A Murder in Music City by Michael Bishop is a true crime tale that details the grisly murder of a young babysitter in Nashville in 1964 and one man's chance discovery years later that uncovers the shocking truth (available September 5, 2017).
Read an exclusive excerpt from A Murder in Music City, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of this thrilling true-crime tale!
Nashville 1964. Eighteen-year-old babysitter Paula Herring is murdered in her home while her six-year-old brother apparently sleeps through the grisly event. A few months later a judge's son is convicted of the crime. Decades after the slaying, Michael Bishop, a private citizen, stumbles upon a secret file related to the case and with the help of some of the world's top forensic experts—including forensic psychologist Richard Walter (aka “the living Sherlock Holmes”)—he uncovers the truth. What really happened is completely different from what the public was led to believe.
Now, for the very first time, Bishop reveals the true story. In this true-crime page-turner, the author lays out compelling evidence that a circle of powerful citizens were key participants in the crime and the subsequent cover-up. The ne'er-do-well judge's son, who was falsely accused and sent to prison, proved to be the perfect setup man. The perpetrators used his checkered history to conceal the real facts for over half a century.
Including interviews with the original defense attorney and a murder confession elicited from a nursing-home resident, the information presented here will change Nashville history forever.
SATURDAY NIGHT SLAYING
Paula Herring’s murder had been predicted for months. That the victim was a pretty, blond coed wasn’t all that surprising to authorities, especially since a number of young women in one of Nashville’s newest subdivisions had been targeted by a rapist for more than a year. Metro Police had predicted that the activities of the rapist would eventually escalate to murder. It was just a matter of time and circumstance, they said, and on this Saturday night, February 22, 1964, it appeared that an eighteen-year-old babysitter had provided their tragic confirmation.
A few miles north of the crime scene, at the Municipal Safety Building in downtown Nashville, twenty-year-old Jim Squires was working his newspaper’s graveyard shift, the uncoveted Saturday night assignment usually reserved for cub reporters. Years later, Squires would oversee a Pulitzer Prize–winning staff of his own as editor of the Chicago Tribune, but on this night he waited patiently for the police dispatcher to alert him that a story was in the making.
Just ninety days after President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, there were a number of stories that Squires could have covered. He could report on the frenzied activities of four young English musicians who had just taken the country by storm. But the Beatles had flown from New York City back to London on that very day, having completed their first American tour. Or he could focus on the trial of the inept men accused of kidnapping nineteen-year-old Frank Sinatra Jr., in December of 1963, or on the anxiously awaited prize fight in Miami Beach between heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston and a twenty-two-year-old challenger named Cassius Clay, a fight slated to take place in less than seventy-two hours.
But, as fate would have it, shortly after 11:00 p.m., the young journalist heard the voice of the night dispatcher from the wall-mounted speaker above his head directing cars forty-three and forty-four to an address on Timberhill Drive. Squires had covered the police beat long enough to know that these were the car numbers assigned to Metro’s homicide detectives. And on this night, wherever they went, he went.
It was a cold night, with daytime temperatures on Friday and Saturday barely reaching the freezing mark. By the time Squires arrived at the home on Timberhill Drive, the outdoor temperature had fallen to twenty degrees Fahrenheit, with a trace of snow in the air.
The address provided by the police dispatcher turned out to be a modest red-brick, ranch-styled home with three small bedrooms, a sloping front yard, and an attached, one-car garage. The home was fairly new—part of the Grieve Hall community, a group of houses only a short drive to the southeast from downtown Nashville, and one of the many new subdivisions that had sprouted up as part of the post–World War II growth era.
Jim Squires found almost a dozen uniformed officers, a couple of homicide detectives, and investigators from the district attorney’s office already working the brutal crime scene. It didn’t take Squires long to discover that it was as baffling as it was bloody.
At approximately 11:00 p.m. that night, Jo Herring, a widow and a nurse at Vanderbilt University Hospital, had returned from a dinner engagement and entered the house with her two male companions. Jo’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Paula, had volunteered to stay home and babysit her younger brother while she worked on a book report for school.
According to one of the dinner companions, after parking the car the three made their way through the side door of the attached garage and into the den. That’s where they found Paula; fully clothed, the blond girl was lying facedown and lifeless on a blood-soaked rug in front of the television set. Her pretty face was ghostly, bloodied, and bruised, and the entire front of her white blouse was stained a horrific crimson.
Jo Herring immediately dropped to her knees and attempted to find a pulse on her daughter’s body. One of the men, the driver of the car, became nauseous and, without so much as a word, exited through the garage, got back into his car, and drove away. The other man grabbed the telephone in the den and placed an urgent call to the police. While he was on the phone with the authorities, Jo Herring's little blond son, six-year-old Alan, emerged unharmed from his bedroom. According to the trembling child, he had been put to bed earlier in the evening but had awoken to find Paula lying on the floor in the den. When she didn’t respond to his pleas to “get up” he went back to bed until his mother returned home from dinner.
Hearing about this from the police on the scene, Jim Squires knew he was under pressure to phone in the biggest story of his young career. And since the Nashville Tennessean’s chief rival didn’t publish on Sunday, Squires had the story all to himself, as long as he phoned it in on time. While the young reporter waited for additional details, the detectives and investigators reviewed the puzzling scene before them.
Paula Herring had been found lying facedown on the floor, legs spread, with one foot hooked around the front leg of the television set. And though her arms were close to her sides, her hands were in an awkward, palms-up position, as if someone had just removed her coat. Paula’s medium-length blond hair, splattered with blood, obscured most of her face. In addition to the white cotton blouse she’d been wearing, Paula had on a gray wraparound skirt, penny loafers, and dark, knee-length socks.
Underneath Paula’s body, the detectives found two spent bullets. One of them had to be pried out of the floor. The officers also noted Paula’s matching gray wool sweater wadded up on the couch along with school books and papers. When the detectives took a closer look at the sweater, they found two bullet holes in the back, indicating that the killer had apparently used the sweater to muffle the sound of the gunshots. Jim Squires hastily made notes as bits and pieces of the puzzle came trickling in.
Just before midnight, the Metro Nashville coroner, Dr. W. J. Core, arrived at the crime scene to fulfill his obligations to the city and to the Herring family. As the detectives and investigators gathered around the elderly medical examiner, Core, a short, rotund man, provided confirmation of their initial assessment: Paula Herring had taken a brutal beating, been choked and strangled with bare hands, and, when that didn’t finish her off, two gunshots in the back, apparently fired execution-style from a .32-caliber automatic, had done the deed.
As Dr. Core carefully examined the body, he added that the victim also had been shot once in the upper left chest. And though initially it appeared no sexual assault had taken place, Core noted that he couldn’t be completely certain of that fact until further examination took place at the morgue. As for time of death, the doctor could offer only an estimate, but based on the body’s rigor mortis and the clotting of blood, he placed it near 10:30 p.m., in part because the hands of the shattered wristwatch Paula was wearing had stopped at 10:32 p.m. That the victim’s younger brother had unknowingly slept through the tragedy was mind-boggling to everyone in the room.
A few moments before Paula Herring’s body was removed from the home on Timberhill Drive, police allowed the Nashville Tennessean’s young journalist to make his way into the den and phone in his story, a story that sent the community into a panic on Sunday morning.
Copyright © 2017 Michael Bishop.
Comment below for a chance to win a copy of A Murder in Music City by Michael Bishop!
To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.
TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!
A Murder in Music City Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry. To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/stories/2017/08/michael-bishop-excerpt-a-murder-in-music-city-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 31, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 11:59 a.m. ET September 12, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
Michael Bishop is a sales executive for a major healthcare learning company. In 1997, he accidentally came across a file containing information about the Paula Herring case. Realizing the potentially explosive nature of the contents, he launched a multi-decade private investigation and eventually consulted with top forensic experts while piecing together the new evidence.