FERRIER FILES: New witness speaks about 1964 Nashville babysitter's murder
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
Were a group of Vanderbilt nurses who were into drinking, drugs and sex and a Nashville mayor -- all connected to a deadly crime?
A Nashville author in his book “A Murder in Music City” says they are all connected to the murder of a babysitter, Paula Herring, in Crieve Hall in 1964.
Michael Bishop is a hospital sales consultant, who is interested in the history of Nashville.
When he found a hidden file on the murder of University of Tennessee freshman and Overton High School grad Paula Herring, he couldn't let it go. For 15 years, he researched and interviewed everyone still living he could find.
Bishop claims Paula Herring’s mother, Eva Jo Herring, was one of a group of Vanderbilt nurses that formed a kind of drinking, drugs, and sex club.
Bishop said there were members of the DA’s office, police and even Nashville Mayor Beverly Briley associated with these women.
He was sure that John Randolph Clarke, who was found guilty of the murder, was framed. He wasn't sure who killed Paula Herring in her Crieve Hall home, but he had his suspicions.
Bishop finally found a man who was partying with the nurses that night and an eyewitness, according to Bishop.
“It is hard to describe," Bishop said. "As if someone had been holding their breath for 50 years, he was making this sound. This terrible sound and then he was in tears. He started describing what had happened on the night of the murder."
Bishop said he was told by that man that one of Eva Jo Herring's nurse friends shot and killed Paula during an argument about lifestyle. He also said Paula's own mother helped covered it up.
“It turns out the trigger person turns out to be Mayor Briley's mistress at the time, so that was one of the best reasons to keep this story out of the news,” Bishop said.
In a previous interview, we asked Nashville Mayor David Briley, the grandson of Mayor Beverly Briley, what he thought about the book and the accusation against his grandfather.
"I guess I would say I would hate to make my living impugning the character of people who aren't around to defend themselves," Briley said.
Bishop's book has been nothing short of a sensation. He spoke at the biggest gathering of Overton High School alumni ever. The book is now beginning a third printing, and there is a waiting list at the library.
The big problem is that Bishop did not record the confession so it’s just his word.
He has since found a new ally in a former police detective. R.B Owen is a man who was famous for being honest, and one of the few police officers in the 60s who would testify and and investigate other officers for corruption.
"It was pretty commonplace," Owen said.
Before we get to detective Owen, know that John Randolph Clarke was convicted with no witnesses, no scratches, no motive, no blood work, and just two pieces of evidence.
Fibers from Paula Herring skirt were found on John Randolph Clarke’s coat. R.B Owen said the evidence was mishandled and contaminated, and that he saw detectives lay those garments on top of each other in the evidence room.
“If you take the elements and lay them on each other, they will transfer one to the other," Owen said. "I told them not to mess with that, but they did it. It was contaminated. You can’t do that."
The only other evidence was the bullets that killed Paula Herring. They matched a bullet found on the sidewalk at 18th Avenue.
A man came to police and said John Randolph Clarke shot a pistol into a snow bank on the sidewalk two months before the murder.
Detectives were sent to 18th Avenue South.
“They search a section no bigger than a sofa, and they are out there for hours; 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. maybe 2 a.m.," Bishop said. "They have metal detectors lights. They don’t find anything."
That is until the next morning, according to Bishop.
“But the next morning they send a detective, and he finds the bullet immediately in the middle of the sidewalk,” Bishop said. “Clearly John Randolph Clarke was framed."
Bishop is done with the book, but not with the case. He wants to get Clarke a posthumous pardon, and as far as Mayor Briley's comment about attacking the dead.
“That kind of completely overlooks the fact someone needs to speak for Paula Herring," Bishop said. "There is no one to speak for her. Who is going to do it?"
The answer of course is a man she never knew. Michael Bishop.