The Deadly Professor
A Promising Start to an Academic Life—or to a Life of Violence?
Sister and brother Amy and Seth Bishop shared a seemingly ideal childhood in Braintree, Mass., a comfortable town south of Boston. Amy took after their bookish father, Samuel Bishop, who taught film at Northeastern University. Outdoors-loving Seth was more like their mother, Judith Bishop, an avid horsewoman involved in local politics.
Encouraged by their parents, the Bishop kids excelled. Amy was an especially good student and a devoted violinist. So quiet she was almost invisible at Braintree High, she was close to her younger brother, despite their three-year age difference. She even credited him with saving her life when she fell down a cliff on one of their hikes; Seth was able to leverage his knowledge of physics into figuring out how to pull her back up the rocks despite his slim adolescent frame.
They both chose their father's university when it was time for college. Amy majored in biology, then Seth started in the engineering program.
On December 6, 1986, Amy Bishop, then 21, and her father had an argument, the nature of which has not been publicly disclosed. He left to do some Christmas shopping. Judith was out horseback riding. Seth, 18, stayed home to wash the car.
Amy went upstairs and loaded the pump-action shotgun that her father had bought after their house had been burglarized. She would later tell police that she wanted to make sure she knew how it worked, in case anyone ever broke in again. If the family argument had something to do with her decision to grab the gun, she's never let on.
Accidentally or intentionally, Amy Bishop fired the gun in her parents' room. She tried to cover up the holes in the wall with a metal Band-Aid box and a book jacket.
Soon Judith Bishop was home for lunch. Seth had finished washing the car, run out for some groceries, and returned. He'd just turned on the TV in the living room and was coming back into the kitchen when Amy came downstairs.
Amy told her mother that there was a shell in the gun and she didn't know how to unload it. Judy Bishop says she warned Amy not to point the gun at anyone. Amy would later say that Seth, who along with his father was a member of a local gun club, advised her to point it at the ceiling.
Yet somehow Amy Bishop shot her brother Seth in the chest. He died almost instantly.
Amy ran out of the house. She later told police she thought she'd dropped the gun as she fled. But she had the 12-gauge shotgun with her when she reached the Dave Dinger Ford dealership, according to witnesses who would report she aimed it at Tom Pettigrew and Jeff Doyle. The two men say she demanded a car and told them that she and her husband had just had a fight and that she was afraid he was going to kill her.
Police soon caught up to her, crouched behind a parked car. She refused to drop her gun when they ordered her to; an officer had to grab her from behind. There was still a shell in the gun, and another in her pocket. Police took her in for questioning, but her mother soon arrived, ordered her not to talk, and spirited her away.
Seth Bishop's death was quickly ruled accidental. But now authorities aren't so sure that the case was handled properly.