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 later.
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 murders.
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 murder.
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 aggravated kidnapping.
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 late-night patrols.
Other crimes suspected
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 April, 2009.
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 2004.