The Secret Sits

The Criminal Acts of Dr. Amy Bishop: Part 2

February 02, 2023 John W. Dodson Season 2 Episode 46
The Secret Sits
The Criminal Acts of Dr. Amy Bishop: Part 2
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Show Notes Transcript

This is Part 2 of our story covering Dr. Amy Bishop.

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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Previously on The Secret Sits, Dr. Amy Bishop and her husband James Andrews have fled a life of conflict in Massachusetts for Amy’s new job teaching in Huntsville, Alabama.  And that is where we find ourselves while we pick up our story today.

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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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The University of Alabama in Huntsville advertises themselves on their website as one of the nation's premier research universities, offering a challenging hands-on curriculum that ensures their graduates are prepared to become tomorrow's leaders.  This is a relatively new school, founded in 1969 and the school has made a name for itself in the fields of astrophysics and aerospace engineering.  In 2003 the University hoped to elevate their profile as a leader in life sciences, by hiring a new professor, Harvard-trained Amy Bishop.  

As Amy began her new job at the school, feelings about her from her students and fellow faculty members were mixed at best.  Amy soon became her department’s representative for the Faculty Senate and she was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Health to investigate genetic resistance to nitric oxide.  Amy along with her husband James entered a technology competition where they presented their portable cell incubator.  This devise won the couple third place with an award purse of $25,000. During this time, James, worked at Prodigy Biosystems and this company raised over $1.25 million dollars for James and Amy to develop this cell incubator.  The president of UAH said that he believed the incubator would change the way biological and medical research was conducted, but most other scientists believed that the devise was unnecessary and also too expensive.  

As Amy worked toward her goal of tenure at the University, but what does tenure really mean?  Tenure is a status that college-level educators earn after passing rigorous standards, and this allows them more job security. Academic politics has existed for centuries, and teachers were often punished for conducting experimental and controversial research, and writing, and then teaching and speaking about it to their students. Could you even imagine the first academic educators who taught evolution in schools?  So this is what Amy was working towards, job security, but that comes with work and dedication, but while Amy was working at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, she only published 6 papers, this is less than half of the expected papers for a biologist seeking tenure and the papers she did produce did not even make it into any of her field’s most reputable journals.

Another strange aspect of this paper writing fiasco was this, one of the papers produced by Amy, listed her three adolescent children as the lead authors.  This paper was on laboratory-grown nerve cells and antidepressants.  Amy listed herself as the fourth author and her husband James as the fifth.  When it came time for Amy to give her lecture in front of the tenure committee, she fell woefully short of their expectations.  Amy was very unpopular amongst her students and many of them went to the school to complain that her teaching was subpar, she dismissed several graduate students from her lab, while other students did not need her to kick them out of class, and they actively pursued transfers out of her class.   The students started a petition claiming that Amy Bishop was an ineffective teacher and one of the students, whom Amy had ejected from her class that very day, filed a formal grievance against her after Amy called the police on the student to get the keys and notebooks back from the student, who she had just kicked out of her class. While all of this was happening, however; there was a small group of students who filed a counter petition, stating that Amy was a great instructor and that she should be granted tenure.

Despite all of this, or perhaps, because of all of this, in March of 2009, the University of Alabama at Huntsville’s tenure board denied Amy Bishop’s tenure and the president of the university told her that her teaching contract would not be renewed after March of 2010.  After this, Amy filed appeals and whined about her situation to anyone that would stand still long enough.  Amy was already older than most professors seeking tenure and she believed that she had done the work to earn her tenure, Amy stated that her previous work in Boston should have earned her tenure at this small southern school, it was her by right.

Amy’s husband James said that when Amy was denied tenure it became an issue.  He said that it was his understanding that Amy far exceeded the qualifications for tenure and that she was anxious at the probability of losing her position barring a successful appeal.  Amy hired a lawyer, who found one problem after another pertaining to the University’s tenure process and Amy approached members of the board of trustees as well.  James was only working part time at BizTech, while Amy was the bread winner for the family, she was very worried about her family’s financial state if she were to lose her job.

The owner and CEO of BizTech, Dick Reeves, had secured over a million dollars for the couple to develop their cell incubator and he felt that Amy had no reason to worry about money, he planned on making a fortune off of the new incubator, but no one in the industry wanted to shell out $30,000 for a device that was essentially a really fancy, really expensive Petri dish.

As Amy worked through her final year teaching at UAH’s biology department, her relationship with her colleagues continued on their downward spiral.  James Anderson claimed that Amy’s fellow biology faculty members sent Amy nasty emails, leading to Amy filing a complaint in September of 2009 with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  In this complaint Amy stated that during her tenure review, one professor on the tenure committee called her crazy.  When the university gave this professor an opportunity to retract this statement, the man refused and in fact, he doubled down, stating that the very first time he met Amy Bishop, he saw her unstable mental health immediately.  The EEOC took this complaint into consideration, but in November 2009, Amy Bishop’s appeal for her tenured position was officially denied.

On February 12th, 2010, Amy Bishop woke up like every other day, it was a Friday and she was giving a lecture to her Introduction to Neuroscience class.  When Amy arrived at the class, she told her students that today’s class would be cut a bit short, but as Amy lectured, the students found themselves in the classroom for the entire length of their scheduled class, it had not been cut short as Professor Bishop had stated at the top of the class.  And some of Amy’s students noticed a slight difference in the professor on this morning, she lectured, but unlike her normal classes, today, the Professor seemed to just be rambling and then at the end of the class when one of the students asked Amy if they would be expected to attend class on President’s Day, Amy just seemed confused by the question.  After this class ended, Amy had a few hours before her next meeting, so she decided to go home during this time.  When Dr Amy Bishop returned to campus around 3:00PM, her husband James, dropped her off.  Amy marched into the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, she had a biology department faculty meeting to attend on the third floor of the building.  As Amy arrived at Room 369 a small conference room on the building’s third floor, Amy saw all 12 of her departmental colleagues present for the meeting, including the Graduate School Dean and biochemistry professor Debra Moriarity, who would chair this routine faculty meeting.  During the meeting, Amy Bishop acted perfectly normal, according to witnesses.  Actually, Dr. Amy Bishop acted perfectly normal for the first 35 minutes of the meeting and then, all hell broke loose.  Amy Bishop suddenly stood up in the small conference room, all of her colleges were sat around a large oval conference table, which almost filled the small room, and Amy pulled out a Ruger P95 9mm handgun.

Dr. Bishop turned to the faculty member sitting closest to her and she aimed her gun and pulled the trigger.  Panic filled the room as Amy did not stop there, one after another, Amy continued shotting her colleagues, she worked methodically, shooting one person after another, right down the line of the table, shooting each person in the head.  The shooting was not random, it was an execution.  Amy wanted to execute all of her colleagues who had what she thought she deserved.  As Amy fired shots down the row on one side of the big oval table, faculty members on the other side of the table had just seconds to react and they began diving beneath the table, in a feeble effort to ward off their pending executions.  There were now 5 faculty members on the floor under the table, including Dean Moriarity.

Debra crawled under the table in Amy’s direction, pleading for her to stop what she was doing.  Amy looked coldly at Debra and then she raised her gun and pointed it at Debra’s head, she squeezed the trigger and the gun let off a hollow, click sound.  Debra Moriarity thought, either the gun had jammed, or Amy had run out of ammo.  Amy stood there, angerly attempting to fix the malfunction of her gun, all while Debra was still attempting to reason with Amy, to get her to stop, to get the woman to stop shooting.  But now Debra was standing and as she confronted Amy, Amy began retreating out of the conference room door.  As the 5 remaining faulty members saw what was happening, they pounced on their opportunity to put an end to their current predicament.  Debra, supported by the other professors pushed Amy the rest of the way out of the room, they then all got back into the conference room and slammed the door closed.  Dr. Ng said, “Moriarity was probably the one that saved our lives.  She was the one that initiated the rush.”  The group new the Amy Bishop was out in the hallway, reloading her weapon, so Ecology professor Bob Lawton held the door closed as biology professor John Shriver began barricading the door with a small refrigerator and the table from the coffee service.  

Amy Bishop ran down one flight of stairs and entered a restroom on the second floor of the building, she attempted to hid the gun in this restroom and then she called her husband, James, and told him to come pick her up.  Amy walked out of the building and out to the parking lot to wait on her ride, but it was not the ride she was expecting, because the police were right there in the parking lot and they gave Amy Bishop some nice new shiny bracelets.  Three of Amy Bishop’s colleagues were now dead, three more were still clinging to life.

Professor Maria Ragland Davis was the first person shot, Maria had been on this earth for 50 years and she loved animals, when she was a little girl growing up in Detroit, she used to have a pet duck that would follow her around everywhere she went.  And her love of animals led to her career in biology, where she specialized in cell and developmental biology.  She was a proud survivor of breast cancer, which she fought while attending college at North Carolina State University.

The second person killed by Amy Bishop was the Biology Department Chair Dr. Gopi Podila.  Podila was 52-years-old when a gunshot to his chest ended his stellar life and career.  Podila moved from his native India to attend school at Louisiana State University and then Indiana State University.  He specialized in tree genomics, honestly, I had to look this up, but essentially it is the study of tree genetics.  Podila had even supported Amy Bishop’s bid for tenure, and that was because, he was a truly considerate person, who cared for all of his colleagues.  Podila left behind his wife and two teenage daughters.

Associate professor, Dr. Adriel Johnston was the third person shot on this day.  Adriel had been shot in the head and his 52 years on earth ended quickly.  Dr. Johnston specialized in cell biology and nutritional pathology; he had worked his entire adolescent life to earn the title of Eagle Scout, not an easy feat for anyone.  Johnston’s love for scouting led him to be an assistant scout master for his two sons’ scout troop and he always taught his troupe of Boy Scouts about his love for science.  

The three other professors who were shot, would all survive their injuries.  Molecular biologist Luis Cruz-Vera was struck in the chest, but he was lucky and he left the hospital just one day after the shooting.  Dr. Joseph Leahy was rushed to the Huntsville Hospital’s neuro-intensive care unit.  He had been shot in the head, but had survived.  Dr. Leahy would spend some time in the neuro care unit before he recovered and was released.  Faculty Staff member, Stephanie Monticciolo was only present at this meeting to take minutes, but Amy Bishop had shot her in the face, just the same, lucky Stephanie also survived this gruesome attack.

Police did a sweep of the building, following the shooting and they located the suspected murder weapon in a second-floor restroom, right where Amy Bishop had left it.  Out in the parking lot, Amy Bishop was saying that she had not recollection of the shooting.  When officers pressed her for details, she said, “It didn’t happen.  There’s no way.  There’s no way. They’re still alive.”  Maybe she was working on that insanity defense right from the start.  When Amy’s husband James Anderson arrived to pick up his wife from work, he was a bit taken aback by what was happening.  Police interviewed James, but they did not find him culpable in what had taken place.  James disclosed to police that he had taken his wife to an in-door shooting range just weeks prior to the shooting.  After Amy was arrested and taken down to the station, a concern was raised by her surviving colleagues that she may have booby trapped the science building with a herpes bomb, yes, you heard that right and I will say it one more time, a herpes bomb.  Dr Amy Bishop had worked with the herpes virus during her postdoctoral studies and in one of her unpublished novels, the main character is developing a herpes bomb that will spread the virus to pregnant women causing them to have miscarriages.  This character is assisted by her lab research partner named James Anderson.  In the end, no herpes bombs were discovered in the building.  Because this was a Friday and later in the afternoon, there were little to no students present in the building when the shooting took place and no students were injured during this incident.  On the following Friday, February 19th, a memorial service was held on the University of Alabama Huntsville campus, there were over 3,000 people in attendance.

After Amy Bishop was in jail for this shooting, suddenly Braintree officials announced that the previously missing files from Amy’s 1986 shooting incident had been found.  The Norfolk County DA stated that he believed there was probable cause to arrest Amy Bishop for the crimes she committed after fleeing the scene of her brothers, ostensibly, accidental shooting.  If you remember from episode one, Amy had fled the house and she ran to a nearby auto dealership where she waved her gun around in an attempt to make the men at the location give her a get away car, which they did not do.  For this, Amy could have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of ammunition.  Unfortunately, however; the statute of limitations had run its course for all of these possible charges.  After reviewing the entire case, the DA now thinks he could charge Amy Bishop with manslaughter for the death of her brother Seth.  The Governor of Massachusetts ordered further investigation into the case stating, “It is critical that we provide as clear an understanding as possible about all aspects of this case and its investigation to ensure that where mistakes were made, they are not repeated in the future.”

And so that is what they did, on February 25th, an official judicial inquest into the 1986 shooting began.  When investigators looked at photos from the crime scene in 1986, something strange caught their eye.  They enlarged the photos taken in Amy Bishop’s bedroom and the strange something in the background, came into focus.  A news article in Amy’s room that seemed eerily familiar in its content, the article read, “two weeks earlier, the parents of Patrick Duffy, the actor who played Bobby Ewing on the popular television show Dallas, were killed in Montana by an assailant wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, who then held up a car dealership, stole a pickup truck, and fled."

I mean, what happened in Seth Bishop’s shooting and the shooting in this article are identical.  The judicial inquest would be held April 13th through the 16th, overseen by judge Coven.  During the inquest, Braintree police officers testified that Amy’s mother, Judy Bishop had requested police chief Polio by name and then the officers had been ordered to release Amy Bishop to her mother’s care.  Judy Bishop, Police Chief Polio and Polio’s wife all testified that they did not even know each other and that she had never asked to speak to the Chief while at the police station that evening.  Sounds like somebody is lying.  After the inquest was finished, Amy was charged with first degree murder in the death of her brother Seth Bishop.  It had now been 24 long years since Seth was killed in his own kitchen, by his own sister.  But Amy’s parents stuck to their story and in a statement, they said, “We cannot explain or even understand what happened in Alabama. However, we know that what happened 23 years ago to our son, Seth, was an accident”

So now Amy Bishop is on the hook for one murder charge, but what about the Huntsville shooting?  Amy was charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder.  Police took Amy’s computer into evidence, as well as the family’s minivan and a large binder of documents titled, tenure battle.  Amy and James had very little money and they could not afford a high-powered attorney, she remained in jail without bail.  A court-appointed attorney was assigned to represent Amy Bishop and prosecutors said that their intention was to seek the death penalty in this case.  In Alabama, Amy Bishop could either get the death penalty for her crimes, or life in prison.  

While investigators were serving a search warrant at the couple’s home on March 12th, they discovered an unknown and suspicious device, prompting authorities to evacuate the entire neighborhood.  This device turned out to be nothing.  Amy’s attorney visited her in jail and he said that Amy had no memory of the shooting, he also stated that Amy seemed to have a loose grip on reality and appeared to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, he then quickly walked back those statements claiming that he had spoken out of turn.

This is a case where we know who committed the heinous act, hell she did it Infront of everyone, people watched her do it, but what was her mental state at the time of the shooting?  Her attorney told The New York Times, "This is not a whodunit. This lady has committed this offense or offenses in front of the world. It gets to be a question in my mind of her mental capacity at the time, or her mental state at the time that these acts were committed." Miller said he would enlist the help of one or more psychiatrists to examine his client, who said this was not the first time she had no recollection of something that had happened. He said he did not know if Bishop was insane; determining whether she was culpable for her actions would be left to a psychiatrist. He did say that she was "very sorry for what she's done."

After Amy Bishop was indicted for the murder of her brother Seth, she attempted to commit suicide in her jail cell, she was taken to the hospital, where hospital staff treated her self-inflicted injuries and then she was released and police took her back to jail.  Amy’s husband complained that he was never informed of his wife’s attempted suicide.

Dr. Leahy and Dr. Monticciolo came together and filed a lawsuit against Amy Bishop and James Anderson for damages, while family members of Adriel Johnston and Maria Ragland Davis filed wrongful death lawsuits against, Amy Bishop, James Anderson and UAH.  And just as everyone expected, when Amy went before the court in September of 2011, she stood up and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The spouses of one of the victims wrote a letter to the judge presiding over the case and in this letter, they said that their family had suffered greatly from the loss of their loved one, but they did not see any benefit from the loss of another life and they did not wish for Amy Bishop to receive the death penalty.  In an effort to save everyone the heart ache of a difficult trial, and to save his client’s life, Amy’s attorney said that they would change her not guilty plea to guilty, if the death penalty was taken off of the table.  All 9 other survivors of this shooting agreed that they did not want Amy to receive the death penalty either and so based on these opinions, the only opinions that should matter, the judge took the death penalty off the table and Amy Bishop pleaded guilty to all charges.

Amy Bishop was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  She is serving her time in a medium security prison, the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama.  Ironically this prison is named after Julia Tutwiler, a fierce advocate for education and prison reform in Alabama, she was the first ever female president of Livingston Normal College, which is now the University of West Alabama.  Amy’s lives in dormitory style housing instead of a cell block, think Orange is the New Black as opposed to Oz.  All of Amy’s appeals were rejected and she will remain in prison for the rest of her life, squandering the chance to be a brilliant and helpful member of society.

On April 18th, 2021, Amy Bishop’s then 20-year-old son, Seth Anderson, named after her late brother, was shot and killed in Huntsville, Alabama, the shooter was caught and charged with manslaughter.  From a prolific life of scholarly endeavors, to life live behind a fence and walls, what made this intelligent woman turn into a cold blooded murder, well, we dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows.