Bruce Mendenhall

Bruce was the next name on my long list of cases to research.  I have often said that when I first go through the names I often do not recall if the name is the perpetrator or the victim, where I got the name or even what it was about. That was such the case here and it surprised me considering part of his crime spree occurred in my state.  However, what surprised me even more is not just what little information is available but how little he has seen the inside of a courtroom for.  

The country pretty much knew they had a serial killer on their hands in early 2000's.  He had already been dubbed "The Truck Stop Killer" or "The Rest Stop Killer."  Women, mainly prostitutes, around the mid-west were disappearing and often found murdered. It was obviously suspected that the perpetrator was a truck driver and it was often wondered if he would ever be caught.

On July 12, 2007 at a truck stop in Nashville Tennessee a detective was going to a follow up interview with someone pertaining to the murder of Sara Hulbert. Sara had been murdered on June 26, 2007.  Surveillance tapes had been looked at and a truck similar to the one investigators suspected in her case just so happened to be at that truck stop on that day.  The driver was Bruce Mendenhall, a fifty-six year old married truck driver from Albion Illinois. Although he seemed nervous to the officer Mendenhall agreed to allow his truck to be searched.  

One has to wonder just why Mendenhall allowed the search.  He had to have known that he was not leaving that truck stop unless it was wearing handcuffs. Some say serial killers sometimes allow themselves to get caught so they can get recognition for their murders.  Was Mendenhall not in a position in which he thought he could get away? This issues eludes me because the second that the truck was searched Mendenhall's fate was sealed.

Inside the truck officers found a lot of bloody clothing.  There was blood in other places too including the steering wheel and even on Mendenhall's hands.  An identification for a woman named Carma Purpura, along with many of what seemed to be her personal effects including her cell phone and ATM debit card. Officers would learn that Purpura had disappeared from an Indianapolis truck stop just the day before.  

Obviously, as I said, Mendenhall was not leaving that Nashville truck stop without handcuffs.  He would be taken into custody and questioned while his truck would be sent to forensics.  It did not take long before Mendenhall implicated himself not only in the murders of Sara Hulbert and Carma Purpura, but also in the murders of Symantha Winters whose body was found June 6, 2007 in Lebanon Tennessee and Lucille "Gretna" Carter who was found dead July 1, 2007 in Birmingham Alabama.

In the truck, aside from the blood and personal items, investigators would also find weapons (a rifle and a knife), latex gloves, handcuffs, black tape and a night stick.  One report I read stated that DNA of five different women were found inside the truck; another stated blood linked him to ten different women (I suspect this may not be correct but he is suspected in the murder of at least 11 women).  

While I tried to decipher all of the information I found I think I have determined that at least blood DNA was found connecting Mendenhall to Winters, Hulbert, Purpura, Carter and to Latisha Milliken who was reported missing on June 26, 2007 (the same day Hulbert was found) by her family in Tennessee but no one had heard from her in two months.  

Here is where things get sketchy for me.  Initial reports told me that he was charged in the murders of Hulbert, Winters, Purpura and Carter, meaning he faced charges in Tennessee, Indiana and Alabama.  He is also highly suspected in the murders of six other women, two from Georgia, another from Indiana, one from Illinois, and two more from Tennessee.  However, after all of this I found little information on things going forward in these cases.  Sometime before 2008 he was apparently convicted in the murder of Sara Hulbert and given a life sentence but I only found that answer through other articles about him and could find nothing specific about the trial itself.  

Sometime after his arrest his wife passed away and he was entitled to money through insurance policies apparently.  I was unable to determine what the exact amount was, or even if he got it.  The Mendenhall's had two grown daughters so it is possible that he only believed he would get money.  At any rate in 2010 he was convicted for attempting to solicit the murders of one of the detectives on his cases and two witnesses who planned to testify against him. It was said that not only did he want the murders carried out, he wanted at least one of them to look like the murders that he had committed so that it would look as if the investigators had the wrong man.  He received a sentence of thirty years for the conspiracy charges.

While apparently he has continued to be charged in the Symatha Winters case, as of March of 2015 that trial has been delayed while an appeal concerning "evidence issues" finds it's way through the court.  He was to appear again in court in August of 2015 but I found nothing more.  The Tennessee Department of Corrections obviously shows him as an inmate.  It simply states that he began his sentence on August 18, 2008 and is eligible for parole in 2076.

The following is what I was able to determine in all of the cases believed or suspected that Mendenhall was involved in:

  1. Sara Hulbert: As stated above he was apparently convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Surveillance cameras showed her with Mendenhall (or at least near his truck).  Her body was found on June 26, 2007 near the Nashville Truck stop in which he was eventually arrested.
  2. Symantha Winters:  She and Hulbert knew each other.  Her body was found dumped in Lebanon Tennessee on June 6, 2007. He was officially charged with her murder on August 17, 2007 and is still awaiting a trial.
  3. Carma Purpura: She was reported missing from Indianapolis, Indiana on July 11, 2007.  Personal evidence and DNA blood was found inside Mendenhall's truck upon his arrest. He indicated that he dumped her body in a trash bin near the truck stop she was last seen.  Indianapolis police were unable to recover her body but in April of 2008 it was said that they decided to charge Mendenhall with her murder considering all of the other evidence that had been found.  In 2011 a body had been discovered near Louisville Kentucky.  In October 2016 it was positively identified as the body of Carma Purpura. I was unable to find any more information on charges related to this case and whether the discover of her body has changed anything.
  4. Lucille "Gretna" Carter: was found on July 1, 2007 in Birmingham Alabama. Authorities charged him on July 28, 2007 but just as in the Purpura case I was unable to determine if there has been any thing else done in this case.
  5. Deborah Ann Glover: Her body was found near a Motel 6 in Georgia on January 29, 2007.
  6. Sherry Drinkard: was a prostitute found in a snow bank in Gary Indiana (did not have a date that I could find).
  7. Tammy Zywicki: found stabbed to death on the side of the road in LaSalle Illinois.  She had disappeared nine days earlier after dropping her brother off at school.
  8. Jennifer Smith: a known prostitute found naked in April of 2005 **while she was on the list of suspected victims of Mendenhall there was a note that a man by the name of John Wayne Boyer was indicted for this crime. I have no other information as of yet on this case.
  9. Robin Bishop: A prostitute run over in a Tennessee truck stop on July 1, 2007.
  10. Belinda Cartwright: run over at a Georgia Truck stop in 2001. A sketch by police resembles Mendenhall.
  11. Latisha Milliken: Was reported missing on June 26, 2007 in Tennessee after her family had not spoken to her in over two months.  It was said her DNA was found in Mendenhall's truck.  I am curious if the family was pushed to make this report since Hulberts body had been found that day.
One of the articles that I read stated that after speaking to Mendenhall, Nashville officers contacted the Indiana State Police in the Evansville district in which five counties fall under saying Mendenhall may be connected to a missing person in the area.  I made several attempts to determine who this was but was unsuccessful. 

There has been much information about the fact that in 1997 (some say possibly it was 94 or 95) Mendenhall ran against the incumbent mayor of Albian Illinois, Reverand Bill Rucker.  It is apparently true that he did run but according to sources it was a landslide loss.  It was said that it was not much of a campaign in the first place and that he only ran because he was angered about a trash ordinance that had been passed and really did not have a platform. Some say that more is made of this campaign because of the sensationalism behind the fact that a now known serial killer could have been the mayor of a town.  Many stories apparently over exaggerate his chances and under exaggerate his loss. 

Earlier today I had blogged about serial killer Glen Rogers and mentioned the fact that several different states were looking at him and that two have gone to the lengths of charging him and sentencing him to death.  This is often done to secure the fact that if one case fails the other can "kick in" to ensure the perpetrator is not released on a technicality of any sort.  However, in this case I found it very interesting that there was so little about his cases.  I found an abundance about the conspiracy case but only a few lines about his conviction for murder and even less on how the cases are progressing. Is this because the majority of his victims were prostitutes?  Many probably would say yes and state that the lifestyle of the victim plays a role in how prosecutors push things. They are probably right and that is very sad.  Bruce Mendenhall has been in jail since 2007 with enough evidence to surely convict him on at least three murders in two different states. And yet he has only been convicted of one of those and the majority of the information out there is about his attempted murder on a police detective and two witnesses.  He has been in jail for nearly ten years and still has not had a trial for Symantha Winters or Carma Purpura. Where is the justice for these families?

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