Alleged University Shooter's Husband Thought 'Somebody Had Gone Crazy at the School'

Husband has yet to tell their youngest child about shooting rampage.

February 19, 2010, 12:19 AM

Feb. 19, 2010— -- Lost amid the fallout from this week's shooting at the University of Alabama are its youngest victims -- the children of alleged shooter Amy Bishop.

Bishop's husband, James Anderson, talks to his wife for a few minutes each day on the phone, but has not been allowed to visit her yet.

"She calls about the kids," said Anderson. "Are they doing their homework?"

Their four children, ages 7 to 18, have been told about their mother's arrest, except for the youngest one.

"The youngest wouldn't understand," Anderson told ABC News.

Anderson said his wife has never had mental health problems. Even though the prosecutor recommended anger management training, Anderson said she never sought it, and he didn't think she needed it.

He said she was a capable instructor and researcher, noting that she faced a "battle" over tenure.

"I just witnessed the day-to-day appeals, the letters, they just went back and forth," he said.

But they never diminished her spirit, he said. "Well, she's a fighter, and you don't get through a Harvard Ph.D. program without being singularly focused on your goal."

Even though she had been denied tenure, Bishop had other job prospects, he said.

"She put a few feelers out, and three other universities got back to her," he said, adding that the couple had planned to establish their own research institute.

He described his wife as a loving and caring partner and mother. She made time for her children despite her busy schedule, and didn't like to discipline them.

"She preferred to guide them, to hug them, convince them to do what they should be doing," he said.

The entire family would go to church on Sunday and watch Netflix movies on the weekends and visit relatives at Christmas. She was involved in the PTA and her children's activities, and was working on three novels, he said.

"She proved you could be a wife, mother and a researcher. That you don't have to give up the other two," he said. "There's no reason why a woman can't go out there and be a mother, a wife and have a career that means something."

Anderson hasn't seen Bishop since her arrest, but in their daily telephone conversations, she asks about their children -- three teen girls and an 8-year-old boy.

"She's worried about the kids, wants to make sure they're eating right, doing their homework, that we're all fine here," he said.

Anderson, now a single father to the couple's four children, said the past week has been hard, but that many in the city of Huntsville have rallied around his family. On the night of the arrest, two teachers' from his daughters' school actually came to the house to check on them, he said.

Pastors from their churches -- they attend services at two nondenominational Christian congregations -- have visited to pray with the family.

He said his faith has been tested "to the limit" and had moments when he becomes totally overwhelmed by fear of the future.

Family's Goals Remain the Same

"Just the whole, why did this happen, how did it happen and then how do I get up the next day and take care of the kids?" he said.

His children are "barely holding up, but they're strong," he said, adding that he's trying to keep them occupied and distracted.

Meanwhile, he's been focused on his family's future, and the fact that his wife could likely not figure in it on a daily basis.

He's tried not to pay attention to the news, but he knows Bishop could face the death penalty.

Anderson was in awe of his wife's brilliance. He said he didn't date much in high school because he never met too many smart girls there.

"I always wanted to have somebody to talk to, to talk with, explore things," he said, adding that his wife liked to do that.

They decided very early that they would have children while they were young and healthy, and he said their main goal was to provide for their children's future, he said.

"You know, a lot of people take out home equity loans for their house … new cars, home improvements. No. In this case, it was only for one purpose, and that was to get four kids through college … of their choice," he said. "If they chose to go to Harvard, we would write that check. And that goal is still there. I will do whatever it takes to make sure these little ladies and my little boy are sheltered and insulated from this as much as possible."

Even though Anderson has met with pastors, he said he still hasn't found any larger meaning to what has happened.

He wants the chance to talk to his wife and ask her himself.

"I just want to go in there and talk to her face-to-face. … I want to know the full story," he said. Meanwhile, he's holding on to his faith.

"They say -- and I believe -- that God is real. He is there," he said. "They say something will come out of this, but at this point … it's very early on. We can't comprehend at this point."

James Anderson met Amy Bishop at a science fiction fan convention, and they hit it off right away.

He remembers that when he asked her out, she replied, "You want to do nothing together?" They spent the day walking around Boston, holding hands.

Their love story progressed to its ultimate conclusion. The couple married and had four children.

This August marks their 20th wedding anniversary, but there's not likely to be a celebration. Amy Bishop sits in jail, charged with fatally shooting three colleagues and seriously injuring three others at the University of Alabama in Huntsville last week.

Anderson can't comprehend it.

See Web exclusive portions of the "Good Morning America" interview with James Anderson by clicking the following: Part1, Part 2, Part 3.

Police haven't declared a motive in the shootings that happened at the end of a biology department meeting, but Bishop's associates said she was angry at being denied tenure.

She has been charged with capital murder and attempted murder.

Speaking to "Good Morning America" in a sit-down interview Thursday, Anderson said his wife -- a Harvard-trained researcher and associate biology professor at the university -- had faced a "battle" over securing a tenured position but had other promising job prospects.

On the advice of an attorney, Anderson didn't comment directly on what he thinks happened on Feb. 12.

Anderson's first inkling that something was wrong came when he went to the university Friday to pick up his wife. They had one of their occasional date nights planned for that evening.

"I had pulled up to pick her up to go home. And I thought somebody had gone crazy at the school," the 45-year-old freelance researcher said.

There was a big, chaotic scene, and flashing lights, and his wife was being loaded into a police cruiser. He didn't know why.

"At that point I thought, 'OK, whatever's happened, she's fine,'" he said.

Because he was on the scene, he was taken to the police station, where he waited for hours for news.

"And they brought me out and flat out said, 'Your wife's been involved in a shooting,'" he said, recalling that he started shaking at those words.

As he learned the details of the incident, his mind recoiled.

"It's just incomprehensible," he said.

Who Is Amy Bishop?

His wife fit the profile of academics, he said. The 44-year-old was "focused, driven, determined."

Some would say she was too driven; others described her as a little weird, and some neighbors have said she had problems controlling her anger.

She fatally shot her brother, Seth, in 1986. Police in Braintree, Mass., declared the shooting an accident, and she was never charged.

But records show Amy Bishop was armed with a shotgun and crouching behind a car when she was taken into custody.

"I drew my service revolver and yelled three times drop the rifle," Officer Timothy Murphy wrote in his report. "After the third time she did."

The incident provided probable cause to file weapons and assault charges against her at the time, police said, according to The Associated Press, but charges were not filed and the statute of limitations has expired.

Bishop was also questioned, and again never charged, in a 1993 attempted mail bombing of a Harvard professor.

In 2002, Bishop admitted in court to punching a mother in the head after the woman was given the last booster seat in an International House of Pancakes restaurant in Peabody, Mass., the AP reported.

Bishop apparently wanted a booster seat for her own young child and yelled at the woman, "I am Dr. Amy Bishop," according to the police report.

Peabody police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto said Bishop admitted to the assault in court and the case was adjudicated, meaning the charges eventually were dismissed.

Anderson says the IHOP incident was blown out of proportion.

In 2009, dozens of Bishop's students signed a petition to remove her after appeals to school administrators failed to get her out of the classroom.

One of the letters was addressed to the biology department chairman, Gopi K. Podila, but in a subsequent meeting with the students Podila dismissed their complaints, student Caitlin Phillips told The Associated Press. Podila was the first person shot when Bishop began her alleged shooting spree. Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson also were killed.

In at least three complaints to administrators, the students said Bishop had unsettling ways, never looked students in the eye and frequently talked about her alma mater, Harvard University.

"We could tell something was off, that she was not like other teachers," Phillips told the AP.

ABC News' Michael S. James and Susan Donaldson James contributed to this report.

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