Teen son’s grisly dog collar murder
WHEN multi-millionaire William "Bill" Bishop was found unconscious in his home theatre with a dog leash wound tightly around his neck and the animal still attached, it appeared he was the victim of a freak accident.
The grim discovery was made on April 18, last year by his 16-year-old son Alexander, who had been alone with Mr Bishop in the family's $A1.4 million North Carolina mansion at the time.
The teenager made two calls, the first to his mother Sharon and the second to police, telling the dispatcher: "I think my dad is dead".
He told the 911 operator that he had found his father unresponsive "with a dog leash wrapped three times around his neck and the dog still attached" at about 6pm.
The "dog got his, like, collar wrapped around his throat," Alexander said.
An edited transcript of the call goes as follows:
Alexander: "When I got in there and checked his pulse, he wasn't breathing. His heart wasn't beating."
Operator: "Is there anyone else at the home with you?"
Alexander: "No. (Pause) I don't know if I can go in there again. I don't want to look at him."
Operator: "I understand sir."
In fact, Bill Bishop was still alive although deprivation of oxygen had caused devastating brain damage.
The 57-year-old property developer would cling to life for three days before succumbing to a massive heart attack without regaining consciousness.
Alarm bells started ringing for authorities almost immediately.
An ambulance supervisor later told police Alexander had told one of the responding paramedics "he wasn't going to be upset about his father dying".
"He explained that his father verbally abused him and his mum for a number of years," the supervisor said. "Alexander also said he was extremely fearful for what his father would do if he survived."
Sharon and Bill Bishop had finalised their divorce just weeks earlier and she had lost custody of Alexander and his brother Jefferson in the process.
Meanwhile investigators suspected foul play and soon found a motive - $A700,000 worth of cash and gold ingots stored in a safe near the home entertainment room where Mr Bishop was found.
A forensic examination of Alexander's mobile phone showed he had searched online about the value of gold, how to calculate the value of an estate and how to transfer bank accounts after a death.
When the autopsy report came back with a finding of homicide, detectives swooped, arresting Alexander and charging him with murder in February.
An independent pathologist hired by his mother Sharon has cast doubt on the murder ruling, concluding "the manner of death in this case should remain undetermined".
A search warrant affidavit tendered to court revealed more about Alexander's allegations regarding mistreatment at the hands of his father.
"He explained that his father verbally abused him and his mum for a number of years," the document said. "(He said) 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 completed."
Alexander was granted bail at a hearing last month, during which his lawyers told the court their client was innocent, although he is yet to officially enter a plea.
Meanwhile, Mr Bishop's significant fortune is currently the subject of an ugly court battle.
His girlfriend of one year, clinical psychologist Julie Seel, has been granted interim control of his $A8million estate after successfully arguing she needs to protect his assets.
Mr Bishop's ex-wife Sharon and sons have tried and failed to overturn the ruling.