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William Bradford BISHOP Jr.





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Burned the bodies
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: March 1, 1976
Date of birth: August 1, 1936
Victims profile: His wife, Annette, 37, his mother, Lobelia, 68, and his three sons: William, 14, Brenton, 10, and Geoffrey, 5
Method of murder: Hitting with a ball-peen hammer
Location: Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Status: Fugitive from justice since 1976

William Bradford 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.

Known biography

William Bradford Bishop, Jr. was born in Pasadena, California. He received a BS in history from Yale, and an MA in international studies (with a concentration in Africa) from the University of California system. He also attended Middlebury College.

After his graduation from Yale in 1959, he served 4 years in Army counterintelligence. Bishop is reported to speak five languages fluently: English, French, Serbo-Croat, Italian and Spanish.

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 was at State Department Headquarters in Washington as an Assistant Chief in the Division of Special Activities and Commercial Treaties.

As of 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.

The murders

After learning of this career disappointment, Bishop told his secretary he didnít feel well and left work early. He drove from Foggy Bottom (the neighborhood where he worked at the U.S. State Department headquarters ) to what is today Westfield Montgomery (then called Montgomery Mall) where he purchased a ball-peen hammer and a gas can, which he filled at a gas station.

Police believe that he used the hammer to kill first his wife, then his mother when she returned home from walking the family's golden retriever, and finally his three sons in their beds.

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". All later sightings of Bishop are unconfirmed.

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.

Continuing up the steps, there were more blood splatterings on the walls and floors as well. As it seemed it couldn't have gotten any worse, the detective entered the room which was believed to be the children's, and the entire room was covered from ceiling to floor, and wall to wall with blood.

The detective stated that in his 12 years as a police officer, he had never seen such a disturbing scene. Shortly afterward, dental records were used to confirm that the bodies found in North Carolina were the Bishop family.

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.

According to a co-worker of Bishop's, his family (primarily wife and mother) constantly belittled him, telling him that he was a wash-up, and that he didn't have any ability in his job anymore.

This may have caused him to feel very upset, and could have ultimately led to his decision to commit what seemed to be a crime of passion. The co-worker also went on to add that this was usually Bishop's way to "put someone in their place", as he liked to say himself.


Bishop had approximately one week of advance time before the authorities even began looking for him and could have traveled 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 July 1978, Bishop was seen by an acquaintance of the Bishop family in Stockholm, Sweden

  • In January 1979, Bishop was seen in a water closet in Sorrento, Italy by a co-worker who had worked closely with him at the State Department. Bishop ran when hailed by the co-worker.

  • 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.

Alternate theories that Bishop died or committed suicide in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or that he had defected to the Soviet Union are not seen as credible by the police.

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.


Where Is Brad Bishop?

30 Years Later, Md. Murder Suspect's Flight Still a Puzzle

By Paul Duggan - Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Surely he's dead, right?

A lot of people think so.

All these years after Brad Bishop, a State Department Foreign Service officer, allegedly bludgeoned his mother, his wife and his three young sons in their Bethesda home and burned their bodies -- all these years after a Maryland grand jury indicted the missing diplomat on five counts of murder in one of the most baffling cases in the annals of local crime -- he couldn't still be out there, hiding under a phony name, living quietly on the lam. . . .

Could he?

A lot of people think so.

Who knows, really?

"Until I can prove he's dead," said Montgomery County Sheriff Raymond M. Kight, "I'm going to assume he's alive."

A bright-green arrest warrant folder bearing his name -- "Bishop, William Bradford Jr." -- contains the oldest of nearly 2,000 open cases (alleged traffic scofflaws, deadbeat dads, rapists, drug dealers and killers) in the files of the fugitive squad at the sheriff's office, in Rockville. Generations of deputies have been on the lookout for him since Gerald R. Ford was in the White House. Decades have gone by. And the Bishop warrant sits on a shelf.

Where did he go?

Why did it happen?

That distant March.

Thirty years ago this week.

In the modern, digital, hyper-vigilant world of surveillance cameras and watch lists, high-speed computer networks and satellite monitoring, sneaking out of the country is a lot more difficult than it used to be. In 1976, Kight said, it wouldn't have been hard at all, if that is what Bishop did.

"Back in those days," he said, "people would buy a plane ticket, then they couldn't make the flight, they'd give it to someone else. And then that person would fly under the other person's name."

Kight was a police officer for five years before joining the sheriff's office in 1967 and was a lieutenant in the fugitive squad when the Bishop warrant came in. The mystery of the vanished diplomat has weighed on him for three decades.

Bishop, 39, a Yale University graduate, a former Army intelligence officer and a suave dinner guest fluent in five languages, told his secretary that he wasn't feeling well March 1 and left work early. On the drive from Foggy Bottom to Bethesda, he stopped at a Sears and bought a malletlike metal hammer and a gas can, which he filled at a Texaco.

He used the hammer on his wife first, police said. She was 37. His 68-year-old mother was killed next, when she came in from walking the dog. Then he allegedly bludgeoned the boys, ages 5 to 14, as they slept.

He drove 275 miles overnight in his Chevy station wagon, police said, to swampy woods in Tyrrell County, N.C., where he piled the bodies in a bathtub-size hole, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. He stopped at a sporting goods store in Columbia, N.C., that day, March 2. And on March 18, his car was found abandoned at a campground near the Tennessee-North Carolina border, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Did he wander into the forest, out of his mind, and die? By accident? By his own hand?

Then bears and wild boars devoured his remains.

That's one theory.

Yet no trace of him turned up in extensive searches -- no bones, no scraps of clothing.

So maybe . . .

"A new life, a new name, over in Europe," Kight said, sitting in his office recently. He shrugged. "I'm not ruling it out."

With proper planning and discipline, the sheriff said, it's possible to assume a false identify and hide in plain sight indefinitely.

It's no secret, Kight said. "There are plenty of books out there on how to do it. Look in the paper at the obituaries; find someone near your date of birth. Go in and get their birth certificate. Get their Social Security number."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, obtaining false identification has become more difficult. Laws and procedures have been tightened. "But there are still ways for someone with a devious mind to do it," Kight said. Then it's just a matter of living quietly under the radar, avoiding background checks and contact with police.

Consider John E. List:

His wife, his mother and his three children were shot to death in their New Jersey home in 1971 -- and List (like Bishop five years later) was nowhere to be found. With an assumed Social Security number and a driver's license in the name of Robert P. Clark, List remarried and lived for nearly two decades in Colorado and a Richmond suburb, where he was working as an accountant in 1989.

He was arrested that year, and later sentenced to life in prison, only after an acquaintance saw him profiled on the TV show "America's Most Wanted."

And reputed Boston crime boss James J. "Whitey" Bulger:

No alleged gangster in the city was more notorious than Bulger, a household name in Irish South Boston, where he reigned for decades. But in 1995, after learning he had been indicted, he managed to disappear with hardly a trace because of years of careful planning, investigators have said. Eleven years later, he remains in the wind, a fugitive from racketeering charges and 18 counts of murder.

Bishop had the advantage of being an experienced international traveler, fluent in Italian, Spanish, French and Croatian. He had served tours at embassies in Italy, Ethiopia and Botswana. He had military intelligence training. He understood the arcane ins and outs of overseas immigration bureaucracies. With his know-how, Kight said, Bishop could easily have melted into a foreign society under layers of false paperwork.

Long before the killings, for example, "he could have issued himself numerous passports in any number of different names, and we'd never know."

Plus, if his plan was to flee the country, he had a head start. The burned bodies weren't identified, and Bishop wasn't missed, until a week after the slayings.

Why the slayings occurred is anyone's guess. As far as investigators could tell, nothing had been terribly amiss in the family -- no dire financial woes or major job worries, no extramarital affairs or serious mental problems. Thirty years later, the sheriff said, Bishop remains an enigma. "I don't think I know him at all."

Was he a spy? Was the Foreign Service career just a cover?

The State Department has said no. So has the CIA.

"I do," said Kight, 65, a barrel-chested lawman who was first elected sheriff in 1986. "It's my cop's suspicious mind."

The only money Bishop was known to have when he vanished was $400 that he took out of a bank hours before the killings.

"But he could go to work," Kight said. "He could get a job. He could be doing that now."

Police handled the murder investigation, but tracking the fugitive is the sheriff's responsibility. His investigative files -- big binders labeled "Interpol" and "State Department," "North Carolina" and "Sightings, William Bradford Bishop Jr., 1992-96" -- are stacked on shelves by his desk.

"This never leaves me," Kight said. "Every day, I hope I'll get a call or a letter or a lead from somewhere, and it'll finally be valid."

For fugitive hunters, the world is a lot smaller today than it was in 1976, before advanced computer systems allowed for rapid information-sharing among far-flung law enforcement agencies. Kight's office, in searching for Bishop, has tried to take advantage of the technology, to no avail.

In 2002, said Kight's chief deputy, Darren Popkin, "we thought by now there'd be a good database of unidentified bodies" from North Carolina to Pennsylvania -- and there was. "We checked them all and narrowed it down to three bodies," Popkin said. Dental records showed none was Bishop.

There have been hundreds of reported sightings over the years, but only three by people acquainted with the missing diplomat.

A Swedish woman who said she had socialized with him in Ethiopia said she saw him in a public park in Stockholm in 1978. A former State Department colleague said he saw Bishop in a restroom in Sorrento, Italy, in 1979. A long-ago Bethesda neighbor said she saw him at a train station is Basel, Switzerland, in 1994. The reports led authorities straight to dead ends.

About all Kight's deputies can do now is wait for tips, look into them and occasionally check data-mining services for some hint that Bishop is out there.

"McAllen, Texas," the sheriff said, recalling one such lead. "Someone sent in a photo, said this man is very secretive. He was dating the person's daughter. And he looked like Bishop. So we hopped a plane, went down there, pulled the guy off the street. Turned out he was wanted in two other states. But it wasn't Bishop."

Who's dead now.

Or is 69.

"It's still open," Kight said. "It's still a good warrant."


William Bradford Bishop, Jr.

On vacation in Europe, a woman from Bethesda, Md., was waiting on the platform of the railway station in Basel, Switzerland. A well-groomed man in the train opposite opened a window on his car. The woman had a sudden shock of recognition. "I know that face," she said to herself. But before she could alert anyone, the train pulled out of the station on that day in September 1994. He was her former neighbour -- and a fugitive from an arrest warrant for murder.

William Bradford Bishop, Jr., had been a winner all his life, a top student and quarterback in high school, educated at an Ivy League college. Failure was unheard of -- but that was what he faced in early March 1976. The hard-driving, ambitious U.S. State Department diplomat had worked tirelessly in hopes of being elevated in the foreign affairs bureaucracy. Then he learned he'd been passed over for promotion. One day soon after, he complained of feeling sick and left his office.

On March 8, when a puzzled neighbour wondered about the family's absence, Montgomery County police officers visited the Bishops' colonial-style Bethesda home. The front door wasn't locked. In the foyer, study and bedrooms, the walls and carpets were spattered with blood.

Within hours investigators were reading reports about five badly charred bodies discovered in a shallow grave in a North Carolina park. Each had suffered multiple blows to the head with a blunt instrument. Nearby was a long-handled shovel bearing a label from a Bethesda hardware store.

Dental records identified the bodies as Bishop's wife, Annette, his mother, Lobelia, and his three sons: 14-year-old William, ten-year-old Brenton and five-year-old Geoffrey. Pathologists reported that the three boys were killed with a sledgehammer, placed in a shallow grave and set ablaze in their pyjamas.

A grand jury indicted Bishop on multiple murder counts. With a diplomatic passport, however, he had a two-week head start. The suspect's motive is a mystery, but he'd been treated by a psychiatrist and was reportedly dependent on an antidepressant.

Now 63, Bishop has been allegedly sighted numerous times: in Belgium, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and, most recently, Switzerland. Authorities are convinced that he won't elude justice forever. "The world is a much smaller place now," says Deputy Sheriff Robert L. Keefer, who has worked the case for more than ten years. "We'll catch up with him."


William Bradford Bishop, JR is wanted for the March 1, 1976 brutal murders of his entire family. The five victims are: his wife, Annette Kathryn Bishop; his three sons, William Bradford Bishop III, 14; Brenton Germain Bishop, 10; Geoffery Corder Bishop, 5; and his mother, Lobelia Amaryllis Bishop, 68.

Bishop is a white male. When last seen in 1976, he was 6'1", 180 pounds, with brown hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion and build.

Alias Names: 
Bradford Bishop, Brad Bishop, Bradford Bishop Jr.

Date Of Birth: August 1, 1936

Social Security Number: 556-48-3489

Languages Spoken Fluently:
English, Spanish, French, Serbo-Croation, Italian

Bachelor of Science, History, Yale University; Master of Arts, International Studies Africa; University of California: Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont; University of Florence, Florence Italy.

Last Employer:
United States Department of State as an Assistant Chief, Division of Special Activities and Commercial Treaties

Places Stationed or Lived:
United States: California; South Pasadena, Monterey and Truckee Maryland: Baltimore and Bethesda; Vermont, Middlebury Connecticut: New Haven; Washington DC Europe: Italy: Verona, Florence and Milan Africa: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Gaborone and Botswana

Sports and Interest:
Tennis, swimming, camping, fishing, skiing, motorcycle riding and flying.

Last Sightings:
"Verified" sighting - March 2, 1976 in Jacksonville, North Carolina

Stockholm, Sweden - July 1978 - Seen by acquaintance of Bishop family

Sorrento, Italy - January 1979 - Seen by co-worker at the State Department

Basel, Switzerland - September 1994 - Seen by neighbor who knew Bishop and family in Bethesda, MD

William Bradford Bishop is considered dangerous:
The MONTGOMERY COUNTY STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE has authorized extradition of Bishop anywhere he is arrested.

Anyone with information regarding WILLIAM BRADFORD BISHOP or his whereabouts, please call the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office at 240-777-7022, your local Interpol Office, or your local police department.


22nd anniversary of Bishop murder mystery

Jimmy Fleming's - The Tyrrel County "Enquirer"

March 1998

The month of March marks a very dubious anniversary in Tyrrell County.

On March 2, 1976, smoke was detected by the Scotia Fire Tower and Ronald Brickhouse, Forest Ranger, was sent to investigate. The site of the smoke was only one mile west of the tower, so it didn't take long for Ronald to reach the location.

When he arrived, he saw a pile of dirt and two smoldering bodies lying in a freshly dug hole. He radioed for help and so began one of the longest running unsolved mysteries in the United States.

When law officers arrived to investigate the crime scene they discovered the bodies of two adult females, three juvenile males, a gas can, a shovel, and a old pitchfork. The bodies were sent to Chapel Hill, NC for identification and Sheriff Royce Rhodes called in the SBI for assistance with the case.

The SBI set up a mobile command post in front of the Tyrrell County Courthouse in Columbia to assist the fifteen agents that were sent to investigate the case.

Five days into the case and the bodies had not even been identified, until March 6th when Detective Joe Sargent discovered a terrible murder scene in a Carderock, Maryland home.

At that time, the bodies were identified as Lobellia Bishop (age 68), Annette Weis Bishop (age 37), William Bradford Bishop III (age 14), Brenton G. Bishop (age 10), and Geoffrey Bishop (age 5).

It was reported that all the victims were murdered while they slept in their home and died due to massive head injuries inflicted with a blunt instrument.

William Bradford Bishop, age 39, (Lobellia's son, Annette's husband, and father to the three boys) was missing along with the family's dog and maroon 1974 Chevrolet Malibu station wagon.

Brad Bishop became the prime suspect in the murder of his family and a murder warrant was issued for his arrest on March 12, 1976.

Evidence linking him to the crime was: withdrawal of savings on March 1st, his bloody fingerprints inside the home, and his signature on a credit card receipt from a purchase of tennis shoes in Jacksonville, NC on the day the bodies were discovered.

A man matching his description was spotted in Jacksonville and Wilmington, NC buying gas and dining hours after the burning bodies were discovered. His 1974 Chevy was discovered on March 18th abandoned at a campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, TN.

The car contained a bloody blanket, ax, shotgun, bed clothing, dog biscuits, and two capsules of a depressant drug called Serax. The spare tire well was filled with blood from where the five bodies were hauled from Maryland to Tyrrell County, NC.

The nationwide manhunt for Bradford Bishop who had a two week head start on authorities has been stalled ever since this point. Brad Bishop, assistant chief of the special trade activities office of the State Department's economic and business section has never been apprehended to stand trial for the murder of his mother, wife, and three sons.

It has been theorized that Bishop killed himself in the rugged mountains where his car was found or used his world-travel background and fluency in several languages to flee the country and lose himself abroad.

The Bradford Bishop case has been written about in such publications as True Story, Inside Detective, Reader's Digest, The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The News and Observer, and Time Magazine.

It has also been featured on television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted. A screenplay, "Bradford Bishop, Where Are You?" and a song "The Ballad Of Brad Bishop" have been written about the crime.

Over the past 22 years there have been many unconfirmed sightings of Bradford Bishop in such places as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy. The question is: "Will we ever know why Brad Bishop murdered his family and how he came to choose an out of the way logging road in Tyrrell County, North Carolina to bury and burn their remains"?




William Bradford Bishop Jr.


Bob Gneiser owns and lives in the Bethesda, Md., house where William Bradford Bishop Jr. allegedly killed his mother, wife and three sons three decades ago.
(Lucia Perkins - The Washington Post)



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