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Multiple Tragedies

Amy Bishop, the University of Alabama in Huntsville biologist who pleaded guilty in the fall to the shooting deaths of three of her colleagues and the attempted murder of three others, had a tragic past, writes Patrick Radden Keefe at The New Yorker. He delves into not only the Alabama shootings — which, at first, appeared to be tied to Bishop's failed bid for tenure — but also the death of her brother Seth Bishop about 25 years earlier in Massachusetts.

Though Amy's shooting of Seth had been ruled accidental at the time, she has since been indicted in that case, though Keefe notes that the case is unlikely to go to trial. Keefe examines that case as there are a number of theories about what may have occurred or about how the case was handled by police or even by the town. In particular, he wonders whether if that case had been handled differently, if it could have made a difference down the line in Alabama.

"In the months that I spent talking with people in Braintree, I came to believe that there had indeed been a coverup, but that it had been an act not of conspiracy but of compassion," he writes, later adding that "it may have seemed that the most charitable way to address the confounding tragedy at Hollis Avenue was simply to move on — a parochial gesture of mercy and denial that had an incalculable cost, decades later, in Alabama."