Prosecutor: Blood Of Indy Woman, Others In Trucker's Cab

Man Charged In 31-Year-Old's Slaying

Blood from 10 different people was found last year inside the truck cab of a serial-killings suspect, including the blood of an Indianapolis woman he has been charged with slaying, an Indiana prosecutor said Thursday.

Bruce Mendenhall, 56, of Albion, Ill., was charged Thursday with murder in the July 2007 disappearance of Carma Purpura, 31, of Indianapolis.

Purpura's presumed death -- her body hasn't been found -- is the fourth death with which Mendenhall has been charged. The trucker was charged last year with two killings in Tennessee and one in Alabama, and investigators have said he's a suspect in up to six other deaths in the U.S.

Mendenhall has been in police custody since July 12, when he was arrested at a Tennessee truck stop after a detective investigating the death of a Tennessee woman saw blood in Mendenhall's tractor-trailer, authorities said.

"The cab of the truck was literally awash in blood. DNA analysis of that shows that it's just not the blood of one victim, it's the blood of several victims," Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi told reporters Thursday while announcing the Indiana murder charge.

Police said Mendenhall has denied killing Purpura but claimed to know how she died -- that she had been shot in the back of the head of a Flying J truck stop in Indianapolis and then left inside a vehicle parked at a nearby fast-food restaurant.

"It's almost as if he wanted to get caught and then play a game of I'm smarter than the police," Brizzi said.

Brizzi said DNA tests link some of the blood from Mendenhall's truck cab to blood drawn from Purpura's parents. Investigators also found her cell phone, ATM card and clothing she wore on the day she disappeared, Brizzi said.

Carma Purpura

Some of the blood was from the other three women Mendenhall has been charged with killing, Brizzi spokesman Matthew Symons said.

Also found in the truck cab was a .22-caliber handgun that Mendenhall used in the killings, Brizzi said. Brizzi said the victims were shot after their heads were wrapped in plastic wrap and duct tape.

According to police, witnesses said they saw Purpura standing near Mendenhall's truck at the Flying J truck stop on the day she disappeared -- July 11, 2007.

Besides Purpura's death, Mendenhall also is charged in the slayings of Symantha Winters, 48, of Nashville, Tenn., whose body was found shot and stuffed in a trash can June 6 at a truck stop in Lebanon; of Sara Nicole Hulbert, 25, who was found shot to death June 26 at a truck stop in Nashville; and Lucille "Gretna" Carter, 44, who was shot with a .22-caliber weapon before her nude body was found July 1 by a trash bin along a road in Birmingham.

Mendenhall is being held at a Nashville jail. One of his attorneys, Jason Gitchner, said he had no comment on the latest charge.

Brizzi said his office is "working with the other jurisdictions to see the quickest way and the best way to punish (Mendenhall) with the ultimate punishment -- a capital sentence."

"Those decisions are still being weighed," Brizzi said.