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Mayhew spoken for in court, awaiting trial for Rushing murder, other charges
Lee Allen Mayhew
Lee Allen Mayhew

Lee Allen Mayhew, facing more than 10 felony charges in connection with the Oct. 23, 2020, murder of Bonnie Lanier Rushing and thefts at two homes in rural Bulloch County, was scheduled Tuesday for his first court proceeding since being returned to Georgia from Tennessee in April.

Mayhew did not actually appear at the Bulloch County Judicial Annex, where his case was fourth in a long list of unrelated cases with different defendants at Tuesday’s 9 a.m. calendar call before Superior Court Judge Lovett Bennett Jr. But some members of Rushing’s family attended, and court officials said Mayhew might be brought into the courtroom at the Bulloch County Jail later in the day.

Not long after the start of the Judicial Annex session, when Mayhew’s name was called, Assistant District Attorney Casey Blount told the judge that prosecutors were awaiting reports on DNA evidence and ballistic evidence from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Mayhew is being represented by the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office, and a public defender agreed the case was not ready to move forward.

Bonnie Rushing Web.jpg
Bonnie Rushing

District Attorney Daphne Totten also made a brief appearance and spoke with Rushing’s relatives when they left the courtroom. Totten told the Statesboro Herald that no further action in the case was expected Tuesday.

Assistant District Attorney Christine S. Barker had filed notices May 11 of the state’s intent to seek recidivist punishment against Mayhew and introduce evidence of past crimes, which can only be done in certain circumstances at a judge’s discretion.

These notices listed Mayhew’s guilty pleas to three counts of aggravated burglary, one in 1998 and two in 2008, and two counts of property theft, one in 2015 and one in 2017, all in Davidson County, Tennessee, where Nashville is located.

 

Federal conviction

More recently – and not mentioned in the filing here – Mayhew pleaded guilty to a February 2018 federal charge of possessing a stolen firearm while a convicted felon. He was sentenced April 12, 2022, in U.S. District Court in Nashville to 15 years in federal prison.

But he was then returned to the Bulloch County Jail on April 19 to face the charges here.

Asked last week whether she intends to seek the death penalty in this case, Totten said she was not ready to make a statement about that. Her office has not filed a notice of intent to make this a capital case.

Bonnie Rushing, 53, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head on 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.

Meanwhile, a manhunt for Mayhew was already underway, since the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office had been investigating a burglary involving theft of guns and a golf cart that had 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 quickly learned that Mayhew, 44 at time of arrest and now 46, came from Nashville, where he was wanted on firearms charges and also 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 the day of her death in Columbia County, Florida, just across the state line.

 

Not-guilty plea

A Bulloch County grand jury in February 2021 returned a 13-count indictment charging Mayhew with murder on three different alleged legal bases, all for allegedly killing Rushing, plus 10 other felony counts.

Count 1 was a “malice murder” charge, meaning murder “with malice aforethought.” Two “felony” murder charges, alleging he caused her death by committing other felonies, were listed as Counts 2 and 3. With one victim, only one murder conviction is ultimately possible under the law, but prosecutors sometimes present charges this way to give an eventual trial jury more possible bases for a conviction.

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

During a formal Bulloch County Superior Court arraignment held via Zoom teleconferencing April 21, 2021, Mayhew pleaded not guilty to all charges.

 

 

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