Oct 9, 2014 1:27 PM

FBI exhumes body in Ten Most Wanted search

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) The FBI exhumed the body of an unidentified man in Alabama on Thursday in its search for a former diplomat accused of killing his family with a sledgehammer nearly 40 years ago.

In court filings, the FBI said there is a strong resemblance between photos of the John Doe in Alabama and former State Department diplomat William Bradford "Brad" Bishop Jr. He is accused of using a sledgehammer to kill his wife, mother and three sons in their Bethesda, Maryland, home in 1976. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave in Columbia, North Carolina.

The John Doe was killed when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking on a highway in Scottsboro, Alabama, in October 1981. No charges were ever filed in that case

The last confirmed sighting of Bishop was at a sporting goods store in Jacksonville, North Carolina, the day after his family was killed. Two weeks later, his station wagon was found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just over 200 miles from Scottsboro.

Given the size of the park, which encompasses more than 500,000 acres, Bishop, an avid outdoorsman, "could have remained in the North Carolina/Alabama/Tennessee area for many years without being discovered," FBI agent Pamela Hanson wrote in an affidavit.

Bishop had extensive camping experience in Africa and was a licensed amateur pilot. He spoke five languages, had a bachelor's degree in American Studies Yale University and a master's in Italian from Middlebury College in Vermont. A longtime insomniac, Bishop reportedly had been under psychiatric care in the past and had used medication for depression, the FBI said. Bishop was described as intense and self-absorbed, prone to violent outbursts, and preferred a neat and orderly environment.

The FBI has Bishop's DNA on file and will use DNA testing to determine if the remains are a match, said Amy Thoreson, a spokeswoman for the bureau's Baltimore field office, which is handling the investigation. She could not give a timetable on when the results would be available.

After the unidentified man's death, the police chief sent his fingerprints to the FBI, but the FBI has no record of receiving the prints and no copies were kept.

Last fall, Scottsboro police reopened the John Doe case and publicized a photograph of the victim. The FBI added Bishop to its Ten Most Wanted list in April, and received about 350 tips, Thoreson said. Then CNN aired the cold case on "The Hunt with John Walsh," and a viewer called to say the John Doe in Alabama looked like Bishop.

The Scottsboro police chief at the time, Keith Smith, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Thursday that the unidentified man appeared to have been hitchhiking across the country. The only thing he was carrying was a piece of paper with the telephone number of a truck driver who had given him a ride. Police initially held off on burying the man, partly because they felt compelled to find his relatives, Smith said.

"We kept him out for, best I can remember, a month or a month and a half, and we buried him in a pauper's grave," Smith said.

Authorities have previously pursued a theory that Bishop fled to Europe and assumed a new identity. Three people who knew him have reported spotting him in Europe over the years.


Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.


Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols .


--  Dealing with the Disease of Addiction? Click here for help --

More from NH1.com

NH1 News Debates
NH1 News Replay

NH1 on Twitter

NH1 SkyView Cameras

NH1 on Facebook

Check out NH1 News Rail Polls on LockerDome on LockerDome