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.

Debate of the Death Penalty

March 15, 2009
Jodi Sanderholm
Jodi Sanderholm

During the recent debates over whether or not to keep the death penalty I have often been asked what is the difference between justice and vengeance.  There is a clear difference.  Justice punishes a wrongdoing as determined by the state and a jury (12) of the person’s peers. Vengeance is a personal action not supported by the laws of civilization.  If in the process of justice if the prosecution deems the crime not worthy of a capital sentence or even one person on the jury determines that the death penalty is not necessary the penalty reverts to life in prison.  This is the check and balance in our system. 

In the case of Jodi’s killer, I feel it would have been an injustice to Jodi to not sentence death.  The jury’s responsibility was to deal with the current laws (including the death penalty) and determine an appropriate penalty.  As Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden stated, “If this is not a death penalty case then what is…”  Jodi’s death was extremely cruel and not fast.  The death penalty is reserved for cases like hers.

The following are some of the question I have been asked recently regarding the death penalty debate in many states:

Do you think the death penalty works as a deterrent?

Probably not in the general public; however, I do feel it could be a deterrent for those already serving a sentence of life with no parole.  Our prison guards would be less protected without the death penalty in place.   What is to stop a prisoner from killing a guard without the death penalty?  After all, they are already serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

Do you think the execution of Jodi’s killer will bring you any closure?

No, I do not expect to find closure with the execution.  I find a little more closure every time the anti-stalking laws are strengthened in another state.  However, every time Justin Thurber (Jodi’s killer) delayed the hearings/trial Jodi’s friends and family were forced back into the steps of grieving.  With his execution I expect to find an “end.”  To clarify, Jodi’s friends and family can stop reliving the time Jodi was missing and focus on the positive of changing the laws and increasing stalking awareness.  Justin Thurber would no longer be in control as he has been since January 5, 2007 when he chose to murder Jodi.  He made the choices on that day.  Jodi did not.  Therefore, he now must abide by the consequences of his actions (under our laws). 

Would you witness the execution?

Yes, I would.  It is not something I would look forward to, nor is it something that would be easy.  However, I feel it is a necessary conclusion.  (The state of Kansas estimates it would be at least 15 years before Thurber is executed.)


What are your feelings on the studies that indicate the death penalty costs states more than a life in prison sentence?

One question back to the people who ask this question.  What is the price on the life of someone you care about? What was Jodi’s life worth that day?  The obvious answer is very little to Justin Thurber.  However, the studies that exist are not conclusive.  There are simply too many variables in each case.

What do you think about the prisoners on death row that have been later found to not be guilty of the crime?

I am not suggesting increasing the use of the death penalty as a sentence.  Currently, our society has utilized the death penalty in cases that include pre-meditation, death during the act of a sexual assault and the murder of law enforcement.  I am not suggesting this change.  Most death penalty cases are prosecuted with a combination of DNA evidence, eyewitness accounts and in the case of Jodi’s killer a last minute confession.  It is my opinion that the confession would not have come if Justin Thurber were not trying to save his own life.

What are your thoughts on the family of a death row inmate?

I am a big believer in that it is your responsibility as a parent to raise a child that contributes positively to society.  It is the parent’s responsibility to see any problems in their child and obtain help for them if necessary.  As a parent (or at least a good parent) I believe you know what your child is and is not capable of throughout his/her life.  Parents of death row inmates have failed the rest of us in society.  Not that they should be punished, but simply in my opinion they made their own choices (by not getting their child help) and must deal with the consequences as well.

In the case of Jodi’s killer.  Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden stated in his closing argument that Justin Thurber “brought his family in on this early on.”  If that is the case, his family knew Jodi’s fate while Jodi’s friends and family worried and searched for days.  They have continued to see Justin (albeit through prison bars) on his birthdays and holidays.  However, Jodi’s family has a picture of Jodi on those days.  A picture and memories of what Justin did to her that day….

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 5 of the trial for the murder of Jodi

February 10, 2009

Prosecutors presented their evidence regarding finding Jodi’s body, as well as, other physical and DNA evidence.  I have chosen to not post this information (although it can be easily found at,, or .  However, I would like to remind those following this case that Jodi was a great person and left behind many friends and family who cared for her deeply.  Please remember this when discussing the details of this case with friends and coworkers.  

However, based on this evidence the case against Justin  Thurber continues to build in my opinion.  It has been over two years since Jodi was murdered and it is well past time for justice to be served.

The prosecution is expected to rest it’s case on Wednesday.