On the evening of March 1st, 1976, US Diplomat William Bradford Bishop allegedly murdered his wife, mother, and three small children with a sledgehammer, before vanishing without a trace into the Great Smoky Mountains. Now, almost thirty years since that night, the former State Department official has been added to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list.
Investigators have posited that Bishop, may have fled to Europe and is currently living there under a false identity. Bishop’s career with the State Department, and the CIA before that, took him around the world several times over. William Bradford Bishop is fluent in five languages, and graduated with a degree in American studies from Yale University before getting his Masters Degree in Italian from Middlebury College. At the State Department, one of Bishop’s duties was making passports.
Darren Popkin, Sheriff of Montgomery County MD, has spent his entire career and most of his life dedicated to the hunt for Bishop, combing extensively through Bishop’s life prior to the murders, investigating Bishop’s connections through Yale, the State Dept, and the US Army. In an interview with NBC Washington, Popkin said:
“I remember it like it was yesterday… To know what those boys went through, it still gnaws at me.”
Just hours before the murder took place, William Bradford Bishop received news that he had been passed over for a promotion at work. He left early that day, telling his boss that he thought he might be getting the flu. Bishop then withdrew $400 from his bank before purchasing a gas can and short-handled sledge hammer from the Montgomery Mall Sears, and then a shovel and pitchfork from Poch’s Hardware in Potomac Village.
Investigators believe that Annette, Bishop’s wife, was stretched out on the floor of her living room reading a book, when Bishop murdered her with the sledgehammer. She was the first. Bishop then lay in wait for his own mother, who was walking the family dog. After ambushing her, Bishop went from room to room, systematically killing his three sons as they lay sleeping in their beds. He spared the dog.
Bishop then stuffed the bodies of his mother, wife, and children, along with the dog, into the family station wagon. He drove south, 6 hours, to the town of Columbia NC.
Ron Brickhouse, a North Carolina Parks Ranger, was responding to a forest fire call when he found 5 bodies burning in a shallow grave. Bishop had left the gas can, pitchfork, and shovel within plain sight of the grave. The bodies of the Bishop family were identified one week later, after their neighbor called the police to say nobody had seen them in days. By the time police arrived at the blood-soaked Bethesda Maryland residence, William Bradford Bishop was long gone, along with his diplomatic passport.
The FBI, the State Department and local police hope that by placing Bishop on the 10 Most Wanted list, the public might be able to help find him.
“Bishop broke with his life and assumed a new identity. Because of that fact, most traditional fugitive investigative techniques are worthless,” said Steve Vogt, special agent in charge of the FBI Baltimore Division. “We’re hoping media and people who are active on social media pay attention to this; they’ll be the ones to solve this case.”
The FBI is currently offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to the arrest of William Bradford Bishop, Jr.