Prosecutor appeals judge’s throwing out evidence in Durham dog-leash murder case

The prosecutor in the case charging a Durham teen with killing his wealthy father last year has appealed a judge’s recent ruling to throw out most of the evidence.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Beth Hopkins Thomas has filed a notice of appeal of Judge Orlando Hudson’s oral order to suppress evidence from 15 of roughly 20 search warrants in the murder case against Alexander Bishop, 17.

When emergency officials responded to a 911 call at the home of William “Bill” Bishop on April 18, 2018, Alexander Bishop, then 16, said he’d found his dad unresponsive with a dog leash wrapped around his neck and the family’s dog, a Labrador retriever, still attached.

Bill Bishop died three days later.

Alexander Bishop wasn’t charged until 10 months later, but during that time police had obtained warrants to search phones, computers, a safe, bank records and homes.

Alexander Bishop’s attorney, Allyn Sharp, argued that lead police investigator Tony Huelsman used false and misleading statements in seeking the warrants when he indicated there was $460,000 in missing gold and stated he believed Alexander Bishop and his mother had taken it.

The documents that Huelsman had cited actually showed that Bill Bishop had sold the gold to a dealer in Florida more than a year before his death.

Huelsman testified that he had misread the document.

Sharp also argued Huelsman misrepresented what Alexander Bishop told emergency officials after his father was found unresponsive.

After two days of testimony, Hudson granted Sharp’s motion and asked her to draft the order, which hasn’t been finalized.

“Quite frankly, I believe that the defendant has met his burden of proof,” Hudson said. “I think the evidence shows that the investigator either was untruthful or shows a reckless disregard for the truth.”

Sharp said she hasn’t received any notification about the appeal.

While the notice of appeal was filed by county officials, the N.C. Attorney General’s Office typically files the actual appeal and will represent the case.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment, pointing out it pertains to evidence in a pending case.

The N.C. Court of Appeals reviews cases appealed from superior and district courts. The 15 judges on the court hear cases as a three-judge panel that considers whether the trial court correctly applied the law.

If one member of the panel dissents in the decision, then there is an option to appeal to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

If the judgment is unanimous, then an appeal to the next level would only move forward if the Supreme Court agrees to hear it.

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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.