IPSWICH -- On Birch Lane, a family neighborhood where there are almost as many curbside basketball hoops as mailboxes, Amy Bishop, her husband, and their four children did not seem to fit in, former neighbors said today.
Bishop, who now stands accused of gunning down three professors at the University of Alabama Huntsville, and her husband, James Anderson, were not always considered friendly neighbors and sometimes had arguments with other families. At least once, Bishop hinted that an ongoing confrontation with neighbors could become violent.
The accounts of longtime neighborhood residents, combined with a stack of police reports provided to the Globe by the Ipswich Police Department, paint a picture of conflict between the Bishop/Anderson family and others in town.
Bishop called police at least five times about neighborhood children making noise after they got home from school. On July 3, 2001, she complained that the noise from motorized scooters and motor bikes was bothering her. On April 12, 2002, she complained that children were riding dirt bikes in the woods around the neighborhood. On April 27, 2003, she called police again about kids riding bikes in the neighborhood.
On June 25, 2000, during another complaint about kids making noise, Bishop reportedly told police that her dispute with one of the children's parents may "come to blows."
Joey Lafoe, now 18 and a senior at Ipswich High School, was the target of Bishop's police reports several times for riding around on his dirt bike and motorized scooter.
"They used to videotape us driving our dirt bikes, and they used to call the cops on us saying that our dirt bikes kept them up -- at 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon," Lafoe said. "The cops said we could go until 8 o'clock."
He summed the family up in one word:
"Strange," Lafoe said.
Ipswich Police Officer Michael Thomas remembers responding to several 911 calls at the Anderson/Bishop house, calling the family "regular customers."
"I do remember them. Some of their complaints were legitimate, but it just gets to a point there was never enough we could do for them."
Thomas said that the family would get angry with police, especially when they said they were told that police couldn't put a stop to kids playing basketball or riding dirt bikes in the neighborhood because it wasn't illegal.
Bishop once stopped a local ice cream truck from coming into their neighborhood. According to WBZ-1030 radio, she said it because her own kids were lactose intolerant, and she didn't think it was fair that her kids couldn't have ice cream.
"That's who it was!" Lafoe said. "When we were younger the ice cream truck just stopped coming around. That's strange."
On February 17, 2002, a police report indicates that Bishop called 911 several times and hung up on the dispatcher. No further information was available on that day's incident.
On April 11, 1999, James Anderson called police to report that the couple's daughters, Phaeder and Thea, were missing. He said that the girls were at a friend's house and were supposed to call before they left. Police arrived, and another neighborhood parent quickly came outside and said the girls and other children were over at his house.
But the children were largely kept isolated from the other neighborhood kids.
Lafoe and several others said that it was common knowledge in the neighborhood that the kids weren't allowed to play with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.
Some neighbors, like Ethel Farmer, who's lived in the neighborhood for 37 years, never knew the Bishop/Anderson family at all because they largely kept to themselves, neighbors said. Farmer said one of the only things she knew about the family was that the kids weren't allowed to play with other kids in the neighborhood.
"I never met them. I never knew their names. I've been here 37 years and never met them. I just found out that they were my neighbors from another neighbor," Farmer said. "I know who Amy Bishop is because of the news, but not because she was a neighbor."
John M. Guilfoil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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