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. Previously, he served in the U.S. Army as a counterintelligence operative. He was a polyglot, fluent in five languages. 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 wife, Annette, and mother, Lobelia. Both women had 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 from a hardware store, and the third was at a bank where he withdrew several hundred dollars in cash. After arriving home, he bludgeoned Annette, Lobelia, and his sons, William III, Brenton, and Geoffrey, to death. He proceeded to take 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. Six days later, on March 8, a neighbor of the Bishops contacted the police, suspicious of their absence. Once inside their home, Lt. Joe Sargent found large amounts of blood throughout it. Investigators soon connected the two cases. Dental records confirmed the identity of the remains. Bishop dumped the car at a campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before vanishing. Police inspected it and found the bloodied ball peen hammer, as well as the receipt from the hardware store for its purchase. Bishop 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, attempting to be assertive and 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.
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 have exhumed the man's body and to do 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. The FBI is still following up on leads in the case.
- Brad Bishop on Unsolved.com
- Brad Bishop on Wikipedia
- FBI Top Ten Poster
- Brad Bishop at Orton's Crime Blog
- Brad Bishop on The Hunt
- Brad Bishop on Murderpedia
- Old Letter Sheds New Light on '76 Slaying of Bethesda Family
- 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