Thirty-eight years after a Bethesda father of three who worked for the U.S. State Department allegedly bludgeoned his entire family to death with a hammer – then vanished -- he has been added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
William Bradford Bishop Jr. -- wanted for the brutal murders of his wife, mother, and three sons in Bethesda in March 1976 -- was named to the Most Wanted list on Thursday, authorities announced. A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading directly to the arrest of Bishop, who investigators believe may be hiding in plain sight.
A Montgomery County grand jury indicted Bishop in 1976 for the murders of his mother, wife and three sons, ages 5, 10, and 14. Authorities have no sightings of him, and say they don’t know if he’s still alive or if he died in the past four decades. But they want to resolve the brutal slayings.
Investigators believe Bishop killed his family on March 1, put their bodies in the family station wagon, along with the family’s golden retriever, then drove to North Carolina, where he buried them in a shallow grave and set them on fire. The last confirmed sighting of Bishop was one day after the murders at a sporting goods store in Jacksonville, NC, where he bought a pair of sneakers.
“Nothing has changed since March 2, 1976 when Bishop was last seen, except the passage of time,” said Steve Vogt, special agent in charge of our Baltimore Division. Vogt has teamed with Montgomery County Police and Sheriff’s officials to apprehend Bishop, a man described by investigators as a “family annihilator.”
Authorities allege Bishop murdered his mother, Lobelia Bishop, 68; his wife, Annette Bishop, 37; and his three sons, William, 14, Brenton, 10, and Geoffrey, 5.
“There is no indication that Bishop is dead,” Vogt said, explaining that the area where the bodies were discovered was searched extensively, and hundreds of individuals were interviewed at the park where the abandoned station wagon was later discovered, and there was no trace of Bishop.
Timeline of events
On March 8, 1976, a neighbor called police because she was concerned about the lack of activity at the Bishop home at 8103 Lilly Stone Drive in Bethesda. The neighbor had not seen anyone at the home for about a week. When Montgomery County Police officers entered the residence, they found a gruesome, bloody crime scene in several rooms.
Montgomery County detectives had been contacted earlier in the week by North Carolina authorities about five burned bodies that had been found in a wooded area. A shovel at the scene was purchased at a hardware store in Montgomery County.
Once police went to the Bishop home, investigators linked the two crimes, believing the burned bodies in North Carolina to be the missing family members. Dental records, jewelry, and clothing descriptions were used to positively identify the bodies found in the shallow grave as Bishop’s family.
As part of the investigation, detectives developed a timeline of Bradford Bishop’s activities before and after the murders. He had purchased a small sledgehammer and a gasoline can from the Sears at Montgomery Mall on March 1. That same day, he had also purchased gasoline at the Texaco station adjacent to the mall.
A vehicle similar to Bishop’s had been observed in the area of the fire. Bishop was last seen about 5:30 p.m. on March 2, when he bought a pair of tennis shoes at a sports store in Jacksonville, NC.
On March 18, 1976, Bishop’s vehicle was found by a park ranger at the Elkmont campground in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, TN. Bloody clothing and an ax were inside the station wagon.
Tom Manger, chief of the Montgomery County Police Department, said in Thursday’s press conference that, “This was a horrific case that involved five innocent members of one family, including three young children, who were all brutally murdered in a place in which they felt safe and by a person whom they trusted. It is unthinkable that a man who is a son, a husband, and a father could commit such a terrible crime.”
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of William Bradford Bishop is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI. A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information that leads to his arrest.
Log onto www.fbi.gov to view more detailed information about the Bishop case, study the age-progressed photos, and view other related images that may help to identify Bishop.