On a recent trip to Ohio, driver Bruce Mendenhall called his supervisor with bad news.
Mendenhall told Danny Davis, owner of furniture and trucking business Quality Oak Products, that he had mistakenly driven to Fayetteville, OH, rather than Fayette, OH, and would be a day late with the load.
The trucker’s story about getting lost seemed particularly odd, Davis told Land Line. Davis hired Mendenhall, 56, of Albion, IL, about a year ago after Mendenhall left Dart Transit.
Mendenhall took between 24 to 40 hours to make the five-hour trip, Davis said.
“Even with sleep and everything else, that’s just way, way behind,” Davis said.
Mendenhall was arrested and charged last week with criminal homicide in connection with the shooting death of 25-year-old Sara Nicole Hulbert in Nashville. A preliminary hearing to set a trial was scheduled for July 11, but the hearing has since been pushed back to Aug. 2.
Davis said his mind has raced through scenarios about Mendenhall’s detour ever since his former driver’s arrest.
“It’s concerned me ever since I’ve thought about it,” Davis said. “I’m just wondering if he doesn’t have another victim lying along I-64 or (I-71) somewhere over there … that’s just a long timeline to get where he was going.”
Detectives across the South and Midwest have kept Davis’ phone ringing since the arrest, trying to link Mendenhall to unsolved cases where women were found slain at truck stops and rest stops.
Quality Oak Products’ records indicated that Mendenhall’s path crossed with at least two of the murders, Davis acknowledged.
“One was in Birmingham and one was in Nashville,” Davis said. “That’s all I’ve looked at so far.”
Davis recounted entering Mendenhall’s company 2000 International cab to work on a turn signal problem only a few days before Mendenhall’s arrest.
Davis told Land Line he ordered Mendenhall to clean the cab after noticing a “ratty” odor and trash strewn throughout the bright yellow truck’s cab.
On Monday, Davis said he checked Mendenhall’s references and said he believed his former employee’s DAC report wasn’t bad.
“We did everything we were supposed to do,” Davis said.
A copy of Mendenhall’s Illinois CDL obtained by Land Line shows the suspect is eligible to haul hazmat until April 2009. The 5-foot 11-inch, 200-pound former Albion, IL, mayoral candidate also was listed as an organ donor.
Mendenhall is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in Davidson County Criminal Court at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2, according to Tommy Bradley, chief clerk for the county’s criminal court clerk’s office.
Bradley said Mendenhall has the right to waive the hearing, which will include the presentation of evidence to determine whether a jury trial will be scheduled.
In a phone interview late Monday, Davis said police detectives had asked him not to speak further with reporters.
– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer