Bruce Mendenhall's 2010 convictions for the murder of a truck stop prostitute and a murder-for-hire plot have been upheld by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
Appellate judges Wednesday ruled the Davidson County, Tenn., Criminal Court handled evidence properly in the case of the 61-year-old Crawford County native.
Mendenhall, Albion, is serving a life sentence for killing Sarah Hulbert, 25, Nashville, Tenn., June 26, 2007. He also received a 30-year sentence, to be served consecutively, for trying to hire a fellow inmate to kill witnesses in his trial.
Mendenhall filed the appeal more than a year ago, claiming the lower court erred by not suppressing certain items of evidence seized from his truck, statements he made to homicide detectives and tape-recorded statements he made to another inmate in the murder-for-hire plot.
A significant part of Mendenhall's appeal on that murder conviction centered on his first encounter with police when homicide detective Sgt. Pat Postiglione confronted him at the same Truck Stops of America truck stop near LP Field where Hulbert was found dead.
In its opinion, the appeals court found that police interviews and investigation were properly conducted and that evidence - including submitted crime scene photos of Hulbert's nude body and gunshot wound - was presented appropriately in regard to the case.
The opinion, delivered by Justice Thomas T. Woodall reads, "We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the photographs into evidence. We agree with the trial court's finding that the autopsy photographs are not unduly gruesome and were relevant to show the victim's injuries."
The crime scene photos were submitted, as the prosecution explained, to show how the killer had posed Hulbert's corpse. "This was a placement that took time, that took conscious thought and deliberation, which is what this is about."
The justices also dismissed Mendenhall's claims the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt.
"We conclude that the record supports the trial court's findings and the trial court sufficiently stated its findings on the record," Woodall wrote. "The proof establishes that defendant had no hesitation about committing a crime in which the risk to human life was high. The trial court's imposition of consecutive sentences was proper."
While Mendenhall was jailed and awaiting trial on the murder charge, he was charged with five counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. He was tried and convicted of three of those counts.
Mendenhall's attorney unsuccessfully argued jailhouse recordings of Mendenhall trying to recruit a fellow inmate to kill witnesses should not have been admitted during trial.
"The court considered evidence in the solicitation case that defendant said, 'there's nothing a few dead detectives wouldn't cure' and that he agreed with [inmate] McLaughlin's plan to blow up [prosecution witness Lori] Young's trailer in a gas explosion," the opinion read. "The court found that defendant's conduct in soliciting the murders of potential witnesses goes to the very heart of the judicial process."
Mendenhall remains in the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison near Nashville.
He is awaiting trial in Wilson County, Tenn., for the June 6, 2007, death of another prostitute, Symantha Winters, 48. Her body was found stuffed into a trash can at a Pilot truck stop off Murphreesboro Road in Lebanon, Tenn. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in the Winters case April 5, with a jury trial set for June 11.
After that, Mendenhall is expected to stand trial in Indianapolis for the death of 31-year-old Carma Purpura. Purpura, whose body has never been found, was also a truck stop prostitute.
After the Indianapolis trial, he is expected to be tried in Alabama for the death of Lucille "Gretna" Carter, 44, Birmingham. Authorities add that Mendenhall is still a suspect in at least two other deaths, one in Lake Station, Ind., and another in Tennessee.
Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013
Article comment by:
Lucille Gretna Carter was my best friend, and I couldn't beleive she was a victom of a hightway killer i knew they was out there I never thought they will hit this close to home. I was in Tallahassee visiting friend come home and this happen to Lucille.