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Professor in Alabama shooting had violent past

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The professor accused of killing three colleagues during a faculty meeting was a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, inventor and mother whose life had been marred by a violent episode in her distant past.

More than two decades ago, police said Amy Bishop fatally shot her teenage brother at their Massachusetts home in what officers at the time logged as an accident - though authorities said yesterday that records of the shooting are missing.

Bishop had just months left teaching at the University of Alabama in Huntsville when police said she opened fire with a handgun Friday in a room filled with a dozen of her colleagues from the school's biology department. Bishop, a rare woman suspected in a workplace shooting, was to leave after this semester because she had been denied tenure.

Police say she is 42, but the university's Web site lists her as 44.

Some have said she was upset after being denied the job-for-life security afforded tenured academics, and the husband of one victim and one of Bishop's students said they were told the shooting stemmed from the school's refusal to grant her such status.

Authorities have refused to discuss a motive, and school spokesman Ray Garner said the faculty meeting wasn't called to discuss tenure.

William Setzer, chairman of chemistry department at UAH, said Bishop was appealing the decision made last year.

Descriptions of Bishop from students and colleagues were mixed.

Some saw a strange woman who had difficulty relating to her students, while others described a witty, intelligent teacher.

In 1986, she shot her brother, an 18-year-old accomplished violinist, in the chest, said Paul Frazier, the police chief in Braintree, Mass., where the shooting occurred. Bishop fired at least three shots. It was logged as an accident.

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