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February 15, 2010, 04:12 PM ET

Husband of Accused Killer Says Wife Went to Shooting Range

By Thomas Bartlett and Robin Wilson

Huntsville, Ala. -- The biology professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville accused of shooting three of her colleagues to death at a faculty meeting last week had apparently borrowed the handgun from someone she knew, and had been to an indoor shooting range a couple of weeks before the killings, according to her husband.

Amy Bishop's husband, James Anderson, told both The Chronicle and The New York Times on Sunday that the family did not own a gun. But in an interview with The Chronicle today, he acknowledged that she had borrowed a gun, though he wasn't sure from whom. "She was very cagey and didn't say," he said.

Michael Mercier, The Huntsville Times, Landov

Amy Bishop, the biology professor accused of opening fire in a faculty meeting at the U. of Alabama at Huntsville, shared this home in Huntsville with her husband, James Anderson, and their four children.

Mr. Anderson said he had told his wife he didn't want the gun around the house because of their children, who range in age from 8 to 18. "Get rid of it," he recalled telling her. "I didn't want to have it. I didn't feel we needed it."

Ms. Bishop, according to her husband, had borrowed the gun and was considering buying it. Last summer, he said, someone followed her across the campus. "She was worried about crazy students," he said. Mr. Anderson said had he warned his wife: "OK, but you can't carry it to work."

He told her that, if she had any concerns late at night, he would pick her up from the campus.

Mr. Anderson said he had gone with his wife to an indoor shooting range once, a couple of weeks ago. He said she had been there at least once before with a friend. The only indoor shooting range in the Huntsville area is Larry's Pistol & Pawn, about 15 minutes from Ms. Bishop's home. The owner, Larry Barnett, said today he didn't remember Ms. Bishop, but he did say that everyone who uses the shooting range must sign in. Mr. Barnett would not say whether the police had asked for the visitor logs.

Larry's Pistol & Pawn is a bustling gunshop and shooting range, with a wide selection of firearms and ammunition out front and 12 shooting bays in the back.

Mr. Anderson said his wife was not taking antidepressant drugs and was not in therapy. "Therapy was moving ahead -- keep pushing," he said. After his wife was denied tenure, he said he had sat her down and said, "You're beautiful, you're smart, you have an IQ above 160, let's figure out what you want to do."

She told him she wanted to do research. That's when they decided to open a research institute.

Mr. Anderson, dressed in a red shirt and blue-plaid pajama pants, spoke to The Chronicle in the foyer of his home while his children sang karaoke in another room. Ms. Bishop and their children are musically inclined, he said. He said the mood of the children was up and down, but it was particularly bad "when the sun goes down."

Mr. Anderson said he had been able to speak with his wife only briefly by telephone and had been barred from visiting her in jail. The question he said he most wanted to ask her is: Why?

Comments

1. amnirov - February 15, 2010 at 05:12 pm

If you went to the range, it's going to be pretty hard to argue your crime wasn't premeditated. Sounds like a capital case to me.

2. actlibrary - February 15, 2010 at 05:23 pm

It sounds like there's some screw lose with the husband.

3. bluesfiddle - February 15, 2010 at 05:49 pm

The husband is fine mentally, but under incredible stress now.

A terrible tragedy for many families in the community.

4. elyria - February 15, 2010 at 06:06 pm

She was worried about crazy _students_??

5. ms_annie - February 15, 2010 at 06:10 pm

Going to a shooting range can be done for any number of reasons. It does not have to signal premeditation for a shooting crime.

I wish commenters would lay off the personal, tabloidesque insults and consider the facts as they reveal themselves. This is the Chronicle, after all!

6. martisco - February 15, 2010 at 06:15 pm

The husband doesn't sound like the brightest tool in the box. Has his lawyer told him to stop talking to the media yet? Has he comprehended that Alabama has the death penalty, or does he just think that the state wouldn't, couldn't possibly execute someone with an IQ of 160?

7. cdwintz - February 15, 2010 at 07:25 pm

I can understand student threats. Several years ago I was threatened by an unstable graduate student, and the experience was unsettling, especially when leaving campus at night. I never considered bringing a gun to campus (it is against the law in Texas). I cannot beleive a husband would accompany his wife to a shooting range and not know where she acquired the handgun.

8. 12074406 - February 15, 2010 at 09:07 pm

Oh stop #4 and #6. The husband is in shock. He's understandably distraught, and probably doing all he can to hold it together for his kids and himself.

Yes, it would probably be in his best interest not to talk to the media; but on the other hand, when you've loved someone you probably don't want to believe they're capable of alleged murder.

Let them be. Let them grieve. Their lives have been turned upside down.

9. johntoradze - February 15, 2010 at 09:37 pm

Hmm. With him talking to the press, and with his comment about her being "cagey" about where she got the gun, and his acknowledgement that she went to a shooting range, I'm thinking it's much less likely he is hiding something. He is a very bright guy intellectually, but much as I might dislike it, I must acknowledge that this does not translate into street smarts or life skills.

Dear me, 12074406, but I think that the people who should be let alone to grieve are the families and friends of the people who were killed. The people involved with the one who did the killing? Sorry. They may be personally innocent, more or less, but the world doesn't owe them to be left alone.

I'm also pretty amazed here. Here I am, a guy who has every reason to be sympathetic with the anger of people at academic horribleness. But dear god people. All this bleeding heart sympathy for a woman that appears to be a serious criminal from a young age, who murdered 3 people in cold blood, premeditating it?

10. patria - February 15, 2010 at 09:55 pm

I'm a bit surprised that the Chronicle is airing all of this blow-by-blow stuff. And that we're all reading it breathlessly, cover to cover. Including me, sad to say.

It seems that academic nightmares and the journals that cover them have come to increasingly model themselves after the National Enquirer.

When will this violent nation wake up and realize we're addicted to violence, the act and the recreation of it?

I'm reminded of Don Delillo's short story "Videotape" about a man fixated by the coverage of a highway murder, watching it over and over again...ad nauseum. Because he can't look away.

11. frenchfries - February 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Patria, do you really think it is the violence that is so startling, or the fact that most of us in academia think we are not capable of this vicious act? It's probably arrogant to believe the latter, but there are so many checks along the way to a tt position, that it is hard to imagine a true psychotic being able to cope. As a physical scientist, I can recall similar obsession and interest in the Schon fabrication case (and I'm sure there are plenty of other examples), where there was no violence at all. Personally, I think in our minds we know that she is insane (or similar), but in our hearts, we know the pressures and tensions of tenure-track jobs are sometimes difficult to handle. I personally have no idea what I will do if I don't get tenure (my case should be OK, but I'm just saying, I have no fallback in place).

12. sciprofmw - February 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Why would the husband rattle on like this to the media? Maybe he wants her to get the death penalty.

13. 24601 - February 15, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Borrowed a handgun?! What fool lends a handgun to somebody unless you're simply shooting together at the range? In this case, the source of the weapon may well become an accessory to murder.

14. jeanrenoir - February 15, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Special pleading of any kind for this mass murderer is absurd. Was there special pleading for the kid at Virginia Tech? This woman was not "insane." She did the crime and must do the time. She tried to kill about half as many people as the Fort Hood killer. Ordinary Americans are right to be fed up with the special pleading of academics. Ordinary people want common standards and fairness. Special pleaders do not. The burden of proof is on the special pleaders to justify what appears to others as injustice.

15. 12074406 - February 15, 2010 at 11:59 pm

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear JohnToradze. Let me apologize. Certainly, I do agree the families of the victims deserve our sympathies and prayers.

HOWEVER: unless I'm missing something, the alleged murderer's CHILDREN had nothing to do with this crime? Maybe the husband shouldn't be talking to the press; maybe he is prattling on, but he DIDN'T commit the crime.

All I'm saying is, unless any of us have walked in his shoes and watched a spouse be arrested for multiple homocide and potentially capital murder, no one should judge him. Let the families of the victims: the families of the slain who are bereft with grief, the husband who probably asks "what if", and most of all the kids. Let them grieve. Let them get help for the shock they undoubtedly feel.

16. billso - February 16, 2010 at 12:01 am

I'm surprised Mr. Anderson is talking to the press. Where's his attorney?

17. anon1972 - February 16, 2010 at 07:31 am

I completely agree with you, 12074406. It is horrifying to contemplate being in that position -- confronting the seemingly incontrovertible fact that your life partner of many many years, whom you thought you knew, has done something so profoundly horrible. Not being able to see her and ask "Why??" And having to keep it together for the kids. I don't think it's possible for someone who hasn't been there to judge.

18. pfcase - February 16, 2010 at 07:59 am

I agree with the above...you don't know how you'll respond to this until you are faced with it yourself. And the coverage, and our fascination with it, makes perfect sense to me. This is one of our own! We've conditioned ourselves...or at least I have...to pay attention to our students that act oddly. I've learned to be aware of the exits in my classrooms since Virginia Tech. How many of us have gone down the list of our colleagues since this happened, wondering if any of them might be capable of this? I can honestly say my first thought was thank God I am in a good department with stable colleagues. We'll never know why this happened because it wasn't a rational act with rational motivations. And that is very scary.

19. dank48 - February 16, 2010 at 08:38 am

Some of the comments are incredibly revelatory of the academic state of mind, or at least one academic state of mind. When the reaction to a triple murder is this flaky, you just have to wonder. . . . Yeah, tenure is a stressful subject, but in comparison with murder?

It's like the old joke about the farmer who sees the Grand Canyon for the first time and says, "Couldn't grow much corn here." Why the hell would the husband of the accused need a lawyer? Where does one get the idea that there's some sort of taboo against lending firearms? Or that a firing range is somehow as exotic and illicit as an opium den? Especially piquant is the ruthless criticism of the husband for talking to the media: why in heaven's name should the poor man, whose personal and familial agony I can only imagine, expect anything but our compassion and understanding?

Good God, I'd hate to be tried by a jury chosen from (most of) the above commenters.

20. tribblek - February 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

Amen, dank48. And what's with everyone implying (or outright saying) that the husband should hide out or at least not tell what he knows. Priority #1 is to get to the TRUTH about what happened! It's interesting that so many people construct their reactions to this around what they see on TV. The CSI/Law and Order Effect?

21. ugahistory - February 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

We also suffered a faculty shotting in Athens. Family members of the killer are victims too.

22. nyx37 - February 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

"Family members of the killer are victims too." That's true, but perhaps the husband would be a little easier to sympathize with if he expressed some sorrow over the deaths of the victims and what this has done to their families, instead of limiting himself (as far as I can see) to talking about how great his wife is and how much pressure she was under.

23. hmprescott63 - February 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

Since I have colleagues who teach at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University respectively, and listented to them talk aobut their anxieties in the wake of those tragedies, I think fears about potentially violent students are not entirely unfounded. She may have been lying to her husband but his believing her is not unreasonable.

24. help123 - February 16, 2010 at 01:25 pm

@19dank48 & 20tribblek: Recall that the husband was summoned to pick up his wife after she killed three people and wounded three others-some prosecutors may view this as potential to link the husband to the crime as an accessory. That alone should be enough incentive to speak to an attorney before you spill everything to the media--particularly if he is at all worried about his wife's legal case.

25. dank48 - February 16, 2010 at 02:37 pm

I'm reasonably sure that if my wife, sounding upset, called me to pick her up, I'd pick her up.

I'm damned sure that if my wife had murdered three people in full view of enough survivors to make "allegedly" a sick joke, I'd feel I had enough on my mind, assuming that I still had the capacity for thought at that point, without worrying about getting a lawyer for myself, not to mention satisfying the seemingly endless string of Job's judges, I mean comforters.

26. epijane - February 16, 2010 at 02:43 pm

Seriously, people. The husband is talking way too much to too many news sources, and his/their/her lawyer should tell him to shut up. This woman will very likely use an insanity defense to try to receive some kind of reduced sentence. It is Alabama, they have the death penalty - her lawyer will want to avoid that. An individual cannot be compelled to testify against his/her spouse, but this guy has already talked about target practice and preparation - that's premeditated, that's the death penalty for any prosecutor.

This isn't about compassion or catharsis or understanding the pathology so we can prevent it from happening again. This is about this woman's right to legal defense. The verdict is pretty clear, it's all about the sentencing now. And her husband should be quiet. Her lawyer should tell him so. And frankly, the district attorney should also be concerned about the media coverage - it may be hard to seat a jury in that community.

27. wturnertsu - February 16, 2010 at 03:34 pm

The suspect is entitled to her "right to legal defense." The victims and the families of the victims are entitled to justice. Let all relevant, credible, admissible evidence to be gleaned from the husband's voluntary statements, or others, flow freely. The suspect's right to defend herself remains inviolative. What society needs, indeed, what we all demand, is the truth and nothing but the truth. This is 2010 and the incident is in Alabama, the late-George Wallace's home-state. There are some troubling issues raised as a result of the woman's past and the identity of her victims.

Former Gov. Don Siegalman (ck. sp.), a very progressive elected officials was striving to push the state into the 21st Century and some yahoos ( I understand as a result of prodding from a former nationally elected-official, allegedly) over there in Alabama saw fit to imprison him. The world needs to know what is going on in Huntsville and in other places throughout the state. Let the sun shine in and on situations such as these. Let the husband speak. He isn't a suspect; nor has he been charged.

28. morningsider - February 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Could either Dr. Bishop or her husband Mr. Anderson have Asperger's or some other condition that includes inability to read social cues and facial expressions, or express empathy?

The more I read about Mr. Anderson, the more I wonder: he does not understand what the appropriate behavior is for someone in his position; he never perceived inappropriate affect or behavior in his wife that day; he appears clueless about the victims; he can't imagine his wife's motivations. Could it be that he simply does not have the skills to discern nonverbal emotional states and cues in others? Could it be that he does not know how to dissimulate properly in this context? (He cannot tell a lie or fudge an answer to a stranger's question that may help convict his wife.)

Likewise, Dr. Bishop has been described as not making eye contact, as blurting out inappropriate statements about herself in inappropriate contexts, and her problems getting tenure have been characterized in part as a problem of not "getting along" with others.

Whether or not my armchair speculation has any merit, I do not mean to imply that people with Asperger's are more likely to commit murder--but I fear that people with these problems may find themselves even more isolated and under suspicion as an "Amy Bishop type"!

Has anyone else noticed these characteristics and wondered?


29. kadair - February 17, 2010 at 09:05 am

For free information on how to survive an active shooter situation go to http://www.activeshootersurvival.wordpress.com

30. koshkamat - February 17, 2010 at 03:30 pm

If you, ahem, "accidentally" blew your brother away, wouldn't you spend the rest of your life avoiding firearms? I agree with the person who said the husband sounds like he has a screw loose, too. Both these nut jobs are WAY too involved with guns. I feel so sorry for their kids. God only knows what was going on in that house!

31. dank48 - February 17, 2010 at 05:08 pm

"Both these nut jobs are WAY too involved with guns."

Really? How much is too much? From what has been published, in what way does this informed judgment apply to Mr. Anderson? I don't recall reading that he'd ever so much as touched a firearm.

I'm amazed at the willingness to pass judgment--one way or the other--on the part of so many people who know as much as the next person who can read. At least the anonymous faculty member who called Ms. Bishop crazy had in fact met her.


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