Jury convicts Mendenhall of murder

| 5/14/2010

Former trucker Bruce Mendenhall was found guilty of first degree murder charges Friday, May 14, and faces a possible sentence of life behind bars, pending any legal appeal.

Attorneys on both sides of Mendenhall’s murder trial rested their cases Thursday, in the nearly weeklong jury trial.

On Friday, the jury convicted Mendenhall for the murder of 25-year-old Sarah Nicole Hulbert back in June 2007. Hulbert’s body was found on June 26 along a fence in the parking lot of the Nashville Truck Stops of America location.

Prosecutors in Lebanon, TN, Indiana and Alabama have tied him to at least three other killings.

Investigators testified during this week’s trial that Hulbert’s blood was inside Mendenhall’s truck cab and on a rifle found in the truck. According to the Evansville Courier & Press, Mendenhall left a notepad in his truck with the written message “Go to back TA 4 sex OK.”

Hulbert apparently went to the truck stop to earn money to buy drugs, and had been smoking crack with a man shortly before her death.

Lori Young, spouse of OOIDA Member Kenneth Young, testified at the trial Wednesday.

Young spent four days riding in Mendenhall’s truck in 2002. She later moved to Albion, IL, and rented a house from Mendenhall.

According to Young, investigators told Young that Mendenhall became attached to her and grew increasingly upset when she apparently spurned his advances, particularly after she moved out of Mendenhall’s rental house and later left town.

The news stunned Young, she said.

“I’ve been turning men down all my life – but they don’t end up killing people,” Young told Land Line on Friday.

Young said her testimony lasted about 10 minutes, “but it felt like an hour.”

“They never did cross-examine me,” she said.

In January, Mendenhall was found guilty on three counts of solicitation to commit murder, stemming from his attempts to arrange for contract killings of Lori Young and two other acquaintances after he was jailed following Hulbert’s murder. He was acquitted for alleged attempts to contract out the killings of detectives Pat Postiglione and Mike Freemen, two investigators in his serial murder case.

Mendenhall was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for the jailhouse plot. Last month, he requested a new trial for that conviction.

Lori Young said she purposely avoided looking at Mendenhall Wednesday until prosecutors asked her to identify Mendenhall.

“I couldn’t look at him. My eyes were focused on the grandmother and the aunt of the victim,” Young said. “They gave me the strength to sit there and be able to get through this. I felt like I was doing it for them.”

Mendenhall was arrested in 2007 after Nashville Detective Pat Postiglione pulled Mendenhall over at truck stop and noticed blood on his thumb and splattered on the drivers-side door of his cab. Postiglione also discovered a “large amount” of blood in a trash bag Mendenhall kept behind his driver’s seat. Police later matched a pair of shoes with tread marks left at the scene of Hulbert’s killing, according to an affidavit submitted by Davidson County Prosecutor Charles Freeman.

Danny Davis, Mendenhall’s supervisor at Quality Oak Products, told Land Line in 2007 that Mendenhall’s hauling routes matched up with at least two killings police investigated.

Davis said then that he ordered Mendenhall to clean the cab after noticing trash strewn throughout the bright yellow truck’s cab and a “ratty” odor.

On Friday afternoon, Young received a phone call from prosecutors: Mendenhall was found guilty and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

As Young described her reaction, her voice quivered.

“Hopefully, this man will never be on the street again to hurt another person.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Lori Young met with Staff Writer Charlie Morasch for an exclusive interview that appeared in the March/April 2010 issue of Land Line Magazine. To read “Over her shoulder,” click here.