Nashville, Tennessee, for years known as “Music City, U.S.A.,” holds a certain mystique in the public psyche. Today, it’s an entertainment Mecca boasting professional sports teams, college athletics, music venues, and countless bars. Lower Broadway is the nexus of this phenomenon, boasting dozens, if not hundreds, of establishments. Nashville has also become a favorite destination for bachelorette parties, drawing brides- and bridesmaids-to-be from all over America. Beneath the glitter and glitz, though, evil sometimes lurks. That was the case in 1997 when Paul Reid, the “Fast Food Killer,” arrived in town.
Paul Dennis Reid was a native of Texas, hailing from the Fort Worth suburb of Richland Hills. When he drifted into Nashville, he was on parole for the aggravated robbery of a Houston, Texas, steakhouse. Texas cut him loose after he’d served seven years of a twenty-year sentence.
Despite having neither talent nor musical ability, Reid thought he’d try his luck as a country music singer in Nashville. Before long, however, he came up with a new plan.
Paul Reid and the Captain D’s Murders
February 16, 1997, was a Sunday. At about 8:30 a.m., Steve Hampton, 25, arrived at the Captain D’s seafood restaurant in the Nashville suburb of Donelson. Hampton, a father of three, was the recently promoted store manager. Assisting him was sixteen-year-old Sara Jackson, a part-time employee and a full-time student at nearby McGavock High School.
Hampton phoned his regional manager when he arrived at the restaurant. However, a subsequent follow-up call to Hampton went unanswered. Concerned, the regional manager drove to the Donelson location to see what was up. He arrived at the same time as the assistant store manager. Both observed Hampton’s car in the parking lot, but the front door was locked, and there was no sign of activity inside.
Two Metro Nashville prowl cars responded to the regional manager’s 911 call. Inside the restaurant, they found the main cash drawer open and empty. In the restaurant’s walk-in cooler, they found the bodies of Hampton and Jackson. Both were dead, shot in the back of the head with a .32-caliber revolver. Investigators later determined that Reid had convinced Hampton to let him in the store by pretending to apply for a job.
Paul Reid and the McDonald’s Murders
Reid struck again on March 23, also a Sunday, at a McDonald’s in nearby Hermitage. He accosted four employees as they left the store after closing and forced them back inside. There, he herded all four employees into a storeroom. He shot three of them twice in the back of the head: Andrea Brown, 17, Ronald Santiago, 27, and Robert A. Sewell, 23.
When it came time to shoot José Antonio Ramirez Gonzalez, Reid either had trouble with his gun or was out of ammunition. Instead, he stabbed Gonzalez seventeen times and left him for dead, taking $3,000 from the cash registers on his way out. But Gonzalez was not dead, and after a long recovery, lived to testify against Reid at his trial.
Paul Reid and the Baskin-Robbins Murders
One month later, on April 23, Reid approached a Baskin-Robbins store in Clarksville, Tennessee, shortly after it closed. He convinced the two employees, Angela Holmes, 21, and Michelle Mace, 16, to open the door. Once inside, he kidnapped the two and took them to Dunbar Cave State Park, less than three miles away.
Nashville detective Pat Postiglione immediately connected the Baskin-Robbins case to the Captain D’s and McDonald’s murders in Metro Nashville. But the Clarksville police and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department disagreed and released the crime scene back to Baskin-Robbins.
The next day, searchers found the two missing women. Both still wore their Baskin-Robbins uniforms, and both had their throats slashed. Angela was face-down in artificial Swan Lake, about two hundred yards from Michelle. Police theorized Angela had tried to run away, causing Reid to kill Michelle and then chase her.
Paul Reid Captured and Convicted
Law enforcement caught up with Reid when he threatened a former manager at the latter’s home on June 1, 1997. The would-be victim scared Reid away and called the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office. When Reid called the house to claim his threats were a “big misunderstanding,” a quick-thinking deputy lured him back to the house. He was promptly arrested.
The State of Tennessee tried Reid three times, once for each crime. Convicted at each trial, he received seven death sentences. However, due to legal wrangling, he never faced the needle. Instead, he died at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry on November 1, 2013. The cause of death was complications due to pneumonia, heart failure, and upper respiratory issues. Reid had been in the hospital for about two weeks.
For a time, police considered Reid a suspect in the 1993 Brown’s Chicken Massacre in Palatine, Illinois. The M.O. in the Brown’s Chicken case was similar to the Captain D’s and McDonald’s murders in Metro Nashville. However, the investigation revealed that Reid could not have committed the Palatine crime. Juan Luna and Degorski were later convicted in the Brown’s Chicken case.
Reid was also considered a suspect in the Houston-area killings of three people in a bowling alley, which echoed a similar crime in Las Cruces, New Mexico. In the Houston case, Max Soffar was twice convicted before dying while still on death row in Texas.
Michael Arntfield’s book Monster City includes a section devoted to Paul Reid as the “Fast Food Killer.”
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