Prosecution says Mendenhall’s truck was a ‘killing chamber’

Friday, May 14, 2010 at 1:54pm

The jury began its deliberation Friday morning in the murder trial against Bruce Mendenhall, a long-haul truck driver from Illinois accused of shooting Sara Nicole Hulbert in June 2007.

Closing arguments lasted about one and a half hours as Mendenhall's defense tried to show the state's case rested on too much circumstantial evidence.

Assistant Public Defender Jason Gichner told jurors the defense didn't dispute that Hulbert was in Mendenhall's truck — DNA evidence showed her blood was found in various spots in the truck — or that she was shot with his .22-caliber rifle, but Gichner said there was no direct evidence proving Mendenhall killed her.

Gichner argued that two sets of shoe prints at the crime scene and tire tracks that didn’t match the tread of the tires on Mendenhall's truck proved that someone else could have killed Hulbert. He also said semen found in various places about Hulbert's body wasn't linked to Mendenhall's DNA.

Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman called the defense a "smoke screen" and said the evidence was there for a premeditated murder verdict.

Thurman said evidence shows Mendenhall's truck was stocked as a "killing chamber," filled with a rifle, knives, a nightstick and two sets of handcuffs, not to mention sex toys.

Thurman returned to Mendenhall’s former boss, Danny Davis, who testified that Mendenhall said, "I just kill them," during a conversation about "lot lizards" or truck stop prostitutes. Thurman said that conversation occurred two weeks before Mendenhall was arrested and just three days after Hulbert was shot.