For Sara Hulbert’s sister, Friday afternoon’s rain symbolized “tears of joy.”
Moments earlier a jury convicted Bruce Mendenhall, the man accused of shooting Hulbert, of premeditated first-degree murder, which carries with it a mandatory life sentence. The jury began its deliberation just before 11 a.m. and returned its verdict about three hours later.
“It puts us a step closer to closure and helps us,” Roxanna Wayman said. “This is the day we’ve been waiting for almost three years, so we’re very, very happy with the verdict.”
Wayman said the trial was hard to listen to at times because it brought some things out about a loved one that they weren’t aware of and testimony turned graphic at times. But she said being there and even taking the stand was something they had to do for Hulbert.
Deputy Attorney General Tom Thurman said the verdict resulted from a lot of good work by the police department and some luck in catching him at the truck stop.
“I guess the strongest evidence was obviously the DNA — the murder weapon being in his truck and the victim’s DNA being on the murder weapon in his truck — that was very hard to overcome,” Thurman said.
After the trial, Metro police homicide detective Sgt. Pat Postiglione described the break in the case.
“That particular day I was going down the street, and I saw his truck coming down — didn’t know it was his truck, had no idea whose truck it was. It looked similar in markings and design and color, so it turns out it was the right truck.”
Postiglione said Metro was looking into other cases in Nashville that may involve Mendenhall.
Mendenhall, 59, won’t be allowed before the parole board for at least 51 years of his life sentence. He is already serving a 30-year sentence in a murder-for-hire plot.
Thurman said the District Attorney’s office would file a motion to make Friday’s life sentence consecutive to the one Mendenhall is already serving. That sentencing hearing is set for June 18.
The life sentence was appropriate, Wayman said. “This keeps him off the streets and he will never ever put another family, another friend or another loved one through the things that not only he put our families through but his other victims’ families.
“And I hope that they one day get the closure that we received today.”