Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Deadly Professor

The Mail Bomb

Amy Bishop's relationship with her work colleagues was just as contentious.

On December 19, 1994, Dr. Paul Rosenberg and his wife returned home to Newton, Mass., after a Caribbean vacation. He started opening the stack of mail that their cat-sitter had brought inside. When he saw two cylinders wired to a 9-volt battery in one of the packages, he and his wife ran to a neighbor's house and called the police. Police identified the package as a pipe bomb which had failed to detonate; no one was harmed.

Dr. Paul Rosenberg
Dr. Paul Rosenberg

Rosenberg had recently suggested that Amy Bishop, then one of the postdoctoral fellows with whom he was working at Children's Hospital Boston's neurobiology lab, might not be up to the rigors of her job. He'd suggested that she might be mentally unstable, and that other coworkers feared that she might become violent. One witness even told Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents that Bishop's doggedly loyal husband, James Anderson, had talked about getting revenge by hurting Rosenberg.

When investigators tried to talk to Bishop in April 1995, she refused to let them in; they had to break a window. Investigators found items in the Bishop-Anderson home that could be used in a pipe bomb, including a common epoxy, but lab tests failed to tie the goods to the bomb. Records of electronic surveillance made at the time have since been sealed. The couple provided handwriting samples as required, but they refused to submit to a polygraph.

Some of the items found by police in Bishop's house.
Some of the items found by police in
Bishop's house.

Investigators confiscated her notebooks and computer and discovered that Amy Bishop was working on a novel about a woman who kills her brother, then tries to redeem herself by becoming a successful scientist. Bishop started working on the book at the Hamilton Writing Club, an informal group of Ipswich literary hopefuls. Some of the others in the group respected her work and liked her; others reminisce about her arrogance over her Harvard degree and her sense of shame in driving a beat-up Chrysler. They say she bragged about being related to The Cider House Rules author John Irving, who is her mother's cousin, and hoped that he could help her score a book deal.

United States Postal Service officials declared the unsolved case closed after the investigation hit a dead end. James Anderson told reporters that he and Bishop had received a letter from the BATF that exonerated them of any role in the attempted bombing. Michael J. Sullivan, who had been acting director in 1994, said the agency typically does not send such letters.

On February 24, 2010, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced that her office would review the Newton mail bomb investigation. As the 5-year statute of limitation for the crime is long expired, this investigation—like that of Amy Bishop's shooting of her brother— won't result in any charges.