William Bradford Bishop

FBI Confirms NC Woman Is Accused Killer William Bradford Bishop's Daughter

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In March 1976, 18-year-old Kathy Gillcrist had just been crowned Miss Stoughton in the small Massachusetts town where she grew up.

"I was dressed in red, white and blue polyester,” she told News4 in an interview in North Carolina, where she lives today. “I could not have done anything more wholesome than that."

Kathy Gillcrist, Miss Stoughton 1976
Kathy Gillcrist
Kathy Gillcrist, Miss Stoughton 1976

Little did she know, eight hours away, at the same time, a horrific mass murder was taking place inside a Bethesda, Maryland, home -- a crime she would eventually have a connection to decades later.

Self-Proclaimed Drama Queen

Gillcrist always knew she was adopted.

"All I remember was that I was chosen. So, I am pretty sure I told all of the kids that I met that their parents were stuck with them, but I was chosen,” she said. “So, I didn't really have any problems with self-esteem."

Kathy Gillcrist as a child
Kathy Gillcrist
Kathy Gillcrist as a child

She grew up wanting to be an actress and said her mom and dad, the Sidebottoms, were as wholesome as they come.

"I mean, you couldn't have more wholesome parents,” Gillcrist said. “I don't even think there's a speeding ticket anywhere."

And they passed along their sense of humor to her -- something she would use time and time again, always enjoying being the center of attention and taking things in stride.

"My life has always been complete " she said, never thinking too much about searching for her birth parents. "The information I had was information that my birth mother supplied to the adoption agency, and I was really satisfied with that for about 20 years."

Shawn Yancy and the News4 I-Team share how they got the interview with William Bradford Bishop's daughter and their years covering his case.

But as she got closer to retirement, she started wondering more about where she came from.

"I said, 'Well, I'll take one of these DNA tests and find out, you know, some information,'" she said.

That's when the drama really began for his self-proclaimed drama queen.

It's All Started by Spitting in a Tube

She first used one of those online DNA testing websites, 23andMe, hoping to make any connections with blood relatives out there, and the first woman she had a match with turned out to be quite the find.

Susan Gillmor and Kathy Gillcrist
Kathy Gillcrist
Susan Gillmor and Kathy Gillcrist

"I've been doing genealogy more seriously for almost 25 years," Susan Gillmor said via Zoom from her home in Maine. Turns out Gillmor is not only Gillcrist's third cousin on her mother's side, but quite the super-sleuth when it comes to tracking down relatives.

“I've helped dozens of people now find their roots or find their families, siblings, parents, and it is probably the most rewarding thing I've ever done,” Gillmor said. “I've come to live for that. I like working with adoptees. I like the opportunity to help them find a family. I've always had a deep sense of roots and I love being able to give that to others in the way I have it or in some degree of that.”

The Curious Cousin

Tracking down how she and Gillcrist were related took several months. She first was able to identify Gillcrist's biological mother.

"My father and her mother were second cousins, and our grandparent's grandfathers were first cousins," Gillmor said.

But the task of finding her birth father would prove much more difficult, more than a year.

"It took a long time; what she did was nothing short of, like, a research, a huge research project," Gillcrist explained.

For Gillmor it was one big puzzle.

"I start seeing names in common or geographic areas in common on different people who also are related through the same line," she explained. "So, I'm trying to build these branches through these clues."

Gillmor said Gillcrist also submitted a DNA sample on Ancestry.com because the database is larger, giving her more matches to work with. Gillmor eventually came across one name that kept showing up, St.  Germain, and thought that might be one of Gillcrist's grandparents. Next, she found a St. Germain who married a Bishop, and they had one son.

The Physical Resemblance Was Overpowering

"That was a ding- ding moment," said Gillmor.

But she wasn't prepared for what she found when she searched the name of that only son online.

"I doubt I'll ever have another one quite like this one, because usually, I find car salesmen and housewives," she said.

She called her cousin with her new information about the man who might be her father and asked her if she was sitting down.

"I thought, 'This can't be right. It just can't be right.' But there he was. And the physical resemblance was, was overpowering," said Gillmor.

William Bradford Bishop (left); Kathy Gillcrist (right)
FBI/Kathy Gillcrist
William Bradford Bishop (left); Kathy Gillcrist (right)

Gillcrist said she asked her cousin if he was a famous person.

"And she kind of, you know, she said, 'Well, yeah, yeah, but I'll let you figure that out,’” Gillcrist said. "She says his name is William Bradford Bishop."

Gillcrist Googled the name.

"His FBI Most Wanted poster, that was the first indication of who he was,” she said. “I said. 'Wow.' [He] had the same mouth I have and the same mole on the side of the face."

The Hunt for William Bradford Bishop

The case of William Bradford Bishop has captured the public's attention for decades and been followed by News4 for years, including in 2014 when the FBI placed him on its Most Wanted List almost 40 years after the crime.

On March 1, 1976, Bishop left his job at the State Department, making two stops to buy a gas can, sledgehammer, a shovel and a pitchfork before heading to his Bethesda home, police say.

Investigators say he killed his wife, Annette, first; his mother; then their three boys as they slept. Bishop drove to North Carolina, where he dumped their bodies before abandoning his station wagon in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The last confirmed sighting of him was the day after the murders when he was spotted with his dog purchasing tennis shoes at a Jacksonville, North Carolina, store.

He's never been seen since.

What was the motive? The FBI told News4 in 2014 they think he might have been angry his job had stalled out, he had been taking medication for anxiety and he was broke. The day of the murders, his wife was trying to get a job at a nursery school, telling them she needed money. His mother was trying to sell her fur coat to pay the mortgage.

Biggest Development in 45-Year-Old Cold Case

The FBI and News4 have continued to get tips about the possible whereabouts of Bishop over the years. Special Agent Karen Cody took over the case in 2018, the year Bishop was removed from the Most Wanted List.

"We get tips on a daily basis,” Cody said. “They still come in. We just, I just looked in our Guardian system, which is our lead system, and we just received one this morning."

She admits she was a bit skeptical when she first heard Gillcrist’s story.

"Just because Bishop's life since before college had thoroughly been accounted for. And so, I was a little doubtful," Cody said.

But after interviewing Gillcrist and her cousin, she decided to go a step further. She collected a DNA sample from Gillcrist and compared it against a profile of Bishop created from evidence left behind in his abandoned station wagon in those mountains.

"There were seven cigarette butts in the ashtray,” Cody said. “He was a smoker, and so back many years ago, early on in this case, when DNA was a possibility, they collected and they extracted his DNA from one of those butts."

And then the lab called. It was a match.

"Strong enough for the FBI lab to conclusively determine that she is, in fact, his biological daughter," Cody said.

She called Gillcrist with the news.

"And she said, 'So, I wasn't totally crazy?' And I said, 'No, you weren't,'" Cody said.

What Could This Mean for the Case

Cody calls it the biggest development in the case, possibly shedding some light on a part of Bishop's life no one ever knew about. She also thinks it could develop additional leads and interest in the case.

"It opens up a whole new dimension of Bishop's life that we never knew about, and so it does raise the possibility that there may be a reason behind him snapping," she said.

But many mysteries remain. While Gillcrist was born before Bishop's other children, perhaps when he attended Yale, it's not known how he and her birth mother met, the nature of their relationship or even if he knew about Gillcrist. 

Cody told the I-Team they want to hear from anyone who might have information.

"We're very interested in the time frame of anywhere between 1957 and 1960,” she said. “Anyone who knew Bishop, who could still be alive, we would very much like them to come forward, to shed light on the aspect of his life that we may not already know about."

She said they've already been able to identify additional living relatives of Bishop.

William Bradford Bishop would be 85 today. The FBI believes there's a good chance he is still alive, and so does Gillcrist.

"I think it's very possible that there are other children that he might have had in his other life as a fugitive," she said.

A Cautionary Tale

Despite the shocking news about her birth father, Gillcrist is still happy she dug into her past.

"I couldn't have, you know, a famous actor or famous ex-president,” she said. “I have a murderer for a father."

She often thinks about the tragedy she's now connected to and the half-siblings she never got to meet.

"I'll be perfectly honest, it was more of just a story, but now that I know it's real, there are times when, you know, I do think, 'Wow, this is real. This is real,'" Gillcrist said.

But there have been other discoveries that have also changed her life for the better. Along the way, Gillmor was able to help Gillcrist identify six other half-siblings from her birth mother, none of them fathered by Bishop, and she has met four of them, her journey chronicled in a recent book she wrote titled "It's In My Genes." She never got the chance to meet her birth mother, who passed away.

"It's in My Genes" by Kathy Gillcrist
Kathy Gillcrist
"It's in My Genes" by Kathy Gillcrist

"Part of my mission is to caution people about those DNA tests,” she said. “If you are not prepared for what you might find, it's not a game."

Anyone with information about William Bradford Bishop should contact the FBI at this website or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Reported by Shawn Yancy, produced and reported by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.

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