NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Metro police said an Illinois man arrested Thursday implicated himself in six killings in four states.
Police arrested 56-year-old Bruce Mendenhall of Albion, Ill., and charged him with criminal homicide for Sara Hulbert's shooting death. A security guard found the Ashland City woman's body at the TravelCenters of America truck stop on North First Street in late June.
Police said he implicated himself in six truck stop murders in four states.
Sources tell NewsChannel 5 that he took flesh trophies from each victim, but police would not comment on this detail. That aspect of the case along with a motive possibly will come out in a preliminary hearing next week.
Mendenhall was apprehended Thursday afternoon at the same truck stop where Hulbert's body was discovered.
Detective Sgt. Pat Postiglione said he was going to the truck stop for further investigation when he spotted the mustard colored truck investigators have been looking for for weeks.
Mendenhall parked the mustard-colored vehicle at the TravelCenters of America truck stop near downtown. Detectives said Mendenhall was nervous but cooperative.
Postiglione questioned him and asked to look inside the truck, where he saw blood spots on the door and inside the cab.
Mendenhall is also a suspect in the murder of Symantha Winters, whose body was found at a Pilot travel center in Lebanon about a month ago.
Police said at police headquarters, Mendenhall implicated himself in Hulbert's and Winters' shooting deaths.
"She had two little babies," said Kathy Allen, Hulbert's aunt. "She was trying to take care of her family. She didn't deserve this."
Police said Mendenhall also implicated himself in a homicide Alabama, one in Georgia and two in Indiana.
When he was formally charged at night court Thursday night, Mendenhall did not say anything.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, Metro police detectives took Mendenhall into custody and confiscated his vehicle from the TravelCenters of America truck stop near downtown. The truck was towed to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation headquarters to be examined.
A tow truck driver wore a biohazard suit. Authorities did not say if the driver wore the garments to preserve evidence or to protect themselves from contents inside the vehicle.
Quality Oak Products in Illinois owns the truck. In a telephone interview earlier Thursday afternoon, company co-owner Debbie Davis said she tried to reach Mendenhall all day. He worked there for several years.
"He's just a good driver," Davis said before Mendenhall's arrest. "He's never given us any problems. He's a laid back easygoing guy. I mean it just floors me."
Officials with the TA truck stop did not comment on the matter. However, a manager did say that they're working with police and will do all they can to help out in the investigation including sharing video from surveillance cameras.
"The Hulbert case was assigned to the centralized Homicide Unit at headquarters due to the potential that a serial killer was involved," Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said in a statement. "A tremendous amount of work has gone into this case by Sgt. Postiglione, Detective Lee Freeman and their Central Precinct colleagues over the past two weeks. I am extremely proud of their professionalism and dedication."
Mendenhall confessed to killing Hulbert, a young mother of two at the TSA truck stop on June 26.
Hulbert's grandmother Sue Barr said she can't even express the relief she feels and hopes Mendenhall pays for her granddaughter's death.
"I'm just thankful that they caught him," Barr said. "She didn't deserve this."
Mendenhall is married and lives in Albion, Ill. He was held at the Metro jail Thursday night without bond.