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 women 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, he 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 Annette, Lobelia, and his 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 children 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 came from a 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 blood 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 in the house.
Investigators soon connected the two cases. Dental records confirmed the identity of the remains in North Carolina. After he dumped the bodies, Bishop 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 he 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 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 his improbable reunion, then ran when Harrell suggested surrendering to authorities.
He was tried in absentia of the crimes and found guilty 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.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 9, 1991 episode. Bishop 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 Brad Bishop. Authorities exhumed the man's body and performed DNA testing. Although Bishop's face appears quite similar to the face of the unidentified man, the body was confirmed not to be Bishop.
Sadly, Roy Harrell passed away in 2017 without ever seeing Bishop apprehended. Although Brad Bishop has fallen off 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.
- Brad Bishop on Unsolved.com
- Brad Bishop on Wikipedia
- FBI Top Ten Poster
- Brad Bishop on The Hunt
- Brad Bishop on Murderpedia
- U.S. Official Hunted in Great Smoky Area
- Fugitive Believed Alive
- Motive, Alleged Murderer Still Missing
- Bishop Case Still Mystery
- Bradford Bishop Hunt Again Stalls
- '76 murder case leads police to suspect in Mediterranean
- William Bradford Bishop is now one of FBI's most wanted
- FBI: Man suspected of brutally killing his family may be in L.A. area
- Exhumed body in Alabama could be notorious Bethesda fugitive Brad Bishop
- Body exhumed in Alabama is not Brad Bishop
- Appalachian Unsolved: The diplomat accused of murdering his family
- FBI Removes Accused Killer of His Family From Ten Most Wanted List
- Lobeila, Annette, William III, Brenton, and Geoffrey at Find a Grave