For those of you who have remained happily oblivious of all this, here's a quick review of the facts. Amy Bishop was a high school student who looked like someone we all knew back then. She went to college and graduated cum laude. A year later she married. She obtained a Ph.D. from Harvard and held several post-doctoral research fellowship, a fairly normal career path. Finally in 2003 she obtained a faculty position as an assistant professor of biology in Alabama. Along the way she and her husband had four children. A normal life, and one that would be called successful by most popular standards.
This month that nice, normal woman shot six people; three of them died. And if you turn over that shiny resume and look at the dark side of Amy Bishop's history, the warning signs were always there.
Amy's mother said the shooting was an accident. That was the end of the investigation. The procedural issues are at best troubling:
–Amy and her mother, the only witnesses, were not questioned until 11 days after the event–Amy's story and that of her mother differed in significant details. –The attempted car theft was never investigated by police, nor the fact that Amy was wandering around threatening people with a loaded gun.
2010: Professor Amy Bishop "allegedly" opens fire at a faculty meeting at the Alabama college where she is employed, killing three and wounding three others. Her husband suggests that perhaps the fact that she had recently been denied tenure might have been a factor. It was reported that when she was arrested and escorted to a police car, she was overheard saying, "it didn't happen."
I will admit when I first heard this mentioned in the news, I was incredulous. Who would believe a story like this? Then I started thinking as a writer. Okay, maybe the pacing is a bit slow, with events spread out over twenty years. But scattered along the way were clues–brief, startling glimpses of that rage, that disappeared as quickly as they had come. Maybe they looked harmless until you put them all together. As writers, we'd provide a few hints into why she was so angry, and had so few channels for expressing it, short of extreme violence. But as the reality has shown us, it was possible for everyone–authorities and family–to ignore this problem for years, until the most recent turn of events.
PS. I should add that the story is nowhere near over yet. Just this morning the local paper reported a curious CSI-like twist: investigators found another clue when they enlarged a photo from the original shooting of Amy's brother, and found they could read a newspaper clipping that suggested...well, you'll just have to keep reading.