UPDATE: 5:40 p.m. – Arkansas City Police Officer Tom Scott testified during Justin Thurber’s capital murder trial Monday afternoon that he went to the Kaw Wildlife Area with Alexis Swartzel, Thurber’s ex-girlfriend, because she told police she had gone to the area many times with Thurber and that he once told her that that would be a good area to get rid of a body.
The body of Jodi Sanderholm, a Cowley College student and dance team member, was found in the area several days after she disappeared in January 2007.
Swartzel also described how Thurber had became more violent when they had sex for about a month before they broke up – even choking her. Sanderholm was strangled from five to 12 minutes before she died, besides being raped and assaulted.
“She was strangled – repeatedly strangled,” Kansas Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden said during his opening statement Monday morning. Sanderholm would gasp for air and Thurber would allow her to live a little longer before he began strangling her again, Braden said.
Two young women who worked at Subway during the time Sanderholm disappeared took the stand Monday to describe how they felt Thurber stalked them and that they were frightened of him. Thurber worked at the restaurant with Megan Maloy and Nicole Hays.
He texted Hays to find out if Maloy was single, according to testimony.
Maloy said she was curious about Thurber’s interest and called him. He didn’t answer then but called her back. She told him she was curious who was interested in her but that she had just broken up with a boyfriend and wasn’t interested in dating.
Later, as Maloy was closing the restaurant, she saw Thurber drive by at least 12 times. Maloy said she called Hays, who was the restaurant manager, and told her about Thurber.
Hays told her to write down what happened so she could talk to her supervisor. Hays also suggested Maloy ask for a police escort when she left work if she was uncomfortable. Maloy did ask for an escort twice. She wrote the note on Jan. 2 and was escorted by police on the third and fourth of January 2007.
Hays said Thurber’s last working day at Subway was Dec. 28, 2006. She said she fired him because none of the other employees wanted to work with him.
Hays also asked for a police escort after Thurber asked her to take him home one morning because his car had broken down. She told him she didn’t have time. The police were there on Jan. 4 when she arrived about 6:30 a.m. to open the store. Wood was jammed into the key hole and her key didn’t work.
Several cell phone company experts testified Monday afternoon how cell phone signals helped track Thurber and 19-year-old Sanderholm to the remote area where her body was found. The witnesses described how signals bounce off towers allowing the phones to be located.
It took Jodi Sanderholm 5-12 minutes to die after she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted on the day she disappeared on Jan. 5, 2007, Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden told a Cowley County jury Monday morning.
The 19-year-old college student and dance team member was strangled and struck so hard in the face that it snapped her head back and lacerated an artery in the back of her neck, he said.
Braden detailed what he believes happened between Sanderholm and accused murderer Justin Thurber during his opening remarks on the first day of Thurber’s capital murder trial in Cowley County District Court in Winfield.
Ron Evans, Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit, told jurors that if they find him guilty they will be asked to spare his life.
A number of women have said Thurber stalked them and that they were afraid of him. Several fellow dance team members said Thurber followed them in the days before Sanderholm was killed and that they saw him sitting in his car outside where the dance team practiced.
The college dance team practice ended around noon, Sanderholm called her mother on her cell phone to say she won’t meet her for lunch, Braden told jurors. A friend later saw Sanderholm’s car going east on Kansas Avenue in Ark City. She called Sanderholm’s cell phone but there is no answer.
Sanderholm’s car was dragged from the Cowley County State Fishing Lake four days later. Her body was found hidden under some brush.
The jury was dismissed at 11:30 a.m. for lunch. Testimony was expected to resume this afternoon. Several relatives of other murder victims are present to support the Sanderholm family.