Warrant: Police suspect teen, mother grabbed gold from dead Durham businessman’s safe

March 2, 2019
Alexander Bishop

Police suspect that a Durham teen and his mother stole more than $400,000 in gold from a safe in the home of a Durham businessman the day he died last year.

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

An autopsy report states “ligature strangulation” as the cause of death, noting that led to a heart attack that deprived Bishop’s brain of oxygen.

His son, Alexander Bishop, 16, was arrested last week and charged with murder in the case. He is free on a $250,000 unsecured bond.

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.

During their investigation, police had a locksmith drill open a Liberty safe in Bill Bishop’s home because his girlfriend, Julie Seel, had told them he kept gold, jewelry, cash, financial records and other valuables there. Police also found a purchase order for 25 gold bars on Bishop’s desk.

According to a new search warrant in the case, investigators found only guns inside the safe. The possibility of gold being kept in a safe deposit box at a PNC Bank branch in downtown Durham also proved to be a dead end, as Bill Bishop had closed out the box in 2017, according to the application for the search warrant.

Police sought the warrant to search the cellphone of Bill Bishop’s ex-wife, Sharon Bishop, who is Alexander Bishop’s mother. They wanted to check her location when her son called her on the day Bill Bishop was found unconscious and to see whether she called any businesses that deal in precious metals, according to the application for the warrant.

“I believe Sharon and Alexander Bishop obtained the gold from the safe in William Bishop’s home on 4/20/2018 when Sharon replied to Julie Seel’s text message with, ‘Finally got it open no documents in safe, Leaving house now,’” an investigator states in the warrant application.

Previous court documents said Seel told police that she and Sharon Bishop swapped text messages the day before Bill Bishop died about checking a safe for documents. It’s unclear if the messages referred to the Liberty safe. Sharon Bishop later told police that she didn’t know the combination to the Liberty safe, prompting police to obtain a search warrant so they could have it drilled open.

Sharon Bishop hasn’t been charged with any crime in the case.

A second new search warrant in the case shows police regularly surveilled Sharon Bishop’s home in recent months while Alexander Bishop was staying there. Investigators sought the warrant to search the home for any journals or other materials Alexander Bishop might have kept.

Alexander Bishop told first responders last April that his father emotionally abused him and that he wouldn’t be upset if he died, according to court documents.

Police previously searched the laptop computer that Durham Academy had assigned to Alexander Bishop and also found suspicious information on the teen’s cellphone, such as searches for calculating the value of an estate, transferring bank accounts after a death and the prices of gold, according to court documents.

Police seized three laptop computers, two cellphones, an external hard drive, 12 USB flash drives, two DVD drives, an iPod and various documents from Sharon Alexander’s home, according to the search warrant.