Amy Amy Amy

I’ve been reading about Amy Bishop, the biology professor who murdered three colleagues last week after not getting tenure. The story is creepy-sad, and I’m drawn to it the way I was to the Lisa Nowak story. Lisa was the astronaut who was charged with the attempted kidnapping of her lover’s new girlfriend, who supposedly wore diapers on her long stalker drive. I remember the comments on how she looked compared to the new gf. I thought she had a kind of raw, sketchy beauty, but the media thought the guy did better with the new gf, not for the obvious reasons that Lisa was an angry, unstable, diaper-wearing, jealous stalker, but because she had “let herself go”. Seriously.

Maybe because women are less prone to commit violent crimes (duh), or maybe just the sheer weirdness of the whole situation draws me to it. Maybe because she’s roughly my age and had kids, it feels like I should be able to get inside her head a little bit. I don’t really expect to understand the motivations of a young gang member, but I do think I should be able, at least a little bit, to understand someone who grew up in the suburbs in the northeast, values education, has kids and a job.

I learned today in the NYT that after Amy Bishop was apprehended, several people reported that she might have “booby trapped the science building with a herpes bomb.” We also learned last week that she had shot her brother with a shotgun after an argument, but the case wasn’t investigated. When I told this to R., his comment was, “Um, is murder the kind of thing you get to say, ‘nah, we’re not gonna press charges on this one?’” And there were several other weird and violent outbursts over many years. Like, she punched a woman in the head at an IHOP because that woman had taken the last booster seat. That is seriously angry.  How badly do you want to eat at IHOP?

I’m reading the most excellent collection of short stories by Sherman Alexie right now, War Dances, and I’m at that point of falling in love with his writing where I’m afraid to write anything myself because I will feel like I’m totally copying, or else it will just sound flat and unimportant. In one story, The Senator’s Son, he talks about the 9-11 terrorists, and says,

“Think of those nineteen men and you must curse them. But you must also curse their mothers and fathers. Curse their brothers and sisters. Curse their teachers and priests. Curse everybody who failed them. I pray for those nineteen men because I believe that some part of them, the original sliver of God that still resided in them, was calling out for guidance, for goodness and beauty.” ~Sherman Alexie, 2009

I feel that way about this Amy Bishop story. That somehow, we let each other down. These murders are no more sad than any gang killing, but they are more incredible. Because Amy was a person who should have been connected with resources, and there should be a shiny clear path available to help people return to their original goodness. For some people, that path is pretty steep and filled with obstacles, like poverty and lack of education, and being surrounded by people who are also on the same steep obstacle-filled path and are too busy putting their own oxygen mask on to help someone else.

But Amy Bishop experienced some of the best of what life holds: above-average intelligence, a PhD from Harvard, a marriage, four healthy children, a job that used her talents. It seems like if her particular life didn’t put her in the path of people who know how to gently and successfully guide someone back into beauty and goodness, there’s something terribly wrong.


  1. That's a fascinating story, Betsy. I had read the initial news coverage, but hadn't read about her other incidents. Very sad--and I appreciate your perspective on it.
    Also liked what Alexie says about 911 terrorists! Issy


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