Bishop tries to commit suicide

Reportedly cut at least one wrist; Indictment may have spurred move

By Shelley Murphy and Donovan Slack
Globe Staff / June 19, 2010

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Amy Bishop tried to commit suicide yesterday in an Alabama jail where she has been held while awaiting trial for allegedly killing three colleagues and wounding three others during a shooting rampage in February at the University of Alabama Huntsville, according to a family member and a person briefed on the incident.

The attempt to kill herself came after Bishop had been told that a Norfolk County grand jury had indicted her in Massachusetts on a first-degree murder charge in the 1986 shotgun slaying of her 18-year-old brother in their Braintree home.

Bishop’s mother-in-law, Sandra Anderson, who lives in a suburb of Montgomery, Ala., said she first learned of Bishop’s suicide attempt from a reporter who called her at home yesterday afternoon. She said she spoke briefly afterward with her son, Jim Anderson Jr., who is married to Bishop, and he confirmed it was true.

She said her son was “not doing well’’ and declined to comment further.

Bishop’s attempted suicide was first reported by television station WHNT in Alabama, which said she was taken to Huntsville Hospital for treatment early yesterday, then turned over to authorities and brought back to the Huntsville/Madison County Metro Jail. The suicide attempt was confirmed to the Globe by a person who was briefed on the matter but was not authorized to speak about it.

The Huntsville Times, citing anonymous sources, reported last night that Bishop cut one or both of her wrists and left a letter to her husband. Authorities at the jail could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for Huntsville Hospital said, “We cannot confirm or deny that she was a patient at our hospital.’’

Huntsville lawyer Roy W. Miller, who represents Bishop in the Alabama case, did not return repeated telephone calls yesterday.

Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating announced Wednesday that Bishop, 45, had been indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in the Dec. 6, 1986, slaying of her brother, Seth.

The shooting had initially been ruled an accident by authorities. Keating reexamined the case after Bishop was charged with the Alabama slayings. He concluded in February that evidence that had not been shared with prosecutors after the 1986 shooting suggested Bishop intentionally killed her brother.

Bryan J. Stevens, a Quincy lawyer who represents Bishop’s parents, Judith and Sam Bishop of Ipswich, said yesterday that he did not know whether Amy Bishop made any statements after her indictment in her brother’s slaying.

But he added, “I don’t think there’s any doubt that she considered it to be an accident, and that’s what the family has believed for 23 years.’’

He added: “Amy and her brother were very close. There was no animosity at all between them. There’s no reason at all she’d want to kill her brother.’’

At the time of her brother’s slaying, Bishop told police she took her father’s shotgun, loaded it, and fired a shot into her bedroom wall, then went downstairs to the kitchen and shot her brother in the chest.

She said she accidentally shot him while trying to figure out how to unload the shotgun.

Bishop then fled the home, tried to commandeer a car at gunpoint from a Braintree auto dealership, and trained the gun on police, who eventually persuaded her to drop the weapon, according to police reports from 1986. Bishop was released within hours and did not face charges at the time.

Her mother told police that she witnessed the shooting and that it was an accident.

Bishop, a biology professor, graduated from Northeastern University, earned a doctorate in genetics at Harvard University, then worked in labs at several Boston hospitals. She and her husband moved to Alabama with their four children in 2003.

On Feb. 12, Bishop allegedly opened fire on her colleagues during a faculty meeting after being denied tenure.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at Donovan Slack can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @DonovanSlack.

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