Man charged in truck stop slaying; suspected in at least 5 others

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A man arrested Thursday and charged with killing a woman at a Nashville truck stop last month is suspected in at least five other similar slayings in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Indiana, police said.

Bruce Mendenhall, 56, of Albion, Ill., was charged with criminal homicide after being questioned by police at the same truck stop along Interstate 24 in north Nashville where Sara Nicole Hulbert was found dead with gunshot wounds on June 26.

Police said Detective Sgt. Pat Postiglione went to the truck stop on Thursday to conduct a follow-up interview in the investigation of Hulbert's death.

When he got there he saw a truck fitting the description of a vehicle that was spotted the night before Hulbert's body was found. The detective said the driver, Mendenhall, appeared nervous when being questioned and granted permission to look inside his cab.

Mendenhall was taken into custody when the detective spotted what appeared to be blood inside the cab, police said in a news release.

During questioning, the driver gave a statement implicating himself in Hulbert's death, as well as the death of Symantha Winters, 48, of Nashville, whose body was found June 6 stuffed in a trash can at another truck stop in Lebanon, 26 miles east of Nashville.

Police, who have been investigating whether the two Tennessee slayings were related to each other and a series of other slayings of women across the South, said Mendenhall also implicated himself in one death in Alabama, another in Georgia and two in Indiana.

Mendenhall was in custody and still going through booking Thursday evening, a police spokeswoman said. He had yet to appear before a judge for a bond hearing and he had not yet retained or been appointed an attorney.

Authorities in Albion, which is in Edwards County in southeastern Illinois, said they had just learned of the allegations from Tennessee authorities on Thursday night and had not yet been able to investigate Mendenhall's background.

Mendenhall had been driving the truck for Quality Oak Products in Noble, Ill., for about a year, company owner Dan Davis said. Davis declined to discuss the case further, but said the case was "a complete shock to us."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)