Testimony begins in Mendenhall case

Jacob Smith • Feb 28, 2018 at 7:03 PM

Testimony in the trial of accused serial killer Bruce Mendenhall began Wednesday as the jury heard statements from police officers who worked the case back in 2007.

Mendnehall, 66, of Abion, Illinois, was charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in the 2007 death of Samantha D. Winters, 48, of Lebanon.

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

One of the testimonies given was that of Lee Freeman, a former Metro-Nashville detective who was the lead detective on the murder of Sarah Hulbert, of which Mendenhall was already convicted.

Freeman recalled finding Hulbert’s body, and the investigation that followed. According to Freeman, detectives were able to find Mendenhall because of his distinctive truck, which they spotted on security cameras and later at a truck stop.

When they took him into custody, Mendenhall allegedly blamed three other men for the murders.

“He said that three individuals were showing up at truck stops, killing these women and leaving them in his truck for him to dispose of,” said Freeman.

While in jail for the murder of Hulbert, Mendenhall received an additional 30-year sentence for trying to hire someone to kill these three associates.

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.

During their questioning, the defense and prosecuting attorneys attempted to focus on the dissimilarities and the similarities respectively.

Prosecutors focused on the fact that both women were prostitutes, both were shot in the head with a .22-caliber bullet, and both bodies were disposed. The defense attorney focused on the manner in which the bodies were found. Hulbert’s body was found laid out, almost as if she was set up for display, whereas Winters’ body was found just thrown haphazardly in a trash can.

Mendenhall is already serving a life sentence at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

Mendenhall’s trial will resume Thursday at 9 a.m. in Wilson County criminal court in Wootten’s courtroom at the Criminal Justice Center in Lebanon.

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