Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Case of Tammy Zywicki

Highway Killers

In 2004, the FBI noticed a pattern — the bodies of murdered women were being dumped along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi. The victims were mostly prostitutes and transients who hung out at truck stops. They were picked up, sexually assaulted, sometimes bound or mutilated, murdered and dumped on the side of the road. To help better connect suspects to victims, the FBI began a database of such victims and officially launched the Highway Serial Killings initiative in April 2009. The initiative helps conduct investigations between jurisdictions, which can be difficult to do, but is vital to solve cases in which the suspects travel hundreds of miles each day. Currently, the database contains over 500 victims and 200 suspects. Agents and Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) analysts work diligently to find answers in this tangled and sadly ever-growing web of highways, truck drivers and murder victims.

FBI map shows the more than 500 cases in the Highway Serial Killings Initiative database; the red dots mark where bodies or remains have been found along highways over the past 30 years.
FBI map shows the more than 500 cases in the Highway Serial Killings Initiative database; the red dots
mark where bodies or remains have been found along highways over the past 30 years.

Bruce Mendenhall is on that list, as an apprehended offender, and his victims are there as well. Police say Mendenhall confessed to six killings, all in 2007. In court, Mendenhall pleaded not guilty to killing Sara Hulbert. He remains in a Tennessee jail awaiting trial for that charge, as well as the three other homicide charges in Tennessee, Alabama and Indiana. Tennessee prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if he is convicted. In August 2008, Mendenhall was charged with plotting to kill detectives and witnesses in his case while in jail. He pleaded not guilty.

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