Dr. Amy Bishop was an extremely intelligent woman, and she could have contributed endlessly to the betterment of our society. Instead, she was involved in an almost endless string of criminal acts.
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Intelligence is revered in our society; business acumen is what we look for in people who are successful and driven. But sometimes even the most intelligent people around us cannot be trusted, this is the story of the criminal acts or Dr. Amy Bishop.
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Welcome to The Secret Sits, I’m your host John Dodson. Join us every Thursday as we uncover the Secrets behind the world’s most fascinating true crime cases. You can find all episodes of The Secret Sits for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or where ever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you are hearing, reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook @The Secret Sits Podcast or on Twitter @SecretSitsPod. Now, on with our story.
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Have you ever been to a board meeting, an HOA meeting or just your work faculty meeting, if not, well the name describes these meetings, because they are boring; budgets, schedules and lots of complaining a belly aching from constituents. But sometimes, these meetings are not boring, sometimes these meetings even make the news and that is what we are going to talk about today.
Our story begins in Braintree, Massachusetts, a municipality in Norfolk County. It was here where Amy and Seth Bishop spent their ideal childhood, they were a brother and sister, being raised in this cozy town, just south of Boston. Samuel Bishop was a, intellectual man who taught in the film School of Northeastern University and Amy took after her bookish father, she was more comfortable curled up with a good book, than outdoors playing with other kids, she would leave that to her brother Seth, who loved being outdoors. Seth took after their mother, Judith Bishop, who was an avid Equestrian who was also involved in the local political scene.
With both of their parents leading very successful and fulfilled lives, the two siblings were highly encouraged by their parents to achieve greatness and both of the Bishop’s children did just that. Amy was a dedicated and dutiful student and she also excelled as a violinist. Amy was shy however; and many of her fellow students did not even realize she was there, Amy was much closer with her little brother than any of her class mates. Even though Seth was three years younger than Amy, he was her rock, one time while the pair was out for one of their frequent hikes, Amy lost her footing and tumbled over the edge of a cliff. Now, Seth was a young man with a slight build and he was not particularly strong, however; he was very smart and he utilized his knowledge of physics to come up with a plan to pull his sister back to the top of the cliff.
When each of Samuel Bishop’s children graduated from Braintree High School, they chose to attend Northeast University for their post-graduation studies. Amy decided to major in biology and three years later, when Seth began attending the school, he chose to major in engineering. Everything seemed to be going perfectly fine for this family, hell, they could be used as a guide on how to make the ideal American family.
That was until Saturday December 6th, 1986. That morning Amy and her father got into an argument, what the two were arguing about is not known, but when the argument ended Samuel Bishop left the family home to go do some Christmas shopping. Samuel’s wife Judith was also out of the house, she had gone out horseback riding, as she quite often did. Seth was now 18-years-old and he stayed at the house with his sister Amy, he needed to wash the car. After her father was out of the house, Amy went upstairs to retrieved Samuel’s pump-action shotgun and she began loading it. Samuel had purchased the gun for their home after it had been burglarized, because nothing will put the fear of god into a home intruder’s heart, like the sound of a pump-action shotgun. Amy had little to no experience with the firearm and she did not know much of anything about handling the weapon, as a result, while she was in her parent’s room, loading the gun, it went off and a shotgun blast ripped into her parent’s bedroom wall. In a slight panic, Amy began her attempt at fixing the wall, she filled the hole with a metal Band-Aid box and a jacket off of a book. Her brother, Seth had not heard the gunshot, because he had ran to the grocery story after he finished washing the car.
Amy’s mother Judith arrived back at home for lunch and she was in the kitchen, Seth, returned from the grocery store and he went to the living room to turn on the TV, Seth was walking back into the kitchen as Amy came down the stairs. Amy was carrying the shotgun from upstairs and she walked over to her mom and told her that she had a shell stuck in the gun and she did not know how to unload the gun. Amy’s father and brother were both members of a local gun club and they had always told her to point at the ceiling and not at a person. As Seth stood in the kitchen beside his mother and sister, he had no idea this would be the last thing he would ever see, the last experience he would ever have, the last sound he would ever hear, was the sound of the shotgun as it went off and a blast ripped through Seth’s chest, killing the young man almost instantly.
Amy panicked, and ran from the house, she ran down the road, still clinging to the shotgun, until she reached the Dave Dinger Ford dealership. She held up the gun and pointed it at Tom Pettigrew and Jeff Doyle, she told the two men that she needed a car, she claimed that she and her husband had just gotten into a physical altercation and she needed a car to flee to safety. Tom and Jeff did not relinquish a vehicle to this seemingly erratic woman with a shotgun and instead, they call the police. The police arrived very quickly and they found Amy Bishop crouched behind one of the parked cars on the car lot. As the officers arrived and identified themselves to Amy, she still refused to drop her weapon. Finally, an officer surprised Amy by sneaking up behind her and they took the shotgun and placed her into handcuffs. The gun still had one live round in the chamber and Amy had a backup shell in her pocket. The officers took Amy down to the police station for an interrogation. Just as the detectives placed Amy in an interrogation room, her mother showed up at the police station and she spoke with her friend and then-police chief John Polio. Judy told Chief Polio that it was an accident, Amy had not intentionally shot her brother and the police chief just let Amy go, relinquished to the care of her mother.
Seth Bishop’s death was ruled an accident. Some officers around the department were very upset with this ruling, they had found that the shotgun had a live round in the chamber, which meant, Amy had to have racked the slide of the shotgun, after shooting her brother. The state police took a look at this case and in 1987, they agreed with local police and they also reported this as a tragic accident, the DA, Bill Delahunt, did not file any charges and by 1988, all records of the shooting had disappeared from the Braintree police archives. But why would this happen? Well, you already know the answer, money and connections. It was alleged that Amy’s mother, was a friend and political supporter of the Chief of Police. Some officers on the force began mumbling behind the scenes that the Chief had fixed a murder, for one of his friends and political supporters.
Life in a house where a tragic accident took place is not the same life as it was before. Every time the family walked into the kitchen of their home, they had to look at the place, which their beloved family member died. The house was wrought with painful memories, but the family remained in this house for another 10 years after Seth had died. Amy took time off from her studies and she also took a break from her long-term boyfriend James Anderson. As I often say on this podcast, life kept marching on, time does not stop for us just because we are sad and eventually Amy returned to her life, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1988 from Northeast University and she married James Anderson in the same church that had been used to lay her brother to rest.
Amy was accepted into the PH.D. program at Harvard University to study genetics in 1993 and she would go on to spend the following 9 years participating in a multitude of fellowship programs and instructor positions at the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Longwood Medical Area and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Amy and James Anderson moved to a house on Birch Lane in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Ipswich is a coastal community, it has a vibrant tourism industry and the town is famous for its clams. It was here that the couple settled in and went about producing 4 children.
The people who lived around Amy Bishop’s home soon found that they did not like their new neighbor, or her family. The day that they moved into their new home on Birch Lane, Amy ran over a neighborhood basketball hoop and boasted about how proud she was of herself for removing it. Amy quickly became the neighborhood Karen, she complained about the ice cream truck that would drive through the neighborhood, she yelled at kids for riding on their skateboards and she had the police on speed dial, ready and willing to complain about every little thing she did not like. It is needless to say, but Amy, James and their children were not invited to the neighborhood black party, but I bet she complained about it though.
Amy’s belligerent behavior was not only confined to their neighborhood, no, Amy was also disliked very much by everyone she worked with.
On December 19th, 1994, Dr. Paul Rosenberg returned home from vacation with his wife. Paul was a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Children's Hospital Boston. It was December in Newton, Massachusetts and it was bitterly cold, the couple had escaped this cold for a warm vacation in the Caribbean. The Rosenberg’s had paid a cat-sitter to stop into their house and take care of their cat, bring in the mail, you know the typical routine. As the couple settled back into their home, Paul began to sift through the pile of mail, which the pet-sitter had brought inside of the house. There was one parcel that caught Paul’s attention and so he began to unwrap the box, as he opened the package he could see two cylindrical objects, with wires protruding from them, and these wires were connected to a 9-volt battery. Paul, stopped moving and he gingerly placed the box back down on the table. Paul and his wife then ran from their house and went to one of their neighbor’s homes to contact the police. When the police arrived, they said that the package was definitely a pipe bomb, which had failed to explode. Even though the Rosenberg’s were frightened by this incident, ultimately no one was harmed.
Police interviewed the Rosenberg’s in their investigation to figure out who would send the couple a deadly pipe bomb in the mail. Paul said that one of the postdoctoral fellows, who he supervised at the Children’s Hospital neurobiology lab, had recently been given a very poor job review, in which he stated that Amy Bishop may not be up to the rigors of her job at the lab. You see, Paul Rosenberg was Amy Bishop’s supervisor at the Children’s Hospital and he had also stated that he believed Amy to be mentally unstable, including complaints from her fellow employees that they feared Amy would become violent. After receiving this highly negative review, Amy resigned from her position at the hospital. She stated that because of what Rosenberg had said she felt she “could not meet the standards required for the work.”
After Amy had left her job at the hospital, someone called into a tip line and told them that Amy’s husband James was talking about getting revenge against Paul Rosenberg for hurting his wife. This witness claimed that James had said he would shoot, stab or strangle Paul. James simply swatted this away, “I wouldn’t know the guy if he walked into a bar.” James said. The investigation did spend time focusing on Amy Bishop and James Anderson, at one point going to their home to interview them, but the couple refused to speak with investigators, actually they refused to even open their front door to them, they refused access to their home and they refused to take polygraph tests.
After further investigation, the police were able to obtain a search warrant for the home of Amy and James, but when they arrived at the house, Amy continued her refusal to cooperate, she would not allow the officers into her home. The police officers who were serving Amy and James with the search warrant eventually had to break out a window into the home to gain entry. During their search of the house, investigators discovered items which may have been used to build the pipe bomb received by Dr. Rosenberg. Later lab testing nothing could be conclusively tied to the bomb. The investigation also included electronic surveillance of the couple, but whatever evidence was collected through these means has been sealed by the court. During this investigation the couple also provided samples of their handwriting to the police.
One interesting side note about the discovery during the police search was that police took several notebooks from the house and in these notebooks, they discovered that Amy Bishop was in the mist of writing a novel in which she tells the story of a woman who murders her brother and then attempts to redeem herself by becoming a successful and respected scientist. Amy had begun this novel while she was a member of the Hamilton Writing Club, a group of aspiring armature writers. While some of the members of this Club enjoyed Amy’s presence, others found her arrogant. They said that Amy often boasted that her mother’s cousin was author John Irving, of The Cider House Rules fame, and she hoped that he would help her get a book deal.
After hitting dead end after dead end, officials from the United States Postal Service closed the investigation and closed the case. After the case was closed Amy’s husband, James Anderson told reporters that they had received a letter exonerating them of any part in the attempted bombing, however; the US Postal Service stated that their agency does not send out such letters.
After this bombing incident Amy Bishop and James Anderson seemed to have calmed down a bit and there were no more significant interactions with law enforcement again until 2002. As Amy and her family were traveling from their home in Ipswich to Boston, they decided to pull over and grab some food. The International House of Pancakes was the family’s choice on this day and they pulled up and walked into the restaurant. As the family was seated, Amy noticed that another woman had just taken the last available high chair for their child. Well, Amy wanted that high chair for her youngest child and she went to confront the other mother, when the woman would not give Amy the chair, Amy lost her mind and she struck the other mom, right there amongst the people enjoying their rooty tooty fresh and fruity plates.
The woman was shocked at this and Amy stood there yelling at the woman, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Any Bishop!” The woman thought, who the hell is Amy Bishop? Well, Amy Bishop was the woman who ended up pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges of assault and battery and disorderly conduct. Amy was given 6 months’ probation and she was ordered to enroll in an anger management course. We cannot confirm if Amy ever actually took this course in anger management or not, as her short temper remained very well intact, well after this incident.
Amy was then hired as a professor in the Biology department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. All of Amy and James’ neighbors were delighted to hear that their neighborhood Karen was moving and Amy’s coworkers almost threw a party when they learned they would soon be rid of their terror of a colleague. And so, Amy and James packed up all of their belongings and their children and hit the road, traveling from New England, through the Smokey Mountains and right down to Huntsville, Alabama where they bought a home in the Tara subdivision.
Is this family leaving their societal angst behind them? Or will they drag their drama down to Alabama with them, well the real meat of this story is coming up next week, right here on the Secret Sits. We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.