A Bulloch County jury trial for Lee Allen Mayhew, accused of murdering Bonnie Lanier Rushing during an interrupted burglary at her home in the Leefield community on Oct. 23, 2020, is now slated for January at the earliest.
Other charges in the 13-count indictment pending against Mayhew stem from the theft of Rushing’s car and a burglary reported at another Bulloch County residence the previous day.
Mayhew, 46, from the Nashville, Tennessee area, 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 Tennessee on April 12, but Mayhew has been held in the Bulloch County Jail since being transferred there April 19.
He was brought into a courtroom at the Bulloch County Judicial Annex the afternoon of Sept. 22 for a pretrial status hearing before Superior Court Judge Lovett Bennett Jr. A Statesboro Herald reporter was not present at the hearing but spoke to District Attorney Daphne Totten and members of Rushing’s family afterward in front of the Judicial Annex.
“Today really was just a status conference to determine if both sides were ready for trial, that discovery had been exchanged and that sort of thing, and both sides indicated that they were ready, outside of some pretrial motions that need to be filed,” Totten said.
She said the judge had indicated he would set the trial for some time in January and that it is expected to take about a week.
An item posted in the court system’s PeachCourt case file database stated that this case “will possibly” be placed on the jury selection calendar for January or February, with the jury selection linked to a trial possibly lasting five days.
“It’s been long enough. We’re ready to get this moving,” Mike Rushing, Bonnie Rushing’s husband of 27 years, said on the Judicial Annex porch last week.
Another hearing, for the judge to receive attorneys’ arguments on the pretrial motions, would likely be held by the end of 2022, Totten said. Motions by prosecutors will include efforts to admit evidence of previous crimes, she said.
Asked what punishment the state will be seeking for Mayhew if he is convicted of murdering Rushing, Totten said, “He is facing life without parole, and we intend to seek the maximum sentence.”
This indicates she is not seeking to make it a death penalty case, and her office had filed no notice to do so.
Mayhew’s defense 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 indictment returned by a Bulloch County grand jury the previous February.
Count 1 of the indictment, alleging malice murder, is followed by two “felony” murder counts, alleging that he caused Rushing’s death by committing other felonies.
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.
October 2020 tragedy
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.
At that time, 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 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 had learned that Mayhew came from Nashville, 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 the day of her death in Columbia County, Florida, just across the state line.
Mayhew’s 15-year federal prison sentence, pronounced in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on April 12, 2022, followed his entering a guilty plea in March to a charge of possessing a firearm while a convicted felon. That charge resulted from a Feb. 5, 2018, traffic stop in Murfreesboro, Tenn., 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 U.S. Attorney’s Office 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.