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Jury selection to begin Monday in Bonnie Rushing murder trial
Lee Allen Mayhew to stand trial for 2020 slaying of Bulloch woman
Lee Allen Mayhew
Lee Allen Mayhew

Lee Allen Mayhew is scheduled for trial next week in Bulloch County Superior Court on murder and other charges for the October 2020 killing of Bonnie Lanier Rushing at her home in the Leefield community and for thefts there and at another home.

Jury selection is slated for Monday, Jan. 30, with the trial “set to begin right after jury selection” and “continue for the rest of the week until complete,” Judge Lovett Bennett Jr. stated in his scheduling notice.

Phoned this Monday, Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Heather Banks McNeal confirmed the dates shown on the Ogeechee Circuit Superior Courts calendar, where Jan. 30 through Friday, Feb. 3, is set aside for Bennett to conduct the trial.

A pretrial motions hearing is slated for 9 a.m. this Friday, Jan. 27.

Fall 2020 slaying

Bonnie Rushing, 53, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head Friday afternoon, Oct. 23, 2020, on the front porch of her family’s home on Stilson-Leefield Road. Her white, 2013 GMC Acadia was missing.

bonnie rushing
Bonnie Lanier Rushing

Meanwhile, a manhunt was already underway, since the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office had been investigating a burglary involving theft of guns and a golf cart that occurred about five miles away at a home on Old River Road South the previous day. A Chevrolet Malibu was found abandoned there with paperwork inside linking it to Mayhew, BCSO Investigator Prethenia Cone later testified during a preliminary hearing.

So local law enforcement officials were already looking for Mayhew, and learned that he was from Nashville, Tennessee, where he was wanted on firearms charges and sought by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Investigators reported that he was driving Rushing’s GMC Acadia when he was arrested later that same day, Oct. 23, 2020, just across the state line in Columbia County, Florida.

Tennessee record

Mayhew, 46, already faces a 15-year federal sentence for possessing a stolen firearm while a convicted felon. That sentence was imposed by a federal judge in U.S. District court for the Middle District of Tennessee on April 12, 2022, but Mayhew has been held in the Bulloch County Jail since being returned there April 19.

The federal charge stemmed from a Feb. 5, 2018, traffic stop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, during which police found a stolen Sig Sauer rifle in the trunk of a car in which Mayhew was a passenger, according to an April press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee. 

The release stated that Mayhew had four prior convictions for residential burglary. He had been on pre-trial release for the firearms charge in Tennessee and had failed to appear for a hearing the week before Rushing was killed. 

Not-guilty plea

Mayhew’s defense against charges for the murder of Rushing and other alleged crimes in Bulloch County is being prepared by the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office.

During an arraignment held via Zoom teleconferencing April 21, 2021, Mayhew pleaded not guilty to all charges in the 13-count indictment returned by a Bulloch County grand jury the previous February.

Count 1 of the indictment alleges malice murder. Counts 2 and 3 are felony murder charges, based on Rushing’s death having allegedly been caused in the commission of other felonies.

The other charges are aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of felonies, theft by taking of a motor vehicle and four other counts  of theft by taking, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and two counts of first-degree burglary.

In support of the firearms possession by a felon charge, the indictment cited Mayhew’s 2008 conviction for aggravated burglary in Davidson County, Tennessee.

DA’s position

Pretrial motions by Ogeechee Judicial Circuit prosecutors include efforts to introduce information about the previous crimes into evidence.

District Attorney Daphne Totten, interviewed after leaving a status hearing Sept. 22, said life imprisonment without parole was the punishment she is seeking for Mayhew if he is convicted of murdering Rushing.

“He is facing life without parole, and we intend to seek the maximum sentence,” Totten said.

But that also indicated that she was not seeking to make it a death penalty case, and her office had filed no notice to do so. In court in a neighboring county Tuesday, Totten was not reached for an update.

Public defenders

Reached by email, Ogeechee Circuit Chief Public Defender Reneta Newbill-Jallow stated that she and Assistant Public Defender Elise Miller will represent Mayhew in court but declined to comment on the case and whether it is ready for trial.

The case file includes a handwritten letter Mayhew sent from the jail to Bennett via the clerk of court at the end of November seeking to have Newbill-Jallow removed as his counsel and replaced by a “conflict” public defender. Mayhew claimed “ineffectiveness, lack of communication” and “possibly a conflict” because, he said, Newbill-Jallow had said she knew the victim and had “worked with her" in the past. Rushing was a Department of Family and Children Services retiree.

But the file also shows that Newbill-Jallow and other attorneys from her office have continued to represent Mayhew, filing a motion for discovery seeking to be informed of prosecution evidence and any “deal” offered prosecution witnesses and providing a defense witness list naming one person, a forensic consultant.

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