NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nearly five years after charges were dropped against the only known suspect in the murders of two teenage tanning salon employees, the case remains one of Nashville’s most notorious unsolved crimes.
Metro police said Tiffany Campbell and Melissa Chilton, both 18, were found dead back in 1996 after being stabbed nearly 100 times.
Melissa’s mother, Gail, has longed for justice since Feb. 22, 1996.
“Just because it’s been 27 years, I want it solved,” she said.
Memories of the brutal deaths of her daughter and Campbell are never far from Gail’s thoughts. However, the murders of four college students on the other side of the country in November 2022, as well the massive manhunt for their killer, reopened the wound.
“This has brought all this back to me, this homicide in Idaho, that they found the sheath to the knife, and that’s what caught the guy,” Gail explained. “And that’s all we needed. We had the sheath. All we needed was the DNA.”
Police said the security footage, the teens’ IDs, and their wallets were all gone from the horrific scene.
“It was real personal,” Gail said.
In the days leading up to Melissa’s death, Gail experienced a haunting premonition
“I dreamed that she was murdered a week before she was murdered,” she remembered.
The disturbed mother raced to Murfreesboro, where Melissa attended MTSU.
“She said, ‘No, I’m okay,'” Gail recalled, “and then Thursday, she was gone.”
In addition to the shocking news her daughter was murdered, Gail wondered why Melissa — a kind, well-liked cheerleader — secretly worked at an exotic tan business.
“This 24-year-old guy came and recruited a bunch of girls,” Gail later learned. “These girls were being trafficked in 1996, before it even had a name.”
Seventeen years after the murders, police appeared confident they had the killer. While serving time in a California prison for a string of robberies, Patrick Streater, Campbell’s ex-boyfriend, was indicted on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder.
In June 2018, five years after Streater’s arrest, the state announced it would drop the charges against him. At the time, the district attorney’s office said “after scientific testing and DNA analysis, it would not be appropriate to take this matter to trial.”
With advancements in technology, Gail urges police to take another look at the case.
“Let’s open it back up,” she said, “and let’s go back over all the DNA again.”
Now, it feels like it’s back to square one for Gail, who won’t stop fighting for her daughter.
“She came into my room and she crawled up in the bed with me and she said, ‘Mom, I love you and everything’s gonna be okay,'” Gail recalled about a dream from Mother’s Day. “And I said, ‘No, it’s not. It’s not gonna be okay.’ And she hugged me so hard that it woke me up.”
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Maybe it will be okay, Gail thinks, if someone sees this story and helps.
“It’s not too late. We can solve it today. Somebody can see this right now and let them know that they can take a big burden off my chest if they’ll give me some answers,” Gail said. “And plus, take a killer off the street.”
A representative for the Metro Nashville Police Department told News 2 the Cold Case Unit is re-evaluating the case to determine whether advancements in scientific technology can advance this investigation. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Cold Case Unit at 615-862-7329.