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Mendenhall gets guilty verdict

Jacob Smith • Mar 2, 2018 at 2:54 PM

A jury deliberated for about an hour and a half Friday afternoon before it declared serial killer Bruce Mendenhall guilty of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

The charges stemmed from the 2007 killing of Samantha D. Winters, 48, of Lebanon.

Wilson County criminal court Judge John Wootten sentenced Mendenhall, 66, of Abion, Illinois, to life in prison on the first-degree murder count and set a sentencing hearing for April 30 on the abuse of a corpse count.

Winters’ naked body was found June 6, 2007 in a trashcan at the Pilot Travel Center on Highway 231 in Lebanon.

Mendenhall was already serving a life sentence at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville for the June 26, 2007 killing of Sarah Nicole Hulbert, 25, of Nashville, who was found dead of gunshot wounds at a truck stop north of Nashville.

During questioning in that case, Mendenhall gave a statement that implicarted himself in that killing and in Winters’ death. As the investigation unfolded, he then implicated himself in one death in Alabama, one in Georgia and two in Indiana.

A Wilson County grand jury indicted Mendenhall on Aug. 17, 2007 for Winters’ death.

While in jail, Mendenhall received an additional 30-year sentence for trying to hire someone to kill the three associates he had implicated for the killings in his original statement to police.

According to authorities, Mendenhall separately approached two inmates with offers to pay them $15,000 for the killings. One of the killings was a “copycat” crime, designed to lead police to believe the killer was still at large.

In that incident, Mendenhall was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.

During the trial, the defense and prosecution attempted to focus on the dissimilarities and similarities, respectively, of the two women who were killed.

“If you look at the crime in Lebanon and other truck stop murders, it’s really not the sign of a serial killer,” said defense attorney Lindsay Graham. “They got a lot of blood evidence. They’ve got pages of blood evidence, but none of it is from Samantha Winters. It’s from Sarah Hulbert.”

“All this stuff they want to throw at you, please just focus on the evidence,” said Assistant District Attorney Brian Fuller. “I don’t care what kind of person Samantha Winters was, what kind of life she led, she didn’t deserve this.”

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