The death of a North Carolina man whose son said he found his dad tethered to his pet pooch by a dog leash wrapped around his neck was ruled a homicide, authorities said.
The 16-year-old son of William “Bill” Bishop, 59, told police in Durham that he found his father “unconscious with no pulse” in a leather chair inside his home on April 18. Bishop was holding a dog leash in his right hand, which was wrapped around his neck three times, and a 60- to 70-pound yellow Labrador still attached, according to search-warrant applications obtained by the Herald Sun.
The teen told responding officers that his father – a developer in Florida who was just days away from receiving his doctorate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill – was having problems with his new girlfriend following a divorce. But the teen said he didn’t think his father would harm himself, according to the warrants.
An autopsy report released Friday ruled that Bishop died from anoxic encephalopathy due to resuscitated arrest due to ligature strangulation — meaning his brain tissue was deprived of oxygen, leading to a loss of brain function.
Bishop also had an existing injury to his right arm that left the limb “largely functionless,” according to the autopsy report. A lifelong friend of Bishop’s told the newspaper earlier this month that he injured his arm in 2012 during a freak accident at a gym.
Bishop’s son – who has not been charged – told emergency responders that he took the dog for a walk and returned home. Thirty minutes later he said he found Bishop in the basement. No drugs or alcohol were found in the man’s system, according to a medical examiner’s report.
“The son called 911 but stated he was unable to perform CPR and stay on the phone because there is no cell service in the basement,” according to the report, adding that paramedics tried five rounds of CPR to revive Bishop but were unsuccessful. He died three days later.
The report also cited several comments Bishop’s son made to investigators that were “suspicious in nature,” including that he wouldn’t “feel bad” if his father died, Durham Police Investigator T. Huelsman wrote.
“Of note, EMS states that during time at the house the son pulled one of them to the side to say, ‘I feel weird because I don’t feel bad he might die’ and ‘My dad is abusive to me and my mom,’” according to the report.
Court documents show that Bishop’s divorce from his ex-wife, Sharon, was finalized less than two weeks before he was found unresponsive. The son also said he felt relieved that his father was gone after a lifetime of emotional abuse, documents show.
“[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 search warrant application reads. “[He] also told officers that he would be extremely fearful for what his father would do if he survived.”
A warrant obtained by the newspaper shows that Bishop’s son used his phone to search for a verity of financial information, including how to calculate the value of an estate and large qualities of gold. The teen also called his mother five times before calling police, according to the warrant.
Weeks after Bishop’s death, police returned to the home and found a safe inside a locked room. Sharon Bishop told police she didn’t know the combination to the safe, but said it might be written down inside a filing cabinet.
Investigators couldn’t find a combination to the safe, but documents seized during a search of the home revealed a purchase order for $462,773 in gold, according to a warrant. Bishop’s girlfriend, Julie Seel, told investigators in early June that there was at least $50,000 in gold and $75,000 in jewelry — as well as an unspecified amount of cash – inside the safe.
Seel told police she texted Sharon Bishop two days after Bishop was found unresponsive and asked her to look in the safe for his will. Bishop was alive at the time, but didn’t have significant brain activity.
“Finally got it open no documents in safe,” Sharon Bishop replied, Seel told police. “Leaving house now.”
Police in Durham said no charges have been filed in Bishop’s death as of Monday. An investigation is ongoing, a police spokeswoman told The Post. She declined further comment.
Seel, meanwhile, declined to discuss the troubling online searches authorities say Bishop’s son made after his father was taken to a hospital and later died.
“I continue to be utterly devastated,” Seel told WTVD. “Nothing makes sense without Bill. He was part of everything, now everything is in parts. He is simply the greatest man I have ever known and exactly the type of father I always wanted for my daughter.”