Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating says Amy Bishop was being booked for her brother’s murder before Braintree police let her go without charging her. Keating said Thursday that he has called for an inquest into the 1986 killing of Seth Bishop.
Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating says Amy Bishop was being booked for her brother’s murder before Braintree police let her go without charging her.
Keating said Thursday that he has called for an inquest into the 1986 killing of Seth Bishop. After nearly two weeks of investigating the handling of the case, investigators unearthed details that led him to question whether the fatal shooting was in fact accidental, as police and then-District Attorney William Delahunt ruled at the time, Keating said.
Evidence and police records from the shooting appear to be missing, Keating said. He also said several inconsistencies have been noted – in original police reports and in interviews.
For example, officers who went to the Bishops’ 46 Hollis Ave. home after the shooting noted the position of Seth’s body alternately as face-up and face-down. An argument Amy Bishop, then 21, told police she had had with her father the morning of the shooting remains unexplained.
Judith and Samuel Bishop, the parents of Amy and Seth, refused last week to speak to two state troopers who knocked at their front door in Ipswich, Keating said. Inquests allow witnesses to be subpoenaed.
As they examined crime-scene photographs of Amy Bishop’s bedroom, investigators grew curious about a newspaper article lying next to a shotgun shell on the floor .
“When we were able to retrieve that article and go through it, we were struck with how parallel the circumstances were: shootings with a shotgun, against relatives, and a flight that entailed stealing a car from a car dealership,” Keating said during a news conference at his office in Canton.
A few weeks before Seth Bishop was killed, the parents of “Dallas” actor Patrick Duffy were killed at their Montana tavern by two teenagers who used a shotgun and then stole a Jeep from a car dealership. The case made headlines across the country.
The chain of events in the Montana slayings closely mirrors the incidents described in Braintree police reports of the Dec. 6, 1986, shooting. After shooting her brother, Bishop fled with the loaded gun and a short time later demanded a getaway car from two workers at Dave Dinger Ford’s nearby auto body shop, according to the reports.
Keating said police found a live shell in the 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun’s chamber, suggesting that Bishop “pumped the shotgun” after shooting her brother.
The 23-year-old Braintree investigation has come under intense scrutiny since Alabama police charged Bishop with shooting six colleagues at the University of Alabama on Feb. 12, killing three.
Many of the questions raised center on what transpired at the Braintree police station after officers Timothy Murphy and Ron Solimini arrested Bishop at gunpoint.
In a written report, State Police Trooper Brian L. Howe said a Braintree police captain told him Bishop was too emotional to answer questions after the shooting. But Keating said his office’s review shows that Bishop was “calm, collected and answering questions.”
Howe, who recently retired from the State Police, has not responded to requests for comment. Delahunt, now a congressman, has blamed Braintree police for not telling his investigators in 1986 about the armed standoff Bishop had with men at the dealership and police officers.
Lt. James Sullivan, who questioned Bishop, made no mention in his report of her emotional state at the time, instead saying the questioning was stopped after Judith Bishop walked into the booking room and urged her daughter to stop answering questions.
Solimini, who is also now retired, told investigators on Saturday that Sullivan received a phone call during the booking and said after hanging up, “Chief says no charges; release her,” according to Solimini’s attorney, Frank McGee.
Police Chief Paul Frazier has said the call came either from then-Chief John V. Polio or a member of his command staff. Polio, now 87 and retired, has denied the claim.
Police reports released to the public last week do not make clear what charges, if any, police planned to file against Bishop back in 1986. Keating said Thursday that Bishop was being booked for murder and assault with a dangerous weapon when the case was seemingly shut down.
Keating said he has asked Quincy District Court Judge Mark Coven to conduct the inquest. It would be closed, but its finding could be made public.
The only charge that could be filed against Amy Bishop now is first-degree murder. The statute of limitations has run out on all other charges. Asked if the examination will include the police handling of the case, Keating said that will be for Coven to decide.
“He has that power,”he said.
The Quincy attorney representing the Bishops, Bryan J. Stevens, could not immediately be reached for comment.
A former Braintree resident, Stevens lived a street over from the Bishops, and he served with Judy Bishop in the town’s 240-member representative town meeting.
Patriot Ledger newspaper articles show that both actively opposed area developments – Stevens as a planning board member; Bishop through public opposition to construction of a Masonic Temple and a bank building on Washington Street near her home in the 1970s.
Patriot Ledger writer John P. Kelly may be reached at email@example.com.
What is an inquest?
An inquest is a judicial inquiry, usually held before a jury, to examine the cause of a violent death. A judge can also conduct the inquiry.
Typically conducted by a medical examiner, an inquest can also be ordered by a district attorney or attorney general. It is held by the district court with direct jurisdiction over the death in question and is scheduled by the court.
An inquest functions much like a grand jury. Witnesses are called, but a person suspected of guilt is not permitted to make a defense. The court can compel witnesses to testify.
A person who’s the target of an investigation can be present during the inquest and be represented by counsel. That person can call or cross-examine witnesses and examine the inquest’s final report, but cannot appeal its findings. The district attorney then decides whether to send the case to a grand jury.
Source: Massachusetts General Laws, West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, Columbia Encyclopedia
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