Amy Bishop will spend the rest of her life in prison. It’s where she belongs after killing three people at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. A wise decision by the Norfolk District Attorney will be to dismiss the murder indictment pending against her here and put to an end this terrible tale of death which was compounded by a thrashing about searching to place blame on people in Norfolk County for the sad events in Huntsville.
The most amazing thing about the frenzy that occurred in this area that lead up to her indictment was the assumption that doing something, almost anything, other than what was done at the time she gunned down her brother on December 6, 1986, with a shot gun was directly related to her despicable act 24 years later. The intervening years were washed away like sand castles and the events were connected as if one immediately followed the other in a Rip Van Winkle sort of happening — Amy killed her only sibling, nothing happened to her, she went to sleep, and woke up at a faculty meeting where she murdered her co-workers.
That she graduated from Northeastern University and earned a PH.D. in genetics from Harvard, was an instructor in medicine at Harvard, was an inventor of medical products, a writer, worked not only as a professor at UA, Huntsville but in a biosystems company, got married, had four children and interacted with thousands upon thousands of people during the interim was all forgotten. Also forgotten were a 1993 letter bomb incident in which she was suspect and a 2002 charge of assault and disorderly conduct in Peabody.
I was the deputy DA in the Norfolk DA’s office at the time she killed her brother. I never heard of it at that time. A little over six months later I spent a considerable amount of time at the Braintree police station working with their detectives and police officers because I was prosecuting the murder of a 22-year-old woman from Weymouth whose body was found in a shallow grave in East Braintree. No one at the station ever mentioned it. The first time I heard of Amy Fisher was in 2010, the time the rest of you did.
We had established what we believed to be a fool-proof system with respect to all homicides. The first assistant worked hand-in-hand with the state police to insure all homicides were reported to him. DA Delahunt had a hand in seeing that legislation was enacted giving the state police jurisdiction over homicides. Every town in our county would report homicides to the state police who would immediately respond to them. The state trooper who responded would immediately notify us if an assistant district attorney was needed at the scene. We had on the staff about eight or nine Superior Court ADAs who were not only anxious to try murder cases but were skilled at doing it. Our system worked as it should.
A report was filed by our top homicide investigator a month or so after the incident. It was unequivocal in its conclusion that the homicide had been accidental. It contained nothing about Amy’s fleeing from the house and pointing a shotgun at others. It indicated it went to the lieutenant in charge of the state police and to the first assistant who has no memory of receiving it. Be that it may, I suggest even if he had seen the report he would have accepted it. There was no reason for us to second guess this trooper who had been the lead investigator in all the high-profile murder cases in our office. I understand the trooper still stands by his report that the shooting was accidental.
None of that mattered in the rush to blame afterwards. 26 years later infused with the knowledge that Amy murdered three people the crowd looked back with that mind-set and threw blame around like confetti at a wedding. No one looked at the situation as it presented itself to the Braintree police at the time — a family tragedy of one sibling killing the only other and the one witness to it, the mother of the children, proclaiming it was an accidental shooting. The shooter, her daughter, a highly accomplished student at Northeastern University where her father was a professor. The after events the result of a panicked reaction by one horrified by she had done.
Assuming that some charges were brought against Amy then the realistic likelihood of Amy being incarcerated back then was remote since she was a 21-year-old student with no record. She most likely would have received probation and some mandatory psychiatric treatment which may or may not have helped her. Assuming the worst that there was some type of incarceration based on the unlikely filing of a manslaughter charge it would have been for a minimal amount of time, Imagine the unimaginable which never would have happened, she was convicted of second degree murder, she still would have been back in society long before 2010. She may then not have been able to kill her co-workers at the university but she’d have been able to murder some other co-workers.
Amy Bishop was a walking time bomb. She could have exploded at any time. Placing blame for the Alabama murders on the actions of the Braintree police, state police or DA’s office in 1986 which ignores the intervening 24 years is like blaming Gavrilo Princip’s 1914 shooting of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Duchess Sophie in Sarajevo for World War II which started in 1939.
Alabama was wise in accepting Amy’s plea. This gives the victims’ families closure. None wanted to have a trial to repeat the horrors of that day. That contrasts with some of the families of the victims of Whitey Bulger who opine they would not be satisfied with anything less than a trial.
No good public purpose would be served with bringing Amy back to Norfolk County to answer to the charges here. The victim’s family, his mother and father, have lost a son and now a daughter. They have suffered enough. I hope the Norfolk DA agrees with me.