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True crime podcast highlights Smokies murder mystery

The Vault's "The Daily Crime" takes a look at the William Bradford Bishop case, which has a horrifying tie to the national park.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — An international murder mystery with a trail that stretched from Washington, D.C. to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is featured this week on a true crime podcast.

"It Starts Off Just Like Any Day" by Vault Studios highlights the 1976 case of Bradford Bishop, a U.S. State Department employee who bludgeoned his mother, wife and three sons in their Washington area home, drove their bodies to remote North Carolina woods to bury them and then ended up abandoning the family station wagon at the Elkmont parking lot in the Smokies.

Bishop killed his family and then vanished 45 years ago this month. WBIR has reported on the fugitive, once featured on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, as part of its "Appalachian Unsolved" series.

You'll find the Vault's podcast, featuring WBIR's Leslie Ackerson and John North, here.

Despite the efforts of investigators across the United States and Europe, Bishop never has been found. Some speculate he died in the Smokies; others cite possible sightings of Bishop in Europe years after the killings as evidence he's still alive.

He was 39 at the time of the murders. He'd be 84 today.

A California native, Bishop enjoyed an elite education that seemingly prepared him for great success. But by the mid 1970s, his career at the State Department appeared to have stalled.

He also was dogged by inner doubts and stress and had been seeing a psychiatrist.

Why he decided to murder his mother, wife and three boys in early March 1976 is not completely clear. The family had been having some money problems. And Bishop clearly was disappointed his career wasn't advancing as fast as he wanted.

After murdering the five in their Bethesda, Md., area home, he drove the bodies in the station wagon through the night to woods in Tyrell County, N.C., near the shore, where he dug two holes and set fire to the bodies.

The Chevy station wagon was found abandoned at Elkmont about two weeks later, complete with his prescription bottle, some toiletry items and dog treats. Police think Bishop had Leo, the family dog, with him. But no one knows what happened to the dog.

As the years passed, people would swear they'd seen Bishop -- in Italy, Switzerland, the American West. Authorities went so far in 2014 as to dig up a man's body in North Alabama, thinking it might be Bishop.

Genetic testing proved, however, the corpse, buried in 1981, wasn't Bishop.

And people are still learning more about Bishop to this day.

RELATED: Appalachian Unsolved: The mass murderer's daughter

Last month, WBIR reported the story of a woman born in Massachusetts who is convinced she's Bishop's illegitimate daughter. She was born in June 1957, when Bishop would have been an unmarried student at Yale University.

Vault Studios' "The Daily Crime" looks at crimes well-known and obscure from throughout the United States. It's hosted by Will Johnson and Reed Redmond.

WBIR's "Appalachian Unsolved" also is available on podcast hosting sites such as Spotify and Apple.

You can learn more about our podcast here.

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