Local News

Charge dropped against Durham teen accused of killing father

Posted February 6, 2020 2:11 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2020 2:49 p.m. EST

Alexander Bishop listens as his attorney argues a pretrial motion during a Sept. 11, 2019, court hearing. The Durham teen is charged with killing his father.

— Durham County prosecutors on Thursday dismissed a murder charge against a teen accused of killing his father two years ago.

Bill Bishop, 59, a prominent developer in the Tampa area, was found unconscious in his Durham mansion on Dover Road on April 18, 2018. He died in a local hospital two days later.

Alexander Bishop, who was 16 at the time, was arrested a year ago and charged in his father's death.

The teen said he found his father unconscious in the theater room of the family home near Hope Valley Country Club with a dog leash wrapped around his neck and the dog still on the leash, according to records in the case. The leash wasn't on Bill Bishop when paramedics arrived at the house.

Bill Bishop

An autopsy determined "ligature strangulation" was the cause of death, noting that led to a heart attack that deprived Bishop's brain of oxygen.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Hopkins Thomas filed the notice of dismissal Thursday, citing "insufficiency of the evidence at this time" as the reason for dropped the murder charge against Alexander Bishop.

"Alexander is grateful to finally be able to move on with his life after the tragic loss of his father and an unwarranted criminal prosecution," defense attorney Allyn Sharp said in a statement.

Much of the prosecution evidence in the case was thrown out last fall, after Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that a Durham police investigator misled judges to obtain search warrants.

Sharp accused Tony Huelsman, Durham police's lead investigator in the case, of including "knowing misstatements or reckless disregard for the truth" in his applications for warrants to search the Bishop home and Alexander Bishop's cellphone and computers.

For example, police accused Alexander Bishop and his mother of stealing more than $400,000 in gold from a safe in the home after Bill Bishop's death. But Sharp said that receipts in the home showed that Bill Bishop had already sold the gold.

In applications for other warrants, Huelsman stated that police had found searches on Alexander Bishop's phone for how to calculate the value of an estate, how to transfer bank accounts after a death and the prices of gold. Sharp said that police didn't note that those searches were conducted after Bill Bishop's death.

Huelsman acknowledged his error about the gold while testifying in a September pre-trial hearing, saying he misread a document, but he denied intentionally misleading the court in his warrant applications.

More recently, Sharp accused District Attorney Satana Deberry of “deliberately withholding evidence" in the case, saying prosecutors hadn't turned over some files as required.