HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Students banded together to let administrators know something wasn't quite right about Amy Bishop. The professor taught by reading straight out of the textbook, never made eye contact and liked to remind people constantly that she went to Harvard.
"We could tell something was off, that she was not like other teachers," said nursing student Caitlin Phillips, who was among those who complained to administrators at least three times a year ago that the biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville was unsettling and ineffective in the classroom.
Students said they had no reason to think she might turn violent, and police, who arrested Bishop on Friday on charges of shooting to death three colleagues during a faculty meeting, have not released a motive. Colleagues say Bishop, 45, was simmering with resentment over being denied tenure last March.
Bishop's court-appointed lawyer, Roy Miller, declined to comment about her defense, saying, "I just got involved."
Since the shooting, other incidents involving Bishop have come to light.
In 1986, she killed her 18-year-old brother with a shotgun blast in Braintree, Mass., then demanded a getaway car at gunpoint from an auto dealer, authorities said. She claimed the gun went off accidentally, and she was never charged.
In 2002, Bishop was charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct after a tirade at the International House of Pancakes in Peabody, Mass. Police said Bishop became incensed and attacked another mother who had received the restaurant's last booster seat.
Bishop's husband, James Anderson, said Wednesday that "the whole incident was just stupid." He said his wife taught what was regarded by nursing students as the "cut course" — they would either go on toward a degree or quit the program based on how they did in her class. "So it's natural for some to be unhappy."
Freelance writer Rob Dinsmoor, a friend of Bishop's, said Bishop had written three unpublished novels and hoped her mother's cousin, novelist John Irving, would help her get published.
Sally Marvin of Random House, Irving's publisher, confirmed that Bishop and Irving are related but said the author of The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules had no comment.
Bishop often dropped Irving's name, Dinsmoor said. "I think she looked up to him, and she was always trying to figure out a way to use that connection," he said.