Monster City: Murder, Music, and Mayhem In Nashville’s Dark Age
By Michael Arntfield
Little A; hardcover, $24.95; paperback, $14.95; eBook $5.99
Nashville’s music scene was terrorized by serial killers for decades, and Monster City is the never-before-told true account of the cold-case Murder Squad that was determined to bring an end to their sadistic sprees.
Bestselling true-crime author Michael Arntfield spent more than 15 years as a police officer and detective in Canada before going on to become a globally noted homicide scholar and criminologist, including a year spent as a visiting professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
That was where Arntfield met retired Metro Nashville detective Pat Postiglione, and that was where Monster City was born.
Nashville has long been known as a haven for its music scene and for being a magnet for country-music fans, but by the time Postiglione arrived there in 1980, it was also the scene of an unsolved series of vicious sex slayings that served as a harbinger of worse to come.
Postiglione was promoted from street-beat Metro cop to detective sergeant heading Music City’s elite cold-case Murder Squad, some of America’s most bizarre, elusive, and savage serial killers were calling Nashville home. And during the next two decades, the body count climbed.
From Vanderbilt University to dive bars and out-of-the-way motels, Postiglione followed the bloody tracks of these ever-escalating crimes—each enacted by a different psychopath with the same intent: to murder without motive or remorse.
Out of all the investigations, of all the monsters Postiglione chased, few were as chilling, or as game changing, as the Rest Stop Killer: a homicidal trucker who turned the interstates into his trolling ground.
“In that same fall of ’02, as Pat was moving detective work and cold-case innovation forward into an uncertain future, it was also time to take a trip back – a full six years back – to the winter of ’96,” writes Arntfield. “After all, in the meantime, there were still comparatively recent and very much active cases for him to work as part of his day-to-day M Squad duties. One such duty soon meant revisiting, in addition to the Des Prez and Trimble murders, the slaughter of the Exotic Ran in Midtown, over two decades after the infamous winter of ’75. While some were already calling it a cold case, for Pat it had never been cold.
“During the early months following the tanning bed murders, Pat had stumbled upon a possible future method worth trying in the case of linking Patrick Streater once and for all to the gruesome scene. It was a method tangentially revealed after scouring the file of Officer Francis Scurry, the career Metro patrolman gunned down in May of ’96. While the idea and methodology would eventually help bring the double slaying of Tiffany Campbell and Melissa Chilton in from the cold, Pat would need to wait for his prime suspect to officially resurface – the now repossessed Ford Festiva Streater drove from Nashville already located by Grady Eleam in new hands by the time he retired – before he could apply it. In the meantime, the fledgling Metro Cold Case Unit helmed by Pat would do its best to make sure Blue Beret washout and inveterate stalker Patrick Streater wouldn’t hurt anyone else. It would be the cops out west in California, however, who would manage to box Streater in, at least for the short term.”
One thing Arntfield does here is work in the history of Nashville as it pertains to the story and how it impacted the town.
Another series of killings was the Fast Food Murders, and Arntfield writes, “It was the summer of ’95, just after the one-year anniversary of the in-custody suicide of ‘Dive Bar Killer’ Tom Steeples, when the famed Opryland USA theme park in suburban Nashville introduced a new steel roller coaster they called the Hangman. The new attraction – an inverted looping steel coaster – replaced an earlier and comparatively tame attraction known as the Tin Lizzie, an antique car ride through Opryland’s cliche-laden American West area. The swap for a more daring ride was a last-ditch move by Opryland honchos to boost declining attendance and keep the nostalgia of old Nashville alive. But it was already too late. Traditions were changing, and old institutions couldn’t keep up – it was future shock in Music City.
“It was that same summer when budding Nashville children’s-book illustrator Janet (nee Levine) March moved to the ritzy Music City suburb of Forest Hills with her husband, Perry March. Their five-thousand-square-foot mansion nestled near the even wealthier enclave of Belle Meade – a city within Eastern Nashville boasting its own mayor and police force – was, not unlike Opryland’s newest ride, little more than a costly venture to stop, or at least delay, an ongoing downward slide. Having met in their sophomore year at the University of Michigan, Janet and Perry moved to Nashville once Perry became part of the boutique law firm Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, his specialization in financial services. Perry was soon fired for sexual harassment, and as things began to unravel, he made regular visits to a psychiatrist to address what some would later refer to only as ‘rough edges’ that needed ironing out through therapy. By August of ’96, Pat Postiglione – the tanning bed murders still open and officially unsolved with Streater MIA – would be a regular caller at the March household. He was soon immersed in the uncanny Southern-fried mystery of the vanishing young mother and illustrator. In next to no time, Pat knew full well that Janet March was dead, but he had a different problem this time around: no body.
“A missing Janet March had last been seen by cabinetmakers doing warranty work at the March home on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 15, Perry March would later report to Metro PD, with an unconvincing facade of concern (in Pat’s mind), that Janet, for no apparent reason, had simply up and left him and their two young children later that same day. His story later changed to indicate that his wife had mentioned something about leaving for an uncharacteristically spontaneous twelve-day vacation at a secret destination she never revealed. In the end, it was Janet’s family, despite considerable resistance from Perry, who officially reported her missing to police, albeit two weeks after the fact, on August 29, and only after missing her son Samson’s sixth birthday.”
Monster City will keep you on the edge of your seat with these tales of true crime brought to life by cinematically gripping detail.