DURHAM, N.C. — A real-estate developer’s mysterious death has been ruled a homicide due to strangulation weeks after his son said he found his father with a dog leash wrapped around his neck and the dog nearby.
The North Carolina Office of Chief Medical Examiner issued a report Friday saying 59-year-old William Bishop died from oxygen deprivation to the brain due to strangulation. The report, which noted ligature marks on the neck, classified the death as a homicide.
According to the autopsy, one of Bishop’s teenage sons called authorities the afternoon of April 18 and said he found his father unresponsive with the leash around his neck. Bishop succumbed to his injuries in the hospital on April 21, according to the autopsy.
The boy told authorities the leash handle was in his father’s hand and the approximately 60-pound Labrador retriever was attached to the leash nearby, the report said. However, the leash was no longer around Bishop’s neck when officers arrived, and the boy told him that he had removed it, according to the report.
The report also said the boy didn’t perform CPR because he didn’t think he could do so and stay on the phone with authorities.
The Herald-Sun first reported the autopsy release. No charges were filed as of Monday.
Bishop was found in a chair less than two weeks after his divorce from the boy’s mother was finalized, according to court documents. The mother was living elsewhere and didn’t appear to be at the home when Bishop was found, as the son called her afterward.
The medical examiner noted that he had a history of depression and cancer, and that a 2012 accident had rendered his left arm “largely functionless.” A toxicology report found no sign of alcohol or drugs.
He was found in the basement of his home in a wealthy neighborhood less than a mile from one of the area’s oldest country clubs. County records show the 4,000 square-foot house has an appraised value of around $800,000.
Bishop and his ex-wife, Sharon, had been separated since late 2016. They were married in 1998 in Florida, where Bishop had worked as a prominent developer. A phone listing for Sharon Bishop couldn’t be found through a public records search.
The couple has two boys, ages 17 and 16. William Bishop was granted permanent custody in 2017, according to court documents. The custody and divorce orders don’t elaborate on what caused the couple to split up, but show that the wife signed onto the custody agreement.
Bishop was a well-known developer in Florida’s Hillsborough County where he’s credited with creating several master-planned or gated communities, according to a Tampa Bay Times obituary. The newspaper said he moved to North Carolina in 2008 to pursue an advanced degree.