DURHAM, N.C.—The mysterious death of a real estate developer found strangled with a dog leash nearby took an unusual turn Feb. 22 when his teenage son was charged with killing him.
Durham Police said in a news release that Alexander Bishop, 16, was arrested Friday and charged with murder in the death of 60-year-old William Bishop. Bishop, who developed prominent real estate projects in Florida, had been living in North Carolina for the past decade. The teen will be prosecuted as an adult.
Alexander Bishop’s attorney Daniel Meier didn’t immediately respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment Friday.
The strange death made headlines in two states as what sounded at first like a freak accident soon gave way to investigators’ suspicions and an autopsy that ruled the death a homicide. Investigators spent months probing the case—parsing unusual details such as a purported safe filled with gold and filing at least seven search warrants.
When officers arrived, Bishop was in a leather chair in the home theater of the 4,000 square-foot house that, according to county records, has an appraised value of around $800,000. It’s a short drive from one of the area’s oldest country clubs, Hope Valley.
After being found unresponsive, the developer died three days later in a hospital.
What happened began to look suspicious soon after emergency medical personnel arrived. Alexander Bishop told an EMS supervisor that “he wasn’t going to be upset about his father dying. He explained that his father verbally abused him and his mom for a number of years,” according to a search warrant.
“Alexander 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 detective wrote elsewhere in the warrant.
Authorities say the son told them he and the father had been alone in the house at the time. The son told them that he found his father with the leash wrapped around his neck, and the approximately 60-pound dog was still attached and “freaking out,” according to a search warrant. The son said he removed the leash from his father’s neck to check for a pulse.
The boy’s mother, who lived elsewhere, soon arrived, and told officers her son had called her to say he had found his father in the basement.
An autopsy later determined that William Bishop had died from homicide by strangulation, with ligature marks around his neck.
The detective also sought warrants to search Alexander Bishop’s school locker at a private school, as well as servers hosting his school email address.
Bishop and his ex-wife, Sharon, had been separated since late 2016. They were married in 1998 in Florida, where Bishop had worked as a prominent developer.
An attorney for the ex-wife didn’t immediately respond to a message Friday night seeking comment.
The couple has two boys, about a year apart in age. William Bishop was granted permanent custody in 2017, according to court documents.
Bishop was a well-known developer in Florida’s Hillsborough County, where he’s credited with creating several master-planned or gated communities, according to a Tampa Bay Times obituary. The newspaper said he moved to North Carolina in 2008 to pursue an advanced degree.
The father’s girlfriend had told investigators that Bishop kept $50,000 in gold and expensive jewelry in a safe located near the theater room, according to investigative documents.
An examination of the son’s cell phone showed that 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, according to a warrant.
The warrant, signed by Detective T. Huelsman stated: “These searches and websites explain a possible motive for Alexander Bishop to kill his dad.”