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Did Amy Bishop, Accused University of Alabama Shooter, Murder Her Own Brother?

(AP/Bob Gathany, Huntsville Times)
(CBS)
(AP/Huntsville Police Dept)
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (CBS/AP) Did Amy Bishop, the University of Alabama professor accused of killing three peers Friday in a possible tenure dispute, also gun down her brother in cold blood? Or was his 1986 death a tragic accident?

Photo: Amy Bishop is detained by police at University of Alabama in Hunstville, Feb. 12, 2010.

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Some of the facts are not in dispute, but some details of the case are disturbing.

On Dec, 6, 1986, Bishop, 44, shot and killed her 18-year-old brother with a shotgun at their Braintree, Mass., home. She told police at the time that she had been trying to learn how to use the gun, which her father had bought for protection, when it accidentally discharged.

Photo: Shooting victims Dr. Adriel Johnson Sr., Dr. Gopi Podila, and Dr. Maria Davis.

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In all, three shots were fired: Braintree police Chief Paul Frazier said she shot once into a wall, then shot her brother, then fired a third time into the ceiling.

46 minutes later, Seth Bishop, a promising young engineering student and violinist, was dead, according to the Boston Globe. He was 18.

Photo: Amy Bishop's mug shot.

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But there are differing accounts, according to the Boston Globe, of Bishop's actions leading up to and after the shooting and there are disturbing questions as to why the police file of the case is now missing.

At the time, Braintree Police Chief John Polio called the incident an accident. A 1987 report the Boston Globe obtained from the Norfolk County's District Attorney's office said that after Bishop had an argument with her father she went to her parents' room to learn to load the family's shotgun. The weapon fired once in the bedroom. She then went downstairs, the report says, and accidentally shot her brother while her mother looked on. Then she ran out of the house, 12-gauge shotgun in hand.

Police eventually caught up with her, cuffed her, and took her to the station. But because Bishop was so emotionally distraught, she was released hours later.

Police questioned family members 11 days after the shooting and found discrepancies in their versions of events, according to the Boston Globe.

Amy Bishop's mother said that Amy had asked her for help in unloading the gun and accidentally shot her brother. Amy Bishop herself said that she had asked her brother not her mother for help. He told her to point the gun high, she said. Someone said something. She spun around, and accidentally shot her brother who was walking across the kitchen.

Police at the time sent the case to the District Attorney's office who believed the core of the story, called it an accident and filed it away.

But now, after Bishop allegedly stormed into a biology faculty meeting on the University of Alabama campus, shot three faculty members to death and injured three more, police are questioning whether they got it right in Boston more than 20 years ago.

"I don't want to use the word 'coverup,'" Braintree's current police chief, Paul H. Frazier told the Boston Globe. "I don't know what the thought process was of the police chief at the time."

Frazier believes that Amy Bishop got in a fight her brother, not her father. He also doesn't understand why the original police report has been missing since 1988. He told the Boston Globe he was a patrolman at the time, but got his account from an officer who was at the scene.

Former chief Polio called the idea that he covered anything up a "joke," according to the Boston Globe.

It's not yet clear if Massachusetts police will re-open the old case, but Amy Bishop still has plenty of trouble. She has been charged with one count of capital murder. She could face the death penalty if convicted. More charges are expected.

Killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and professors Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Joseph Leahy and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo were in critical condition early Sunday. Luis Cruz-Vera was released from the hospital.

Police believe Amy Bishop was angry over not getting tenure. As she was hauled away from the campus she seemed to not fully understand her alleged actions. "It didn't happen. There's no way," she said. "They are still alive."

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  • Neil Katz

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