FERRIER FILES: Nashville author says he solved decades-old murder

(FOX 17 News)

A Nashville author said he solved a decades-old murder and discovered a cover-up along the way.

It's a story of sex, drugs and political power -- and one man's 20 year journey to the truth.

It was Nashville's first urban legend. Lock the doors or you will end up like Paula Herring. The story intrigued a Nashville computer software salesman named Michael Bishop, author of “A Murder in Music City.”

He started researching for a possible book 20 years ago. He thought he was researching a book, but instead he may have been solving a murder.

"It took 15 years of off-and-on interviews to finally get a confession,” Bishop said.

Paula Herring was an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Tennessee. She was at her Crieve Hall home for the weekend, and she never got out of the house. She was murdered, shot three times in her living her room while her 6-year-old brother slept through it all.

In 1964, Norm Partin was an 11-year-old neighbor at the time of Herring's murder.

“You could not buy a chain lock for a door in Nashville," Partin said. "There were armed parents roaming the street. It uprooted the whole community."

Within a week of Paula's murder, police had arrested John Randolph Clarke, a man who said he didn't do it. He agreed to every interview cooperated fully. Nevertheless he was convicted of the murder, and everyone was satisfied.

Until 20 years ago, when Bishop stumbled upon a secret murder file on Paula Herring tucked in the personal belongings of then police chief Hubert Kemp in the Metro Nashville archives.

After 15 years of interviews and document searches, Bishop claimed Paula Herring's mother Eva Jo Herring was in a group of Vanderbilt nurses that formed a kind drinking drugs and sex club.

Bishop interviewed many people who said there were members of the district attorney's office, police detectives, and even Nashville Mayor Bev Briley associated with these women in these unofficial clubs.

Bishop came to believe John Randolph Clark was set up asa fall-guy for Paula Herring's murder.

He believed that her mother Eva Jo Herring and one of her nurse friends may have been responsible for the murder. Decades later, Bishop said he finally found one of the men who was in the house the night of the murder.

He talked to him at a nursing home.

“He was mad," Bishop said. "He basically ran me out of the room we were meeting in, but I thought I might never get in here again."

During their meeting, Bishop brought out clippings and articles and even graphic pictures of the dead girl.

"It's hard to describe, but as I was showing him this clipping this strange sound came out of him," Bishop said. "This unearthly sound, as if someone had been holding their breath for 50 years, as if he was holding his breath from this event. He was in tears. He started describing what had happened on the night of the murder."

Bishop said he was told by that eyewitness that one of nurse party girls shot and killed young Paula during an argument in the home. That man also said Paula's mother actually helped cover it up.

The eyewitness is now dead. Bishop changed the names of the eyewitness and the killer in the book, but he publicly tells everyone that he is convinced the Nashville government covered it up.

“The trigger person turned 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.

Mayor Briley's grandson, Vice Mayor David Briley, was one year old at the time of the murder. Fox 17 News asked him what he thought of 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 said he is only concerned with the truth and belated justice for Paula Herring.

Paula's mom Eva Jo died in 1976. At the time, she was the nurse in charge of a maternity ward in Waco, Texas. But did Eva Jo herring really cover-up her daughter's murder?

There was very little effort put into Paula's burial, and her mom didn't even buy her a headstone. By all accounts, the grave was never visited, left in the shadows.

Although if you believe Michael Bishop, the shadow surrounding Paula's death has been lifted.

“The term 'get away with murder' is a common term," said Crieve Hall resident Norm Partin. "People got away with murder here, and that is just not acceptable to me."

You will have to read Bishop's book A Murder in Music City to get the entire story.

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