Real Name: William Bradford Bishop, Jr.
Aliases: Brad Bishop
Wanted For: Murder
Missing Since: March 1, 1976
Details: Brad Bishop of Bethesda, Maryland was a foreign service officer assigned to the State Department. He had grown up in Pasadena, California and graduated from Yale University in 1959. He also served in the U.S. Army as a counterintelligence operative. He was a polyglot, fluent in five languages, and seemed to make an ideal State Department employee. However, in 1976, the State Department was stingy with promotions, and Bishop did not get the promotion he felt he had worked for. Despite reassurances from colleagues that most of them also failed to get promoted, he took it with less than typical fortitude.
Colleagues said that he had also complained of constant fights with his thirty-seven-year-old wife, Annette, and sixty-eight-year-old mother, Lobelia. Both had reportedly nagged him for being "washed up" or "treading water"--going nowhere in his job. As he was also known for wanting to put his enemies "in their place", it is likely the failed promotion, combined with family tension, set tragic events in motion.
On March 1, 1976, Bishop told his secretary he was ill and was going to see a doctor. That was also his last day of work with the State Department. Instead of reporting to a health clinic, he went home, making three stops along the way. One was at a gas station where he purchased and filled a gas can, the second at the White Flint Mall where he purchased a ball peen hammer and shovel from a hardware store, and the third was at a bank where he withdrew several hundred dollars in cash.
Investigators believe that he arrived home around 7:30 or 8pm. That night, he bludgeoned Lobelia, Annette, and his three sons, fourteen-year-old William III, ten-year-old Brenton, and five-year-old Geoffrey, to death. It is believed that Annette was killed first, as she was found beside a book that she was reading. The boys were presumably killed next, followed by Lobelia. None of the victims had a chance to defend themselves. Following the murders, Bishop took an all-night drive to Columbia, North Carolina, where he dug a shallow fire pit in a dense area of woods, piled them in it, doused them with gasoline, and set them on fire.
On March 2, a North Carolina forest ranger noticed the smoke and discovered the horrific scene, then reported his findings to the local police. Initially, there were few clues in the disturbing case. Two articles of the victims' clothing bore the labels of expensive department stores in Bethesda. The shovel was determined to have come from the Bethesda hardware store. However, at the time, the Bethesda police had no missing persons reports that matched the victims.
Six days later, on March 8, a neighbor of the Bishops contacted the police, suspicious of their absence. Lt. Joe Sargent arrived at the home and met with the neighbor. When he went to the front door, he noticed blood droplets on the porch. Upon entering the home, he noticed more droplets on the floor leading to the foyer. The blood trail also went up the stairs to an upstairs bedroom. Inside the bedroom, the floor, bed, and ceiling were splattered with blood. More blood was found in other rooms of the house.
Investigators soon connected both cases. Dental records confirmed the identity of the remains in North Carolina. After Bishop dumped the bodies, he bought a pair of tennis shoes near Columbia. He then dumped the car at a campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before vanishing. It was discovered by a ranger on March 18, almost three weeks after the murders. Police inspected it and found the bloodied ball peen hammer, as well as the receipt from the hardware store for its purchase. It is believed that Bishop then fled the United States.
Because Bishop still possessed a State Department passport, he was able to travel much easier than civilians, as custom officers are generally more lax to those with official US government passports. He has not officially been seen since, but sightings have been reported all over Europe, notably Belgium, England, Finland, The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as he travels on his U.S. Diplomatic Passport.
A sighting by Roy Harrell, a State Department coworker, placed him in Europe. In a Unsolved Mysteries interview, Harrell recalled traveling in Italy in 1978 and had a highly unlikely chance meeting. While in the city of Sorrento, he was in a men's washroom when he saw a bearded, haggard man wearing a soft cotton sports coat. At closer glance, he realized it was Bishop and confronted him, asking him to travel with him from Sorrento to Rome to surrender to the Italian police. He panicked at this improbable reunion, then ran when Harrell suggested surrendering to authorities.
Bishop was indicted in absentia on five-counts of first degree murder and other charges. His most recent stateside sighting was of him traveling with the family dog and a dark-skinned woman. He is 6'1", with brown hair, brown eyes, and a medium build.
- This case first aired on the January 9, 1991 episode.
- It was also profiled on America's Most Wanted and The Hunt with John Walsh.
Results: Wanted. In fall 1992, investigators located an old letter which indicated that Bishop had tried to hire someone to kill his family before he committed the crimes himself. The letter was from convicted bank robber Albert Kenneth Bankston who had corresponded with Bishop. However, it is unknown what other connections the two men may have had. The most recent sighting of Bishop was on September 19, 1994 in Basel, Switzerland, by a neighbor.
On April 10, 2014, Bishop was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. In October of 2014, authorities received a tip that an unidentified man killed in a hit-and-run accident in Alabama in 1981 might have been Bishop. Authorities exhumed his body and performed DNA testing. Although Bishop's face appears quite similar to his, he was confirmed not to be Bishop.
Sadly, Roy passed away in 2017 without ever seeing Bishop apprehended. Although he has since been removed from the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, his status is still listed as "wanted" and the FBI continues to be in pursuit of any information that he has died or can be caught.
In February 2021, a sixty-three-year-old woman named Kathy Gillcrist discovered through a DNA test that Bishop was her biological father. It is believed that he fathered her while he was at Yale University.
- Brad Bishop on Unsolved.com
- Brad Bishop on Wikipedia
- FBI Top Ten Poster of Bishop
- Brad Bishop on the AMW website
- Brad Bishop on The Hunt
- Brad Bishop on Murderpedia
- U.S. Official Hunted in Great Smoky Area - March 19, 1976
- Did William Bradford Bishop Jr. slaughter his family? - March 24, 1976
- Fugitive Believed Alive - April 19, 1976
- Where is William Bradford Bishop? - August 1, 1976
- Motive, Alleged Murderer Still Missing - September 24, 1976
- Bishop Case Still Mystery - September 27, 1976
- Bradford Bishop Hunt Again Stalls - June 8, 1978
- 10 years later, Bishop murders still a mystery - March 2, 1986
- '76 murder case leads police to suspect in Mediterranean - August 8, 1992
- Old Letter Sheds New Light on '76 Slaying of Bethesda Family - March 31, 1993
- They Have the Clues, So Where's Their Man? - August 11, 1997
- The Man Who Got Away - June 30, 2013
- FBI: Man suspected of brutally killing his family may be in L.A. area - April 18, 2014
- William Bradford Bishop is now one of FBI's most wanted - April 23, 2014
- Exhumed body in Alabama could be notorious Bethesda fugitive Brad Bishop - October 9, 2014
- Body exhumed in Alabama is not Brad Bishop - October 15, 2014
- Appalachian Unsolved: The diplomat accused of murdering his family - January 30, 2018
- FBI Removes Accused Killer of His Family From Ten Most Wanted List - June 28, 2018
- Appalachian Unsolved: The mass murderer's daughter - February 12, 2021
- DNA test reveals woman's father is Bradford Bishop, fugitive from FBI Most Wanted list - March 9, 2021
- Lobeila, Annette, William III, Brenton, and Geoffrey on Find a Grave