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Inquest begins in Massachusetts shooting by Alabama professor

QUINCY, Mass. -- One of the first police officers on the scene after Amy Bishop fatally shot her teenage brother in 1986 still believes "in my own heart" that it was an accident, he said Tuesday, even knowing now that she is charged with killing ...

Quincy, Mass., shooting
Tom Pettigrew, who worked at a Braintree auto body shop when Amy Bishop came in with a shotgun in 1986 shortly after shooting her brother, Seth, leaves Quincy District Court in Quincy, Mass., Tuesday, April 13, 2010. Pettigrew was told he would testify Wednesday for a closed-door inquest being held to determine if the 1986 shooting death of Seth Bishop by his sister Amy Bishop was intentional. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl)

QUINCY, Mass. -- One of the first police officers on the scene after Amy Bishop fatally shot her teenage brother in 1986 still believes "in my own heart" that it was an accident, he said Tuesday, even knowing now that she is charged with killing three colleagues at an Alabama university.

The police investigation after the 1986 shooting was proper and complete, Tim Murphy, a retired Braintree, Mass., police officer, said after testifying at an inquest into Seth Bishop's death that has the potential to produce a murder indictment.

"Everything that was supposed to be done was done," he said. "It was a very thorough investigation."

Murphy responded to the family home after the shooting and then helped arrest Amy Bishop at a nearby auto body shop. He said she pointed her gun at several officers who approached her and didn't drop the weapon until the third command. He then helped handcuff her.

"In my own heart, I believe it was an accident," Murphy said. "I just don't think that anybody would have done anything like that. I think it was a horrible tragedy."


Ten witnesses were heard Tuesday at the closed-door proceedings, which are expected to finish Thursday.

Another retired Braintree officer, Kenneth Brady, said he doesn't know if the shooting was an accident but the investigation should have been more thorough.

"I thought the uniformed people did what we were supposed to do and the administration let us down," Brady said after testifying Tuesday. "I think it could have been handled differently. It wasn't handled well."

Brady, a sergeant then, responded to the Bishop home and escorted Bishop's mother to the hospital where her son was taken and then took her to a police station. He said she was upset and asked to see the police chief.

Brady said Judith Bishop was told Chief John Polio wasn't in on a Saturday. Brady said a deputy chief called and spoke to someone else at the station, instructing the officers not to book Amy Bishop but to release her to her parents.

Norfolk District Attorney William Keating called for the inquest after Amy Bishop was charged with fatally shooting three colleagues at the University of Alabama-Huntsville in February. That shooting brought new law enforcement scrutiny into her brother's shooting in Braintree, Mass., 24 years earlier.

Seth Bishop's death was ruled accidental at the time, but the report from the judge presiding over the inquest could potentially be used anew by prosecutors.

The parents, Judith and Samuel Bishop, were in the courtroom for about an hour early Tuesday before leaving, Brady said; they weren't seen coming or going through the main entrance.


Tom Pettigrew, a former worker at the car dealer auto body shop who also appeared at the inquest Tuesday, told reporters that Amy Bishop pointed a shotgun at his chest and demanded his keys shortly after she shot her brother. He said that he refused to hand over the keys hanging from his belt and that Bishop then went to the parking lot and started checking car doors just before police arrived.

Pettigrew appeared Tuesday at the inquest but was told he would not immediately be called to testify. Pettigrew, who was 22 at the time, said Bishop, then 21 and single, told him she had just had a fight with her husband.

Prosecutors who handled the 1986 investigation have said they weren't told about the confrontation at the body shop.

Investigators looking at an old crime scene photo recently discovered a newspaper article about the 1986 killings of actor Patrick Duffy's parents. The clipping, which was near shotgun shells in Amy Bishop's bedroom, described how a teenager shot the "Dallas" star's parents with a 12-gauge shotgun and stole a getaway car from an auto dealership.

Keating has said that Bishop's actions at the auto dealership should have led to weapons charges against her.

Those charges, as well as a manslaughter charge, cannot be brought now because of a statute of limitations. The only potential charge Bishop could face is murder, which has no statute of limitations in Massachusetts.

Judge Mark Coven, the presiding judge at Quincy District Court, conducted the inquest. A court officer stood outside the door, locking it every time someone went in or out.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Nelson said Tuesday that prosecutors at first intended to call 24 witnesses but that some have died and others could not be located. The witness list has not been made public.


Judith Bishop was the only other witness to the shooting. She told police in 1986 that her daughter had been trying to learn how to use the shotgun when she accidentally fired it into her bedroom wall. She said her daughter came downstairs for help unloading the gun and again accidentally fired it, right in front of her, as Seth Bishop was walking through the kitchen. A bullet struck him in the chest.

Their lawyer, Bryan Stevens, did not return a call Monday seeking comment on the inquest. Stevens said earlier that Judith Bishop told the truth about the shooting and will tell the same story during the inquest.

"There's absolutely nothing that will be new. She'll say the same thing in 2010 that she said in 1986," Stevens told The Associated Press in February.

"It was an accident, no question about it," he said.

Robert George, a Boston defense attorney who has been involved in other inquests, said both the judge and prosecutor may question witnesses.

Amy Bishop has the right to attend but will not be there because she is being held without bail in Alabama in the Feb. 12 shootings, which she has said "didn't happen."

"For all intents and purposes, it's impossible for her to go," said her Alabama defense attorney, Roy Miller.

Huntsville police spokesman Sgt. Mark Roberts said the department does not have anyone at the inquest.


Associated Press reporters Kendal Weaver in Montgomery, Ala., and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., contributed to this story.

Amy Bishop
FILE - A Feb. 13, 2010 file police booking photograph released by the Huntsville (Ala.) Police Dept., shows college professor Amy Bishop, charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. A closed-door inquest began Tuesday, April 13, 2010, in Massachusetts in the 1986 death of Bishop's brother. (AP Photo/Huntsville Police Department, File)

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