Horror with Comic Features

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February 15, 2010 7:25 p.m.

After the triple murder in Alabama last week, it emerged that the accused shooter had shot and killed her brother back in 1986 in an incident that was officially designated an accident. Over the weekend I noted that even the undisputed facts of what happened made it very difficult to believe it was a simple accidental discharge of a firearm, as was then claimed. And here’s more new information tending toward the same conclusion: in this case, a guy she allegedly held up at gunpoint down the street from her house as she looked for a getaway car.To bring you up to speed, the accounts of those who were on the scene shortly after crime or familiar with incidents surrounding it hold that Bishop discharged the gun in her bedroom, then fired the fatal shot into her brother in the kitchen, then discharged the gun again in the house as she fled the residence. She then ran with the gun down the street apparently looking for a getaway car. In that search she reportedly threatened two others — one in an attempt to get him to stop his vehicle (presumably so she could take it) and another at an auto repair shop where she was rifling through a collection of keys trying to steal a car.

Call me crazy but this does not sound like the fact pattern of a simple accident. I’m willing to believe a young woman in a case like this might freak out after the shock of accidentally killing her brother. But the details just seem too much. (The officer on the scene believed that Bishop had shot her brother after an argument.)

Hours later, as Bishop was being booked, the booking officer received a call from the then-Chief of Police, or someone calling on his behalf, instructing him to release Bishop into the custody of her mother, who at the time sat on the town Board of Personnel.

The one report that still exists is that of the State Police who did a subsequent investigation, apparently at the behest of the District Attorney’s office, with interviews conducted some time later. The key was that Bishop’s mother claimed to have witnessed the shooting. And she insisted that it was accidental.

But the report has so many unexplained non-sequiturs and implausible claims that it has an almost comic quality, notwithstanding the tragic subject matter. You can read it here.

What I find so fascinating about this case is that this did not happen in Faulkner novel or in some neo-gothic Knickerbocker estate in early 19th century New York. This happened in a fairly affluent suburb of Boston only twenty years ago. And the available facts make it very hard to believe that a fairly obvious cover up did not take place.

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