Nation - Massachusetts Ala. prof charged in brother's 1986 shooting death Case was reopened after woman killed three colleagues

By Bob Salsberg

Associated Press Writer

CANTON, Mass. (AP) -- It was "obviously" a homicide case, a former prosecutor says, but authorities didn't have the evidence to present it to a grand jury at the time. Twenty-four-years lapsed and three other killings occurred before another prosecutor did.

Amy Bishop, the biology professor charged with killing three of her colleagues at an Alabama university, has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the 1986 shooting death of her brother in Massachusetts, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Prosecutors who originally concluded that Bishop accidentally killed her 18-year-old brother, Seth, now say police failed to share important evidence, including an alleged carjacking attempt by Amy Bishop after the shooting. They reopened the case after Bishop was charged in February with gunning down six of her colleagues at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, killing three.

Norfolk District Attorney William Keating said he did not understand why charges were never brought against Bishop.

"I can't give you any explanations, I can't give you excuses, because there are none," he said. "Jobs weren't done, responsibilities weren't met and justice wasn't served."

Bishop had told police who investigated her brother's death that she accidentally shot him while trying to unload her father's 12-gauge shotgun in the family's Braintree home. Her mother, Judith, the only witness to the shooting, confirmed her daughter's account to police.

U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who was then the Norfolk County district attorney, said Braintree police never told anyone in his office that after Bishop shot her brother, she tried to commandeer a getaway car at gunpoint at a local car dealership, then refused to drop her gun until officers ordered her to do so repeatedly. Those events were described in Braintree police reports but not in a report written by a state police detective assigned to the district attorney's office.

The police chief of Braintree at the time of the shooting did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

Investigators looking at an old crime scene photo from her brother's shooting discovered a newspaper article about the 1986 killings of actor Patrick Duffy's parents. The clipping, which was in Amy Bishop's bedroom, described how a teenager shot the "Dallas" star's parents with a 12-gauge shotgun and stole a getaway car from an auto dealership.

Keating ordered an inquest, which was held in April. Nineteen witnesses, including the Bishops' parents, testified before Quincy District Court Judge Mark Coven during the closed-door inquest. A grand jury heard evidence this month.

Delahunt's first assistant district attorney, John Kivlan, said the inquest was important to consider evidence, including the newspaper clipping, that he did not have in 1986.

"Had this and other evidence been reported to the District Attorney's Office at the time, it would obviously have been presented to a Grand Jury and an indictment for intentional homicide, or murder, could have resulted at that time," Kivlan said in a statement released by Delahunt's congressional office.

Keating said the indictment, brought 24 years after Seth Bishop's death, brought little comfort.

"You're never satisfied when a young boy, a young man, has lost his life," he said. "You're never satisfied when justice isn't served. You're never satisfied, when using your common sense, in all likelihood, three individuals in Alabama that were killed might not have been because the defendant wouldn't have been in that room."

An attorney representing Amy Bishop in the Alabama shootings, Roy Miller, didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on the Massachusetts charges, nor did her husband. Miller has indicated he is considering an insanity defense for Bishop.

Bishop is jailed in Alabama. It did not seem likely that she would return to Massachusetts to face the new charges anytime soon, if at all.

Authorities in both states said Bishop would stand trial for the university shootings first.

"She has to answer to what she's done here," Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard, the chief prosecutor in Huntsville, said at a news conference.

Keating indicated there would be no chance of her returning if she was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty in Alabama. Authorities there have not said whether they will seek the death penalty.

Broussard has said an Alabama grand jury would likely consider charges against Bishop by late summer.

He said the Massachusetts indictment may aid the Alabama case because the prosecution can rebut a mental defense with evidence from Bishop's entire life.

"I really don't waste too much time on what might have been," Broussard said, "but anybody would agree and wish that Massachusetts had been on the ball back in '86 rather than 2010."


Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Boston, Jay Reeves in Orange Beach, Ala., and Andrew Miga in Washington contributed to this report.

Published: Fri, Jun 18, 2010