Sunday, February 14, 2010

Amy Bishop, Part 1

This is Part 1 of a series of posts I want to do on Amy Bishop. I get incredibly frustrated by misinformation, so I am trying to bring together everything that is known about her and about the case.

Here, I construct a timeline of Bishop's life and then examine the police reports and other information on her brother's death.

Edited 2/21/10


1965 Amy born (edited to correct)
1968 Seth born
1983 Amy graduates HS
1985 House is broken into/Sam and Seth buy gun, get gun licenses?
1986 Seth graduates HS?
1986 Seth is shot and killed.
1988 Amy graduates Northeastern (Added 2/21/10)
1991 Amy has first child
1993 Amy gets her doctorate from Harvard
1993 Amy and husband Jim Anderson are investigated in case of pipe bomb sent to Amy’s lab supervisor
1996 Sam and Judy sell the house in Braintree; Amy rents carriage house
1999 Sam retires from Northeastern
2001 Amy has 4th child
2005 Amy and Jim move to Huntsville/UAH

Reports differ as to Bishop’s age. Police say she is 42. The university website says she is 44. The state police report says she was 19 in December 1986. She was likely born in 1967 and is 42. She graduated high school in 1983 (the same year I did). I skipped a grade; Amy seems to have skipped one or two grades and graduated early. Edited 2/21/10--Apparently I was over-reading the situation.

Her brother Seth was born April 9, 1968. (State police report) Her father was Samuel Bishop, a professor (of art) at Northeastern U. Her mother was Judith (Judy) Bishop. Judy Bishop was on the Town of Braintree’s Personnel Board at the time of the shooting.

On Saturday, December 6, 1986, Bishop shot her brother. She and her brother were attending Northeastern at the time. It is unclear whether she and her brother were dorming at Northeastern or living at home and commuting. As it was a Saturday, it makes sense that everyone was home.

According to the interviews in the state police report, at approximately 11:30 am, Sam Bishop left the house. His wife was out. After 11:30 and before 2:22, Amy, Judy, and Seth ended up together in the house. Amy took the shotgun from her parents’ room and loaded it and the gun discharged in her room. At some point she came downstairs and the gun discharged there, killing her brother. Amy left the house after that.

At 14:22 (2:22 pm), officers responded to the house at 46 Hollis Ave after a report of a shooting. The officers responding were Officers Jordan and Murphy.

The Braintree Daily Police Log reads 1422 46 Hollis Ave Accidental shooting 814 813 817 BS C-10 Code 51 QGH Sudden death. Code 91 Sgt. Brady

A later code in the log reads: Marks 811 Condon 812 R Jordan and T Murphy 813 Finn 814 Depisa 815 Solimini 816.

This suggests that the officers on the scene were Finn, Jordan, Murphy and (817?)

At 1507 (3:07) Finn reported that Seth Bishop was pronounced dead at the hospital. He
must have accompanied the paramedics to the hospital.

At 1516 (3:16) Solimini was listed as the officer responding to an alarm going off at a pharmacy.

At 15:43 (3:43) Solimini was listed as the officer responding to a motor vehicle accident on Quincy Ave.

In his remarks on Feb. 13, 2010, Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier says he spoke to Officer Solimini, who said:

“Officer Ronald Solimini informed me that he wrote the report and said that I wouldn’t find it as it has been missing from the files for over 20 years. He said that former Police Chief Edward Flynn had looked for the report and that it was missing. He believes this was in 1988.”
Officer Solimini recalled the incident as follows: He said he remembers that Ms. Bishop fired a round from a pump action shotgun into the wall of her bedroom. She had a fight with her brother and shot him, which caused his death. She fired a third round from the shotgun into the ceiling as she exited the home. She fled down the street with the shotgun in her hand. At one point she allegedly pointed the shotgun at a motor vehicle in an attempt to get the driver to stop. Officer Solimini found her behind a business on Washington Street. Officer Timothy Murphy was able to take control of the suspect at gunpoint and seized the shotgun. Ms. Bishop was subsequently handcuffed and transported to the police station under arrest.”

On December 8, 1986, the Patriot-Ledger (local paper) published a news account of the shooting. The article claims that:

"Police said his sister, Amy Bishop, was trying to unload the pump-action, 12-gauge shotgun when it discharged."

"She pumped a round from the magazine into the firing chamber of the shotgun, then went into the kitchen and asked her brother and mother for help when she couldn’t eject the shell from the chamber, investigators said."

Her mother instructed Amy Bishop to pump the shotgun again, which ejected the first shell, according to an investigator. However, she apparently pumped the weapon again and unknowingly advanced a second shell from the magazine to the chamber.

Thinking the weapon was empty, she pulled the trigger, the investigator said. The blast struck her brother, who was standing three to four feet in front of her, authorities said."

"The accident is under investigation by Braintree police and the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, but authorities said they don’t expect charges to be filed."

Timeline of December 6 to 17, 1986

December 6:
11:30 Sam Bishop leaves house.
11:30 to 2:22 Amy Bishop takes shotgun from father's room; Judy Bishop comes home; Seth Bishop goes out to get food for lunch and returns; Amy Bishop shoots Seth Bishop.
2:22 Police respond to report of shooting.
3:07 Seth Bishop is pronounced dead at the hospital.
3:16 Officer Solimini responds to a report of an alarm going off, i.e., he is back on patrol in Braintree.

Other events of the day: Amy Bishop is apprehended and brought to the police station. Amy Bishop is allowed to leave in the custody of her mother. Then-Police Chief John Polio refuses to name shooter and says that the shooting of Seth Bishop was accidental.

December 7:
Chief Polio tells press that Amy Bishop accidentally discharged the shotgun, killing her brother.

December 8:
Patriot Ledger reports that Amy Bishop shot her brother accidentally. The fatal shooting was witnessed by Bishop’s mother, Judith, according to authorities.
The article also says: The accident is under investigation by Braintree police and the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, but authorities said they don’t expect charges to be filed.

December 9:
Patriot Ledger reports further, quoting Judy Bishop. “It all happened in a split-second in front of me,” Judith Bishop, their mother, said this morning. “I keep seeing it over and over in my mind.”
Braintree Police Captain Theodore Buker is quoted: When the shotgun went off in her bedroom, Amy Bishop, 20, became frightened and “highly emotional” and went downstairs to her mother and brother to find out how to unload it, Braintree Police Capt. Theodore Buker said.

December 17:
From the state police report filed by Trooper Brian Howe:
On December 17, 1986, this officer, Captian Theodore Buker and Detective Michael Carey of the Braintree Police Department proceeded to 46 Hollis Avenue in the Town of Braintree.

Braintree Police Daily Log, December 6, 1986
Patriot Ledger articles, December 8, 1986 and December 9, 1986
State Police Investigation Report, March 30, 1987 based on interviews conducted on December 17, 1986
Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier's comments on the Bishop case, February 13, 2010
'Everyone Thought She Was Gentle,' Boston Herald, February 14, 2010.
Contradictory Tales of 1986 Bishop Shooting, NECN, February 14, 2010
Alleged Ala. killer was suspect in Harvard professor bomb attempt

A Few Thoughts:

Officer Solimini is the source for the doubts about the conclusion that Seth Bishop's shooting was accidental. However, the timeline is unclear about his involvement. A simple error could explain why he is not listed as one of the officers responding to the scene of the shooting (817 could have been wrongly put down instead of 816). However, later entries indicate that Solimini was responding elsewhere less than an hour after the shooting. Could he have apprehended Bishop behind a building on Washington St, then arrested her? Did he then bring her to the police station, then return to patrol? Or did he return later and then observe Bishop's release? Why was he the one to write the report?

The shotgun may have been a Remington 870 or something similar. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most popular/common models of pump-action, 12-gauge shotgun. One can imagine that it was easily available in a place like Coleman's Sporting Goods.

There are contradictory statements about the number of shots fired. Solimini says 3 shots: 1 in Amy's bedroom and 2 in the kitchen (1 shot fatally struck Seth, the other was discharged into the ceiling). The state police investigative report mentions only two shots.

At no time does anyone claim three shots in a row were fired.

The Braintree police department says that the original police report is missing.


Anonymous said...
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Amy P said...

I wonder if it would be possible to examine the kitchen ceiling to see if there was one blast or two. The kitchen may well have been extensively remodeled since then, but there's an off chance that traces remain if the ceiling was only patched rather than totally replaced.

Wendy said...

But the blast that killed Seth could also have caused damage to the kitchen.

I think people have hung a lot onto the recollections of a cop whom we have no record of even being at the scene of the incident.

People can look at the situation and say "So what? Amy Bishop killed 3 people. Who cares how fair we're being to her about the 1986 incident?" But there are other people and their reputations involved. Judy Bishop: if the incident really was accidental, why should she have to be dragged through the mud as some manipulative power broker when really she is probably just the mother of an extremely unfortunate and troubled woman who had a psychotic break?

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder about that first shot in her bedroom. What was the response of the mother and brother when they heard a gunshot upstairs? The way the story is told it is as if they remained calmly downstairs until Amy came down to ask for help. Something is very hinky about the entire story. The mother knows much more about what really happened.

Wendy said...

Well, this is how freaky I am. I went to YouTube and I watched videos of shotgun blasts to get a sense of how loud they were. Would a shotgun blast necessarily be heard? Why don't we have reports from neighbors then? What if Seth was, as one of the report says, watching tv?

Here is my question: if the incident was an accident, how would these people be expected to act? Let's start there.

Cranberry said...

Amy Bishop was born in 1965.

Thus, she did not graduate high school 2 years early.

Wendy said...

Cranberry, but how do we know that source is correct? The police report said she was 19.

I don't think we have a definitive answer just yet.

Cranberry said...

The link seems to have been taken down, but it was to the University News at the University of Alabama, at Huntsville, which would have access to personnel files.

Here's a link to the Patriot Ledger's coverage:

In her hometown paper, she was 20 in 1986, which would fit with a 1965 birthdate. The Patriot Ledger's coverage claims she was a 1983 graduate of Braintree High. Brilliant, but not accelerated.

Wendy said...

I just published the comment and don't have time to check for myself, but it seems you are correct. I'll fix/edit what I wrote at some point, I promise!

michael said...

Let's get real. This is a Harvard graduate, and obviously highly intelligent person. A pump action shotgun is not a complex machine. Why did she have a shotgun in the bedroom? Was she a hunter? I doubt it. Why would she squeeze the trigger "accidentally" while pointing the gun at her brother? Sounds like she was angry with her brother, chambered a shotgun shell in the shotgun and then shot her brother. Her mother maybe knows this and is hiding it, or perhaps was unaware.I suspect the former. Why didn't the police charge her? Was it because her father was a respected professor at Northeastern University? Small-town cronyism can be quite pronounced.

Amy's husband said he could not possibly have predicted that she would kill her colleagues. I'm guessing he knew that she shot and killed her brother 20 years previously. He also knew she attended anger management classes or had some issue with anger management. He is either completely out of touch with reality and human relationships, or he is covering up

Seems like the family is covering up obvious instability in this woman.