The FBI has exhumed an unidentified body buried in Alabama under the name “John Doe” in 1981. The body will be tested in order to determine if the remains are those of a 10 Most Wanted fugitive who was accused in the sledgehammer murder of his family on March 1, 1976.
Court documents filed by the FBI to support their request for an exhumation say there is a marked resemblance between photographs taken of William Bradford “Brad” Bishop Jr and the John Doe buried in Alabama. Bishop, a former diplomat with the State Department, allegedly used a sledgehammer to murder his mother, wife and their three sons in their home in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1976. The burned bodies of all four were discovered in Columbia, N.C., buried in a shallow grave. Although there has been no definitive motive discovered to explain why Bishop may have killed his family, it is known that he had recently not been given an expected promotion, which may have triggered a violent episode of which he was said to be prone.
The unidentified man was killed in October of 1981 in a hit-and-run accident while he walked a Scottsboro, Alabama, highway. When found, John Doe’s body was devoid of any identification or personal belongings save a piece of paper on which he had written the number of a truck driver from whom he had gotten a ride. The funeral director who assisted in the preparation of his body for burial said that he wore thick layers of dirty clothing.
After his death, police sent the John Doe’s fingerprints to the bureau, which could find no record that the prints were received. No copies of the prints were retained by police.
According to FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson, the FBI has a sample of Bishop’s DNA which will be used to compare to the John Doe’s DNA to see if they match. Thoreson represents the Baltimore office of the FBI where the investigation is taking place. She was unable to say when the results might be available.
Bishop was last seen in a Jacksonville, N.C., sporting goods store one day after the deaths of his family. The station wagon he had been driving was discovered two weeks later in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which covers 500,000 acres. Because the former diplomat was highly educated and familiar with international countries and foreign languages, detectives believed it was probable that Bishop had managed to escape to Europe under a new identity. Over the years, several sightings of Bishop in Europe were reported, but none could be confirmed. However, in an affidavit filed by the FBI, agent Pamela Hanson wrote that given Bishop’s history as an experienced outdoorsman, it was possible that he was able to remain undetected in the area of North Carolina/Tennessee/Alabama area for a very long time.
After the addition of Bishop to the 10 Most Wanted list in April, approximately 350 tips were received by the FBI, said Thoreson. The tip that the John Doe in Alabama resembled Bishop came in after the viewing of The Hunt with John Walsh on CNN, which aired an episode on the fugitive Bishop in July. The John Doe hit-and-run case had been reopened by Scottsboro authorities last year and in conjunction with the case, a photo of the John Doe had been released.
By Jennifer Pfalz