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US orders review of attempted bombing

Alabama shooting puts fresh scrutiny on unsolved ’93 case

A SECOND LOOK US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she ordered a review to make sure all appropriate steps were taken in the 1993 investigation. A SECOND LOOK
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she ordered a review to make sure all appropriate steps were taken in the 1993 investigation.
By Shelley Murphy and Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / February 25, 2010

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The state’s top federal prosecutor announced yesterday that her office will review its investigation of the December 1993 attempted mail bombing of a Harvard Medical School professor, now that a woman once considered a suspect in the case is accused of killing three people during a shooting rampage at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement yesterday that she has ordered the review to make sure all appropriate steps were taken during the investigation into the case, which had focused on a Massachusetts couple, Amy Bishop and her husband, Jimmy E. Anderson Jr. No one was ever charged in the attempted bombing, but the case has come under scrutiny again because of the charges against Bishop in the Feb. 12 shootings in Alabama.

“While it would be inconsistent with our legal obligations to release all information related to this incident, we have commenced a thorough review of the information related to this incident to confirm that all appropriate steps were taken in that matter, and to determine whether information related to this incident may be of assistance to other law enforcement agencies,’’ Ortiz said.

Former US attorney Donald K. Stern, who presided over the office during the investigation of the attempted mail bombing, had called for such a review earlier in the week, and yesterday applauded Ortiz’s decision, saying, “I think it’s the right thing for another official set of eyes to take a look, even after all these years, to make sure things were done properly, and if possible, to assist the investigators in Alabama.’’

A spokesman for the Huntsville Police Department said investigators would welcome any insights that a review of the 1993 case could provide.

“We would be grateful for any help we can get from any source,’’ Sergeant Mark Roberts said.

While the review may shed new light on the 1993 investigation, it is too late for anyone to be charged in the case. The federal law that prohibits mailing explosives carries a five-year statute of limitations.

Ortiz issued her statement two days after the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released files to the Globe detailing why investigators focused on Bishop and Anderson as they sought to determine who mailed a package containing two pipe bombs to the Newton home of Dr. Paul Rosenberg.

Bishop and Anderson moved from Massachusetts to Alabama with their four children in 2003. In a telephone interview yesterday from his home in a Montgomery, Ala., suburb, Anderson’s father, Jimmy Anderson Sr., said he welcomed Ortiz’s decision to launch a review.

“I take that on a positive note,’’ he said. “Because I think they went after the wrong people.’’

The elder Anderson questioned the credibility of a witness quoted in the ATF files as saying that Anderson Jr. had said he wanted to get back at Rosenberg by shooting, bombing, stabbing, or strangling the doctor. The files do not indicate whether investigators considered the witness credible.

“The comments are out of character, first because he’s an Eagle Scout, first because I think he’s almost a pacifist,’’ the elder Anderson said. “He’s 45 years old, and I’ve never heard him use the word ‘strangle’ in his life. I’ve never heard him use the word ‘stab’ anything in his life. He’s a lover of nature. He’s not a person who would harm anybody. . . . It’s just 100 percent ludicrous.’’

He also called his son “a very docile guy, a little too docile.’’

The attempted mail bombing occurred on Dec. 19, 1993, when Rosenberg returned from vacation with his wife. As he was opening a package that had come in the mail, he saw wires and a cylinder inside. He and his wife fled the house and called police.

The ATF files provide details of the investigation that followed. The names of Bishop and Anderson are blacked out in most of the files, but three people familiar with the investigation have confirmed on condition of anonymity that the documents refer to the couple.

The documents reveal that Rosenberg, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, told investigators that weeks before the attempted bombing he played a role in Bishop’s resignation from her job as a postdoctoral research fellow in the hospital’s neurobiology lab because he felt she could not meet the standards required for the work.

Rosenberg said, according to the files, that he had feared Bishop was not stable, and that her co-workers had growing concerns because she had exhibited violent behavior.

Yesterday, through a spokeswoman, Rosenberg said he was pleased that the US attorney was reopening the investigation.

Bishop’s arrest in Alabama has also prompted a review in Massachusetts of how local, county, and state officials handled a 1986 case in which Bishop, then 21, fatally shot her 18-year-old brother, Seth, in the family’s Braintree home. The shooting was ruled an accident at the time, but law enforcement officials now say key information was not shared between agencies, including the fact that just after the shooting, Amy Bishop threatened men at a local car dealership with a shotgun.

Governor Deval Patrick has ordered State Police to review its handling of the 1986 investigation. That review is being overseen by Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating, who is also looking into how the district attorney’s office and Braintree police handled the case. At the time, the Norfolk district attorney was William D. Delahunt, who now represents the South Shore and Cape Cod in Congress.

Former Braintree Police Chief John Polio said he was interviewed by State Police at his home Friday night for about an hour. He said investigators asked him what he recalled of the case, his knowledge of what happened that day, and who ordered Amy Bishop to be released without being charged.

Last Monday, Polio said in an interview that he had followed the recommendation of his captain to release Bishop because she was too emotional to be questioned. During that interview Polio also said that the captain, Theodore Buker, who died in 1993, told him the case should go to the district attorney’s office. Polio said he agreed with both recommendations.

Yesterday, Polio denied having said that Buker recommended Bishop’s release.

“If I said that, I misspoke,’’ he said.

Polio also denied another Braintree officer’s assertions, via his attorney, that Polio had ordered Bishop’s release after her mother, Judy, showed up at the station.

“I never saw her,’’ said Polio, who described himself as a casual acquaintance of Judy Bishop. “I never saw Judy Bishop that day, or any time subsequent thereof.’’

Maria Cramer and Donovan Slack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com