Audio tapes reveal Mendenhall arranging for murders

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 3:07pm

On the second day of testimony in Bruce Mendenhall’s murder-for-hire trial, audio recordings were a key piece of the prosecution’s case against the Illinois truck driver.

During morning testimony, the state played two extended recordings of wiretapped conversations between a jailhouse informant and Mendenhall, talks prosecutors say reveal the defendant agreeing to contract for the murders of three acquaintances.

The recordings came from May 2 and 16, 2008, when convicted felon Roy Lucas McLaughlin, in coordination with Metro Police and the district attorney’s office, spoke with Mendenhall about killing Lori Young and her son, Richie Kiem, and David Powell, individuals the defendant maintains framed him for the June 2007 murder of Sara Nicole Hulbert.

The tapes, which run an hour and two hours, respectively, were recorded while Mendenhall and McLaughlin walked the rooftop recreation yard at the Davidson County Criminal Justice Center. Both men were awaiting hearings — Mendenhall on first-degree murder and McLaughlin on a weapons charge.

Defense attorneys have argued McLaughlin was using Mendenhall in order to win the favor of law enforcement officials and the district attorney.

On both tapes, a voluble McLaughlin offers to kill for the defendant, first by rigging a faked gas leak explosion at Young’s home, then by killing Young at a truck stop in a fashion similar to Hulbert’s death.

“Whatever, that’s your thing,” Mendenhall replies in the recording.

The recordings also reveal Mendenhall offering information about the location of the trailer where Young and her son live, as well as giving Powell’s Kentucky address. At McLaughlin’s prompting, Mendenhall also describes Kiem’s physical characteristics.

“I just want to make sure it’s the right targets,” McLaughlin tells the defendant on the tape.

In the later conversation, McLaughlin told the defendant he’d stage Young’s death to look like one of the truck stop murders Mendenhall is suspected of in order to confuse authorities.

“If I make it look like your shit, then your lawyers will have something to go on,” he says.

Both McLaughlin and Michael Jenkins, the state’s other witness who claims Mendenhall asked him to kill police detectives, are scheduled to appear on the stand this afternoon.