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William Bradford Bishop, Jr. was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list April 10. Business Insider spoke this week with Stephen Vogt, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI’s Baltimore field office, about Bishop’s alleged murders and how he might have eluded capture.
Bishop’s State Department job involved many travels abroad and knowledge of several foreign languages. The then-39-year-old clean-cut husband and father had an American Studies degree from Yale University and a Master’s Degree in Italian from Vermont’s Middlebury College. A former intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, he lived on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. in Bethesda, Maryland with his wife and three sons, ages 5, 10, and 14.
On March 1, 1976, Bishop is believed to have purchased a hammer and gas can on his way home from work. At his Bethesda home, he allegedly bludgeoned his wife to death with the hammer, then he allegedly did the same to his mother when she returned from walking the dog. Finally, he allegedly used the hammer to kill his three sons.
The only one spared was the family’s dog. “He was very close to the dog,” Vogt told Business Insider.
Bishop is believed to have packed the bodies into the family’s station wagon and brought the dog along for the ride to North Carolina, where he burned the bodies in a shallow grave. The owner of a North Carolina sporting goods store reported Bishop purchased tennis shoes there the next day with a woman around his age and a dog, believed to be the Bishop family dog.
Investigators don’t believe Bishop has committed a crime before or since he allegedly murdered his family. His sudden act may have been a reaction to several pressures in his life. Vogt said Bishop, who loved traveling and solitude, may have felt tied down and sought an escape. Financial troubles plagued the family, and Bishop was refused a promotion around the time of the murder.
Investigators discovered a diary Bishop kept before the murders, in which he wrote often about wanting to become free and self-sufficient.
Bishop may have also felt troubled by a sense of inferiority that he tried to hide from others on the outside. He suffered from insomnia, was under psychiatric care, and took medication for depression, according to the FBI.
“He went down a path he wasn’t comfortable with anymore, and his answer was to kill everyone and start over,” Vogt said.
Two weeks after the confirmed sighting at the North Carolina sporting goods store, Bishop’s abandoned car was discovered at a campground near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. That’s where the trail went cold. Extensive searches by authorities and interviews have revealed no evidence of Bishop’s death, or any trace of him for that matter.
“We have no information as to where this guy is, and he could be in Maryland, he could be in California, he could be anywhere,” Vogt said. “He has never been sighted and people have called in and said they thought they saw him, but there have been no confirmed sightings since March 2, 1976 when he was in a sporting goods store in North Carolina.”
The FBI hopes Bishop’s recent addition to the top 10 fugitives list will attract attention leading to a tip from someone who recognizes his face. “We need the public to look at this face and call us, because that’s the only way we’re going to catch him at this point,” Vogt said.
Last year, authorities created a task force aimed at finally tracking Bishop down, led by the FBI, the Department of State, and the Maryland Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators have only had the knowledge of Bishop’s face and fingerprints to help them track him down. But he could have avoided capture all this time by assuming a fake identity and avoiding an arrest that would result in police checking his fingerprints.
After so many years of living under that false identity, neighbors and co-workers who possibly live among Bishop may have a hard time believing he isn’t a normal guy. “The most dangerous time for him was March 2 1976, and every day he was out there got a little better for him because he built a prior history for himself,” Vogt said.
Of course, Bishop could be hiding overseas, given his Department of State experience traveling abroad and his ability to speak several foreign languages fluently. However, Vogt emphasizes that maintaining a fake identity abroad is difficult even for someone with Bishop’s experience. “You get overseas and it doesn’t matter how many languages you speak,” he said. “You’re still an American. You stand out.”
For that reason, Vogt believes it is very possible Bishop is hiding in the U.S. To help the public get an approximate idea of what Bishop may look like at age 77, a forensic artist has created age-enhanced images, along with the originals.
Vogt urges anyone who sees someone they think might be Bishop to give the FBI a call, despite any reservations they may have. “Don’t think, ‘Hey, it can’t be him.’ Just give us a call,” he said.
He also emphasized that people should look out for certain traits that Bishop can’t change as easily as his identity, such as his affinity for dogs, the outdoors, and motorcycles. “Bishop was described as intense and self-absorbed, prone to violent outbursts, and preferred a neat and orderly environment,” states the FBI’s description attached to Bishop’s Most Wanted poster.
Another tell-tale sign could be Bishop’s reaction to learning that he is now on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. “He’ll be acting a little strange since April 10 because there’s a lot of pressure on him,” Vogt said.
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The Man Who Got Away — (Bethesda Magazine)
By Eugene L. Meyer
Bradford Bishop vanished after his family was brutally murdered in Bethesda. More than 37 years have passed, but two lawmen—one, the sheriff of Montgomery County; the other, retired—are still determined to find him.