Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 1:40 p.m.
The man accused of killing five family members in 1976 in Maryland has landed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and authorities are focusing publicity efforts about the case on the Western United States.
The FBI said William Bradford Bishop Jr., the “Family Annihilator” would be 77 if he were still alive. He is wanted in the decades-old slayings of his mother, wife and three sons.
The FBI said it had no indication Bishop was dead and added him to the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list a week ago. As part of its renewed campaign to capture Bishop, the agency has released age-enhanced illustrations of Bishop and a video about the case.
Bishop was born in 1936 in Pasadena, Calif., and was known to have an affinity for the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Investigators say they believe there is a strong possibility Bishop could have returned to places with which he was familiar near Southern California, or the mountains in the state of California or Nevada.
On March 1, 1976, the FBI said, Bishop used a hammer to bludgeon his family, drove to North Carolina with the bodies in the family station wagon, buried them in a shallow grave and set them on fire. The last confirmed sighting of Bishop was the next day at a sporting goods store in Jacksonville, N.C., where he bought a pair of sneakers.
“Nothing has changed since March 2, 1976, when Bishop was last seen except the passage of time,” said Steve Vogt, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore Division.
“When Bishop took off in 1976, there was no social media, no 24-hour news cycle,” Vogt said. “There was no sustained way to get his face out there like there is today. And the only way to catch this guy is through the public.”
Bishop had traveled extensively overseas through his job with the state department and spoke several foreign languages, but investigators believe he may have assumed a new identity and is hiding in plain sight in the United States.
“The reality is, he could be anywhere,” Vogt said. “But we don’t want people to assume that he’s out of the country and overlook the fact that he might be living in their community. People might see someone who looks like him and think, ‘It couldn’t be him.’ Well, it could be him,” Vogt said. “That’s why we need the public’s help.”
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his capture. Anyone with information about the case can call 1 800 CALL FBI, submit a tip at the FBI’s website or by calling a local FBI field office.