Human remains recently exhumed from an Alabama grave are not those of the notorious fugitive William Bradford Bishop, who is accused of killing five family members with a small sledgehammer in Montgomery County in 1976 and setting their bodies on fire, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
The FBI said that DNA taken from the unidentified body in Scottsboro, Ala., on Oct. 9 did not match Bishop, who is a member of the Ten Most Wanted list.
“We were hoping it would be him, but we have other leads,” said Amy Thoreson, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s office in Baltimore. Thoreson said the Baltimore office was notified at about 5 p.m. Wednesday of the findings from the FBI Lab in Quantico, Va.
The findings dashed the hopes of officials who have been searching for Bishop since the 1976 killings. Because of his fluency in five languages and travel experience as a Foreign Service officer with the State Department, authorities had suspected he could be almost anywhere in the world.
Earlier this year, authorities in Alabama discovered that a photograph of an unidentified man, a “John Doe” buried in a municipal cemetery, resembled photographs of Bishop. John Doe was an apparent drifter who was fatally struck by a car in 1981.
Authorities sought court permission to exhume the body. Forensic specialists took at least one bone sample, which was used for the DNA comparison. They also tried to get samples for a dental comparison but failed. “The skeleton didn’t have enough teeth in the jaw bone for a dental impression,” Thoreson said.
In Montgomery County, officials vowed to push forward.
“I’m disappointed that it turned out not to be Bishop, but it makes us more determined to find him and bring him to justice,” Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin said.
“We’ve had a number of leads in this case and track every one down,” Montgomery Police Chief Tom Manger said. “While we’re disappointed, it’s not going to deter our investigation.”
Previously, authorities chased alleged sightings in a Stockholm public park, a restroom in Italy and a Swiss train station.
Authorities allege that Bishop killed his family in their Bethesda home and sneaked the bodies into a station wagon. They say he drove to North Carolina, dug a shallow grave, dumped the bodies and ignited them. About three weeks later, authorities found the car at Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
When last seen, officials described Bishop as 40 years old, 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, with brown eyes. The John Doe was estimated to be 55, 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, with blue eyes.
Before the testing, investigators said the discrepancies in the descriptions could have been due to false assumptions made in 1981 about the eye color, that the pedestrian accident could have affected John Doe’s listed height and a life on the run could have accounted for the age difference.
Investigators said that earlier this year, they lifted a DNA sample from a shaving kit and razor found in Bishop’s station wagon.
Detectives kept blood cards from the Bishop family members whose bodies were found in North Carolina, which they used to confirm that the shaving kit/razor DNA as Bishop’s.
Thoreson said the FBI has received more than 350 leads since Bishop was put on their list.