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Det. Pat Postiglione interview: ID’s NYC to Nashville star recalls Steve McNair death and more in Season 2

Retired detective Pat Postiglione is in his sophomore year for Investigation Discovery, bringing six new chapters of Deadly Recall to the network.

The premiere is a wild recounting of the behind-the-scenes investigation of the Steve McNair murder-suicide, and the unraveling of who the perpetrator was and why it all happened. Postiglione was front and center and he tells a fascinating story about what happened to the former quarterback of the Tennessee Titans.

Postiglione is a career lawman whose uncanny ability to retain even the most minute detail and recall in a split second was one of the hooks producers used to build a series worthy of his career accomplishments and modus operandi as a detective.

Speaking with Det. Postiglione today to talk about murder and justice, his straightforwardness comes through the strongest. He minces no words and is undeniably on the side of the victims and their families — the driving force that kept him going in his career and keeps him motivated now to tell their stories and honor their memories.

Not only does his case repertoire include hundreds of high-profile crimes, but his photographic memory is also how the show is retold. From recreating the crime scenes to his exact recollections, it is a true-crime series that plays like no other.

What will Deadly Recall cover in season 2?

Det. Postiglione’s savant memory and career history are the selling point for ID — the network that has dominated the true-crime space.

“This show began as a series about Det. Postiglione’s unfathomable memory, but it has evolved into so much more,” says Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America.

This season will include six of Det. Postiglione’s most well-known cases:

  • AIR MCNAIR – premieres April 15 at 10/9c
  • TRUCK STOP – premieres April 22 at 10/9c
  • CRIS-CROSS – premieres April 29 at 10/9c
  • RING – premieres May 6 at 10/9c
  • CHECK LIST – premieres May 13 at 10/9c
  • STOPWATCH – premieres May 20 at 10/9c

The producers behind the series are Joke Productions, Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina, Jeff Kuntz, and Sharon Farrell.

For Investigation Discovery, Tim Baney is executive producer, Sara Kozak is senior vice president of production, Kevin Bennett is general manager, and Henry Schleiff is group president of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America.

Det. Pat Postiglione interview

Det. Pat Postiglione
Det. Pat Postiglione kicks off Season 2 of Deadly Recall with the Steve McNair murder-suicide. Pic credit: ID

Monsters & Critics: There are all different levels of cleverness in humanity and I assume there are all different levels of cleverness with murderers. Has there ever been someone that you’ve interviewed or a case that to this day bothers you, that your gut instinct told you that they were guilty, but you couldn’t prove it?

Pat Postiglione: Yes, yes. I would say anyone that’s been in homicide for any period of time, and I spent over 25 years [in law enforcement]. I definitely have my share of cases where you interview somebody and you really need that particular person to confess in order to proceed with some sort of charges, or something along those lines.

When you’re not able to get there, that is one of the frustrating parts of being a homicide detective. A lot of times, it’s the bad guy, the killer… they’re not necessarily clever. A lot of times they are just lucky. They didn’t leave a fingerprint, they didn’t leave DNA, they didn’t leave any sort of trace evidence, not because they actively tried not to do that… just because they got lucky.

So a lot of times the average citizen mistakes that for cleverness. And a lot of times that’s not the case. It’s just purely luck.

But yes, I’ve dealt with people that they know that if they say anything, it can only hurt them. And they understand that. They know that if you had enough to charge them, they would’ve already been charged.  So anything they say to you can only be a negative from their perspective.

I’ve encountered several of those along the years where they’ll tell you just enough and then when you start to push them a little bit, that’s the end of it, they stop the interview and there’s no need to say anymore from their perspective.

And looking at it through their eyes, I understand why they’re not saying anything, because you have to convince somebody to confess to you a homicide… and in so doing, you got to remember that, they’re going to put themselves in prison for the rest of their lives based on the conversation and a confession you just had with them.

And… you convinced them that it’s in their best interest to confess to you that they just killed somebody!  So that’s that a difficult thing to do as a homicide investigator.

Over the years, you do develop a knack for speaking with people. Particularly when you’re interviewing somebody or interrogating them, you do develop a knack of convincing them to talk to you, and sometimes they confide in you things that you never in a hundred years would believe that they would tell you.

Sometimes they sanitize their version. Sometimes they confess completely and tell you every single thing they did. And other times, like you were saying, they just get up to that line and then they stop because they know anything further is only going to hurt them.

M&C: How do you control your anger in an interview when you know you have them dead to rights in your mind? 

Pat Postiglione:  Believe me, any detective will tell you they’ve been there, done that down that road a thousand times.  I mean, on the inside, you really can’t let your emotions display. Unless you’re using it for some sort of a tactic. Other than that, you definitely don’t want to let your anger out there.

I’ve always tried to, as crazy as this may sound, I always tried to put them in prison for the rest of their life with kindness and, and I would treat them that way.

I would treat them with a feigned respect, so to speak. And I would make them believe necessarily that I was buying into what they were saying or buying into their version.

Really what I was buying into was trying to elicit details from them and they would provide these details and then I would be able to use those very same details and hit him over the head with it when we would go to trial.

The prosecutor would be able to say, ‘well, no one knew these details other than the killer.’ So I would always use that approach, and over the years I learned, at least for me, personally, I was much more successful by hiding any anger or any animosity toward the bad guy.

Did I respect the bad guy? Absolutely not. I mean, was I angry with them? Absolutely.

I wanted to put them in prison for the rest of their life. Or put them on death row or whatever the case may be. I did my level best to do that. When you conduct an interview with a bad guy, the interview is recorded, so you don’t want to do anything or say anything that’s going to jeopardize that interview down the road when you have some sort of a suppression hearing.

You don’t want the defense attorney to say, ‘well, the detective threatened him or the detective did this and did that.’ So you always want to be above board. You always want to be transparent and let them see exactly what you’re doing.

Even when I interviewed a juvenile, a 14-year-old kid that killed people, believe it or not, we sometimes tried to do it, if possible, with their parents in the room with us.

Because I felt like that was a better tool, to use the parent as a vehicle to get the kid to tell the truth… and sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t work. I would say it worked more than it did not.

M&C: When you’re dealing with serial killers and you’re putting those crimes together, and I read that you were involved with three in your career, what are the defining characteristics when you’re dealing with someone like that?

Pat Postiglione: A lot of research has gone in over the years with these serial killers as to what makes them cross that line one day and say, okay, starting tomorrow I’m going to be a serial killer and I’m going to kill people, or kill a person every so often and continue to kill until I get caught or die.

That’s what the detective is faced with. He’s on the scene of a current homicide standing over a body. And then once he realizes that the victim that he’s dealing with has been killed by a serial killer, now you know that your serial killer is going to be actively killing and so you can figure out who they are. And then when you do get them, I was always struck by the nondescript nature of them.

They weren’t necessarily the big bad monster that you would expect to see or just a big, incredibly violent person where you have to put them in a straight jacket and arrest them.

It wasn’t like that. Now when they killed the victim, they were incredibly violent. I mean incredibly cruel. Yeah, absolutely. But when they were in a police department, when they were in custody, they were a totally different person. They tried to manipulate the conversation, which is also part of their personality.

Another thing that’s really obvious to me, and I’ve actually had several serial killers, beyond the three, but what I’ve noticed is they really have no conscience. They don’t seem phased at all by what they did, by the brutality of what they did, and the many people they hurt in addition to their victims.

That’s something I always wondered, how they were able to kill somebody at 12 o’clock and then go lunch? I wish somebody could articulate for me how they’re able to do that. The only thing I can come up with is they have no guilt. They have no remorse, they have no conscience.

So when you don’t have any of those things like you and I would do something…the guilt would get the best of us, but these people are able to kill, and Bruce Mendenhall …on the day I got Bruce Mendenhall, I firmly believe, but I can’t prove this, I firmly believe that he was hunting for another victim that very day.

He had just killed the victim the night before and now here he is, I suspected, hunting from another victim that day. His appetite was just totally out of control. He’s a married guy, has a couple of kids, has a wife, and so this guy leaves family and goes and does what? Kills people and then comes home for the weekend? It’s just, it’s just beyond comprehension in my mind.

There’s a sexual motivator. I’m not really sure what sometimes, I’ve learned and read, [and] I’ve talked to different doctors that they say sometimes the actual killing in and of itself was the sexual part of what they do.

Sometimes they kill the victims, [first] they sexually assault the victim, then they kill the victim. It’s all part of this ritualistic type thing, displaying the body, taking souvenirs from the body. Just very bizarre stuff. It is something that’s always kind of puzzled me in my years [working] in homicide.

M&C: You kick off Season 2 with the Steve McNair case. I remember when that broke in the news. When you were working it, how awkward is it to deal with his family who’s probably processing the fact that this man was having an affair and the details about how he concealed it?

Pat Postiglione: Right. I mean, other than the fact that Steve McNair was a high profile celebrity when he was killed, the victim of a homicide. If he was an unknown John Doe in the very same circumstance, you would investigate the exact same way.

You had highly intense media coverage on this one, that’s true. But if it was anyone else that would have been investigated the exact same way, there would’ve been nothing… nothing would have been done differently.

But yeah, I mean, it’s difficult to process. You have a situation like this where you approach this crime scene, what’s the worst possible case scenario? That’s how you approach it. And you let the evidence dictate which direction you go in. And that’s what we did here.

I had a team of investigators that investigate homicides literally on a daily basis. so these guys are highly experienced people. So inside his crime scene was really nothing new to them. You can suspect things, but you don’t want to have a preconceived notion.

You go in there with the worst possible situation and then you work your way back and let the evidence dictate what direction you go.

And you deal with family members, you deal with, you have to ask those tough questions, you know, whether it’s Steve McNair or John Doe, it doesn’t matter. You have to ask those tough questions and you get to learn a lot about, in some cases, to be honest with you, we’ve learned more about victims then. Then the family knows, in my career in homicide, I’ve learned a lot of times about some of the victims, much more than a family would ever know.

That’s just the nature of the beast. That’s what you do. They call that victimology and in this case was really no different.

M&C: A new season for you in 2020 on ID. How’s your life changed?

Pat Postiglione: Well, I mean, as far as I’m concerned, it really hasn’t changed at all. This is not something that I was seeking. This is something that kind of came to me.

I’m all about the victim and the victim’s families and being able to tell the story of the victim and humanize the victim more so than just, ‘well, this was a he/she victim of a homicide…’

I wanted the victim’s family to be able to tell that story, to talk about the victim, [perhaps] their daughter, their son, their brother, and humanize that victim. And if they were willing to do that, therefore I was willing to become involved in the show.

But in terms of my life, I don’t think I’ve changed at all. I am me. I speak from the heart and that’s it. I don’t believe I’ve changed. I hope I haven’t changed. I don’t think I have.

M&C: You retired in 2013. How did this show come to reality TV series from concept? 

Pat Postiglione: It started out actually as a unit concept. I think the concept initially was to follow the particular unit. I was a Sergeant over seven detectives.

I also became actively involved in different investigations, but I was also the supervisor over seven highly trained detectives, highly motivated guys, and they would work all these different cases.

So the theory was, well, OK, let’s approach it and then let’s talk about, which detective [would] talk about their particular case and we’ll go from there and they’ll highlight each case and what the detective went through and then whittle it down.

They wanted to talk to me about my cases and I was on homicide a long, long time, so I had a lot of cases. Just the way it is, and I began to talk about the different cases I had and they knew that I would remember a lot of details about the crimes and of the crime scenes and I guess they were taken by that.

I’m sure there are other detectives throughout the country that were able to recall each and every homicide that they’d been involved in. So because of that, I think that was a motivator for them to go forward and, and present and to try to pitch that case.

And my deal is always been, and same with Joke Productions, has been to lean toward the victims and the victims’ families and humanize the victims. That was, that was my big motivator and that was something that I was insistent on and that’s that they were all about as well.

M&C: Interesting. In the length of your career, were you or your family ever put in jeopardy or did you ever fear that the investigation had opened up a can of worms that was out of your control or maybe presented a danger?

Pat Postiglione: Any homicide guy will tell you any homicide investigator will tell you that they’ve been involved in cases that could, possibly jeopardize them.

And in today’s internet, it’s pretty easy to track people, locate people.  Bruce Mendenhall, for example, put a hit out on me and one of my detectives.  He was willing to pay a person in jail, $15,000 to have me killed and have my detective killed.

So good news is that didn’t happen. And, the guy in jail notified us. I mean, the nature of what we do, you arrest bad people, you arrest killers… and I think most of them understand you’re just doing your job.

They’re the ones that did the killing and all you’re doing is tracking them down. So they really shouldn’t hold any animosity toward you. And, maybe they do, you know?

But, I mean, I can say in all my years in homicide, I put him in prison. We put him on death row, but we never abused any of them. We just did our job and we presented the evidence.

And they know that, I think in a kind of crazy kind of way, they understand that from a street sense.

But you know, I’ve dealt with gang bangers from Los Angeles who came to Nashville and killed other people here in Nashville and went back to Nashville and they themselves were killed.

We went through some real violent times here in Nashville during the 90s, when the LA gangs will come into Nashville setting up shops. So there was a lot of violence going on.

So, I mean I was very tuned into that. I understood all that and the potential dangers and that kind of thing. I always took precautions for my family to make certain that they were not in harm’s way. I always made certain I was aware of things that may occur, you know, and I tried to stay on top of all that.

M&C: How long did it take for you to adjust to the Southern ways and the southern life? And did you, did it take a long time for you to kind of break into that culture and gain trust, especially with the men that were local?

Pat Postiglione: Much more so in 1980 than today. If somebody moved here from New York today, it’d be a totally different situation. So much more diverse today than it was 1980.

I was one of literally a handful of people from New York, to be honest with you. And they accused me of having an accent. Of course, I accused them of having an accent, so I’m pretty sure they have the accent. So we went down that road, back and forth, but yes, it was a culture shock coming from New York, growing up in New York and coming down to Nashville… no doubt about it, it was culture shock.

I have to say my kids were all born here, born and raised. They all have Southern accents. They accuse me of having a New York accent.

They even mimic me sometimes.

But Nashville has been very good to me. The Nashville police department, I have absolutely no regrets. I think they’ve treated me very well. Hopefully, I’ve done a little good along the way, for them and for the community. Nashville is my home now.

But you are correct, it was a little bit of a culture shock, there were no pizza places on every corner. There were no delis you could go to. You couldn’t get a bagel like we used to get in New York.

Now it is becoming more so where more people from the Northeast are coming down and setting up shop, we have a more pizza places and a little more delicatessens and that kind of thing.  I’m used to it now.  I go to New York and I get my fill of whatever I need up there. People come to visit me. They bring me a bag of bagels, [laughs].

But it’s okay. Nashville is a great place to live.

Deadly Recall airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
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