Was 'John Doe' exhumed in Alabama on FBI's Ten Most Wanted list?

The FBI put Bradford Bishop on its top 10 list in April.

Story highlights

  • Authorities said Bradford Bishop killed five people in March 1976
  • He was spotted three times after that, with all of the sightings in Europe
  • In 1981, an unidentified pedestrian in Scottsboro, Alabama, was stuck and killed
  • Images of the John Doe and one shown on a CNN show look very similar to a man in Scottsboro
A tip from a man who watched "The Hunt with John Walsh" led the FBI to Alabama to have a John Doe exhumed Thursday in hopes it might answer the question of what happened to one of the agency's most wanted fugitives.
William Bradford "Brad" Bishop Jr., who was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list earlier this year, disappeared in 1976 after authorities said he brutally killed his family in their Maryland home.
The man who was buried in Scottsboro, Alabama, in 1981 was never identified. He was walking along a road when he was run over by a car. People came by the funeral home for weeks, but no one in the small town recognized him.
This past November, the police department in Scottsboro reopened the case and the Daily Sentinel newspaper posted a photo of John Doe taken at a funeral home.
Eight months later, in July, CNN ran Bishop's photo on "The Hunt," and a funeral home worker in Scottsboro thought he looked just like the unidentified man.
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"It looked too much like him not to do something about it," Jeremy Collins told reporters on Thursday near the site where a crew was digging up the man's casket.
FBI spokesman Paul Daymond said the remains will be sent to a forensics lab in Virginia to see whether there is a match of DNA, fingerprints or dental records. Daymond said the DNA on file came from cigarette butts.
It will take a few weeks to learn the results, Daymond said.
Authorities believe Bishop fatally bludgeoned his mother, his wife and their three sons -- ages 14, 10, and 5 -- with a hammer in March 1976.
Bishop loaded their bodies into the family's station wagon and drove about five hours from Maryland south to Tyrrell County in eastern North Carolina, police said. There, in a heavily wooded area, they claim, he dumped their bodies into a shallow grave and set them on fire.
There have been three credible sightings of Bishop, a former Foreign Service officer, since he disappeared. All of them were in Europe.
A Swedish woman and former acquaintance said she spotted him in Stockholm in July 1978; a former neighbor reported seeing him on a train platform in Basel, Switzerland in September 1994; and a former colleague allegedly stood next to him in a men's room in Sorrento, Italy, in January 1979.
"I thought he was a vagrant," said retired Foreign Service officer Roy Harrell, who said he saw Bishop in Sorrento. "He was standing there and I came and stood right next to him, and for some reason turned. In my mind's eye I stripped off the beard, and saw the Foreign Service officer I had seen in Washington, D.C. I just impulsively said, 'You're Brad Bishop, aren't you?' And he began trembling and shaking and said 'Oh God, no' and turned around. I have no doubt it was him."
Collins said after he saw Bishop's photo on television in late July, he called producers for "The Hunt." The next day he spoke with Scottsboro Police Chief Ralph Dawe.
According to Daymond, police in Alabama in August sent a photo of the John Doe to authorities in Maryland.
If alive today, Bishop is 78 years old.
"The Hunt," which premiered on CNN on July 13, aims to expose stories of ongoing criminal investigations of fugitives and expand the search internationally.
In August, a 32-year-old suspected sex offender featured on the show died in a shootout in New York City as police closed in.
Investigators said they sifted through hundreds of tips in their search for that suspect, Charles Mozdir, but a phone call they got during "The Hunt" helped them crack the case.