Cops: Trucker's Cab "Awash With Blood"

(CBS/AP) A cab of a truck driver and suspected serial killer was "awash with blood" belonging to 10 different people, said a prosecutor who charged the man Thursday with murdering a missing woman.

Carmen Purpura's body has not been found, but the prosecutor said her blood soaked the seats in Bruce Mendenhall's cab, and that so much of her blood was there she could not possibly be alive.

Purpura's slaying is the fourth Mendenhall has been charged with since his arrest in Nashville July 12, the day Purpura disappeared from an Indianapolis truck stop. Police say he confessed to being present at as many as six slayings in Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said a Nashville police officer had stopped Mendenhall's truck because it bore an unusual corporate symbol that had been linked to the other slayings.

"When the officer opened up the cab of the truck, you can imagine his surprise, because the cab of the truck was literally awash with blood," Brizzi said at a news conference. "DNA analysis of that shows it's not just the blood of one victim, but the blood of several victims."

Some of the blood was from the other three women Mendenhall has been charged with killing, Brizzi spokesman Matthew Symons said.

Also found in the truck cab was a .22-caliber handgun that Mendenhall used in the killings, Brizzi said.

Mendenhall, 56, is being held at a Nashville jail. One of his attorneys, Jason Gitchner, said he had no comment on the latest charge.

Ryan Hallam, the mayor of Mendenhall's hometown, Albion, Ill., said Mendenhall - married with two grown children - was “a little different” from other people in town. He had a loud voice, but generally kept to himself, aside from an unsuccessful campaign against a preacher for the mayor’s seat about a decade ago.

Mendenhall once ran for mayor in Albion because he was angry at the city for ordering him to clear junked cars from his property, Albion Police Chief Doyle Judge told the AP last year.

“We’ve had a few encounters with him, but nothing of any great magnitude,” Judge said, noting only one disruption over a traffic stop involving Mendenhall’s daughter.

Mendenhall also is charged in the slayings of Symantha Winters, 48, of Nashville, whose body was found shot and stuffed in a trash can June 6 at a truck stop in Lebanon; of Sara Nicole Hulbert, 25, who was found shot to death June 26 at a truck stop in Nashville; and Lucille "Gretna" Carter, 44, who was shot with a .22-caliber weapon before her nude body was found July 1 by a trash bin along a road in Birmingham.

Brizzi said the victims were shot after their heads were wrapped in plastic wrap and duct tape.

It's almost as if he wanted to get caught and then play a game of I'm smarter than the police.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl BrizziEven though the body of Purpura, 31, has not been found, Brizzi said he was confident he had enough evidence to convict Mendenhall. Blood drawn from the Indianapolis woman's parents provided a DNA match to blood inside the cab, where investigators also found a bloody bag containing her cell phone, ATM card and clothing she was wearing at the time of her disappearance.

Nashville police found blood on Mendenhall's hands and under his fingernails.

Police say that when the Albion, Ill., trucker was arrested, he said the victim had been shot in the back of the head at the Indianapolis truck stop and then left inside a vehicle parked at a nearby fast food restaurant. Mendenhall denies being the murderer, Brizzi said.

"It's almost as if he wanted to get caught and then play a game of I'm smarter than the police," the prosecutor said.

Brizzi said he is still weighing whether to seek the death penalty. No capital charges have been filed in the other three cases.

©MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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