Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
BRUCE D. MENDENHALL
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Assigned on Briefs September 20, 2016 at Knoxville
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2007-D-2738
Steve R. Dozier, Judge.
petitioner, Bruce D. Mendenhall, was convicted in 2007 of
first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life
imprisonment. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal,
and his application for permission to appeal was denied.
Subsequently, he filed a petition for habeas corpus relief,
which the court treated as a petition for post-conviction
relief, alleging that trial counsel had been ineffective.
Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court
concluded that the petitioner's claims were without
merit. The record on appeal supports this determination.
Accordingly, the order of the post-conviction court denying
relief is affirmed.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
D. Cate, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bruce D.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M.
Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk,
District Attorney General; and Pamela Anderson, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J.,
E. GLENN, JUDGE.
facts upon which the petitioner's conviction was based
are set out in the opinion of this court on the direct
[The petitioner's] trial began on May 10, 2010. The
victim's sister Roxanna Wayman testified that Ms. Hulbert
[the victim] had a history of drug and alcohol addiction, and
Ms. Wayman was aware that Ms. Hubert [sic] was engaging in
prostitution at the time of her death.
Nicholas Turner, the head of security at the Travel Centers
of America truck stop in Nashville, testified that he
discovered the victim's body in the early morning hours
on June 26, 2007. Mr. Turner found the body at approximately
12:50 a.m. He checked to see if the victim was breathing and
"didn't see anything so [he] called 911." He
estimated that the first police officer arrived approximately
thirty seconds to one minute after he made the emergency
call. On cross-examination, Mr. Turner testified that he was
training another security officer that night. The officer,
Robert Nelson, left at approximately 12:15 a.m. Mr. Turner
"had him basically tail [him] on [his] duties. . .
." While walking with Mr. Nelson around the truck stop,
Mr. Turner showed Mr. Nelson a hole in a fence near where the
body was found. Mr. Turner testified that prostitutes and
drug dealers would enter the property through the hole in the
fence. Mr. Turner testified that he had last checked the area
where the victim's body was found at approximately 12:15
or 12:20 a.m., and he had not seen the body there.
Sgt. Robert Durbin was patrolling the area of downtown
Nashville on June 26, 2007. At approximately 1:00 a.m., he
was dispatched to the Truck Stops of America in response to a
dead body. When he arrived, he met with private security
officer Nicholas Turner, who took Sgt. Durbin to the area
where the body was discovered behind some parked trailers.
Sgt. Durbin testified that "it was plainly apparent to
[him] that [Ms. Hulbert] was deceased." She was naked
and had "blood all over her head." She was lying on
her back and her feet were positioned with the soles together
and her knees spread apart. Her left hand was stretched out
beside her with her wrist turned up. She was wearing an ID
bracelet, and the name on it was clearly visible.
Sgt. Stephen Beck of the Metro police department arrived at
the crime scene after Sgt. Durbin. Sgt. Beck noticed
"some blood droplets" on the ground between two
trailers. He also saw a "muddy area outside of the
trailer going towards the area [where the body was found] and
there was a footprint in there. . . ." Sgt. Beck
testified that the footprint "seemed out of place as
there were no other footprints in and around the area."
Tim Matthews looked in several trash barrels around the truck
stop, searching for weapons, women's clothing, anything
with blood on it, or any plastic similar to the plastic found
under the victim's head, but he did not find anything. He
also searched under the trailers.
Frank Regans was the supervisor of the crime scene. He worked
in the identification unit. Lt. Regans took two castings of
two different shoe prints found in the area of the
Charles Linville testified that the victim's face and
head were bloody. There was also blood on the victim's
feet. She also had scratches and bruises. He collected swabs
from the victim's chest area, thigh area, and stomach.
Meeks saw the victim in the evening on June 25, 2007. Mr.
Meeks, the victim, and a man named "Hollywood" were
"just riding around using drugs" in Hollywood's
van. Hollywood stole "six to eight cases" of beer
and sold the beer. They used the money from selling beer to
buy "crack." At approximately 10:20 to 10:30 p.m.,
they parked near the truck stop. Approximately 45 minutes
after they arrived, the victim left the van. Mr. Meeks
thought the victim was going to walk to White's Front
Market to meet "her old man Derrick." The last time
Mr. Meeks saw the victim she walked between two parked
trucks. The victim did not return to the van. Mr. Meeks and
Hollywood left at approximately 1:30 a.m. Mr. Meeks testified
that he did not contact the police when he learned that the
victim had been killed because he had a criminal record. He
was interviewed by the police while he was incarcerated for
vandalism, and he agreed to submit a DNA sample.
Uhlir, a retired truck driver, had parked for the night at
the truck stop in Nashville. He testified that he arrived
"roughly maybe about 11:00 to the 12:00 midnight frame
roughly." He "backed [his] rig" into a parking
spot in the back where it was "kind of secluded."
He noticed another truck park beside him. He testified that
it drove in "faster in [his] opinion than normal."
He also thought it was unusual that the truck parked in the
opposite direction as his truck. He testified that the truck
was also blocking another truck to its left. Mr. Uhlir
radioed the truck beside him to tell him that he was blocking
another driver, and the driver stated that he was "not
going to be [t]here that long." Mr. Uhlir finished
working on his logbook, listened to the radio "just for
a little bit, " and "climbed in the back and
tr[ied] to get some rest." He then heard the engine of
the truck beside him. The engine got "louder and
louder." Mr. Uhlir looked out of his window to make sure
the truck did not collide with his truck while reversing, and
the headlights blinded him. Mr. Uhlir testified that he
"thought the tractor was white, " but that "it
could have been a light yellow color[, ] too..... He
testified that the other truck was at the truck stop for less
than half an hour.
examiner Feng Li performed an autopsy on the victim. The
victim was 25 years old at the time of her death. She died
from a gunshot wound on the back right side of her head. The
projectile was still in the victim's head, and based on
the location of the bullet, Dr. Li determined that the victim
was shot from behind and at a downward trajectory. The wound
was consistent with a "close range gunshot wound"
because there was soot material around the entrance wound.
Dr. Li testified that the victim "would have died
instantly" from the gunshot. The victim also had an
abrasion caused by some type of blunt object near the gunshot
entrance wound. Dr. Li testified that the victim had
"multiple blunt force injuries" and other cuts and
abrasions. Dr. Li described the victim's other injuries.
She had bruises and contusions around her left eye, nose, and
forehead and around her neck and chest. She had superficial
cuts on her hands. Dr. Li testified that the victim's
injuries could have been inflicted by a nightstick. Dr. Li
testified that the victim also had a laceration of the anus,
which he testified was inflicted at the time of death or
after the victim's death. The victim also had contusions
around her genitalia. Dr. Li testified that those injuries
were caused by blunt force and could have been caused by an
erect penis. Dr. Li testified that the ...