother Seth Bishop, 18 / Her boss, biology department chairman Gopi Padila, and professors Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Norfolk County, Massachusetts/Madison County, Alabama, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Alabama on September 24, 2012
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
District Attorney's Office - State Police Office

 
Accidental shooting of Seth Bishop
 
 
 
 
 
 

2010 University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UA Huntsville) in Huntsville, Alabama, three people were killed and three others wounded in a shooting on February 12, 2010. During the course of a routine meeting of the biology department attended by approximately 12 individuals, a professor stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a 9-millimeter handgun. Amy Bishop, a biology professor at the university and the sole suspect, was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.

On September 11, 2012, Bishop pleaded guilty to the above charges in order to avoid the death penalty. The jury heard a condensed version of the evidence on September 24, 2012, as required by Alabama law. Amy Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on September 24, 2012.

In March 2009, Bishop had been denied tenure at the university and was beginning her last semester there per university policy. Due to the attention Bishop has attracted as a result of the shooting, previous violent incidents that were somehow related to her have been reevaluated. She previously drew the attention of law-enforcement officials in 1986 when she shot her brother to death in Braintree, Massachusetts, in an incident officially ruled an accident. She, along with her husband, were questioned in a 1993 pipe-bomb incident directed toward her lab supervisor.

Shooting

The day of the shooting, Bishop taught her anatomy and neurosciences class. According to a student in Bishop's class, she "seemed perfectly normal" during the lecture.

She then attended a biology department faculty meeting in Room 369 on the third floor of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, which houses the UA Huntsville Biology and Mathematics departments. According to witnesses, 12 or 13 people attended the meeting, which was described as "an ordinary faculty meeting." Bishop's behavior was also described as "normal" just prior to the shooting.

She sat quietly at the meeting for 30 or 40 minutes, before pulling out a 9 mm handgun "just before" 4:00 p.m. CST, according to a faculty member. Joseph Ng, an associate professor who witnessed the attack, said: "[She] got up suddenly, took out a gun and started shooting at each one of us. She started with the one closest to her, and went down the row shooting her targets in the head."

According to another survivor, Debra Moriarity, dean of the university's graduate program and a professor of biochemistry, "This wasn't random shooting around the room; this was execution style." Those who were shot were on one side of the oval table used during the meeting, and the five individuals on the other side, including Ng, dropped to the floor.

After Bishop had fired several rounds, Moriarity said that Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but heard only a "click," as her gun "either jammed or ran out of ammunition." She described Bishop as initially appearing "angry," and then following the apparent weapon malfunction, "perplexed." Ng said Moriarity then attempted to stop Bishop by approaching her and asking her to stop, and then helped the other survivors push Bishop from the room and block the door. Ng said "Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush.

The suspected murder weapon, a 9 mm handgun, was found in a bathroom on the second floor of the building. Bishop did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, as required by state law. She was arrested a few minutes later outside the building. Shortly after her arrest, Bishop was quoted as saying, "It didn't happen. There's no way." When asked about the deaths of her colleagues, Bishop replied, "There's no way. They're still alive."

Police interviewed Bishop's husband, James Anderson, after it was determined that she had called him to pick her up after the shooting; they did not charge him with a crime. In addition, a neighbor revealed, in later interviews, that he saw the couple leaving their home with duffel bags on Friday afternoon, prior to the shooting. Anderson revealed that his wife had borrowed the gun used in the shooting, and that he had escorted her to an indoor shooting range in the weeks prior to the incident.

Shortly after Bishop's arrest, people at the university's biology department expressed concern to police that she had "booby trapped the science building with a 'herpes bomb'" intended to spread the virus. She had previously worked with the herpes virus while completing her post-doctoral studies, and a novel she wrote described the spread of a virus similar to herpes throughout the world "causing pregnant women to miscarry." However, the police had already searched the premises, finding only the handgun used in the shooting.

Victims

Three faculty members were killed, and three others were injured. Only a few students were present in the building at the time of the shooting, and none were harmed. A memorial service was held at UA Huntsville on Friday, February 19, 2010, with 3,000 people in attendance.

Name Position Condition
 Gopi Podila  chairman of biology department  deceased
 Maria Ragland Davis  biology professor  deceased
 Adriel D. Johnson, Sr.  biology professor  deceased
 Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera  biology professor  released from hospital 2/4/10
 Joseph G. Leahy  biology professor  released from hospital 4/14/10
 Stephanie Monticciolo  staff assistant  released from hospital 3/29/10

Perpetrator

Amy Bishop (born: April 24, 1965 (age 44 at the time of the shooting)) is married to James Anderson and is the mother of four children. She grew up in Massachusetts, and completed her undergraduate degree at Northeastern University in Boston where her father, Samuel Bishop, was a Professor in the Art Department. She earned her Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University.

Bishop's 1993 thesis at Harvard was titled The role of methoxatin (PQQ) in the respiratory burst of phagocytes, and was 137 pages in length. Her research interests include induction of adaptive resistance to nitric oxide in the central nervous system, and utilization of motor neurons for the development of neural circuits grown on biological computer chips. She published at least four scientific articles between 1994 and 1998 as a lead or co-author.

She joined the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama (UA) in Huntsville as an Assistant Professor in 2003 and was teaching five courses prior to the shooting. Previously, she was an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Bishop and her husband competed in a technology competition and developed a "portable cell incubator", coming in third and winning $25,000. Prodigy Biosystems, where Anderson is employed, raised $1.25 million to develop the "automated cell incubator," although some scientists consulted by the press declared it unnecessary and too expensive.

According to a friend and fellow member of a writing group in Massachusetts, Bishop had penned three unpublished novels, one of which featured a female scientist working to defeat a potential pandemic virus, and struggling with suicidal thoughts at the threat of not earning tenure. She is the second cousin of the novelist John Irving and was a member of the Hamilton Writer's Group while living in Ipswich, Massachusetts in the late 1990s and apparently saw writing as "her ticket out of academia." She had a literary agent and members of the club said she "would frequently cite her Harvard degree and family ties to Irving to boost her credential as a serious writer." Another member described Bishop as smart but abrasive in her interactions with the other members and as feeling "entitled to praise."

Multiple colleagues of Bishop had expressed concern over her behavior. She has been described as interrupting meetings with "bizarre tangents ... left field kind of stuff," being "strange," "crazy," "did things that weren't normal" and she was "out of touch with reality." One of these colleagues was a member of Bishop's tenure-review committee. After Bishop's tenure was denied and she learned that this colleague referred to her as "crazy," she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging gender discrimination, with the professor's remark to be used as possible evidence in that case. The professor did not retract his comments: "The professor was given the opportunity to back off the claim, or to say it was a flippant remark. But he didn't. 'I said she was crazy multiple times and I stand by that,' the professor said. 'This woman has a pattern of erratic behavior. She did things that weren't normal ... she was out of touch with reality.'"

In 2009, several students say they complained to administrators about Bishop on at least three occasions, saying she was "ineffective in the classroom and had odd, unsettling ways." A petition was signed by "dozens of students," which was then sent to the department head. The complaints, however, did not result in any classroom changes.

Bishop was suspended without pay retroactively on the day of the attack, and later, in a one-paragraph letter dated February 26, 2010, she was fired. Bishop received a letter of termination from Jack Fix, Dean of the College of Sciences, which did not state a reason for doing so. Her termination was effective February 12, the day of the shooting.

Tenure denial and appeal

As explained by University president Williams, Bishop was denied tenure in March 2009 and expected not to have her teaching contract renewed after March 2010. She appealed the decision to the University's administration and without reviewing the content of the tenure application itself, they determined that the process was carried out according to policy and denied the appeal. The faculty meeting that was under way when Bishop opened fire was a routine meeting unrelated to her tenure.

Anderson, Bishop's husband, said that the denial of her tenure had been "an issue" in recent months describing the tenure process as "a long, basically hard fight." He said that it was his understanding that she "exceeded the qualifications for tenure," and that she was distressed at the likelihood of losing her position barring a successful appeal. She approached members of the University of Alabama System's Board of Trustees, and hired a lawyer who was "finding one problem after another with the process." One sticking point was a dispute over whether two of her papers had been published in time to count toward tenure.

Previous incidents

Bishop had previous encounters with law enforcement officials due to "an outburst or violent act" on her part. In each instance, she remained "unscathed" and did not come to the attention of the UA-Huntsville administration or other employers. She shot her brother with a shotgun, killing him in 1986, in what was initially ruled an accident based on her mother's testimony and was therefore not charged. In 1994, she and her husband were questioned regarding a letter-bomb incident involving a doctor at a facility at which she had previously been employed. She was charged with assault after striking a woman in the head during a dispute at a restaurant in 2002, but was never officially found guilty.

Brother's shooting

When she was 21, Bishop fatally shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth Bishop, on December 6, 1986, at their home in Braintree, Massachusetts. The incident, in which Bishop fired at least three shots from a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun (one into her bedroom wall, then one into her brother's chest while they were in the kitchen with their mother, and one into the ceiling of a room in her house while fleeing the scene), then later pointed the weapon at a moving vehicle on the adjacent road and tried to get into the vehicle, was classified as an "accident" by Braintree police. In statements to Braintree police that day, both Amy Bishop and her mother, Judy Bishop, described the shooting as accidental.

After a brief inquiry into the incident by the state police in 1986 (reported in 1987), they repeated the Braintree police department's initial assessment that the shooting was accidental and district attorney Bill Delahunt, later a U.S. Congressman, decided not to file charges. Detailed records of the shooting had disappeared mysteriously by 1988, Braintree police chief Paul Frazier said on February 13, 2010 that "The report's gone, removed from the files."

After speaking with officers involved with the case in 1986, Frazier called the "accident" description inaccurate, and said that then-chief John Polio ordered Bishop released to her mother, a member of the Braintree town meeting who reportedly had demanded to meet with Polio personally after the arrest, instead of being charged for the shooting. Frazier was not on duty during the incident, but recalled "how frustrated the members of the department were over the release." The now-retired Polio denied that there had been a cover-up. Frazier's 2010 account and the 1987 Massachusetts State Police report differ in several key details, including whether Bishop had been arguing with her brother or with her father before the shooting.

On February 16, 2010, it was announced that the files previously declared missing had been located by Braintree officials and turned over to Norfolk County prosecutors. Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating concluded, based upon these files, that probable cause existed in 1986 to arrest and charge her for crimes committed after she fled the house. She had taken the shotgun to a nearby auto dealership shop and brandished it at two employees in an attempt to get a car. She could have been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of ammunition. The statute of limitations has expired on each of these charges, and the most serious charge considered in 1986 was manslaughter.

Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, has ordered the state police to review their efforts in the investigation saying, "It is critical that we provide as clear an understanding as possible about all aspects of this case and its investigation to ensure that where mistakes were made they are not repeated in the future." An investigation has been opened in which the state will cooperate with the current Norfolk County District Attorney's office to assess the state and local police and then-DA's handling of the case.

On February 25, 2010, District Attorney Keating sent a letter to District Court Judge Mark Coven, to start a judicial inquest into the 1986 shooting. Keating said that recently enlarged crime scene photos from Bishop's bedroom reveal a news article in which a similar crime was reported and that this article may relate to Bishop's intent. Keating did not identify the specific news article, but The Boston Globe wrote that an internet search revealed that "two weeks earlier, the parents of Patrick Duffy, the actor who played Bobby Ewing on the popular television show Dallas, were killed by an assailant wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, who then held up a car dealership, stole a pickup truck, and fled."

On March 1, 2010, former Massachusetts State Police Detective Brian Howe broke his silence about the case. Howe, who retired in 2009 and no longer lives in Massachusetts, was the lead investigator for the state police in the Bishop case. He said he looks forward to addressing the judicial inquest into the shooting, and stands by his 1987 report and his agreement with the now-deceased Braintree lead investigator, Captain Theodore Buker, that the shooting was accidental. Howe said that he was assigned to the case nearly two hours after the shooting and then immediately called Braintree, whereupon he learned from Buker he would not be needed that day and that Bishop had already been released into her parents' custody. Howe stated that Braintree police never informed him that Bishop had allegedly accosted employees at a car dealership at gunpoint, demanding a car. Howe stated that he repeatedly requested the December 6 incident reports from the Braintree police, but never received them.

On March 1, 2010, Norfolk District Attorney William Keating announced that an inquest would be held April 13–16, 2010. Judge Mark Coven, first justice of Quincy District Court, was scheduled to hold the inquest.

On June 16, 2010, Bishop was charged with first degree murder in her brother's death nearly 24 years after his shooting. Keating commented, "I can't give you any explanations, I can't give you excuses, because there are none. Jobs weren't done, responsibilities weren't met and justice wasn't served."

Pipe-bomb incident

According to investigators, Bishop and James Anderson, her husband, were suspects in a 1993 letter-bomb case. Paul Rosenberg, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Children's Hospital Boston, received a package containing two pipe bombs that failed to explode.

Rosenberg was Bishop's supervisor at a Children's Hospital neurobiology lab; Bishop had allegedly been concerned about receiving a negative evaluation from Rosenberg, and reportedly "had been in a dispute" with Rosenberg. Bishop resigned from her position at the hospital because Rosenberg felt she "could not meet the standards required for the work." According to documents based upon witness interviews, Bishop was "reportedly upset" and "on the verge of a nervous breakdown" as a result.

Anderson reportedly told a witness that he wanted to "shoot," "stab" or "strangle" Rosenberg prior to the attempted bombing. Anderson denied he had ever threatened Rosenberg saying, "I wouldn't know the guy if he walked into a bar. And allegedly this tip came into a tip line, and the validity of the witness was never ascertained." Per investigators, the USPIS-ATF investigation "focused" on Bishop and Anderson, but closed without charges filed due to lack of evidence. At one point during the investigation, the couple refused to cooperate with investigators, refusing to open their door, to searches of their home and to take polygraph tests.

The chief federal prosecutor in Boston, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, reviewed the case following the shooting but ultimately decided Bishop would not be charged in the bombing attempt. She determined that the initial investigation in 1993 was "appropriate and thorough"; the case remains unsolved.

International House of Pancakes assault

In 2002, Bishop was charged with and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault plus disorderly conduct, and received probation, for punching a woman who had received the last booster seat at an International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Massachusetts.

According to the police report, Bishop strode over to the other woman, demanded the seat, and launched into a profanity-laced rant. When the woman would not give the seat up, Bishop punched her in the head, all the while yelling "I am Dr. Amy Bishop." Bishop's victim was identified as Michelle Gjika, and in in the aftermath of the 2010 shooting, she declined to comment on the restaurant incident saying, "It's not something I want to relive." In addition to probation, prosecutors recommended that Bishop attend anger management classes, although it is unclear whether the judge in the case ordered her to do so. Her husband said she had never attended anger management classes.

Charges

Bishop was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder. The police confiscated a large binder containing documents pertaining to her "tenure battle", her computer, and the family van. She secured an unnamed attorney, and was held at the Madison County, Alabama jail without bail. Her court-appointed attorney was Roy W. Miller. Bishop was eligible for either the death penalty or life in prison, according to Alabama law.

On February 15, during a closed-door hearing presided over by an Alabama judge, the charges were read to Bishop. Following the hearing, Bishop was on suicide watch, a standard procedure in such cases. Her husband said she called him prior to her arraignment and they spoke for approximately two minutes and said, "She seems to be doing OK." On March 12, while executing a search warrant on Bishop's residence, the police discovered a "suspicious device" prompting an evacuation of the nearby neighborhood and later identified by the bomb squad as non-explosive.

Miller visited her in jail and said she does not remember the shooting and was "very cogent" but seeming to recognize that "she has a loose grip on reality." Initially he said Bishop has severe mental health issues that appear to be paranoid schizophrenia, but later retracted that statement saying "he had spoken out of turn." He acknowledged Bishop's role in the attack saying, "This is not a whodunit. This lady has committed this offense or offenses in front of the world. It gets to be a question in my mind of her mental capacity at the time, or her mental state at the time that these acts were committed." Miller also said he would be enlisting the help of one or more psychiatrists to examine his client who said this was not the first time she had no recollection of something that had happened. He said he did not know if Bishop was insane and that determining whether she was culpable for her actions would be left to a psychiatrist and that she was "very sorry for what she's done."

On June 18, two days after Bishop was indicted for the murder of her brother in a re-opened case, she attempted suicide in the Huntsville jail. She survived and was treated at a hospital and then returned to jail; her husband complained that authorities did not inform him of the incident.

In November 2010, survivors Leahy and Monticciolo filed lawsuits against Anderson and Bishop to recover damages. In January 2011, attorneys representing Davis' and Johnson's families filed wrongful death lawsuits against Bishop, Anderson, and the University. In September 2011, Bishop pleaded not guilty by means of the insanity defense.

In 2012, the spouse of one the murdered researchers wrote a letter to the judge presiding over the case. In this letter, the writer indicated that the researcher's family had greatly suffered from its loss due to Bishop's actions, but that the family did not see a benefit from the loss of another life. In response to this letter, Bishop's lawyers offered to change her plea to guilty in exchange for the prosecution not seeking the death penalty. On receiving this offer, chief prosecutor Robert Broussard contacted and learned from the nine survivors that none of them wanted the death sentence for Bishop. On the basis of these opinions, Broussard decided not seek the death penalty, and Bishop changed her plea to guilty. On September 24, 2012, Bishop was sentenced to life in prison.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Amy Bishop will not be tried for killing her brother in 1986, Norfolk DA says

By John R. Ellement - Boston.com

September 28, 2012

Amy Bishop will not be prosecuted for allegedly murdering her brother, Seth, inside the family’s Braintree home in 1986, a death that was first dismissed as an accident but was later called a homicide, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said today.

Earlier this week, Bishop was sentenced to life without parole in Alabama after she pleaded guilty to murdering her colleagues during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama’s Huntsville campus.

Morrissey said in a statement that because Bishop is now scheduled to end her life behind bars, the first-degree murder charge she faced here will not be actively pursued.

“We will not move to have her returned to Massachusetts,’’ Morrissey said. “The penalty we would seek for a first-degree murder conviction is already in place.

Morrissey said his office early next week will file what is known as a “nolle prosequi” which would allow prosecutors to revive the first-degree murder charge against her “if circumstances change.’’

Morrissey said he talked with his counterpart in Alabama, Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard, before making his decision and is now convinced that Bishop is unlikely to ever be released from custody.

“With a life-without-parole sentence in place, there is not an issue of public safety,’’ Morrissey said. “In almost all cases, guilty pleas mark the end of the process and the conviction is not vulnerable to being overturned on appeal.’’

Amy Bishop used her father’s shotgun to kill her younger brother in front of her mother, Judith, on Dec. 6, 1986. She ran from the family’s home, still armed with the firearm.

As Braintree police rushed to the shooting scene, Bishop ran to a nearby car dealership where she tried to commandeer a car at gunpoint.

She was then taken into custody by Braintree police, taken back to the station, but released by police within 20 minutes into the custody of her parents. No criminal charges were filed at the time, but the Alabama killings sparked an inquest into Seth Bishop’s killing, which led to the first degree murder charge.

According to portions of the inquest testimony that has been made public, Braintree and State Police never shared information about the incident with each other. The testimony of the Braintree police chief at the time, John V. Polio, has been sealed. Polio has since died.

Bishop’s parents testified during the inquest and insisted that the death of their son was a horrific accident, not a crime, according to transcripts of their testimony.

 
 

Ex-prof gets life in prison for meeting rampage

By Jay Reeves - Boston.com

September 24, 2012

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A Harvard-educated biologist was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday after being convicted of going on a shooting rampage during a faculty meeting at an Alabama university, killing three colleagues and wounding three others in 2010.

The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes before convicting Amy Bishop. The former professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville showed no reaction as the verdict was read. She did not speak in court, but her attorney said she has often expressed great remorse for the victims and their families.

‘‘She is shattered beyond belief,’’ attorney Roy Miller said.

Bishop avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty earlier this month to the shootings on Feb. 12, 2010. Before the guilty plea — which she signed with a barely legible scrawl — her attorneys had said they planned to use an insanity defense.

However, she was still required to have a brief trial because she admitted to a capital murder charge.

And she still could face a trial in Massachusetts, where she is charged in the 1986 killing of her 18-year-old brother. Seth Bishop’s death had been ruled an accident after Amy Bishop told investigators she shot him in the family’s Braintree home as she tried to unload her father’s gun. But the Alabama shootings prompted a new investigation and charges. David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey in Massachusetts, said Monday evening that Morrissey expects to make an announcement by the end of the week.

Bishop killed her boss, biology department chairman Gopi Padila, plus professors Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson. Associate professor Joseph Leahy, staff aide Stephanie Monticciolo and assistant professor Luis Cruz-Vera were shot and wounded.

Leahy said he was satisfied with the verdict and life sentence, but no amount of remorse by Bishop could change what she'd done.

‘She has just sort of ceased to exist for me,’’ he told reporters after the brief trial.

A police investigator testified that Bishop initially denied having anything to do with the rampage. And during the trial, Bishop shook her head anytime the judge or prosecutors described the killings as intentional.

District Attorney Rob Broussard said Bishop’s reaction in court didn’t make sense.

‘‘You can’t take a loaded 9 mm and hold it inches away from human beings’ heads and tell me you didn’t mean to do that,’’ said Broussard.

Investigator Charlie Gray also said police believe Bishop opened fire during the faculty meeting because she was angry over being denied tenure, which effectively ended her career at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

‘She would say, ‘It didn’t happen. I wasn’t there. It wasn’t me,'’’ Gray said.

Bishop wore a red jail uniform in court and was shackled at the feet, seated between two attorneys at the defense table.

Also in court, sitting behind prosecutors, were relatives of the people killed in the rampage.

The only other witness to testify was Debra Moriarity, now the chairman of biological sciences at UAH. She testified about how a routine Friday afternoon faculty meeting turned into a scene of carnage with no warning.

Moriarty testified that Amy Bishop sat unusually silent during the nearly hourlong faculty meeting, during which discussions ran from a spring open house to plans for the following fall. People were seated around a crowded conference table in a small room on a chilly, overcast day, she said.

Moriarity said she glanced down at a piece of paper on the table. ‘‘And there was a loud bang,’’ she said.

Moriarity said more shots followed in quick succession without Bishop ever saying a word. Moriarity said she was looking directly at Bishop when she shot professor Maria Ragland Davis, who was killed instantly while still seated at the table.

Moriarity said she dove under the table for safety and tried to grab Bishop’s legs, but the woman stepped out of her grasp. ‘‘I was saying, ‘Stop, Amy, stop. Don’t do this. I've helped you before, I'll help you again.'’’

Moriarity said Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. She said Bishop continued trying to shoot her in a hall outside, but the gun had jammed.

 
 

Ex-prof pleads guilty to killing Ala. colleagues

By Jay Reeves - Boston.com

September 11, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A former biology professor accused of pulling a gun from her purse and opening fire at a faculty meeting pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing three colleagues and wounding three others at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2010.

Amy Bishop, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of capital murder involving two or more people and three counts of attempted murder during a hearing in Huntsville. She had earlier pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers said she planned to use an insanity defense.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of life without parole for the capital charge, and three life sentences for the attempted murder charges. Sentencing will follow a brief trial on Sept. 24 before Madison County Circuit Judge Alan Mann.

Prosecutors say Bishop opened fire at the meeting on Feb. 12, 2010. Her attorneys say Bishop had mental problems; she signed a plea agreement with a barely legible scrawl.

Bishop, who lived with her family in Huntsville before the shootings, also is charged with killing her brother in Massachusetts in 1986. The shooting of 18-year-old Seth Bishop had been ruled an accident after Amy Bishop told police she shot him in the family’s Braintree home as she was trying to unload her father’s gun.

But the Alabama slayings led to a new investigation and charges.

In the school shooting, police and people who knew Bishop have described the Harvard University-educated researcher as being angry over UAH’s refusal to grant her tenure, a decision that effectively would have ended her employment in the biology department.

The gunfire killed Bishop’s boss, biology department chairman Gopi Padila, plus professors Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson. Professors Joseph Leahy, staff aide Stephanie Monticciolo and assistant professor Luis Cruz-Vera were shot and wounded.

Debra Moriarity was in the faculty meeting at the time of the shooting and is now biology chairman at the school. Prosecutors who met with potential witnesses last Friday said there was a possibility of a plea agreement before the trial began on Sept. 24, she said.

‘So I'm not totally surprised by it, but I am surprised it happened this soon,’’ she said.

After Bishop was indicted, prosecutors said Braintree police in 1986 failed to share important evidence, including the fact that Bishop, after she shot her brother in the chest, tried to commandeer a getaway car at gunpoint at a local car dealership, then refused to drop her gun until police officers ordered her to do so repeatedly. Those events were described in Braintree police reports but not in a report written by a state police detective assigned to the district attorney’s office.

Larry Tipton, Bishop’s lawyer in the Massachusetts case, said it will be up to Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey to decide whether to put Bishop on trial for murder in her brother’s killing, now that she has pleaded guilty in Alabama. David Traub, a spokesman for Morrissey, said prosecutors will wait until after sentencing to decide what to do in the Massachusetts case.

U.S. Rep. William Keating is the former Norfolk County prosecutor who started the inquest and obtained the indictment against Amy Bishop.

He said of the plea deal, that ‘‘you can’t ask for a better outcome than that’’ and that the families would be spared the appeals process.

‘‘Anytime there’s an appeal, they’re endless,’’ he said. ‘‘I've worked with victims’ families, and I know the trauma they go through every time there’s an appeal. Nothing is going to make those families the same.’’

Moriarity said she was OK with the death penalty being off the table and was relieved that victims wouldn’t have to sit through a trial to see whether jurors convict Bishop.

‘‘I'm glad it’s a recognition of the crimes she committed and not trying to get out of something through claiming a mental defect,’’ she said.

Personally, Moriarity said she was relieved that the case is nearly over.

‘‘I had a horrible dream about the trial last night,’’ said Moriarity. Bishop pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger but it failed to fire.

Moriarity said Leahy, who was shot in the head, returned to teaching a full load of classes and conducting research this fall at the school. The only lingering effects he suffers are reduced eyesight, she said.

‘Mentally he is on top of things,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s an absolute miracle. He’s a miracle."

 
 

Bishop indicted in brother’s death

New look at 1986 case results in a charge of first-degree murder

By Donovan Slack and Shelley Murphy - Boston.com

June 17, 2010

CANTON — Nearly 24 years after Amy Bishop fired a 12-gauge shotgun into the chest of her 18-year-old brother, a grand jury indicted her yesterday on a charge of first-degree murder.

The indictment in the 1986 slaying, which authorities had originally declared an accident, was handed up four months after the 45-year-old college professor was charged with a shooting rampage at the University of Alabama Huntsville, killing three colleagues and injuring three others.

Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating, announcing the indictment during a press conference, said law enforcement authorities in Massachusetts failed decades ago.

“Jobs weren’t done, responsibilities weren’t met, justice wasn’t served,’’ Keating said.

He added that while Seth Bishop may not have received justice immediately, the once promising youth with an affinity for the violin now has an advocate. “The job of a district attorney is to speak for those who can’t speak, to seek justice for those who aren’t here to demand it,’’ Keating said.

A conviction in 1986 might have changed Amy Bishop’s life, potentially averting the Alabama tragedy, the district attorney said.

“My heart goes out to them,’’ he said of the Huntsville victims.

Keating’s office lodged a warrant with Alabama authorities yesterday, requesting Bishop’s extradition to Massachusetts to face the murder charge after her triple-murder case in Huntsville is adjudicated.

Keating acknowledged that Bishop, who could face the death penalty if convicted in Alabama, may never stand trial for her brother’s killing, but he did not rule it out.

“You never know,’’ he said.

Huntsville attorney Roy W. Miller, who represents Bishop in the Alabama shootings, declined to comment on the new indictment.

In some of their first public comments since the Huntsville shootings, Bishop’s parents, Judith and Sam Bishop, released a scalding four-page statement that proclaimed their daughter’s innocence and accused the news media of sensationalism and law enforcement of finger-pointing.

“This prejudicial, biased review of the 1986 facts is an enormous waste of public resources that does not in any way provide a benefit to the public and proceeds only for the purposes of assessing blame where no blame was involved,’’ the Bishops said in the statement, released by their lawyer, Bryan J. Stevens of Quincy.

“We know that what happened 24 years ago to our son, Seth, was an accident,’’ the statement said. “Despite all the finger-pointing among local police, State Police, and the district attorney’s office, there is no evidence that Seth’s death was not an accident.’’

At the time of her brother’s death, on Dec. 6, 1986, Amy Bishop told police she took her father’s shotgun, loaded it, fired a shot into her bedroom wall, then went downstairs to the kitchen and shot her brother in the chest. She said she accidentally fired the gun while trying to figure out how to unload it.

Bishop then fled the home, tried to commandeer a car at gunpoint from a Braintree auto dealership, and trained the gun on police, who eventually persuaded her to drop the weapon, according to police reports from 1986. Bishop was released within hours and did not face charges.

Keating said today that Amy Bishop had threatened two civilians and a police officer with the shotgun. However, he said, the statute of limitations on possible charges related to those incidents expired in 1992.

He said he does not expect any more charges from the grand jury in the 1986 case.

“With what we know right now, we do not have enough to sustain that,’’ Keating said, pointing out that a number of witnesses are dead, including the Braintree police captain who oversaw the investigation.

US Representative William D. Delahunt, who was Norfolk district attorney at the time of Seth Bishop’s death, and his former top assistant, John Kivlan, released a statement yesterday saying that they would have prosecuted Bishop at the time, but that Braintree police did not provide them with critical reports and crime scene photos.

One photo of Bishop’s bedroom, where she had loaded the gun, showed a National Enquirer article chronicling actions similar to hers that day.

The article reported that a teenager wielding a 12-gauge shotgun had killed the parents of actor Patrick Duffy, who played Bobby Ewing on the television show “Dallas,’’ then commandeered a getaway car at gunpoint from an auto dealership.

“Had this and other evidence been reported to the district attorney’s office at the time, it obviously would have been presented to a grand jury, and an indictment for intentional homicide or murder could have resulted at that time,’’ the statement said.

Former Braintree police chief John V. Polio, who ran the department in 1986 and has been criticized by former law enforcement colleagues for not having Bishop arrested at the time, defended his handling of the investigation yesterday, saying he learned only recently that police reports were not shared with the district attorney’s office and that there was evidence that suggested Seth Bishop’s slaying was not an accident.

“I don’t question myself one bit,’’ Polio said. “I did absolutely the right thing, because I took it for granted that [reports] were sent over to the DA’s office, when in fact there was a lack of communication that I was unaware of. I did nothing that I would change.’’

Polio said the murder indictment against Bishop “does not convince me in any way that she’s absolutely guilty.’’

The indictment follows a closed-door judicial inquest in April, during which Keating’s office presented evidence to Quincy District Court Judge Mark S. Coven over three days. Last month Coven filed a report on the proceedings in Norfolk Superior Court. That report and a transcript of the inquest were sealed, pending grand jury action.

Keating said yesterday that he expected the inquest records to remain sealed until Bishop is tried in her brother’s death. He said he expects Bishop’s family will fight their release.

Seth Bishop graduated from Braintree High School in 1986 and was a freshman at Northeastern University studying electrical engineering.

Amy Bishop graduated from Northeastern University, earned a doctorate at Harvard University, then worked in labs at Boston hospitals. In 2003 she moved to Alabama with her husband, Jim Anderson Jr., and their four children.

In a telephone interview yesterday from his home in a suburb of Montgomery, Ala, Anderson’s father, Jim Anderson Sr., said that he wished justice had been served back in 1986.

“We lost a talented young man, a violinist,’’ Anderson said, referring to Seth Bishop. “If justice had prevailed when he was shot and law enforcement had handled it correctly, Amy would have been able to either get criminally charged or get help, one or the other."

 
 

Ala. prof's story begins with brother's 1986 death

By Jay Reeves and Gregg Bluestein

February 16, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.—When a young woman in Massachusetts killed her brother with a shotgun blast in 1986, authorities waited more than a week to question family members and the death was ultimately ruled an accident.

Now, a quarter-century later, Amy Bishop is accused in another shooting -- an attack that killed three fellow biology professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

In the days since Friday's shooting, revelations about Amy Bishop's past have raised questions about whether much of the violence could have been prevented. In the latest twist, police said Tuesday that Bishop had also been charged with assaulting a woman in 2002 during a tirade over a child's booster seat at a restaurant.

The story started more than two decades ago when police were called to the Braintree, Mass., home Bishop shared with her parents. Authorities found her 18-year-old brother, Seth, dead of a shotgun wound to the chest.

Bishop's father later told police he and his daughter had a disagreement and she went to her room. She said she had wanted to learn to load a shotgun her parents had bought after a recent break-in.

Bishop said she accidentally fired the gun in her bedroom as she tried to unload it, then went downstairs to ask her brother to help, according to a police report.

She said the gun went off again as Seth, a Northeastern University freshman and a virtuoso violinist, walked across the kitchen.

She told police she thought she had ruined the kitchen, but did not realize she had hit her brother. She said she ran away and thought she dropped the gun, which went off a third time. She did not remember anything else until she was taken to a police station.

But police and witnesses say she fled with the gun to a car dealership, where she pointed it at employees and demanded a getaway car. She told them her husband was going to come after her and she needed to flee.

She was caught but never charged. Police said it took 11 days before they could interview family members because they were so distraught. When they finally did, authorities decided to let her go, declaring the whole thing an accident.

John Polio, who headed the Braintree police force at the time, at first defended the handling of the case. The 87-year-old said Tuesday that he recently read a 1987 report on the investigation written by a state trooper. At the time, he had not seen the document. But now, he says, "I would have wanted a lot more questions answered."

The Norfolk County district attorney at the time was William Delahunt, now a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts. He was traveling in the Middle East and did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

The current district attorney, William Keating, said Tuesday that newly found police reports show there was probable cause to arrest Bishop in 1986 on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition.

But, Keating said, the reports do not contradict accounts that the shooting was an accident.

Bishop and her husband, James Anderson, graduated from Northeastern in 1988 with biology degrees. In 1993, Bishop earned a doctorate in genetics from Harvard.

That same year, she and her husband were questioned in another unsettling episode: Two mail bombs were sent to a Harvard professor she worked with at Children's Hospital Boston. The explosives did not go off.

Anderson told The Associated Press he and his wife were among a number of innocent people questioned by investigators who cast a wide net. He said the case "had a dozen people swept up in this, and everybody was a subject, not a suspect."

"There was never any indictment, arrest, nothing, and then everyone was cleared after five years," he said.

Anderson also said his wife had been writing a novel at the time that was reviewed by law enforcement. The Boston Globe, citing a law enforcement source it did not identify, reported that it was about a woman who had killed her brother and was hoping to make amends by becoming a great scientist.

But Anderson said the novel was not autobiographical.

"It was just a novel. A medical thriller is the best way to describe it," he said.

Then in 2002, Bishop was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct after a 2002 tirade at the International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Mass. Peabody police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto said that Bishop became incensed when she found out another woman had received the restaurant's last booster seat. Bishop hit the woman while shouting, "I am Dr. Amy Bishop," according to the police report.

Bonaiuto said Bishop admitted to the assault in court, and the case was adjudicated -- meaning the charges were eventually dismissed.

Bishop and Anderson moved to Huntsville in 2003, where they were raising their four children. Bishop appeared to be a rising star at the university -- she developed a new type of portable cell incubator and won $25,000 in a statewide business competition in 2007. She appeared, smiling, on the cover of a local tech magazine that touted her advances.

But she was denied tenure by the university, and she was vocal among colleagues about her displeasure over being forced to look for work elsewhere after this semester.

Bishop also filed a complaint last year alleging gender discrimination by the university. The university denied the allegations, which are in a complaint pending before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint itself, filed Sept. 15, was not immediately available.

Joseph Ng, an associate professor who worked with Bishop in the biology department, was in the cramped faculty conference room when gunfire erupted Friday afternoon during a monthly meeting.

About a dozen teachers and staff members were sitting elbow-to-elbow at a long table when Ng heard the "pop-pop-pop" of a 9 mm handgun.

He watched several of his colleagues go down, starting with the ones close to Bishop. He and the rest of the survivors dived under the table desperate for cover. Three people were wounded.

Within seconds, the shooting stopped. During the lull, Debra Moriarity, a biochemistry professor, scrambled toward Bishop and urged her to stop, he said.

Bishop aimed at Moriarity and attempted to fire, but the gun did not go off. Moriarity then led the charge that forced Bishop out the door into a hallway. Her colleagues barricaded themselves in the room, and Bishop was arrested moments later outside the building.

"Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives. She was the one that initiated the rush," Ng said. "It took a lot of guts to just go up to her."

On Tuesday, the 44-year-old Bishop was under extra guard at an Alabama jail. Students and victims' relatives want to know how someone with such a tortured past could ever have been hired at a state university.

"Do they not do background checks on teachers? How did all this slip through the cracks?" nursing student Caitlin Phillips asked.

University President David B. Williams defended the decision to hire Bishop. He said a review of her personnel file and her hiring file raised no red flags.

Police ran a criminal background check Monday, after she was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.

"Even now, nothing came up," Williams said.

 
 

Professor held after 3 are killed at Ala. university

Report: Alleged suspect studied at Harvard

By Sarah Wheaton - The New York Times

February 13, 2010

NEW YORK - Three faculty members at the University of Alabama’s Huntsville campus were shot to death, and three other people were seriously wounded, at a biology faculty meeting yesterday, university officials said.

The Huntsville Times, quoting university officials, reported that a biology professor was being held in the shooting, the police said. WAFF, the NBC affiliate in Huntsville, quoted school officials as saying the professor began shooting after learning at the faculty meeting that she was being denied tenure.

The newspaper identified the professor as Amy Bishop, a Harvard-educated neuroscientist. According to a 2006 profile in the newspaper, Bishop invented a portable cell growth incubator with her husband, Jim Anderson. Police officials said that Anderson was being detained, but they did not call him a suspect.

Photographs of a suspect being led from the scene by the police appear to match images of Bishop on academic websites.

The shooting occurred in the Shelby Center at the university around 4 p.m. Central time, officials said. Few students were in the building, and none were involved in the shooting, said Ray Garner, a university spokesman. Three faculty members were killed, and three other people - two faculty members and one staff member - were taken to Huntsville Hospital, with injuries ranging from serious to critical.

Officials said the suspected shooter was detained outside of the building “without incident.’’

Justin Wright, a senior, was working in the building’s math lab on the second floor when the police burst in with guns drawn. Wright told the Huntsville Times that his first thoughts were, “I need to get down, I need to get down.’’ He added: “I’ve never seen a gun or heavy artillery like that. I was shocked.’’

The shooting came a week after a middle school student in Huntsville shot and killed a classmate, leaving the town in shock.

“This is a very safe campus,’’ Garner said. “It’s not unlike what we experienced a week ago. This town is not accustomed to shootings and having multiple dead.’’

The gray lawns of the campus were lit up by the flashing lights of police cars and ambulances with blue and yellow stripes as the police and Swat teams descended on campus. The university police were the first to respond, but the Huntsville Police Department is now handling the investigation, officials said. The Madison County Sheriff’s Department is assisting.

The university was put on lockdown “almost instantaneously,’’ said Trent Willis, chief of staff to Mayor Tommy Battle. However, some students complained on Twitter and to reporters that they did not receive the university’s alert until hours after the shooting.

“The U-Alert was triggered late because the people involved in activating that system were involved in responding to the shooting,’’ said Charles Gailes, chief of the university police, at a news conference.

“We’re going to stop, we’re going to sit down, we’re going to review what happened,’’ Gailes said. “All of these actions are going to be learning points, and we’re going to be better for this.’’

Erin Johnson, a sophomore, told the Huntsville Times that a biology faculty meeting was underway when she heard screams coming from the room.

According to the 2006 profile, Bishop and her husband tired of using old-fashioned petri dishes for cell incubation and designed a sealed, self-contained mobile cell incubation system. The system was described as reducing many of the problems with cultivating tissues in the fragile environment of the petri dish.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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