Tenure Denial Irked Alabama Professor

This police booking photograph released by the Huntsville (Ala.) Police Dept., Feb. 13, 2010, shows college professor Amy Bishop, charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
AP/Huntsville Police Dept
Updated at 6:41 p.m. EST.

Amy Bishop kept quiet about a violent episode in her past around colleagues and students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. But there was one personal issue she didn't mind loudly complaining about: being denied tenure.

Still, those who knew her said the woman accused of shooting six colleagues had never suggested she might become violent. Everyone from family and friends to her students said the intelligent and at times awkward teacher seemed normal in the hours before police say she opened fire in a faculty meeting Friday afternoon, leaving three dead and three wounded.

Investigators have declined to discuss a motive, but Bishop didn't hide her displeasure over the fact she'd been denied tenure - a type of job-for-life security afforded to academics.

Bishop was up front about the issue, often bringing it up in meetings where the subject wasn't appropriate, said William Setzer, chairman of the department of chemistry.

"In committee meetings, she didn't pretend that it wasn't happening or anything," Setzer said. "She was even loud about it: That they denied her tenure and she was appealing it, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

But there were other things Bishop apparently did not reveal to those around her or the first time she had been the focus of a criminal investigation.

In 1993, a pipe bomb was sent to Dr. Paul Rosenberg, a professor who worked with Bishop at Harvard, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane. She was reportedly anticipating a negative evaluation and authorities questioned both Bishop and her husband. But Bishop's husband told Doane they were only questioned because they knew Rosenberg.

In 1986, Bishop 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. 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.

Authorities released her and said the episode was a tragic accident. She was never charged, though Frazier on Saturday questioned how the investigation was handled.

Former state prosecutor Wendy Murphy told "The Eary Show" on Monday that the incident was almost certainly mishandled.

"You've got to believe the University of Alabama would like to have known that," she said of Bishop's reported demeanor - found by police still holding the shotgun - upon her arrest in 1986.

Some of Bishop's colleagues, including Setzer, told The Associated Press they did not know about her brother's death.

Police say the gun she's accused of using in the Alabama shooting wasn't registered, and investigators don't know how or where she got it.

Bishop, who has four children, was arrested soon after the shooting and charged with capital murder. Three counts of attempted murder were filed against Bishop over the weekend, according to jail records. Her husband was detained and questioned by police but has not been charged.

James Anderson said his wife had an attorney but would not say who it was. He declined further comment to The Associated Press on Sunday. However, he told the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier in the day that he had no idea his wife had a gun - nor did he know of any threats or plans to carry out the shooting when he dropped her off at the faculty meeting Friday.

Just after the shooting, Anderson told the Chronicle, she called and asked him to pick her up. She never mentioned the shooting, he said.

Even in the days and hours before the shooting, Bishop's friends, colleagues and students said she was acting like the intelligent - but odd - professor they knew.

UAH student Andrew Cole was in Bishop's anatomy class Friday morning and said she seemed perfectly normal. Kourtney Lattimore, 19, a sophomore studying nursing who had Bishop for anatomy and physiology courses, said she didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

"She was a good teacher. She was very passinate about the research that she was doing in class," Lattimore told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith.

"She was a normal college professor I would say," added Lattimore. "None of us wanted to think that it was Dr. Bishop."

Bishop had worked closely for three years with Dick Reeves, who had been CEO of BizTech, which had been working with her to market a cell incubator she invented to replace traditional equipment used in live cell cultures. Bishop often mentioned the issue of tenure in their discussions, Reeves said.

"It was important to her," he said.

However, the two had spoken as early as Wednesday, and Reeves said she showed no signs of distress.

Some have said the shootings stemmed from Bishop's tenure dispute. Andrea Bennett, a sophomore majoring in nursing and an athlete at UAH, said a coach told her team that Bishop had been denied tenure, which the coach said may have led to the shooting.

Killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and professors Adriel Johnson and Maria Ragland Davis. Three people were wounded. Two of them - Joseph Leahy and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo - were in critical condition early Sunday. The third, Luis Cruz-Vera, had been released from the hospital.

Sammie Lee Davis, Davis' husband, said in a brief phone interview that he was told a faculty member got angry while discussing tenure at the meeting and started shooting. He said his wife had described Bishop as "not being able to deal with reality" and "not as good as she thought she was."

Bishop was calm as she got into a police car Friday, denying that the shootings occurred. "It didn't happen. There's no way. ... They are still alive."