The professor who is accused of killing three colleagues at the University of Alabama on Friday was a suspect in the attempted mail bombing of a Harvard Medical School professor in 1993, a law enforcement official said today.
It was the second startling revelation in two days about the past of Bishop, who is accused of fatally shooting three colleagues and wounding three others Friday afternoon at a faculty meeting on the University of Alabama's Huntsville, Ala. campus.
A Massachusetts police chief revealed Saturday that Bishop had fatally shot her brother in 1986.
Rosenberg was opening mail, which had been set aside by a cat-sitter, when he returned from a Caribbean vacation on Dec. 19, 1993, according to Globe reports at the time.
Opening a long, thin package addressed to "Mr. Paul Rosenberg M.D.," he saw wires and a cylinder inside. He and his wife ran from the house and called police.
The package contained two 6-inch pipe bombs connected to two nine-volt batteries.
In March 1994, the Globe reported that federal investigators had identified a prime suspect in the case. But the article did not name the suspect.
A law enforcement official said today that the investigation by the US Postal Service and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms focused on Bishop, a Harvard postdoctoral fellow who was working in the human biochemstry lab at Children's Hospital at the time, and her husband, Anderson.
Bishop surfaced as a suspect because she was allegedly concerned that she was going to receive a negative evaluation from Rosenberg on her doctorate work, the official said. The official said investigators believed she had a motive to target Rosenberg and were concerned that she had a history of violence, given that she had shot her brother to death in 1986.
Investigators conducted a search of the home where Bishop and Anderson were living and questioned the couple, the official said. Anderson was questioned about whether he had purchased any of the components used to make the bombs, the official said.
During a search of Bishop's computer, authorities found a draft of a novel that Bishop was writing about a female scientist who had killed her brother and was hoping to make amends by becoming a great scientist, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation and spoke to the Globe on the condition of anonymity.
The US attorney's office in Boston did not seek any charges against Bishop or Anderson, and no one was ever charged with mailing the bombs to Rosenberg. Federal prosecutors did not immediately return calls today.
Anderson today confirmed that he and his wife had been questioned in the attempted bombing, but said that they had been cleared, the New York Times reported on its website.
“We were not suspects,” he said. “They questioned everybody that ever knew this guy.”
“That was a disaster,” he said of the investigation. “That was a mess. In my files I have a letter from the ATF saying, ‘You are hereby cleared in this incident. You are no longer a subject of the investigation.’”
At his home, Rosenberg declined to comment today and referred questions to Children's Hospital administrators. Hospital officials said information on Bishop and the case was not immediately available and declined further comment.
Sylvia Fluckiger, a lab technician who worked with Bishop at the time, said Bishop had been in a dispute with Rosenberg shortly before the bombs were discovered.
Shortly after the attempted bombing, Fluckiger said, Bishop told her she had been questioned by police. According to Fluckiger, Bishop said police asked her if she had ever taken stamps off an envelope that had been mailed to her and put them on something else.
"She said it with a smirk on her face,'' said Fluckiger. "We knew she had a beef with Paul Rosenberg. And we really thought it was a really unbelievable coincidence that he would get those bombs."
Sergeant Mark Roberts, a spokesman for the Huntsville Police, said today that police in Alabama had been informed that Bishop was a suspect in the 1993 mail bombing case.
"Presently, we are trying to confirm it through law enforcement resources,'' he said.
Roberts said the crime scene at the university was so large -- the building is some three acres -- that detectives had just finished gathering all the evidence in the shootings.
"What we're doing now, they finally got all the evidence and they're starting to go through it,'' he said.
Bishop, 44, a professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville since 2003, allegedly opened fire during a faculty meeting Friday, killing three colleagues and wounding three others, reportedly after learning at the meeting that she was being denied tenure.
Anderson was detained and questioned by police but has not been charged.
On Saturday, the police chief in Braintree confirmed that Bishop had fatally shot her brother in the family home in December 1986.
Chief Paul Frazier raised questions about the circumstances of the shooting and the lack of records on the case, but the Norfolk County district attorney's office released a State Police investigation report that concluded that the shooting was an accident.
Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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