Kathy Gillcrist got the surprise of a lifetime when she began researching her birth family and learned that her biological father was once one of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives.
Not only that, the 63-year-old North Carolina resident learned that the feds are still looking for her birth father, William Bradford Bishop Jr., a highly educated former foreign service officer at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., who allegedly killed his 68-year-old mother, 37-year-old wife, and three sons in 1976.
Gillcrist’s third cousin, Susan Gillmor, a genealogist from Maine who Gillcrist found using the direct-to-consumer DNA test 23andMe in 2017, helped her track down her birth mother, who had placed her for adoption in 1957, she told WECT.
Finding Gillcrist’s birth father was more problematic and took years of painstaking research.
When Gillmor told her she’d finally found Gillcrist’s birth father, she said “‘All I’m going to do is give you his name,'” Gillcrist told WECT.
“I said ‘is it someone famous?’ She said, ‘Um, yeah.'”
When Gillcrist learned that her father was a federal fugitive who was wanted for murder, she took the news in stride.
“I just laughed,” she told WECT. “We have a great sense of humor in my adoptive family and I thought, ‘Of course, my father’s a murderer!'”
On the Lam for More Than 40 Years
Wanted by the feds since 1976, Bishop made it to the FBI’s most wanted list in 2014 for murder.
According to the FBI, on March 1, 1976, Bishop, then 39, allegedly bludgeoned to death his mother, wife and three sons, ages 14, 10 and 5, in Bethesda, Maryland, the day after being passed up for a promotion.
He drove their bodies to Columbia, North Carolina, where he allegedly buried them in a shallow grave, FBI case agent Charles Adams said in an FBI video in 2014, when Bishop made the notorious list.
Then he allegedly lit the bodies on fire.
“To be able to take a hammer to your children’s heads and faces while they’re sleeping, I think, really exhibits the brutality of the crime,” Adams said in the video.
Bishop has been on the run ever since. And the FBI is still looking for him.
Wanted for “Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution – Murder With a Blunt Instrument,” Bishop’s FBI Wanted poster describes him as an avid outdoorsman who “had extensive camping experience in Africa.”
He also enjoyed riding motorcycles and was a licensed amateur pilot who learned to fly in Botswana, Africa, it reads.
Born in Pasadena, California, Bishop has an American Studies degree from Yale University and a Master’s in Italian from Middlebury College in Vermont.
“A longtime insomniac, Bishop reportedly had been under psychiatric care in the past and had used medication for depression,” the poster says.
Bishop is also described as “intense and self-absorbed, prone to violent outbursts, and preferred a neat and orderly environment.”
The bottom of the poster warns, “Should Be Considered Armed and Extremely Dangerous with Suicidal Tendencies.”
Gillcrist, who has self-published a book about her shocking discovery called “It’s in My Genes,” told WECT that finding her father explained a few things about her own personality, including how she is the “loudest” one in her adoptive family.
She also told WECT she saw similarities in pictures she’d found of Bishop and his children.
“They look more like me than my own children do and when I look at the behaviors and characteristics it’s more than clear in my mind,” she told the outlet.
But she also warned anyone looking for their own family members that what they find might be very different than what they thought they’d find.
“It was traumatic for my half sister when she found that out about her mother,” said Gillcrist.
As for her birth father, she believes he may still be alive out there.
In the end, she is happy she found her six half-siblings – and thinks her mother would be, too.
“My birth siblings say, ‘I think she knows and I think she’s smiling that we all accepted each other,'” she tells WECT.