Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Deadly Professor

Food Fight

Despite the other suspicions about her past, there's only one crime on Bishop's record prior to 2010: assault and battery at a pancake house.

In 2002, Amy Bishop got into a fight when her family stopped at an International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Mass., about halfway between their Ipswich home and Boston. When another woman took the last high chair for her child, Bishop blew up. She demanded the chair for her own youngest kid. When the woman didn't relent, Bishop hit her.

Amy Bishop
Amy Bishop

Bishop evidently overestimated her reputation as a scientist. Witnesses state that as she attacked the woman, Bishop yelled, "Don't you know who I am? I'm Amy Bishop!"

Bishop pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors: assault and battery and disorderly conduct. A judge sentenced her to six months' probation and ordered her to enroll in an anger management course.

It's not clear whether she ever took that anger management course. Her fierce temper certainly remained untamed, and it may be that, amid the other changes in her life, Amy Bishop didn't get around to taking the class. To the relief of her neighbors and many of her coworkers, Amy Bishop was about to leave New England for the Deep South. She and her husband soon bought a house in a Huntsville subdivision named Tara, so Bishop could start a tenure-track position in the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Harvard-trained Bishop must have seemed a great academic catch for UAH. Founded only in 1969, the state school has made a name for itself in astrophysics and aerospace engineering, but isn't exactly prestigious beyond rocket science. The biology department hoped its Ivy League hire would help boost the school's profile in the life sciences.

Things didn't start out well. Student and faculty responses to Bishop's skills were mixed. The school ultimately denied her tenure bid; then Bishop's alleged violence made the school infamous.