Worth Reading By Laurel J. Sweet, Jessica Van Sack, Jessica Fargen and Ira Kantor
As authorities searched for clues into what could have sent a University of Alabama neurobiology professor on an alleged killing spree, friends and family yesterday described Braintree native Amy Bishop as an awkward introvert on the brink of losing her teaching job.
Bishopâ€™s husband, James Anderson, told the Herald his wife had been fighting the university for over a year about a tenure denial, and several months ago received a final decision. She was upset, but not overly emotional, approaching her appeal â€œlike a game of chess,â€ he said.
Police in Huntsville, Ala., charged Bishop, 44, with capital murder after she allegedly opened fire on six colleagues at a faculty meeting Friday, killing three. Afterward, she calmly called her husband and asked him to pick her up as if nothing had happened, said police Chief Henry Reyes.
â€œShe was an oddball - just not very sociable,â€ said Sylvia Fluckiger, a former lab technician who worked with Bishop in 1993.
Bishop acknowledged at the time being questioned in the bombing attempt of a Harvard medical doctor evaluating her on doctorate work, a professor with whom Bishop was known to quarrel, Fluckiger said.
Reyes confirmed he is working with the FBI to learn more about why Bishop was a suspect in the attempted bombing of Dr. Paul Rosenberg, who received a double-pipe bomb in the mail on Dec. 19, 1993. He ran from his Newton home with his wife, escaping without injury. The bomb never exploded.
â€œShe was quite cavalier about it,â€ Fluckiger said of Bishopâ€™s description of her interview with police. She said Bishop â€œgrinnedâ€ as she described being asked by cops whether sheâ€™d ever taken stamps off an envelope and fastened them onto something else. â€œI cannot tell you what the grin meant,â€ Fluckiger said.
Seven years prior, Bishop shot her brother to death in Braintree in an incident that was ruled an accident at the time.
But Braintree police Chief Paul Frazier has raised questions about the handling of the case, and officials are investigating missing records in the 1986 death of 18-year-old Seth Bishop.
A classmate of Seth Bishopâ€™s recalled yesterday that the boy, who was â€œpainfully shy,â€ never talked about his older, only sibling.
â€œIt was as if he was a complete stranger in her life. It seemed like a dysfunctional family. We just accepted them as being odd,â€ said the classmate, who spoke to the Herald on condition of anonymity.
Amy Bishop, he said, â€œwasnâ€™t mean because she wasnâ€™t someone you could get close to. She wasnâ€™t an attractive girl, she didnâ€™t have friends. She didnâ€™t work at having friends. I think people probably, over time, learned to leave her alone.â€
The Bishop household, he said, â€œwas anything but a home . . . It was just a really dreary, dark place where there wasnâ€™t a lot of love.â€
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Anderson said he was searching for the â€œtriggerâ€ to his wifeâ€™s breakdown, and that he wondered whether an e-mail message - potentially in the form of a final tenure denial - might have upset her, because university higher-ups were known to send â€œnastygramsâ€ on Fridays.
A family source said Bishop, a mother of four children - the youngest a third-grade boy - was a far-left political extremist who was â€œobsessedâ€ with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.
But Mercedes Paz, a Brookline biochemist who also oversaw Bishopâ€™s work in 1993, described her as a friend and a likable woman.
â€œShe was a very good person,â€ said Paz, 81. â€œShe was respectful and she did what she was supposed to do. I never saw anything that could make me think she was violent.â€