Editor’s note: This story was produced through a partnership between the INDY and The 9th Street Journal, which is published by journalism students at Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.
Earlier this month, a Durham County Superior Court judge detailed his reasons for throwing out some of the most tantalizing evidence in the city’s most sensational homicide case—and accused a police investigator of “invent[ing] facts.”
In an October 8 filing first reported by the INDY and The 9th Street Journal, Judge Orlando F. Hudson wrote that he had suppressed evidence against Alexander Bishop, a teenager accused of strangling his wealthy father last year, because the statements lead investigator Tony Huelsman gave when applying for search warrants were made “in reckless disregard of the truth.”
“Investigator Huelsman repeatedly chose whatever statements he could cite to support his claims of suspicious circumstances to establish probable cause for the search warrants he sought while disregarding the evidence he examined and himself obtained, which revealed the statements he cited were false or materially misleading,” Hudson wrote.
The District Attorney’s Office is appealing the ruling.
The now-suppressed evidence includes supposedly missing gold that Huelsman suggested Alexander Bishop had sold as well as “suspicious” internet searches and allegedly contradictory statements he had made.
Alexander Bishop was charged with murdering his father, William Bishop. Alexander says he found his father on April 18, 2018, with a dog leash around his neck and the family’s Labrador retriever, Winston, still attached.
Hudson most strongly rebuked Huelsman’s “attitude toward truth and falsity” surrounding the allegedly “missing” gold.
In search warrant applications, Huelsman claimed that a purchase order showed that William Bishop had more than $450,000 in gold bars. He alleged that Alexander and Sharon Bishop, William’s ex-wife, had taken the gold. The problem, according to Hudson, was that William Bishop had sold the gold in 2016, not purchased it.
“Investigator Huelsman saw the dates on the invoices and the purchase order, saw that William Bishop sold … the gold … in 2016 … and chose to omit that information to make his false averments of ‘missing gold,’” Hudson wrote.
In addition, Hudson continued, Huelsman repeatedly claimed that Alexander Bishop asked to speak with the EMS supervisor who arrived in response to a 911 call “alone and away from the police” and said that Alexander told the EMS supervisor that he “wasn’t going to be upset about his father dying.”
Hudson threw out those statements because they weren’t entirely accurate. According to Hudson, Alexander Bishop only said that he wanted to speak with the EMS supervisor “in private”—not away from the cops—and that he “feels bad that he doesn’t necessarily want [his father] to live.”
The judge also tossed supposedly contradictory comments about where Alexander found his father.
Huelsman claimed that Sharon Bishop said that Alexander had found William on the floor, whereas officers found him in a chair. But Huelsman omitted that Alexander told first responders and an officer that he had discovered his father in a chair, not on the floor, Hudson wrote. “Huelsman omitted … Alexander’s statements that he had found his father in the chair … to suggest falsely that Alexander was hiding the truth about what happened to his father,” Hudson wrote.
Huelsman also claimed that Alexander said the dog leash was “wrapped around his father’s neck three times.” In fact, Huelsman had reviewed body cam footage in which Alexander said he didn’t “know how many times” the leash had been wrapped around his father’s neck, Hudson wrote.
Finally, Hudson wrote, Huelsman provided misleading information in search warrant applications for Sharon Bishop’s home and Alexander’s computer.
The investigator described a “suspicious” search history on Alexander’s cell phone after his father’s death, including searches for “financial information, how to calculate the value of an estate, the value of the price of gold per ounce, and how to transfer bank accounts after death.”
In later warrant applications, Huelsman made the same allegations but cut a sentence making clear that Alexander had conducted these searches after his father died. Huelsman “intentionally deleted the sentence regarding the timing of the searches,” Hudson wrote.
“Huelsman’s material omission was made knowingly in order to suggest falsely that Alexander had made these searches prior to William Bishop’s death, thereby providing evidence of a motive for premeditated murder,” Hudson wrote.
Alexander had also searched for “3 Ways to Deal with the Death of a Loved One” and “Key Financial Steps to Take After a Loved One Dies.”
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