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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Long-haul truck driver
Number of victims: 1 - 4 +
Date of murders: June-July 2007
Date of arrest: July 12, 2007
Date of birth: April 14, 1951
Victims profile: Sara Nicole Hulbert, 25 / Symantha Winters, 48 / Carma Purpura, 31 / Lucille "Gretna" Carter, 44
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Tennessee/Alabama/Indiana, USA
Status: Sentenced to 30 years in prison for soliciting murder while in jail in Tennessee (trying to arrange the murders of three witnesses in his upcoming murder trial) on February 25, 2010
photo gallery

Bruce Mendenhall is a convicted American murderer and accused serial killer. He has been found guilty of the June 26, 2007 murder of Sara Hulbert in Tennessee. He has been charged with the murders of three other women at truck stops in Alabama, Indiana and Tennessee. He is still under investigation for murders in Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.


Mendenhall grew up in Crawford County, Illinois.

He was married and has two daughters. Mendenhall never had problems with the law, though his wife Linda, who was reportedly blind from diabetes, and friends, knew he kept a gun illegally in his truck.


A resident of Albion, Illinois, Mendenhall was arrested at a truck stop on Interstate 24 in Nashville, Tennessee on July 12, 2007 after Detective Sgt. Pat Postiglione spotted a truck that matched surveillance footage from the night Sara Nicole Hulbert was murdered at another truck stop in downtown Nashville.

Upon inspection of the vehicle, a large quantity of bloody clothing was found in a plastic sack and Mendenhall was taken into custody. Police catalogued 300 items from the truck including a rifle, knives, handcuffs, latex gloves, several weapons cartridges, black tape, a nightstick, and sex toys. Sampling of these items turned up the DNA of five different women.

On August 2, Mendenhall waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and is expected to return to court in six to eight weeks.


Mendenhall's victims were primarily young prostitutes, usually found shot, though detectives have determined that his method of killing may have changed over the years. During questioning, he implicated himself in the shooting death of Hulbert, whose body was found on June 26, 2007.

He has also implicated himself in the shooting death of Symantha Winters, whose body was found June 6, 2007 in a trash can at a truck stop in Lebanon, Tennessee. She had a criminal record showing at least one previous charge of prostitution. On August 17, 2007, a Wilson County grand jury indicted Mendenhall for the murder of Winters.

The body of another victim he admits to murdering July 11, 2007 and leaving in a car at a Flying J truck stop on Interstate 465 in Indianapolis, Indiana has yet to be found or identified. Investigators said Mendenhall was initially cooperative but that he subsequently ceased to implicate himself in other murders.

On July 28, police in Birmingham, Alabama charged Mendenhall with the murder of Lucille "Gretna" Carter, who was found nude in a trash bin with a plastic bag taped around her head on July 1. She was shot with a .22-caliber pistol.

Police are investigating the possibility that Mendenhall is responsible for other murders in the region including:

  • Deborah Ann Glover, an Atlanta prostitute whose body was found near a Motel 6 in Suwanee, Georgia on January 29, 2007. Police are certain that Mendenhall was in Georgia on the day Glover was shot

  • Sherry Drinkard, a prostitute from Gary, Indiana whose body was found naked in a snow embankment

  • Tammy Zywicki, a student who was found stabbed to death on September 2, 1992. She vanished from Interstate 80 near LaSalle, Illinois nine days before, after dropping off her brother at Northwestern University

  • Jennifer Smith, a prostitute found nude at a truck stop in Bucksnort, Tennessee in April 2005

  • Robin Bishop, a prostitute who was run over at a truck stop on Interstate 40 in Fairview, Tennessee on July 1, 2007

  • Belinda Cartwright, a hitchhiker who was run over at a truck stop in Georgia in 2001. A composite police sketch made of the suspect based on information from witnesses bears a striking resemblance to Mendenhall

  • Carma Purpura, a 31-year old mother of two, who was last seen July 11, 2007 at a Far-Southside Indianapolis truck stop. On April 10, 2008, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has charged Mendenhall with murder in the case. The woman's body has never been recovered, but DNA tests link a large quantity of the blood from Mendenhall's truck cab to the woman's parents. Investigators also found her cell phone, ATM card and clothing she wore on the day she disappeared.

Related crimes

While he was in jail, Mendenhall's wife died of natural causes and he came upon some insurance money. He separately approached two inmates with offers to pay them $15,000 to murder the three associates that Mendenhall had fingered for the murders in his original statement to police. One of the murders was to be performed in a "copycat" fashion to lead police to believe the killer was still at large.

For the crime of conspiracy to commit murder he was convicted and sentenced to 30 years.

Mendenhall was also initially accused of solicitation of the murders of the two detectives involved in his arrest and questioning. Those charges were later dropped.


Slaying suspect arrested

Neighbors got cold impression but recall normal family

By Jimmy Nesbitt -

July 14, 2007

ALBION, Ill., — Bruce Mendenhall frequently shunned neighbors as he drove home in his semi, ignoring their friendly waves.

A long-haul truck driver, Mendenhall, 56, lived in a small, one-story home south of Albion on a county road surrounded by farms. Neighbor Kiley Barnett, 27, recalled an afternoon when Mendenhall and wife, Linda, unexpectedly stopped in her driveway. Linda Mendenhall showed Barnett some items in a catalog and asked if she was interested in buying anything, while her husband stayed in the car.

"He just sat in the car and had a weird look on his face," Barnett recalled.

Mendenhall, who police say confessed to at least six homicides in Tennessee, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama, left a cold impression on people who encountered him.

"He hadn't really had any run-ins with the law," Albion Mayor Ryan Hallam said. "Everybody thought he was a little mouthy and so forth like that. (But) anything off kilter? No, not too much."

A Nashville, Tenn., police detective arrested Mendenhall on Thursday at a truck stop where the body of Sara Nicole Hulbert was found June 26. The detective, who was planning to conduct a follow-up interview that morning, noticed a tractor-trailer rig that matched the description of one that was spotted shortly before Hulbert's body was found.

The detective searched the semi and said he saw blood in several places — on Mendenhall's left thumb, the inside of the driver's door and inside a trash bag behind the driver's seat, according to a police affidavit. Under questioning Mendenhall reportedly confessed to killing Hulbert and five other women. He was charged with criminal homicide and taken to the Metro Davidson County Jail, where he remained Friday night without bond.

Police in Indianapolis searched truck stops south of the city where Mendenhall claimed they would find two bodies, but found nothing. Nashville authorities also alerted the Indiana State Police in Evansville that Mendenhall may be connected to a missing person case in the district's six-county area, spokesman Todd Ringle said. Ringle declined to elaborate, other than to say that the missing person was a woman. Ringle said detectives were still investigating the possible connection and had forwarded information to the FBI.

Illinois State Police searched Mendenhall's home Friday but declined to say what they were looking for.

Mendenhall is married and has two daughters who are in their 20s, neighbors said. The Rev. Pam Hoffman, who preaches at Brown's Chappel Church near Mendenhall's home, contacted his mother-in-law after she heard about his arrest. "They're having a hard time," Hoffman said. "It's not anything that is easy to grasp. I think they're just like anybody else; they're struggling."

Before moving out into the country, Mendenhall lived in a home near downtown Albion on Pine Street. He ran for mayor in 1997, losing in a landslide to the incumbent, the Rev. Bill Rucker. Hallam, 32, who has been mayor for six years, said Mendenhall was upset with Rucker over a trash ordinance violation. His campaign didn't have much of a message, Hallam said, other than being the "anti-Rucker vote."

Hallam said Mendenhall dominated conversations around town Friday. Albion is the county seat of Edwards County and best known for Champion Laboratories, Inc., an oil and air filter manufacturer that is the largest employer in the county. "We've got 2,000 people," he said. "The news spread like wildfire."

No one answered the door Friday afternoon at Mendenhall's former home on Pine Street. Gordon Cooper, 43, who lives next door, said his mother used to baby-sit Mendenhall's daughters. He said the family never had many visitors except for relatives.

"He was a little different," Cooper said.

Cooper said as far he knew, Mendenhall had a normal life, he got along with his wife, he held a steady job, and his daughters were healthy.

Cooper paused and then said: "I don't know what could make a guy go off like that."


Serial-Killings Suspect Pleads Not Guilty In 1 Case

Police Still Checking Whether Man Involved In Indianapolis Slaying

October 24, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- An Illinois truck driver who police say confessed to killings in several states, including Indiana, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a Nashville homicide.

Police in July arrested Bruce Mendenhall and charged him with criminal homicide in the death of Sara Nicole Hulbert, 25. She had been found dead with gunshot wounds on June 26 at a truck stop along Interstate 24 in Nashville.

He pleaded not guilty in the case on Wednesday by video arraignment, his attorney Jason Gichner said. Gichner had no other comment on the proceedings.

Mendenhall also has been charged with murder in Lebanon, about 25 miles east of Nashville, in the death of Symantha Winters, 48, of Nashville. Her body was found shot and stuffed in a trash can June 6 at a truck stop in that town.

A police detective had gone to the Nashville truck stop on July 12 to conduct a follow-up interview in the investigation of Hulbert's death. When he got there he saw a truck fitting the description of a vehicle that was spotted the night before Hulbert's body was found. The detective said the driver, Mendenhall, appeared nervous when being questioned and granted permission to look inside his truck.

Mendenhall was taken into custody when the detective spotted what appeared to be blood in the cab, police have said.

Police in Birmingham, Ala., have also filed murder charges against Mendenhall in the death of 44-year-old Lucille "Gretna" Carter.

Investigators there said she was shot with a .22-caliber weapon and dumped nude next to a trash bin on a service road. She was found July 1 with plastic bag over her head and duct tape around her neck.

In Indiana, police are investigating whether Mendenhall was involved in the death of 31-year-old Carma Purpura, who was last seen July 11 at an Indianapolis truck stop. Police hope a DNA test of blood on clothing found in Mendenhall's truck will determine if it is Purpura's.

Mendenhall told investigators he killed a woman he picked up at the Indianapolis truck stop and dumped her body in a trash bin near a restaurant off Indiana 37 just south of Interstate 465, police said. Police searched that bin and others at nearby truck stops but found nothing.

Purpura's identification card was found in Mendenhall's truck, Indianapolis police have said.


Mendenhall linked to missing woman

By Rachel Stults -

September 16, 2008

Police have linked suspected serial killer Bruce Mendenhall to a Nashville woman who was reported missing in June 2007.

A sample of Latisha Yvonne Milliken’s DNA was matched to blood found in Mendenhall’s truck, said Don Aaron, a Metro police spokesman.

Milliken was 28 when she was reported missing on June 26, 2007, two months after her family had last heard from her.

The family reported her missing the same day Sara Hulbert’s body was found at a North First Street truck stop, Aaron said. Mendenhall, an Illinois truck driver, is charged in Hulbert’s death.

Milliken was last known to be homeless and living in the vicinity of Tent City, a makeshift camp off Hermitage Avenue for Nashville’s homeless. She had a history of prostitution offenses in Metro, Aaron said.

Over the past few months, Metro police Sgt. Pat Postigilone and his team have been working with the Milliken family to find out what happened to her, Aaron said.

The family gave police an item that contained Milliken’s DNA and a positive match with blood found in the truck was made, he said.

Milliken is still considered a missing person but the investigation continues. She would be the seventh dead or missing woman linked to Mendenhall, Aaron said.

The trucker has been charged with murder in Tennessee, Alabama and Indiana. He is also a suspect in a homicide in Georgia, Aaron said.

Mendenhall, 57, is also charged with five counts of soliciting help in an alleged plot to kill homicide detectives Postiglione and Lee Freeman as well as three witnesses in the murder case.


Detective: Mendenhall Confessed To Killings

November 8, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - He's accused of killing at least seven women.

Suspected serial killer Bruce Mendenhall told police when he was arrested details about how the murders happened.

The Illinois truck driver apparently confessed to the Metro police detective he is now accused of trying to kill.

Metro police said Mendenhall traveled the Southeast in his yellow tractor-trailer truck and killed women, primarily young prostitutes.

"When you get onto a particular crime scene sometimes evidence dictates what you're looking at and this particular case evidence that I won't go into dictates to us that this is not a normal, if there is such a thing, normal homicide," Postiglione said.

The detective broke the case last year.

On a visit to a Nashville truck stop, he approached Mendenhall's yellow truck and noticed blood splatter on the door.

Postiglione took Mendenhall into custody. He signed a rights waiver and agreed to make a voluntary statement without an attorney present.

According to Postiglione's supplemental report, Mendenhall told him about several murders. The details were graphic and police said the Illinois man implicated himself in the killings. 

When Postiglione searched the truck he found a bloody bag.

"I asked Mendenhall why he had a bag in his truck full of blood. He said that he cut his left leg," according to the detective's report. "I asked him if he could show me the cut so he pulled up his left pant leg and showed me his leg which had no cut, scab or scar visible."

Postiglione pointed out the blood in the bag was still wet.

"Mendenhall then said that the blood actually came from a prostitute in Indianapolis," according to the report.

"He never had a negative thing to say about anyone who chose that lifestyle," said Mendenhall's daughter, Bryna Mendenhall.

She said her father ignored prostitutes.

"Everybody knows stuff like that is in truck stops. There's people like that will do that. Everybody knows that. Dad -- he didn't really pay attention to it," she said.

Detectives said Mendenhall hid his desires. After he was arrested, police said, he tried to place the blame on others.

"I'm pissed off at Ritchie and David because they did all the killings," Mendenhall told Postiglione. "He said they used his gun to kill the victims ... He indicated that a plastic bag would be placed over the victim's head and secured around the victim's neck with black electrical tape ... the victims were shot in the head."

NewsChannel 5 learned the killer cut a flesh trophy from at least one victim.

According to the detective's report, Mendenhall "was asked if there was anything done to the Nashville victim with a knife ... He said ... she had a good tattoo."

There are reports a tattoo was cut from one of the victims.

Police said there isn't any evidence of anyone else being involved in the killings.

When Postiglione asked Mendenhall if he was the actual killer Mendenhall asked for an attorney and stopped talking.

Police said Mendenhall plotted more violence from jail. He was charged with trying to arrange the murders of three witnesses and two Metro detectives including Postiglione.


Police say Mendenhall couldn’t explain blood, ‘trophy’

November 10, 2008

A Nashville, TN, detective said former truck driver Bruce Mendenhall couldn’t explain why he had a large quantity of blood in his truck cab, leading him to reportedly admit to taking it from an Indianapolis prostitute.

Mendenhall – an accused serial killer – has been in jail in Davidson County, TN, since July 2007 after being charged in the deaths of four women, including Sara Hulbert, Symantha Winters, Lucille “Gretna” Carter, and Carma Purpora. Police suspect his involvement in at least three other killings.

According to WTVF-TV, Nashville Det. Pat Postiglione said Mendenhall waived his rights and voluntarily told police about several murders after police asked him about a plastic bag full of blood.

At first, Mendenhall reportedly tried to say the blood came from a cut on his left leg, though police pointed out he had no scratches or scars.

Mendenhall then confessed, the television station reported.

Bryna Mendenhall, Bruce Mendenhall’s daughter, told reporters that her father ignored prostitutes.

“He never had a negative thing to say about anyone who chose that lifestyle,” Bryna Mendenhall told WTVF. “Everybody knows stuff like that is in the truck stops. There’s people like that that will do that. Everybody knows that. Dad – he didn’t really pay attention to it.”

WTVF also reported that Mendenhall possessed a tattoo cut from one of his victims. Postiglione noted that Mendenhall mentioned the tattoo, saying ‘she had a good tattoo.’ ”


Jury finds Mendenhall guilty in murder-for-hire trial

Jan 15, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Accused truck stop serial killer Bruce Mendenhall was convicted Friday of plotting to kill three witnesses in his upcoming murder trial.

Jurors did not, however, find the Illinois truck driver guilty of trying to kill two Metro police detectives also while behind bars.

The jury began deliberating around 2:30 p.m. and reached a verdict just before 6 p.m.

Earlier in the week they heard testimony from two inmates who said Mendenhall approached them and asked them to commit the murders.

Former inmate Roy McLaughlin told the courtroom he was serving time for explosives charges when he claims Mendenhall came to him for help.

McLaughlin:  "There were her and two others.  I had to get rid of them."
Prosecutor Rachel Sobrero:  "What were his words to the best of your recollection?"
McLaughlin:  "How much C-4 would it take to blow up a trailer?"

Thursday, prosecutors presented Michael Jenkins, who is currently serving a 10 year sentence for burglary.

Jenkins testified he met Mendenhall in the Metro jail in 2008 and Mendenhall asked him to kill two Metro police detectives, who were investigating the death of Sara Hulbert.

"He was belligerent about those two officers," Jenkins told the courtroom.  "He wanted those two officers dead.  That's point blank what he said."

The jury did not believe Jenkins and did not find Mendenhall guilty of soliciting the murders of the detectives.

Sobrero said, "He had a long criminal history, and they didn't have the corroboration. It wasn't on tape."

Mendenhall was arrested in July 2007, a month after Hulbert's body was found, and charged with her death.

Hulbert's family told News 2 they are happy with Friday's conviction.

Roxanna Wayman, Hulbert's sister, said, "We're happy with the three out of the five verdicts. We're just one step closer to getting the justice we've been waiting two years for."

Mendenhall will be back in court for sentencing in the murder-for-hire case on February 26.

Each of his three guilty charges carries an eight to 12 year sentence.


Trucker Sentenced 30 Years In Murder-For-Hire Case

Bruce Mendenhall Sentenced 10 Years Per Crime

February 26, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn.An Illinois truck driver was sentenced to 30 years in prison for soliciting murder while in jail on charges stemming from four slayings in three states.

Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Steve Dozier sentenced Bruce Mendenhall, of Albion, Ill., on Friday after his conviction last month for trying to arrange the murders of three witnesses in his upcoming murder trial. He was given 10 years for each count to be served consecutively.

Mendenhall was arrested in June 2007 in the death of a woman whose body was found at a Nashville truck stop. He later was charged with killing three other women in Lebanon, Tenn., Indianapolis, and Birmingham, Ala.

He is scheduled to go to trial for Sarah Hulbert's death in May.

"I guess it's a little more closer to closure for us. Hopefully this will help with Sara's case, because now he actually has a record," Roxanna Wayman, Hulbert's sister, said on Friday.

Metro Detective Pat Postiglione, a target of the plot, said this is the first time he's ever known of someone trying to kill him in his 30 plus years of working in law enforcement.

“When you are putting people away in prison, potentially for the rest of their lives, I guess you could possibly become a target for those reasons, so we take it very serious,” said Postiglione.



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