William Bradford Bishop Jr., a former diplomat who in 1976 went off the deep end and killed his whole family with a sledgehammer then seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth, may have been hiding out in California this whole time, or at least part of it — and 38 years after committing the brutal and horrifying murders, he may still be there, the FBI believes.
The FBI recently hired an artist to create a sculpture of William Bradford Bishop, who went by the name “Brad,” as he might appear today at age 77. FBI authorities released images of the sculpture to the public this week, in hopes that someone might recognize the killer the FBI dubbed “The Family Annihilator,” for the grisly and merciless way in which he bludgeoned five members of his immediate family to death on March 1, 1976, in Bethesda, Maryland, outside of Washington D.C.
“He doesn’t deserve the freedom he’s enjoyed for the last three decades,” said Darren Popkin, sheriff of Maryland’s Montgomery County, after the FBI added Bradford to its “Most Wanted Fugitives” list last week.
William Bradford Bishop was hardly a common criminal or a killer — until he became one. He graduated from Yale University, studied for and received a Master’s Degree in Italian from the prestigious Middlebury College in Vermont, and served as a diplomat in the foreign service.
He speaks five languages: French, Serbo-Croatian and Spanish in addition to English and Italian.
But he was already under care for psychological ailments including depression and insomnia when he found out that his bid for a promotion at the State Department was rejected. Later that same day, he took a sledgehammer and bludgeoned his wife Annette to death along with his mother Lobelia.
He then took the hammer to his three sons, ages 14, 10 and five, as they slept, killing them as well.
William Bradford Bishop loaded the bodies of his murdered family members in his car and drove them to North Carolina, where he attempted to bury them in a shallow grave in the woods. Still not satisfied, he set fire the bodies of his own wife, mother and three children.
And then William Bradford Bishop vanished into thin air. Or so it seemed. There were a few sightings of him in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in the day or two following his attempt to dispose of the bodies, and a few more possible sightings in Europe over the next couple of decades. But none since 1994.
The FBI now believes he may have been, or at least now could be hiding in California. Bishop was born in Pasadena and always professed a love for the Sierra Nevadas.
There is a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of William Bradford Bishop.
“Bishop broke with his life and assumed a new identity. Because of that fact, most traditional fugitive investigative techniques are worthless,” FBI Special Agent Steve Vogt said. “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.”
William Bradford Bishop Jr., when last seen 38 years ago, was 6’1″ and weighed 180 pounds. He had brown hair and brown eyes. Bishop also is said to have preferences for spicy food, scotch and peanuts.