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Two Family Killers 25 Years Apart: The Haunting Cases of Bradford Bishop and Robert William Fisher

This is a parallel case 25 years apart about two fathers who broke the unwritten vow to protect and serve their families.



The similarities of the case are eerie, and the tragedy and pain caused continue to haunt us. This is a story of two fathers and the decision they made to leave behind a trail of destruction in their wake.


This is the tragedy of the family annihilators - an ugly term used to describe the parents that snap and commit the horrific act of familicide.



Bradford Bishop - The Vanishing Act


Bradford worked for the US Foreign Service as a diplomat. He was an accomplished man with an Ivy League education and two master’s degrees. He was a successful and enviable man.


Brad Bishop was highly intelligent - spoke six languages, married his high school sweetheart and was what you would call ALL AMERICAN.


Bradford married Annette Weis in 1959. He joined the US Army in the late 50s and spent four years working in counterintelligence before moving to the Foreign Service. Brad had also travelled extensively across Italy for work and served in Africa.


Bishop was on the rise in his career, he had three kids and had led state missions in Botswana.


However, Bradford’s beautiful life would come to a destructive end and his life on the run would begin in 1976.


Bradford killed his mother, wife and three kids on the 1st of March 1976 at their home in Maryland.


He then vanished seemingly into thin air. Leaving a tragedy of epic proportions behind and entering the FBI’s top 10 list for the next four decades.


Robert William Fisher - A Family Destroyed


A story of fire and brimstone with a young family left inside a burning house - Fisher killed his entire family and then blew up the house scattering it across the neighbourhood.


Bobby - as he was known to friends and family - was born in Brooklyn, New York. Bobby enlisted in the US Navy after high school, later working in the medical industry (he was turned down as a NAVY SEAL).


Bobby was an avid outdoorsman and a man of nature.


Bobby married Mary Cooper in 1987. It wasn’t a harmonious marriage and they were said to often argue over money. Bobby was described as a control freak and emotionally very cold and distant.


Fisher was said to have been very disappointed in his children for not being the fishing fanatics and outdoorsman like their macho dad. There were stories of fatherly brutality, throwing his kids into the lake to “teach them how to swim”. However, at face value, Fisher was a religious and pious man, with a beautiful family and a loving mother.


The Murders





Both murders seem to have arisen from intense disappointments in both Fisher and Bishop’s life. The crushing disappointments, be they professional or personal, may have been the final contributing factor to the snap in their temperament.


While Bishop was passed over for promotion multiple times by a promotions stingy Foreign Services Department, Fisher’s life was spiralling resulting from extra-marital affairs, a filing for divorce and a deep fear of abandonment. Fisher’s parent’s divorce in childhood was extremely traumatic for him, and the thought of getting a divorce could have been the tipping factor for Fisher. Both men were struggling to juggle their feelings of failure.


Bradford was holding on to his perfect image but the truth was bleaker. Despite having projected an image of wealth and status, in truth, his mother was largely funding their lifestyle and money was running thin.


Bradford was on anti-depressants and sleeping pills leading up to the murder and was seeking therapy with his wife for their marital issues.


But the most haunting parallel between the two is the fact that they were both never caught for the destruction of their own family.


On the day of the murders, Bradford left the state department the morning of 1st March 1976 before driving to a shopping mall in Maryland where he bought a hammer and gas can, he filled his car and the can up with petrol and drove to a hardware store and purchased a shovel. 

That evening Bradford bludgeoned his wife, his three kids and his mother to death. Bradford took the family dog with him and some sightings claimed he had a woman described as ‘dark-skinned’ accompanying him.


Bradford’s children were aged 5, 10 and 14…The Bradford station wagon was later found in Tennessee a few miles from the Appalachian Trail and 400 miles from where he buried his family.


The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Bradford Bishop with the following statement:

“The courts will have to determine whether Brad Bishop is guilty of killing his family. But there was enough evidence for a warrant to be issued for his arrest for homicide, based on the fact that there appeared to be premeditation in connection with the events that occurred on March 1st.”


Bradford was never found, although many sightings in Europe were described - some by those who knew Bradford.


Twenty-five years later Robert Fisher committed a similarly horrific crime.


Fisher killed his family on the 9th of April 2001. This was four days before Fisher’s 40th Birthday.
Robert’s wife Mary Fisher was shot in the back of the head and the two children had their throats slit.

The next morning the house exploded, sending shockwaves through the neighbourhood and causing emergency services to immediately attend. Fisher’s family were already dead at the time of the blast. Fisher had left the furnace on and this caused an accumulation of gas to ignite the entire house. 

It also gave Fisher a head start to delay law enforcement when carrying out an autopsy on the bodies, as they did not immediately suspect Fisher.

This delay gave Fisher a significant headstart to escape.

The motive was allegedly to spare his children the pain of divorce, something that traumatised Robert as a child. The fear of abandonment and the hurt from his own childhood come to boil, leading to the most abhorrent decision possible.

Fisher then disappeared.

The last piece of evidence found was the family dog Blue and Mary’s Toyota found abandoned in Young, Arizona.

An arrest warrant was issued, charging three counts of first-degree murder and one count of arson. Fisher was put on the FBI’s most wanted list (alongside Bradford) and was profiled on America’s Most Wanted.

Motives

Bradford’s motives are harder to decipher than Robert’s, but it was speculated that the financial burdens, constant criticisms from his wife and mother and lack of career advancement made Bradford very unhappy. The IRS was allegedly auditing Bradford at the time. It may have been too much for the ambitious Bradford Bishop.

Once Bradford committed the murders, he was able to slip away using his diplomatic passport and with his linguistic skills, can integrate into Italy, France or Germany.
Fisher’s issues are more apparent and the issues in his private life were on display.

A damaged childhood because of his parent’s divorce, and fearing a similar fate for himself - Fisher had issues with his temperament and a fear of rejection and isolation. Witnesses are claiming that Robert Fisher was suicidal before the killings and that he was on a downward spiral due to his very ugly marriage collapsing.

Sightings

Bishop was allegedly sighted in Italy, Belgium, England, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

One sighting in Stockholm consisted of a Swedish woman who knew Bishop personally from a previous business in Ethiopia who spotted Bishop twice in a public park. She states that she is absolutely certain that the man was Bishop.

In 2021 an adopted woman came forward claiming that through DNA testing, she discovered that Bishop was her biological father - this was later confirmed by the FBI. She has given many interviews regarding the impact of discovering her father was a mass murderer.

Bishop fits the persona of an international man of mystery and with his State Department connections, use of his diplomatic passport and linguistic skills - it is no surprise that Bishop has managed to escape, elude capture and integrate. He could be amongst you right now.

The FBI has removed Bishop from their Most Wanted List because of his old age.

Fisher was allegedly sighted in Vancouver, and a man arrested there was believed to be Fisher. However, the fingerprints did not match and the man was released. 

The police raided a house in Commerce City, Colorado after a tip suggested Fisher was there - but he had either escaped beforehand or the tip was false. What with Fisher being an excellent outdoorsman and hunter, he could be hiding in the wilderness, surviving for 20-plus years.

Fisher was removed from the FBI Most Wanted List in 2021.

The similarities between the two cases are startling and that is why I wished to write a side-by-side comparison of the two. Both men were taken off the Most Wanted List after 2020, and the interest in catching the two may have died down.

But let’s not forget, they’re still out there, somewhere.




REFERENCES

https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/topten-history/hires_images/FBI-475-RobertWilliamFisher.jpg/view
https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/murders/william-bradford-bishop-jr
https://unsolved.com/gallery/william-bishop/
https://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/usd1w1/til_about_bradford_bishop_who_allegedly_killed/
https://eu.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2021/11/03/arizona-fugitive-robert-fisher-removed-fbi-10-most-wanted-list/6270056001/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_William_Fisher
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQNOiv1oQ4Q
https://www.azfamily.com/2022/08/19/documentary-finding-robert-fisher/
https://coldcaseexplorations.com/arizona-cold-or-unsolved-cases/a-wanted-fugitive-robert-william-fisher/


The Bradford Bishop Murders: Their First Loyalty is to their Careers: 2 (Foreign Service Crime) by Casavis, David (ISBN: 9780985652555)

Bradford Bishop - The Vanishing Act 








Robert William Fisher - A Family Destroyed







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