Jodi Sanderholm Murder – Jodi LeAnn Sanderholm died at the age of 19. Jodi had graduated from high school as valedictorian and was attending Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas. Jodi loved to dance and was a member of the Cowley College Tigerettes dance squad. She was quite close to her family and lived with them while attending school. Jodi went to her dance practice at the college on January 5, 2007. Her practice finished around 10:45 a.m., but she had not been seen or heard from since she left the institution.
Cindy, Jodi’s mother, stated that Jodi had a routine after dance practice. She normally checked the mail, ate lunch, and showered. Cindy and Jodi’s sister, Jennifer, also attempted to call Jodi but received no response. Jennifer was expecting a child and knew Jodi wouldn’t ignore her phone calls, especially if she went into labor. Cindy explained that she had a nasty gut feeling and left work early. Jodi’s car was gone when she arrived home, and there was no mail on the counter. Cindy and Jodi’s father, Brian, contacted Jodi’s pals. But no one had seen her since she had left dance class. They also discovered that Jodi had failed to appear for a midday meeting.
Cindy and Brian called Arkansas City police at 6 p.m. to report their daughter missing. Chief Sean Wallace and Lieutenant Mark McCaslin went to Jodi’s parents to meet with them. They discovered that Jodi had a boyfriend named David from them. They made touch with David, who was in Dallas, Texas, visiting his brother. He agreed to return as soon as possible to Arkansas City. The cops also spoke with Jodi’s dance buddies. They inquired if they had seen someone unusual trying to hang out with Jodi or at the campus. They did notice a man named Justin Thurber watching them in the parking lot.
Justin, 23, worked at a nearby sandwich restaurant and had previously been arrested for petty theft and other nonviolent offenses. On the evening of January 5, the police went to speak with Justin. Justin told cops that he was picked up by his father that day near the Cowley County state lake. He claimed to have been on a road trip with three buddies when his automobile became bogged in the mud. He claimed he split up with his friends after his automobile became stuck.
The police were unable to locate Jodi or her black Stratus. Brian, Jodi’s father, called numerous local Kansas news stations to spread the word about his daughter’s absence. On January 6, 2007, Special Agent David Falletti of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) was assigned to the investigation. SA Falletti spoke with David, who was clearly distressed by Jodi’s abduction. He stated that he had not spoken with her since January 4. David’s phone and financial information were combed through. He was ousted and had been in Dallas as he claimed.
They investigated more into Justin Thurber’s past. His ex-girlfriend informed them that he enjoyed spending time in the Kaw Wildlife region, a 4,300-acre region of harsh terrain. She even took one of the detectives for a trip and pointed out a boat dock that Justin frequented. She told the cops that Justin had said that if he killed someone and buried their body in the region, the body would not be found. The police interviewed Justin’s three pals, whom he claimed he had been with. The companions claimed they hadn’t seen Justin all day. They were all eliminated since one was late for an appointment, one was at work, and one was in Texas.
The police were aware that Jodi was last seen outside the college auditorium on January 5 around 10 a.m. They had obtained the school’s CCTV footage and were looking for Justin’s blue Cadillac. Jodi’s black Stratus was seen leaving the school on January 5, followed by a blue Cadillac. Justin had also visited the campus numerous days in a row in the days leading up to January 5, according to the police. Justin was apprehended by police since he was out on bond for a small theft offense at the time. He was apprehended while on his way home from a bingo game with his mother and sister.
With a search warrant, the cops went to Justin’s parents’ house. When they got home, Justin placed his clothing in the washer and scrubbed his filthy tennis shoes, according to his father. Justin’s dirty shoes, clothing, mobile phone, and blue Cadillac were all seized by authorities. On January 7, 2007, the police raided the Kaw Wildlife Area. Justin denied any involvement in Jodi’s abduction and stated that he had not seen her since January 5. The cops discovered no evidence on Justin’s shoes, clothes, or in his car. However, across the street from the Sanderholm property, there was a shoe print that appeared to match Justin’s tennis shoes.
The same shoe prints were discovered near the wildlife area and about a quarter mile from the boat dock. The hunt was joined by Jon and Ron Cannon. They were firefighters who also happened to be search and rescue trackers in their leisure time. The trackers tracked the tracks and discovered a second pair of shoe prints, this time from flip flops. The cops discovered almost 50 shoe prints from Justin but only four from Jodi. The Cannons were on their way home from a hard day of seeking when they came across a rest stop. They discovered dirt transfer on the route leading up to the spot. They entered the washroom and discovered Sanderholm mail, a flip flop, and Jodi’s Tigerettes jacket. They requested that the police search the area.
The other toilets and the septic tank were investigated. Jodi’s wallet, dance shoes, and floor mats from her car were also discovered. Tim Miller and Texas Eqqusearch were called in on January 8, 2007. The cops thought Jodi’s automobile was in the water. The KBI Crime Lab’s Steve Koch was also contacted to check the shoe prints. He cast the shoe prints he found along the wildlife walk and across the street from Jodi’s house. Steve Koch was able to identify the shoe prints as belonging to Justin’s tennis shoes. Justin’s sneakers and the casts both have the same herringbone pattern and horizontal lines.
The trackers discovered a disturbed area off the trail on January 9, 2007. They noticed a woodpile with a hand poking out from beneath it. The victim had been battered and was naked. The body was covered in sticks. The cops thought it was Jodi and that she had been sexually abused. It was Jodi, according to the dental records. Jodi had been strangled, and blunt force trauma had played a role. Jodi had been hit so severely that an artery in her neck had been damaged. The medical examiner also determined that Jodi had been sexually assaulted. The Texas Eqqusearch team discovered Jodi’s car in the lake. Her license plate proved this.
The car had been submerged in the lake for four days. The water pressure had forced the sun roof open. The cops were concerned that the flood would wash away all of the evidence. But they were mistaken. Inside, the cops discovered an arm hair belonging to Justin. Justin’s DNA was also discovered under Jodi’s fingernails. According to Justin’s cell phone records, he was in the vicinity of the state lake and the Kaw Wildlife Area. He is thought to have followed Jodi home. He then kidnapped Jodi as she was going to retrieve the mail. He put her into her car and drove her to the wildlife preserve. Justin tortured and murdered Jodi, then disposed of her car and personal belongings. Justin was charged with capital murder, rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, and kidnapping. Justin’s trial was repeatedly postponed, but it finally began on February 2, 2009. The Sanderholms desired that Justin be executed. Over 60 people testified regarding Justin’s mountain of evidence. The trial lasted seven days, but the jury barely deliberated for three and a half hours. In March 2009, Justin Thurber was found guilty on all charges and condemned to death.