Discovery Channel filming of Sanderholm case under way

August 17, 2009


Discovery Channel filming of Sanderholm case under way

By FOSS FARRAR Staff Writer

Published: Monday, August 17, 2009 1:43 PM CDT

Jodi Sanderholm’s mother got a little choked up Sunday talking on camera about her 19-year-old daughter, who was murdered two years ago. She and two other Sanderholm family members were interviewed by a producer for the Investigation Discovery Channel, which is doing a documentary on the murder.

“I held it together pretty well,” said Cindy Sanderholm, Jodi’s mother. Sanderholm said the family at first was concerned that the documentary might focus on the murder for entertainment purposes.

But producer Jessica Grumet assured them the show would focus on how small community law enforcement solved the murder with a little bit of forensic evidence. A piece of the murderer’s hair was found in the victim’s car.

In March, a judge sentenced Justin Thurber to death for the killing of Sanderholm a little more than two years before. The 19-year old Cowley College student’s body was found on Jan. 9, 2007, four days after she went missing.

Grumet conducted interviews with Cindy, her husband Brian and her daughter Jennifer on Sunday, Cindy Sanderholm said. “They are sweet people, very calm and understanding,” Cindy Sanderholm said. Among the people Grumet planned to interview are KBI agent David Falletti, Arkansas City Police Chief Sean Wallace, other members of the Ark City Police Department, EquuSearch team member Tim Miller and trackers Ron and Jon Cannon. Grumet told the Sanderholms that her crew plans to complete filming on Wednesday, after spending about a week in Ark City.

The Jodi Sanderholm story is expected to air on “Extreme Forensics,” a show focusing on criminal investigations, on the Investigation Discovery Channel next year. The new season for the series begins in February 2010, Sanderholm said.


Dead Man Walking…

March 21, 2009

Justin Thurber - Photo courtesy of Ark City Traveler

Yesterday a judge officially told Jodi’s killer that he was sentenced to be executed by the State of Kansas.  After attempts to further delay the sentence failed Thurber was officially sentenced.

The day began with the defense attorneys requesting a new trial based on their claim that Thurber’s “prior bad acts” should not have been admitted as evidence.  This was denied.

Thurber’s attorneys then tried to have him legally declared mentally retarded thereby making him ineligible for the death penalty.  After the prosecution presented the evidence that Thurber himself held a C-average, worked to destroyed evidence and submitted a report from the Larned State Mental Hospital doctor stating that Thurber was not mentally retarded that claim failed as well. 

Additionally, the defense team claimed to not receive some pre-trial documents regarding Thurber’s past criminal history.  Court was recessed for a short-time while this was investigated and the defense was given the option to review the documents.

So on the first day of Spring.   A day of new beginnings.  Justin Thurber who so brutally murdered Jodi Sanderholm was taken to El Dorado to the prison. 

It is reported that upon entering the facility Jodi’s killer appearred very nervous.  It is also reported that he received a welcome chant from all the other prisoners.  Their chant was “Dead man walking. Justin Thurber.  Dead man walking. Justin Thurber….”

He will never again by able to hurt someone like Jodi. 

He will undoubtedly have several years to think about his actions on January 5, 2007 before the state of Kansas executes him.

Jodi’s Killer says, “I’m sorry”

February 17, 2009

Sorry is a word that can mean so much when it is sincere.  However, I have my doubts to the sincerity of Justin Thurber’s apology ( as he left the courtroom today.  Having over two years to feel regret for his actions on January 5, 2007 he waited until he was backed into a corner with no other options to express any remorse for his actions.  This leads me to believe that his sorrow is for himself and the punishment he is yet to receive rather than for his actions towards Jodi. 

Over the last two years Thurber has had many opportunities to express remorse and sorrow over the actions he chose on the day he murdered Jodi, but he chose not to do so.  Not until January 9, 2009 did he realize he had no other options in the case, but to try to secure a plea deal.  It was at this time that he signed the confession discussed in court today.  My opinion is this was only done in an effort to save his life rather than a true realization of the wrong-doing of that day.  His game of power and control is over now.  He has been found guilty of capital murder and the jury has the power to decide his fate.

The defense team made their case around Thurber’s IQ (10 points from mental retardation according to the defense) and his childhood.  At one point defense attorney Ron Evans stated, “You can take a look at Justin Thurber and see there’s something wrong with him.”  I haven’t heard anyone question the fact that something is wrong with Thurber; however, now it is up to the jury to decide if he should face lethal injection. 

The defense also placed Justin Thurber’s family on the stand.  His mother looked at the Sanderholms and stated, “I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I can’t imagine what your daughter went through.” She went on to state that she had lost people too and understood their pain. 

There is no one that can understand the pain the Sanderholms must feel.  I mourn for Jodi as well.  I mourn and feel disgust over the fear she must have felt as she walked into the woods in the Kaw Wildlife Area.  However, to me Jodi was a friend.  To the Sanderholms she was a daughter and sister.  That pain is no doubt different. 

The pain you feel when someone you care for is murdered is different than losing someone in other ways.  You know that the person you care about was targeted.  And tortured.  And ultimately killed.  With every phase of the trial – pre-trial hearings, statements of confession, the trial and the penalty phase you go through the five stages of grief all over again.  Details you have heard before hurt as much as the first time you heard them.

I am certain the Thurber family is feeling their own pain throughout this process; however, they still have their son and brother, don’t they.  Even if sentenced to the death penalty they will still have their son and brother for years.  They would say goodbye.  Then he would not be tortured for more than five hours.  He would be given an injection that would cause him to fall to sleep.  A drastic contrast to Jodi’s more than five hours of torture.

As the penalty phase closes, I ask that everyone remember Jodi for the wonderful life she led rather than the death she suffered at Justin Thurber’s hands.


February 12, 2009

Justin Thurber has just been found guilty of capital murder, rape, sodomy and aggravated kidnapping!!!

The penalty phase begins Monday.  I suspect the defense will take a stronger stance at this point.  Thurber chose to not have the defense bring witnesses or offer a closing statement in the trial.  The opening statement was a simple if you find him guilty we ask that you spare his life.  However, he did not spare Jodi’s life…

This is the beginning of the end of a very long road to justice!

Closing Argument

February 11, 2009

Attorney General Vic Braden began the closing arguments.  Braden stated that Jodi spent her final 5 hours afraid and unsure of her fate.  She had tried to call for help about 4 p.m. that day but the call went unanswered.  Braden stated she then was led down a “trail of death” by Justin Thurber. 


Braden reiterated that he has the responsibility to prove guilt in the case.  He then went over the jury instructions one by one.  He mentioned the cell phone records for Jodi and Thurber tracked the whereabouts on January 5, 2007 confirming eye witness testimony.  The shoe prints proved Jodi was at the scene with Thurber.  Braden then states the evidence is as “good as you can get.”


Braden then turned to the physical evidence.  He stated the autopsy showed a “repositioning” of the strangulation.  He reminded the jurors that Thurber had told his ex-girlfriend the area would be a good place to get rid of a body and that the river would wash away the evidence.  Braden pointed out to the jury this knowledge in concealing and destroying evidence. 


Braden reminded the jury that when Thurber was picked up by his father he was calm and collected indicating no remorse for what had just happened.  Vic Braden states, “The defendant killed Jodi Sanderholm” while pointing to Thurber.  Braden then places a picture taken of Jodi during the autopsy and asks the jury “was that on purpose?”


Braden reminded the jury of computer evidence (searches for ‘Cowley Community College’ and ‘Tigerettes’ and states that is proves the action was intentional and pre-meditated.  He further states that Thurber had no injuries therefore; there is no evidence that Jodi provoked or threatened him.  Braden goes on to state, “the young woman was man-handled by the defendant…and it took time to kill her.”  Braden continues, “After he was done strangling her, he gave her one last smack that snapped her head back (lacerating an artery).”


Braden reminded the jury of the letter Thurber wrote to a friend six months after Jodi’s murder.  The letter stated “thank you for your help and when I get out I’ll take everyone to Hawaii.”  Braden reiterated, “he thought it over before he killed her.”


The prosecution took 35 minutes to present it’s closing argument.  Each side was allowed up to one hour. 


The defense chose not to present a closing argument.


Day 4 of the Murder of Jodi Trial

February 5, 2009

DAILY REMINDER: Please remember Jodi for the life she led rather than death she suffered at the hands of a murderer.  While the details sure to be released in the upcoming days will be dramatic, please remember she was a wonderful person who still deserves respect and privacy in death.  It is important for people to understand how horrible this crime was to understand the need for anti-stalking law change, but please do not make the details your office water cooler talk.    


Testimony began today with KBI Agent Dave Falletti describing maps of where Jodi’s body was found.


Colby Wilson, took the stand next he testified to the fact that he was in Texas at the time of Jodi’s disappearance.  They had dated since she was in the eighth grade and she had two promise rings from Colby when she was murdered.


Some of the defendant’s friends testified.  First was Travis Alberding.  There was the sound of a chain rattling as he walked to the witness stand.  He is currently in the Labette County jail on unrelated charges.  He worked with the defendant at a waste company at Strother Field airport.  He stated the defendant and himself were “party buddies.”  Police contacted Alberding on 1/5/2007 to see if he was with Justin.  He was not.  He later spoke to Justin who told him he did not know why the police were looking for him.  Alberding was also contacted by Justin’s dad to about where Justin’s car was.


Rick Atteberry of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations took the stand to show the video of him questioning Thurber on 1/7/2007.  As Thurber viewed the video he was relaxed back in his chair with his hands behind his head.  The video showed the Thurber stating he “…knew who Jodi was…” going on to say “…they lived on the same block as me…”  He further stated, “I’ don’t’ hang out with that type of crowd…” 


Thurber admitted to driving on the Cowley campus the day Jodi went missing.  He stated he was with friends that day and that near Dexter they had pulled over to “roll a blunt…” then at some point they got stuck “in the sand.”  He stated he fell down a couple of times and got muddy while trying to push the car out of the “sand.”  He stated he then began walking along Highway 166 near Cedarvale when he called his dad for a ride.  After returning home he showered and went to Subway to get his check. 


The questioning went back to when he was driving around campus.  The KBI agent told him people had seen him driving Jodi’s car.  During several questions Justin changed his answer.

Further testimony by trackers and ACPD included photos of Jodi’s Tigerette jacket, wallet, ID, shorts and leotard that were recovered form the toilet at Cowley Fishing Lake.  Photos of her car being pulled from the lake were shown.  Additionally, testimony that the passenger seat and floor board carpet was cut out of the car.  These were recovered from the toilet as well. Jodi’s mother positively identified these items for police. 


Stacey Michelle tracker with the Ark City Fire Department returned to the stand as the day’s last witness.  He testified that a foot print was found near the area Jodi was found in the Kaw Wildlife Area.  The print matching Thurber’s shoe was found on Monday.  The officers were losing light and had to secure the scene until Tuesday morning.  On Tuesday morning after returning to the area the trackers walked a distance of several dozen yards when Michelle states he notices a brush pile.  “That’s when I noticed Jodi’s fingers sticking up out of the brush pile,” says Michelle. 


There will be no court tomorrow.  The testimony will resume on Monday at 9 a.m.

Trial Day 3 Summary

February 4, 2009

DAILY REMINDER: Please remember Jodi for the life she led rather than death she suffered at the hands of a murderer.  While the details sure to be released in the upcoming days will be dramatic.  Please remember she was a wonderful person who still deserves respect and privacy in death.  It is important for people to understand how horrible this crime was to understand the need for anti-stalking law change, but please do not make the details your office water cooler talk.    


Prosecutors continued to build the timeline leading up to Jodi’s disappearance.  Witnesses were called to discuss video footage from Cowley County Community College and the Subway where the defendant worked prior to Jodi’s death. 


Jodi’s parents took the stand as well to describe the events of 1/5/2007.  Brian Sanderholm began his testimony describing a “normal day.”  He left for work about 7:30 a.m. and did not see Jodi as she was still in bed.  He later went to lunch with Cindy (Jodi’s mom). 


Cindy Sanderholm’s testimony followed.  Cindy described her relationship with Jodi as wonderful and mentioned double dating often with Jodi and her boyfriend. Cindy worked for the couple’s business, Ark City Glass and described the day as “normal” as well.  She spoke with Jodi at 11:51 a.m. (phone records recorded the time).  Jodi stated she was feeling too sweaty to go to lunch and wanted to go home and take a shower before going to a friends’ house.  After lunch (12:40 p.m.) Cindy began calling Jodi and was unable to reach her.  After a few tries she began calling Jodi’s friends and was unable to locate Jodi. 


About 4 p.m. Cindy returned home to try to locate Jodi. At the house she found no sign Jodi had entered the house.  The mail was not there, the shower was not wet, and Jodi’s dance clothes were not there.  Cindy stated, “I was a nervous wreck.” Cindy continued to look for her daughter until 6 p.m. when the Sanderholm’s called the police. 


The defendant’s family took the stand today as well. His sister confirmed phone records of her calls to him on 1/5/2007.  Afterwards, his mother took the stand and confirmed that he was living at home with her, her husband and daughter at the time of Jodi’s murder.  She further confirmed the calls made that day and the fact that her husband went to pick up the defendant after one of those calls from east of town on Highway 166 about 6 p.m.  She confirmed she laundered the clothes he was wearing that day. 


The defendant’s father was next on the stand.  He confirmed picking his son up from Highway 166 that evening and stated he had troubles locating him in the dark.  At the time he picked up his son he asked if they needed to pick up the friends that the defendant had previously stated he was with when the car became stuck.  The defendant told him that the friends had walked the other way and they should return to town to see if they call.  The father’s testimony ended with “there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that I could tell.”


Ark City Police Department officers testified of the investigation the night of 1/5/2007.  Officers went to the Sirloin Stockade to speak with a friend of Jodi’s when they learned the defendant and been seen following Jodi after the dance practice.  The police began looking for Justin Thurber at that time.


Additional testimony included:

  • A friend of Jodi’s stating she saw Jodi with a man in her car at 12:04 p.m. She tried to call Jodi and did not receive an answer.
  • KBI Agent Dave Falletti’s testimony of the cellular phone records of Justin Thurber and Jodi Sanderholm during the time frame of Noon to about 7 p.m.  Phone records show the two cell phones were in the same towers or out of service at the same time.
  • Witness testimony from MeLynda Shritter stated the she was in the Kaw Wildlife Area on the day Jodi went missing.  She witnessed a black car (matching Jodi’s) with a man driving it sometime between 3-4 p.m.  She was asked to ID the man driving and pointed to the defendant.  She was shown a police photo line up of six men and identified the defendant.  When asked if she was sure.  She stated, “I am 100% sure.”  Her testimony was confirmed by the account of her aunt who accompanied her that day. 
  • A man stating he saw Jodi’s car along Highway 166 on 1/5/2007.  Accompanied by the gas station manager with a receipt to confirm the man was indeed in the area at the time.
  • Additional witness placing a man in dark clothing walking along Highway 166 after dark. 
  • Subway workers testified that the defendant picked up his paycheck about 7:30 p.m. on 1/5/2007 driving his own car. 
  • Testimony of a neighbor of the Sanderholm’s stated she had seen a man several times walking on the dead-end street that the Sanderholm’s lived.  She saw the man the evening of 1/5/2007.  He walked down the adjoining street looking at the Sanderholm’s residence.  Patrol cars were present at the time.  She identified the man as Justin Thurber in the court room.