The life of Charles Bishop was remarkable in both its spectacular end and tumultuous beginning. By crashing a stolen Cessna into Tampa’s Bank of America Plaza building last Saturday, Bishop ended 15 years of near-constant movement with his mother, and most of a lifetime without contact with his father or his father’s family. Beyond his mother and grandmother in Palm Harbor, his death also leaves forgotten relatives grieving in Massachusetts, angry that on the same day they finally found the child they called Chucky Jr., they lost him forever.
“It’s just a tragedy to find your grandson in this way,” said Robert Bishara, whose son, Charles, had little contact with his son after Detore sought divorce, then moved from the small Boston-area town where they lived.
“We lost someone we didn’t even know,” he said.
The former Julia Detore, who changed both her name and her son’s from Bishara to Bishop, has declined requests for extensive interviews since her son’s death.
“I can’t do it,” she said. “I just lost my son a couple of days ago. There hasn’t even been a service yet.”
Charles Bishara, thought to still live in the Boston area, could not be located.
But details of his life can be found in police reports and microfilmed copies of the local newspaper, the Malden Evening News.
Sometime before July 28, 1984, Bishara and Detore, who had been dating only a short time, according to his relatives, decided to get married.
The couple drove to Rhode Island, where they planned to elope. But, for reasons not explained, the license was denied. She was just 17. He was 19.
They returned to her home at 74 Adams St. in Malden.
There, according a newspaper story based on police reports, they became upset at the failure. They stuffed rags into the tailpipe of her car, hoping to fill the car with carbon monoxide and kill them both. When that failed, ‘they agreed that she would stab Bishara with a 12-inch butcher knife and he would then slash her wrists with the same knife,” according to the newspaper.
But the pain was more than Bishara bargained for. At 4 a.m., he asked her to call an ambulance. Paramedics found him on the sofa, bleeding heavily with a lacerated liver. When questioned, he denied that the pair was in a suicide pact, though she insisted that was the case.
Detore was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to commit murder. She was ordered to undergo a 20-day evaluation at a state hospital in Waltham. Then, the case disappeared.
No record exists in the District Court for Malden. Records in Malden are not computerized and it may have simply been lost, or ordered expunged by a judge. Charles Bishara’s sister said that he refused to cooperate with prosecutors and that the case against Julia was dropped.
James Detore, the estranged father of Julia Bishop, said he did not want to talk about the events that led up to the 1984 suicide attempt.
“I really don’t want to go into that,” he said in a telephone interview from his Pompano Beach home. “That’s really old stuff. It wasn’t pleasant for me, and I don’t think she (Julia) would appreciate me talking about it.”
Attorney Pam Campbell, who is now representing Julia Bishop, said she was told that the court file in the case was sealed.
“Basically it was a Romeo-and-Juliet type of suicide pact,” Campbell said. “They were both very depressed. . . . And they were very young.”
Could Charles Bishop have been influenced by his parents suicidal thoughts in 1984? If the teenager knew, some experts said, the family history could have been a factor.
“It’s taboo in society . . . to kill yourself. Like any taboo, if you’ve witnessed it, or you’ve seen it broken, then it’s easier for you to do,” said Dr. Tony Redding, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “I don’t know if it’s a big factor. It’s one more stick on the fire.”
But attorney Campbell said the teenager had no idea what his mother and father had been through.
In time, Charles Bishara recovered from his wounds and resumed his relationship with Detore. He also began a string of mostly petty, occasionally alcohol-fueled crimes that made him familiar to the police in both Malden, and nearby Everett, where he lived.
He was cited for running a stop sign and driving without a license in 1985. Two years later, he was convicted of breaking into a restaurant two blocks from his father’s house. The same year, he was convicted of possession of burglary tools and larceny.
“He was a straight-A student without picking up a book,” recalls his father, Robert Bishara, 54, a retired refrigeration mechanic in Everett. “But he just drifted around.”
In the middle of all that, Julia became pregnant with Charles. As 1986 began, she had a baby on the way and a boyfriend with a criminal record. They decided to marry shortly after the child was born.
The marriage was a mess, according to the Bishara family. But the baby was well cared for.
“We had a crib in my room, and a playpen; I watched him all the time,” recalled Charles’ sister, Dawn, 32, who still lives in the area. “He was my mother’s first grandchild, and she gave him all the love. “
As the marriage disintegrated, so did Julia’s relationship with her in-laws. She filed for divorce, citing “cruel and abusive” treatment by her husband. Charles did not pay the $25-a-week in child support. Finally, according to the Bisharas, Julia had had enough.
“She did tell us she wanted us to have nothing to do with little Chucky,” Dawn Bishara said. ‘She took Chucky Jr. away.”
Public records indicate that Julia moved frequently with her son, including addresses in Reading, Winchester, Hingham and Norwell, Mass. In the early 1990s, she changed their last name — not to Detore, but to Bishop. She told Pinellas sheriff’s officials that she made the change because Bishara is an Arabic name and the U.S. was at war with Iraq.
Back in Everett, the Bisharas heard that Julia had changed her name and moved several times, but they didn’t know the new name. The family readily acknowledges that her ex-husband, Charles, had no interest in Julia or his son. Some family members were hoping that Julia would re-establish contact with Charles’ family. She didn’t.
Then, on Saturday night, Charles’s sister Dawn was watching Fox News coverage of the crash into the Tampa office tower. They had a grainy photo of the supposed pilot, Charles Bishop. In her mind, he looked just like her brother.
The next morning, the Boston Globe said the pilot’s mother’s name was Julia.
“I just had a horrible feeling,” Dawn recalled. “I could tell.”
By Monday, reporters were calling Robert Bishara, and he knew that Dawn was right. Since then, he has read the stories about Charles, the grandson he never really knew, described as a loner, with downcast eyes and slumping shoulders. He knows the look.
“It sounds just like Charles (the father),” Robert Bishara said. “That’s the way he always looked.”
Bishara is angry at reports that his grandson, who expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden in a suicide note, may have been influenced by his Arabic background. Yes, said Bishara, his last name is Syrian, and his father came to the United States in the first half of the 20th century from that country.
“But I was born right here,” he said in a thick Boston accent. “I’m not an Arab-American. I’m an American. I don’t even speak the language. I know nothing about it.”
Robert Bishara and Dawn were quick to point out that they have no idea how Charles Bishop was raised by Julia. They said several times that they did not wish to criticize anything about her — except her decision to take Charles Bishop away.
“It had been my hope that when he turned 18 in a couple of years he would come looking for us,” Dawn said. ‘Now that can’t happen.”