Police are investigating whether a Durham Academy student had a role in his father’s suspicious death, according to court documents.
Police started investigating the death of William “Bill” Bishop, a prominent Tampa-area developer, after his 16-year-old son called 911 on April 18 at 6:04 p.m. and said he had found his father “unconscious with no pulse,” Durham police Investigator T. Huelsman states in multiple search-warrant applications.
“The caller stated that his father was found with a dog leash wrapped around his neck with the dog still attached to it,” the warrants state. “The caller states he removed the leash and dog and checked for a pulse but did not feel one.”
A forensic examination of the 16-year-old’s phone showed searches that were suspicious and reveal "a possible motive," the warrants state.
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“The searches and websites found in the web history included but are not limited to financial information, how to calculate the value of an estate, the value of the price of gold per ounce, and how to transfer bank accounts after death,” the documents state.
Allyn Sharp, the teen’s attorney, wrote in a text that she was just retained on the case and the family is grieving, so she can't comment at this time.
Durham police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said investigators aren’t releasing any additional details at this time.
The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer are not naming the teenager because he hasn't been charged.
The circumstances and events leading up to Bishop’s death are suspicious, the warrants state. In the warrants, Huelsman outlines contradictory statements from Bishop’s son about how his father was found. The investigator also pointed to statements that indicated a previous injury limited Bishop’s ability to use his right hand, in which the son said his father was holding the leash handle.
“(The son) told officers on the scene that he felt relieved that his father was gone, explaining that he had been emotionally abused all his life,” Huelsman wrote.
Bishop was prominent developer in Hillsborough County, Florida, where he created numerous communities, according to an obituary that ran in the Tampa Bay Times.
“Bill Bishop was a developer by definition, but those who know him best considered him to be an artist whose canvas was Hillsborough County,” the obituary stated. It said he had two sons. The obituary also stated that Bishop’s ex-wife, Sharon Bishop, told the paper he died from a heart attack.
The obituary stated that Bill Bishop moved to North Carolina in 2008 to study city and regional planning from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he was set to get his doctorate in May.
According to Bishop’s LinkedIn profile, he has been a principal at the Development Planning and Finance Group, a national real estate consulting firm, since 2014. The company has offices across the nation, including in Research Triangle Park, Bishop's profile states.
Verbal abuse alleged
When police responded to Bishop’s home on Dover Road, they found him, unresponsive and sitting slouched in an oversized leather chair in the theater room.
While emergency officials were tending to Bishop, his 16-year-old son asked to speak with an EMS supervisor alone, the warrants state.
The supervisor told police the son said his father verbally abused him and his mother for years, the warrants state.
The son "also told officers that he was extremely fearful for what his father would do if he survived," the warrants state.
The son told firefighters that the dog leash loop that serves as a handle was on his father’s right arm and was pulled up all the way to his shoulder. The leash was wrapped around his neck and attached to the dog, the warrants say the son told officials.
The dog was “freaking out,” so the son unhooked the leash and unwrapped it from his father’s neck, the son said, according to the warrants.
When the teen’s mother arrived, she told police her son had called and said he found his father on the floor with the leash around his neck, the warrants state.
Bishop was transported to Duke University Hospital, where he died three days later.
Doctors at the hospital reached out to police and said they were “suspicious of the circumstances leading up” to the man’s death, the documents states. An initial medical examiner’s report indicated Bishop died from strangulation.
Bishop was severely hurt in a 2012 accident, had his shoulder replaced and lost all of his feeling in his right arm from nerve damage, a friend told the investigator, according to the warrants.
“The friend explained that William Bishop had to learn how to write again with his left hand,” the warrants state.
Officers have searched Bill Bishop and Sharon Bishop’s homes and collected two of the son’s Apple computers and his cell phone, which indicates he called his mother five times prior to calling 911, the warrants state.