What's Wrong with People? Part 2: UAH shooting, Ashleigh

Against the Profile
Ashleigh Banfield of ABC News was one of the first to speak with survivors of the University of Alabama shooting that happened on February 12.

Ashleigh reports, "By all accounts, Debra Moriarity shouldn't be here today. She was one of 13 people attending a routine meeting at the University on Friday, when out of the blue, her friend and colleague pulled out a 9mm and began shooting. Within seconds, six people around the conference table would be shot at close range. Moriarity scrambled under the table and then crawled for the door."

"She stepped out into the hall, and pointed the gun at me and pulled the trigger. And it clicked, and it clicked again," Debra tells Ashleigh. "I'm here talking to you today because the gun didn't fire. She looked like she was intent on doing this, and she was angry."

[AD]"Some close to Bishop said there were some disturbing signs," Ashleigh says. "Just last fall, after being denied tenure, she filed suit against the university, charging gender discrimination. In 2002, she was charged with assault in Massachusetts, after hitting a woman in a dispute at an IHOP, over a child's booster seat. Bishop was given probation and encouraged to seek anger management. Back in 1986, her younger brother was killed by a shotgun blast. She was questioned, but ultimately, never charged. And in 1993, she and her husband were singled out by police after a pipe bomb was mailed to a professor with whom she had a dispute. Neither of them were charged in that incident either. ABC news has recently learned Amy recently went target shooting with her grad students."

"This story is shocking at so many levels," Dr. Phil says to Ashleigh. "You just keep peeling back the layers, and there's just more and more."

"Well, we normally have a profile on shooters, on mass murderers, and this woman does not fit the profile. We rarely have mothers of four children who go on these kinds of explosive rampages. So, that was the first thing that set me off and had me thinking there's got to be more," she says.

"Here we have someone who is really embedded in this community, highly educated, and is a mother," Dr. Phil says. "What have you uncovered that seems to have triggered this?"

Ashleigh explains that Amy's husband has said that there was battle for tenure. "As a professor you want to stay forever at your university, and tenure is a very tough thing to get. She had been told, ‘You're not getting it, and this is your last semester.' This was a huge battle she had been waging with the experts at the school who were assessing her, and she knew she wasn't getting it. Her husband said this is probably what led to this," she says.

Are there warning signs that were missed? Dr. Phil reviews some facts in this case that jump out to him:

  • 1986: Amy fatally shoots brother with shotgun " Shooting ruled accidental; no charges
  • 1986: Amy allegedly holds man at gunpoint " State police and DA never knew details; records missing
  • 1993: Amy is a suspect in failed mail bomb attack " Insufficient evidence
  • 2002: Amy assaults woman at IHOP " Plea charged reached; charges dismissed after six months probation
  • 2003: Resume padded with two extra years experience at Harvard
  • 2008-2009: Students bring petition to administration for odd and unsettling behavior in the classroom " Administration took no discernable action
  • Result: Amy Bishop has no criminal history

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"That's a lot of smoke to not see any fire along the way," Dr. Phil notes.

Ashleigh explains, "In that first case, with the shooting of her brother, sometimes police agencies in small towns are very fraternal with those who may be victimized. The family in the Bishop case was not the least bit interested in suggesting this needed to be looked at as a murder. Quite the opposite. They said to police right off the bat, ‘This is an accident. Please don't victimize us twice,' essentially."

"So, she shoots her brother, and it's just like, ‘OK, we'll just sweep this under the rug,'" Dr. Phil says.

"It was partially investigated," she explains. "There is some question about how Amy's mom was actually employed as a civic official, who had some control over police hiring and firing. Those files, by the way, they all of a sudden came up. They surfaced just a few weeks ago. They say there were things that were missed, and authorities today are saying, ‘Had we known this, we could've actually charged, but some of those statute of limitations have run out, so they can't charge in those particular instances."

[AD]Ashleigh explains that Amy's brother's death has not been ruled a murder yet, and there is no statute of limitations on murder.

Ashleigh had the exclusive interview with the alleged shooter's husband, James Anderson, and has spoken to their oldest daughter, who is a student at UAH in the same department as her mother: Biology. Ashleigh tells Dr. Phil, "She walks those halls. That was her building. And she went back. I said, ‘My gosh, is it going to be hard for you?' And she didn't think it was going to be. She said the other students would be OK with this. In fact, I spoke to the family just after she went back to school, and they said she's doing great."

Dr. Phil wonders if there is a disconnect, mentally or emotionally, to be able to return to school after this tragedy and be fine.

"I really was surprised at how well the father and this 18-year-old daughter are doing. I think they are in a state of shock, and no matter what the media digs up, with all of their backgrounds, I think we all have to sit back for a moment and remember they too are victims in all of this," Ashleigh says. "Four kids are likely to never, ever see their mother again walk through the doors of their home, and that husband is now a single father with all of this on his head, trying to shield those children from what they've gone through."

Hear what a survivor experienced.

 

"Somewhere along the way here, it seems like this system needed to identify this woman as a risk factor," Dr. Phil says. "But yet, we have her in a university setting, where we send our children to school, and those children are complaining " these are kids who know nothing of life yet, and they are petitioning the school to get this woman removed? Out of the mouths of babes. If these kids are seeing this, how bad has the system broken down?"


[AD]"I will say this, the petition existed. Lots of students didn't like her. They didn't like her teaching methods. They wrote her up online, and she did not get tenure. I think a big reason she was refused tenure was her personal behavior. So maybe they did their part. She's a Ph.D. from Harvard, a mother of four. You don't go reaching into backgrounds of people like this, looking for horrifying behavior," Ashleigh says.

Dr. Phil says in hindsight, there were plenty of red flags.