Paul Dennis Reid, Jr. (born November 12, 1957)
is an American serial killer, convicted and sentenced to death for seven
murders during three fast food restaurant robberies in Metropolitan
Nashville, Tennessee and Clarksville, Tennessee between the months of
February and April 1997.
At the time of the murders, Reid was on parole from
an 1983 conviction in Texas on charges relating to the aggravated armed
robbery of a Houston steakhouse. He had served seven years of a 20-year
sentence, and was paroled in 1990. Originally from Richland Hills,
Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth, Reid came to Nashville to pursue a career
as a country music singer. He is currently awaiting execution.
Reid assaulted eight victims in the three robberies,
killing seven of them.
At Captain D's on Lebanon Road in Donelson, Tennessee,
on the morning of February 16, 1997, Reid entered the store before
opening, under the guise of applying for a job. Once inside, he forced
employee Sarah Jackson, 16, and the manager, Steve Hampton, 25, into the
restaurant's cooler and bound their hands and feet. Reid forced the two
to lie on the floor and then shot them execution style. Money, including
large amounts of change, was found missing from the cash register. Reid
used the cash from this robbery as a down payment on a car two days
At McDonald's on Lebanon Road in Hermitage, Tennessee,
on the evening of March 23, 1997, Reid approached two employees behind
the store after closing. At gunpoint, he forced them back into the
restaurant. Reid shot three employees to death execution style in the
storeroom: Andrea Brown, 17; Ronald Santiago, 27; and Robert A. Sewell,
Jr., 23. Reid attempted to shoot José Antonio Ramirez Gonzalez, but his
weapon failed. Reid then stabbed Gonzalez 17 times and left him for dead.
Gonzalez avoided further attacks by playing dead. Reid then took US$3000
from the cash registers and fled. When the scene was discovered,
Gonzalez was taken to the hospital, treated, and ultimately survived. He
eventually testified against Reid.
At Baskin-Robbins on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard in
Clarksville, Tennessee, on the evening of April 23, 1997, Reid went to
the door after closing and persuaded the employees to let him inside.
Once inside, Reid kidnapped Angela Holmes, 21, and Michelle Mace, 16 and
forced the two to Dunbar Cave State Park. Their bodies were discovered
the next day on a lake shore with their throats cut.
On June 25, 1997, Reid went to the home of the
Shoney's manager who fired him from a dishwashing job the day before the
Captain D's murders (the stated reason for his firing was Reid losing
his temper and throwing a dish at a fellow employee). Reid, armed with a
knife, approached the man's front door and attempted to get in, but the
screen door was locked. The man's son videotaped the encounter, and the
footage was subsequently released to the media following police
investigation. After the kidnapping attempt failed, Reid left the home
without further incident and was subsequently arrested by Nashville
police, after which he was considered the prime suspect and charged in
the Captain D's and McDonald's murders, and eventually, the Baskin-Robbins
Reid was convicted on seven counts of first-degree
murder across three trials. Jurors from West and East Tennessee were
brought in and sequestered, because a judge determined that the
overwhelming media coverage in Nashville would prevent the selection of
an unbiased jury from Middle Tennessee.
In the Captain D's murders, Steve Hampton's
driver's license and a video rental card were found in the median of
Ellington Parkway with Reid's fingerprints on each. Reid was
convicted on two counts of first-degree murder.
In the Baskin-Robbins murders, Reid's car was found
to contain forensic evidence from the victims, as well as evidence of a
credit card gasoline purchase near the location of the bodies on the
night of the murders, placing him at the scene around the time of the
crime in an area roughly 40 miles (64 km) from his home. Blood evidence
from the victims was found on his shoes. He was found guilty on two
counts of first-degree murder. The Clarksville trial took place in the
time between the two Nashville trials.
Jose Antonio Ramirez Gonzalez, the lone surviving
victim of the McDonald's robbery, identified Reid as his attacker in
court. This was considered the key piece of evidence needed to
convict him of the McDonald's murders. Reid was found guilty on
three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted
In addition to his seven murder convictions, Reid
was also convicted on multiple counts of lesser charges related to the
same crimes, including especially aggravated robbery and especially
Reid received seven death sentences for his
convictions, the first two coming on April 20, 1999. Reid's execution
has been stayed several times since then, including an instance in 2003
just hours before the scheduled execution. Reid eventually waived his
right to an appeal. Members of his family, along with anti-death penalty
activists, claim he is mentally challenged and unable to make such a
decision, and have filed multiple motions (both successful and
unsuccessful) to stay his execution. However, the Tennessee Supreme
Court has upheld all of Reid's sentences. Reid's case has received
national attention among anti-death penalty activists.
Reid currently resides at Tennessee's [Morgan County
Correctional Complex] (Inmate #303893). His seven death sentences are
the most ever handed down to a single person in the state of Tennessee.
His latest execution date was scheduled for January
3, 2008, but was stayed on December 26, 2007 by US District Judge Todd
J. Campbell, pending investigation into the constitutionality of
Tennessee's lethal injection methods. The stay is part of a larger
investigation, and not directly related to Reid's case.
On April 16, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an
opinion in a Kentucky case upholding the legality of execution by lethal
injection. The state of Tennessee immediately began appealing stays of
execution to resume death penalty cases, including Reid's.
Since his arrest, Reid's family (notably his sister,
Linda Martiniano) has argued that he is mentally incompetent to stand
trial, and since his convictions, they have argued that he is not able
to make sound legal decisions. Reid has displayed erratic decision-making,
choosing to appeal some verdicts and not others, and professing his will
to die as sentenced after fighting to avoid such a fate earlier in his
defense. At the same time, however, Reid has shown signs of paranoia,
calling his defense team "actors" and claiming he is part of a United
States government mind-control project called "Scientific Technology"
that monitors his every move. In cross-examinations, the prosecution has
attempted to counter this defense by claiming Reid is a crafty con
artist using these "delusions" as a defense mechanism.
As a result of Reid's spree, several fast food
restaurants in the Nashville area began closing earlier and police
patrols around such establishments became more frequent. The city of Mt.
Juliet, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb, began a program requiring all
fast food employees to carry a decal on the rear window of their
automobiles, so police could identify any out-of-place cars in
For a time, Reid was considered a prime suspect
in the 1993 Brown's Chicken massacre in Palatine, Illinois due to
the similar nature of the crime in relation to the two incidents in
Nashville. Characteristics including shoeprints found at the scene
and descriptions of the killer that matched Reid's profile. His
alibi checked out, however, and Reid was later ruled out as a
suspect. Juan Luna was convicted on seven counts of murder in 2007.
His alleged cohort, Jim Degorski, is awaiting trial, set to begin in
Reid's original trial was the first murder trial
to be broadcast live in the state of Tennessee (via WTVF's
NewsChannel5+ cable channel), following the allowance of cameras in
the courtroom a few years earlier. His subsequent trials were also
broadcast live. Ten years later, Reid's story still gets top-billing
on Nashville-area newscasts when new information is revealed. His
story was also the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary in
State Supreme Court Affirms
Reid Convictions, Death Sentences For McDonald's Murders
The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld the
convictions and death sentences Paul Dennis Reid received for the
execution-style murders of three Nashville McDonald's employees who were
shot to death after being forced to lie face down on the floor.
In a majority opinion written by Justice Gary R. Wade,
the court rejected all of the issues raised by Reid in his direct
appeal. Chief Justice William M. Barker and Justices Janice M. Holder
and Cornelia A. Clark concurred in the majority opinion, which affirmed
a Court of Criminal Appeals decision.
Retired Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Jr., who heard the
case as a specially designated member of the court, wrote a separate
opinion in which he agreed that Reid's convictions should be upheld, but
called upon the governor to suspend the use of lethal injections as a "killing
agent" until further study.
Jurors convicted Reid and sentenced him to death for
the 1997 murders of McDonald's employees Ronald Santiago, Andrea Brown
and Robert Sewell. Reid attempted to shoot a fourth employee, Jose
Ramirez Gonzalez, but his gun malfunctioned. He then stabbed and kicked
Gonzalez, who survived the attack by pretending to be dead. Reid took
$3,000 from the restaurant and fled.
Reid has a total of seven death sentences stemming
from murders he committed during robberies at McDonald's, a Baskin-Robbins
in Clarksville and a Captain D's restaurant in Davidson County. All of
the convictions and sentences have been upheld by the Tennessee Supreme
Issues raised by Reid in his McDonald's appeal
included a claim that Criminal Court Judge Cheryl Blackburn erred by
finding him competent to stand trial.
"In our view, the evidence in the record does not
preponderate against the trial court's finding that the defendant was
competent to stand trial," Justice Wade wrote. "The trial court applied
the correct legal standard: whether the defendant had 'the capacity to
understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to
consult with counsel and to assist in preparing his defense.'"
The Supreme Court also held that Judge Blackburn was
not required to recuse herself because she had presided over Reid's
trial for the murders of two Captain D's employees.
The court set a Jan. 3, 2008, execution date for Reid,
who has state and federal appeals remaining in the McDonald's case.
Paul Dennis Reid
Reid, who moved to Nashville to
attempt a country music career, was fired as a dishwasher from a
Shoney's restaurant in Donelson on Feb. 15, 1997, for losing his temper
and throwing a plate that hit another employee.
The next day, Sarah Jackson, 16,
and Steve Hampton, 25, were slain execution-style at a Captain D's
restaurant not far from the Shoney's. Reid was able to enter the
restaurant before it opened by pretending he wanted to apply for a job.
He robbed the restaurant, ordered the two employees into a cooler, then
shot them in the head execution-style as they lay face down on the
floor. Reid's fingerprint was found on a movie rental card in Hampton's
wallet, which Reid had discarded along the roadway. Two days after the
killings, Reid used some of the cash from the robbery to prepay the
lease on a car. Reid received two death sentences on April 20, 1999.
Reid was convicted of the March
23, 1997, murder of three Hermitage McDonald's employees, Ronald
Santiago, 27, Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23, and Andrea Brown, 17, and
attempted murder of Jose Alfredo Ramirez Gonzalez. Reid waited until
closing time at midnight to pull a gun on Gonzalez and another worker as
they took garbage to the trash bin. He ordered them back into the
building, robbed the restaurant, which was just a few miles from the
Captain D's, and ordered them and two other employees into a storeroom.
Then he shot all but Gonzalez execution-style in the head as they lay
face down. Apparently running out of bullets, Reid stabbed Gonzalez 17
times before leaving him for dead. Gonzalez survived and identified Reid
as the killer. Reid received three death sentences for the murders on
May 27, 2000.
A month later, Angela Holmes, 21,
and Michelle Mace, 16, were kidnapped in a robbery at a Baskin-Robbins
ice cream store in Clarksville, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville.
Reid waited until closing time, about 10 p.m., and convinced the two
young women to open the door. He then drove them to nearby Dunbar Cave
State Natural Area where he slashed their throats. Reid was arrested in
June 1997 and linked to the murders after attempting to kidnap and kill
the Shoney's manager who fired him. He was convicted and condemned in
three separate trials - one for each set of murders. Reid received two
death sentences for the Baskin-Robbins murders on Sept. 22, 1999.
Hours from a scheduled execution
date in April 2003, Reid resumed his appeals after receiving 'sign from
God'. Seventeen immediate family members of Reid's victims had planned
to witness the execution and were gathered at an undisclosed location
awaiting a bus ride to the prison when the execution was called off.
Jerry Jackson, father of Sarah Jackson, 16, one of Reid's first victims,
declined to comment when contacted at home after the stay was issued.
UPDATE: The Tennessee
Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Paul Dennis Reid Junior,
convicted in the 1997 slayings of seven people in Nashville and
Clarksville. Reid was to have been put to death by lethal injection on
October 5th, but the court granted his request for a stay and reset the
execution for next June 28th. Reid has been convicted of three incidents
of multiple murder during a three-month period in 1997. He received
seven death sentences for the string of murders at fast-food restaurants
in Nashville and Clarksville. Reid was a Texas drifter who moved to
Nashville to attempt a career in country music. The October 5th
execution date was for two of the murders. Both the Supreme Court and
the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals have upheld Reid's convictions
this year after he filed appeals.
Paul Dennis Reid
On September 22, 1999, a jury in
Clarksville, Tennessee, sentenced Reid to death for the murder of the
two ice cream shop employees. Reid, 41, who is already facing execution
for killing two fast-food workers in Nashville, showed no emotion when
the decision was read. He now faces a third trial in November on charges
he killed three workers at a Nashville McDonald's in March 1997. Reid's
attorneys, claiming his client suffered brain damage as a child, argued
he should be spared execution because of his "broken brain."
Prosecutors said he should die because of the cruelty of the murders and
his past crimes.
On Sunday morning,
February 16, 1997, sixteen-year-old Sarah Jackson and twenty-five-year-old
Steve Hampton were shot and killed as they prepared to open the Captain
D’s restaurant on Lebanon Road in Donelson, Tennessee.
Steve was the
manager of the restaurant; Sarah was a high school student working part-time
at the restaurant. An area director for Captain D’s spoke with Steve on
the telephone around 8:15 to 8:30 a.m. that morning.
Over an hour later,
around 9:45 to 10 a.m., an employee arrived for work but was unable to
enter the restaurant because the doors were locked. He telephoned the
Captain D’s from a neighboring restaurant and got a busy signal. When he
called a second time a few minutes later, no one answered. Believing
something was wrong, he contacted another Captain D’s employee whose
father was a Metro police officer.
father arrived at the scene and, after the assistant manager of Captain
D’s unlocked the door, entered the restaurant between 11 a.m. and noon
to find Steve Hampton and Sarah Jackson dead, lying face down on the
floor inside the restaurant’s walk-in cooler.
The victims had
been shot execution-style while lying on the floor. Steve had been shot
twice in the back of the head and once in the back. Sarah had been shot
four times in the head and once in the back.
According to the
medical examiner, two of Sarah’s head wounds were fatal, but the two
other head wounds were superficial, and the shot to her back was not
immediately incapacitating. If these less serious wounds were inflicted
first, the medical examiner testified Sarah may have been able to move;
and, in fact, a blood pattern of Sarah’s gloved hand on shelving near,
but above, her body indicated that Sarah had attempted to pull herself
up from the floor after she was shot.
The victims were
shot with a .32 caliber weapon, probably a revolver. $7140, including
$250 in coins, was taken in the robbery. Steve’s wallet, which contained
$600 that he intended to use to pay rent, also was missing.
The police first
considered Paul Reid a suspect in this crime on June 12, 1997, after his
arrest in Cheatham County for allegedly attempting to kidnap the manager
of a Shoney’s restaurant. From this arrest, the police obtained Reid’s
fingerprints and photograph.
Although none of
Reid’s fingerprints were found at Captain D’s, several items belonging
to Steven Hampton were discovered one day after the murders lying
alongside Ellington Parkway, a four-lane highway in East Nashville.
Among the items
found was a movie rental card belonging to Steve. Reid’s right
thumbprint was found on this card. The area where Steve’s belongings
were found was 11.5 miles from the crime scene and 1.2 miles from Reid’s
Police also found
several shoe prints inside Captain D’s near the safe. Although the tread
design of these shoe prints did not match, the length of these shoe
prints was consistent with shoes seized from Reid’s residence.
In addition, the
State introduced into evidence a photograph, dated July 16, 1996, which
showed Reid wearing a pair of dingy white tennis shoes that police had
not found in his residence. Two witnesses identified Reid as the man who
came by Captain D’s the night before the murders inquiring about a job.
that a man came into the restaurant through the exit door around 10
p.m., shortly before closing the night before the murders. This man said
he was interested in applying for a part-time job and that he worked at
Shoney’s just down the road. The proof showed Reid worked as a cook at a
Shoney’s 2.1 miles from these murders.
The employees gave
the man an employment application and told him that the manager, Steve
Hampton, would be working the next day. When the man asked if anyone
would be at the restaurant on Sunday morning, Carter told him that Steve
would be there but would be busy and unable to talk until approximately
2:45 p.m., after the Sunday lunch rush.
The man left in a
dark-colored car. About a week after the murders, employees helped
police prepare a composite sketch of the man they had seen.
In June of 1997
the police showed them a photographic lineup of six individuals,
including Reid. One of the employees positively identified Reid as the
man who had inquired about a job the night before the murders.
A short time later,
the other employee saw Reid during a television news report about his
arrest. He immediately called the police and informed them that Reid was
the man who came into Captain D’s the night before the murders.
At trial, he
explained that he was sure of this identification because the news
report, as opposed to the photographic lineup, enabled him to hear
Reid’s voice, see the way his lips moved when he talked, and see the way
Three other people
who had been driving by the Captain D’s restaurant on the morning of the
murders testified, linking Reid to the murders. A man who was passing by
the restaurant at approximately 8:45 a.m., saw a blue Ford station wagon
with damage to the left front, and possibly to the left rear, “parked at
a funny angle toward the rear of the building.”
The proof showed
that prior to these murders, Reid drove a light blue 1988 Ford Escort
station wagon which had been involved in an auto accident in January of
As a result, the
car was appraised by an insurance company on February 3, 1997, and was
found to have damage to the left front end. The man testified that
Reid’s car in the insurance company’s photographs was similar to the car
he observed in the Captain D’s parking lot the morning of the murders.
Around 8:50 a.m.,
a woman was driving by Captain D’s on her way to church when she saw a
man, whom she later identified as Steve Hampton, standing inside the
doorway of the restaurant talking to a man outside who was holding white
paper in his hand. She described the unidentified man as dark-haired and
approximately five inches taller than Steve. This description was
consistent with Reid who was dark-haired and approximately six feet,
three inches tall, as compared to Steve whose height was five feet,
Around 9:30 a.m.,
another passerby noticed “a car that sort of looked out of place.”
According to him, the small to medium-sized car was parked about a car-length
away from the front of the building headed in the opposite direction of
the drive-thru arrows painted on the lot. He also noticed a man walking
hurriedly away from the restaurant toward the car.
When the man
stopped at the passenger side of the car and looked up, the man
“elevated his face and . . . it seemed like our eyes sort of caught one
another, and when he saw that I was watching him, he dropped his head,
just completely down in a suspicious way.”
The man entered
the passenger side of the car. The witness described the man as tall,
with a muscular build and large neck, dark eyebrows and dark eyes, a
full head of hair which was slicked back. The man was wearing a white
shirt, dark pants, and white, “not new,” tennis shoes.
He heard about the
murders the next day and called the police twice to report what he had
seen, but no one contacted him. When he saw Reid on television after his
arrest in June of 1997, the witness again called the police and
identified Reid as the man he had seen near the Captain D’s on the
morning of the murder.
On the night of
April 23, 1997, Angela Holmes, age twenty-one, and Michelle Mace, age
sixteen, were working at a Baskin-Robbins store on Wilma Rudolph
Boulevard in Clarksville, Tennessee. The store regularly closed at 10:00
p.m. At around 10:10 p.m., Michelle's brother arrived at the store to
pick up his sister.
He noticed that
Angela Holmes’ car was in the parking lot and that the lights inside the
store were on. He entered the store through an unlocked door and found
no one inside. He called 911. Officers were dispatched to the scene and
searched the store.
They found the
cash register drawer empty, except for some coins, and a safe in an
office with the top removed. The victims’ purses were found at the
store; no money had been taken from the purses. A mop and bucket were
found in the customer area, and the freezer was left open.
On the morning of
April 24, 1997, the bodies of Angela Holmes and Michelle Mace were found
at the Dunbar Cave State Natural Area in Montgomery County, Tennessee,
which was between 2.1 and 3.6 miles from the Baskin-Robbins store.
Both victims had
suffered deep stab wounds to their necks, as well as stab wounds, cuts,
and abrasions to other parts of their bodies. Both had bled to death. A
witness testified that she had visited with the victims at the Baskin-Robbins
store from 9:20 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on April 23, 1997.
At one point, a
man in his late twenties or early thirties entered the store and became
“obnoxious” and “very loud” about the prices before leaving. As she left
the store at 10:00 p.m., the witness saw a “shiny red” car enter the
parking lot. Two other witnesses testified about seeing the same car at
or near the store.
to seeing a red car near Dunbar Cave around 10:30 p.m. on the night of
April 23, 1997. They said they thought it was “odd” because the car was
not in a parking space.
A serologist and
DNA specialist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that
a DNA sample taken from blood found on Reid’s left tennis shoe was
consistent with the DNA profile of Angela Holmes.
In addition, a DNA
sample taken from small blood stains found on the right tennis shoe was
consistent with a mixture of two or more donors from which neither
Angela Holmes nor Michelle Mace could be excluded. A fiber comparison
specialist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that
fibers found on both victims’ clothing were compared to fibers in Reid’s
examiner testified that Angela died as a result of a stab wound to her
neck that went “all the way to her backbone.” The wound, which was
consistent with a knife blade of eight or nine inches, transected the
carotid artery and jugular vein. He testified that Michelle had suffered
fourteen stab wounds, including a fatal stab wound in her neck.
He said that a
compound incision penetrated Michelle’s backbone, consisted of three
changes in direction, and was consistent with a sawing motion. Both
victims would have taken five to fifteen minutes to bleed to death and
would have been conscious eighty percent of that time.
After the latest
delay for Reid granted in June of 2006, the victims' families were
frustrated but not surprised. "With all of the appeals he keeps going
through and all of the drama he keeps starting, we're just trying to
stay positive for each other," said Brenda Sewell, whose brother, Robert
Sewell, 23, was shot to death by Reid in a robbery at the Hermitage
McDonald's. "We've just got to do what it takes to get by," she said.