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Sentencing hearing for serial killer rescheduled

Jacob Smith • Apr 30, 2018 at 3:41 PM

Convicted serial killer Bruce Mendenhall’s sentencing hearing was rescheduled for June 5, according to District Attorney Tommy Thompson.

Thompson’s office said the hearing was rescheduled because the pre-sentencing report wasn’t completed by Monday morning when his hearing was originally scheduled.

Mendenhall was found guilty in March of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

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

The sentencing hearing will be for the abuse of a corpse charge. Wilson County criminal court Judge John D. Wootten previously sentenced Mendenhall, 66, of Abion, Illinois, to life in prison of the first-degree murder charge.

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 implicated himself in that killing and in Winters’ death. As the investigation unfolded, he then implicated himself in one killing 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 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 for Winters’ death, 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 on a serial killer,” said defense attorney Lindsay Graham. “They got a lot of blood evidence, but none of it is from Samantha Winters. It’s from Sarah Hulbert.”
But the prosecution had a different take.

“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.”

A jury deliberated about an hour and a half before it declared Mendenhall guilty of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

 

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