In 2018, shortly after the weekend of July 4, Nashville’s LGBTQ community was rocked by news of the murder of Daniel Shields, a popular 30-year-old bartender at Trax, a local gay bar. This week his killer, Gerry Weatherby, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Friend and co-worker Kimmie Mayfield recalls Shields as being “the sweetest kid. I nicknamed him Mighty Mouse because he was so small and was always flying around the bar. I do drag and he’d get up in my way when I was in drag… He wanted to work for Trax so bad, bugged me for a job so much… He’d come in and just kind of help out with some things—that’s how bad he wanted a job there!”
Beyond being well-loved by his co-workers and his customers, Shields was active with community groups like Team Friendly and could be found supporting event nights at other bars. Shields had participated in Team Friendly’s Stigma Model Auction among other activities.
Shields was last seen alive leaving Trax on July 4. “I was there the last night,” Mayfield said with emotion. “The night of the 4th I was the lead bartender that night, and he asked if he could get off early to go to see the fireworks. We weren’t that busy and so I said okay. And I just wish like hell I didn’t let him go!”
Shields’ body was discovered a few days after his death. Initially, when Shields missed a shift, Mayfield contacted police, but his concerns were initially dismissed. Only later, when shields hadn't been seen in days, did police check his home and find his body. Over the coming weeks and months, grisly details about the crime would trickle out, keeping the wound fresh for those who knew Daniel Shields. Every day the crime went unsolved was a new blow to those who knew and loved shields.
By November 2018, the crime remained unsolved and the release of the medical examiner’s report was released, providing gruesome new insight into the crime. Shields was victim of what “multimodality trauma”—suffering stab wounds, beatings and strangulation.
In 2019, thanks to leads developed by the US Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force, police were finally able to apprehend Shields’ suspected murderer—Gerry Weatherby—almost a year after the crime. Weatherby has an extensive criminal history, having been convicted in Nashville for attempted aggravated robbery, theft, prostitution and criminal impersonation, as well as, theft in Wayne County.
Then, progress in the case came very slowly. “I’d go down to court every time they would have a hearing. I’d take off, get my suit on and go down there. And they just kept postponing, and delaying,” Mayfield said. “Then during COVID nothing seemed to be happening. I heard nothing about it and suddenly there’s a plea deal.”
This week, before the case could proceed to a jury trial, Weatherby pleaded guilty to the crime of second-degree murder in order to avoid prosecution on the original charge—first degree murder. According to the deal, Weatherby will be sentenced to 35 years in prison for the murder of Daniel Shields.
When asked for his thoughts on the plea deal, Mayfield said, “I think it’s appalling the idea that the man who brutally murdered my friend and coworker will only get 35 years. I think he should spend the rest of his life in prison … I’m sorry!”
The worst part of it all for Mayfield? “Why? We just wanted to know why this sweet young boy had to die, and now I doubt we’ll ever know that…”