There are times when the news is so hard to report that you become numb. When a family is devastated by such unimaginable cruelty, like the murder of Bonnie Lanier Rushing, you simply struggle to find words to explain it. Bonnie was a person who was everything to her family and her community. She was a model citizen who—in the blink of an eye—is gone.
As the news came in of the horrific murder of Bonnie Lanier Rushing, it simply took my breath. It just didn’t seem possible. I remember her at her happiest on her wedding day, as my wife Lori Grice photographed her and Mike. Then at the birth of Travis and Chad, her two incredible sons, who were her world.
Looking out for her neighbors
Bonnie lived in the Stilson-Leefield community on the eastern side of the county. Her parents loved Bulloch County more than anyone could imagine. Bonnie and her sister, Pat Lanier Jones, who is the Election Supervisor for Bulloch County, grew up with parents who set the bar high when it came to serving others and our community. In fact, one of Bonnie’s last posts on social media was the lookout from the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department about an armed and dangerous fugitive on the loose near her home.
News of her death traveled fast, and the entire community is in shock. Social media is filled with friends and family sharing stories of service, giving and love, as only Bonnie knew how to give.
A tight-knit community
One close friend, Bulloch County Board of Education member April Newkirk, described the tight knit Leefield-Stilson community poetically. Here are her words:
“I live in a place where neighbors are friends and friends are neighbors. A place where people check in on each other. A place where doors are never locked and there’s always sweet tea in the fridge. Where friends bring a bottle of wine and pineapple sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off. Where front porches still have rocking chairs and the conversations can go on for hours. Last night our circle of heaven on earth was crushed by evil. Bonnie Lanier Rushing was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She was kind and giving. She was a light. She was one of those people that made you want to be a better person. She loved God and man; she loved her family. The last time I saw her we spent the afternoon talking about our boys and the fears and joys of motherhood. She was so proud of her boys and loved them so much. She loved deeply and she wasn’t afraid to share that love.”
Our prayers go out to the Rushing family.
Burglary Leads to Manhunt Thursday, October 22
Around 5 pm, Thursday, October 22, a victim arrived home to discover a suspicious vehicle parked in his carport. The homeowner realized that his home had been burglarized and items, including firearms, were missing. He notified the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department who identified Lee Allen Mayhew, a criminal with outstanding warrants for firearm violations, as the prime suspect.
They began searching for Mayhew with the sheriff’s K9 team, supported by the Georgia State Patrol Air Unit and the U.S. Marshall Service.
After several hours they called off the search for Mayhew.
Bulloch Sheriff’s Department Initial Statement, Thursday, October 22
Bulloch Sheriff’s Department Lookout, Thursday, October 22
Rushing Home Burglary and Murder Friday, October 23
Friday afternoon, Mayhew broke into Bonnie Rushing’s home, which was approximately five miles from the initial burglary report on Thursday. At some point he made contact with Bonnie Rushing and shot her, killing her.
He then stole her vehicle and fled the scene. He was tracked to Florida, where he was arrested without incident Friday night in Columbia County, a few counties west of Jacksonville.
Mayhew remains in jail in Columbia County awaiting extradition to Bulloch County. He faces charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, theft by taking motor vehicle, and burglary.
The Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from the GBI with the murder of Rushing and the burglaries.
Extensive Criminal History
Prior to Thursday’s crimes, Mayhew was wanted by the United States Marshal Service for federal firearms violations, which led to members of the U.S. Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force joining in the search.
Mayhew has a lengthy record of offenses in Tennessee, dating back to 1996, when he was 20 years old.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Mayhew also served time in Florida. In 1999, Mayhew was charged with burglary in Volusia County and was sentenced to four years in prison. He was incarcerated in June 1999, and was released in March 2003.
In 2008, Mayhew was convicted on five counts of aggravated burglary, and received five concurrent 10-year sentences.
In 2016 Mayhew was charged with vehicle theft, DUI, resisting police, and driving without insurance in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been convicted the previous month on two counts of auto theft and received two three-year probated sentences.
GBI Reports Mayhew Arrested in Florida
On Saturday, October 24, 2020, Lee Allen Mayhew, age 44, was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of firearm during the commission of crime, theft by taking motor vehicle, and burglary.
On Friday, October 23, 2020, at 6:50 p.m., the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office requested the GBI to assist with a death investigation. Preliminary information shows that Bonnie Lanier Rushing was murdered at her home located on Stilson Leefield Road, Statesboro, Georgia in the afternoon hours of October 23rd. Rushing was found deceased at her home with a gunshot wound. It appears that the perpetrator entered the residence and at some point had contact with Rushing.
During the incident, Rushing’s car was stolen and subsequently tracked and located in Florida. Mayhew was arrested without incident in Florida by Florida law enforcement officers.
Mayhew is in custody and being held in Florida, pending extradition to Georgia. Additional charges are pending.
There are no other known suspects still at large or any additional threats connected to this case.