Nashville jury may not see accused serial killer’s letters
Bruce Mendenhall asked others to kill detectives and witnesses, state
By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN
Accused serial killer Bruce Mendenhall was frustrated because he couldn’t line up alibis for a Nashville killing, prosecutors allege, and turned to soliciting the deaths of detectives and witnesses.
The state is trying to use evidence from letters and phone calls made by Mendenhall from prison to show the jury their theory of the crime: that after he couldn’t locate an alibi, real or fake, he turned to a murder plot to get rid of the people who would testify against him in the Sara Hulbert murder case.
A judge will decide whether to allow a jury to hear the evidence — hundreds of letters to family and pen pals talking about his need for an alibi as well as several recorded phone calls — in the trial scheduled to begin Nov. 16.
“All of this is relevant to his frame of mind,” prosecutor Rachel Sobrero said. “He’s trying to find an alibi. That doesn’t work. Months later, he’s hiring people to kill the witnesses.”
Hulbert was found dead in June 2007 at an East Nashville truck stop. Police arrested Mendenhall at the same truck stop less than three weeks later and
said DNA evidence in his truck linked him to the murder.
In August 2008, Mendenhall was indicted on five counts of solicitation of murder for allegedly trying to hire two separate prison inmates to kill witnesses and Metro police detectives. One of the inmates, Roy McLaughlin, was wearing a wire.
Alleged hitman testifies against Mendenhall
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Testimony continued Wednesday in the first trial of alleged serial killer Bruce Mendenhall.
Mendenhall is accused of murdering several women at truck stops across the country.
Jurors will decide this week if he plotted to kill five other people, including two Metro police detectives, while behind bars.
The state is relying on taped conversations, along with testimony from two jail inmates to convict Mendenhall.
Jurors spent hours listening to those conversations Wednesday.
“Is there any particular way you’d like for the services to be carried out, sir?” Mendenhall is asked in one conversation. “No, as long as they don’t suffer through it,” he replied.
One of the inmates, Roy McLaughlin, also testified Wednesday.
McLaughlin told the courtroom he earned the reputation as a hitman while in custody.
He said he was serving time for explosives charges when he claims Mendenhall came to him for help.
McLaughlin: “There were her and two others. I had to get rid of them.”
Prosecutor Rachel Sobrero: “What were his words to the best of your recollection?”
McLaughlin: “How much C-4 would it take to blow up a trailer?”
McLaughlin said he and Mendenhall were friends but apparently turned on him in the spring of 2008 when he went to authorities and twice wore a recording device for police.
During cross examination, the defense tried to paint McLaughlin as a criminal who should not be trusted.
The defense says both inmates, who have lengthy criminal histories, saw Mendenhall as their ticket out of jail.