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Durham teen charged with killing his father never had a ‘discipline problem,’ attorney says

Son, 16, accused in father’s dog leash death, makes his first appearance

Alexander Bishop, 16, enters a courtroom for his first appearance Monday after being charged with first-degree murder, accused of killing his father, William 'Bill' Bishop, who was found unresponsive with a dog leash around his neck last April.
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Alexander Bishop, 16, enters a courtroom for his first appearance Monday after being charged with first-degree murder, accused of killing his father, William 'Bill' Bishop, who was found unresponsive with a dog leash around his neck last April.

A Durham County judge on Monday set a $250,000 bond for a 16-year-old charged with killing his father, who was found unresponsive last April with a dog leash around his neck.

The bond, set by Chief Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, is unsecured, which means Alexander Bishop can leave jail while he awaits trial.

Bishop was arrested Friday and charged with murder in the death of 59-year-old William “Bill” Bishop.

Alexander Bishop, then a student at Durham Academy, called his mother five times on the evening of April 18 before he called 911, according to search warrants in the case. He told a dispatcher that he found his father unconscious in their home, slouched in a chair with a dog leash, with the dog attached at the other end.

Bill Bishop died three days later.

During the court hearing Monday, attorney Allyn Sharp said Alexander Bishop didn’t kill his father, and had no motive.

“He has never even had a discipline problem,” Sharp said. “He is a kid who lost his father, and this has been the hardest year of his life.”

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Durham lawyer Allyn Sharp stands with her client Alexander Bishop, 16, charged with first degree murder and accused of killing his father who was found unresponsive last April with a dog leash around his neck, during his first appearance where Judge Orlando Hudson set a $250,000 unsecured bond, on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Durham, NC. Casey Toth ctoth@newsobserver.com

Sharp raised concerns about how law enforcement handled the case, including a Friday arrest that resulted in Alexander Bishop spending the weekend in jail. Sharp also argued there is a dispute between medical experts about whether Bill Bishop’s death was a homicide.

The North Carolina state medical examiner ruled Bishop’s death a homicide and said he died from strangulation. But a Greenville pathologist hired by Bishop’s family cast doubt on that ruling, The News & Observer reported. Bob Idol, an attorney representing Bishop’s sons in estate-related matters, has said the family believes Bishop died from a heart attack.

After emergency officials arrived at the family’s home on April 18, Alexander Bishop told an official he felt relieved his father was gone after being emotionally abused his whole life, according to the search warrants.

“(The son) explained that there had never been anything physical to occur, just constant verbal abuse over minor things like dishes being left in the sink and homework not being completed,” a law enforcement officer wrote in a search warrant. “(He) also told officers that he would be extremely fearful for what his father would do if he survived.”

A search of Alexander Bishop’s cellphone showed the device was used to look up information about finances, how to calculate the value of an estate, the value of gold and how to transfer bank accounts after someone’s death, court records show.

Bill Bishop, a father of two teenage boys, was worth about $5.55 million in 2017, according to court records. He was a prominent developer in Florida and moved to the Triangle in 2008 to get a doctoral degree at UNC-Chapel Hill.

An edited Durham 911 call from the 16-year-old son of William “Bill” Bishop on the night he said he found his father unresponsive with a dog leash around his neck. The death has been ruled a homicide.

During the hearing, Sharp said Durham Academy asked Alexander Bishop to not return to the school last fall. Alexander Bishop is indigent, Sharp said, because he doesn’t have access to his father’s estate while he faces the murder charge.

Alexander Bishop’s arrest brought mixed feelings for David Moore, a longtime friend of Bill Bishop.

“While I’m very relieved to learn that someone may — finally — be held accountable for this despicable crime,” Moore wrote in an email to The News & Observer over the weekend, “I’m deeply saddened that it is my godson Alexander who has been charged with my dear friend Bill’s murder.”

Court documents related to Bill Bishop’s estate reveal a contentious divide between his girlfriend Julie Seel and his ex-wife and two sons, The News & Observer has reported.

Seel said in court documents that Bill Bishop’s safe was missing $50,000 in gold and $75,000 in jewelry and cash.

Seel said Sharon Bishop accessed the safe while Bill Bishop was in the hospital, although she was supposed to stay away from the home. The Bishops separated in November 2016, and their divorce was finalized 12 days before he was found unconscious.

Idol said Sharon Bishop opened the safe to look for Bill Bishop’s living will. She didn’t see any gold, jewelry or cash, but she did find guns, Idol said.

Police eventually drilled into the safe, but Idol said that wasn’t necessary since Sharon Bishop shared the location of the combination with them.

The warrant says an investigator followed Sharon Bishop’s instructions but couldn’t find the combination.

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