Opening Statements at the Trial

It has been a long road to justice for the Sanderholm’s.  However, the trial of Jodi Sanderholm’s murder did finally begin today.  I have chosen to give a full account of the proceedings including the graphic testimony.  This is not something I enjoy hearing or writing; however, it is important to understand the full extent of this crime.  Please keep in mind when reading and discussing the case that Jodi was a dear person.  She left behind a family and many great friends.  Please remember this during any discussions of the case!

Prosecutor Vic Braden began with his opening statement at 9 a.m. CST. 

Braden’s statement detailed the fact that on 1/5/07 three women recalled seeing Justin Thurber near the Tigerette’s dance practice.  He detailed a camera footage timeline that placed Thurber in the area for much of the time Jodi was in practice.  He went on to detail that Jodi called her mother at 11:51 a.m.  It was the last time Cindy Sanderholm would ever speak to her youngest daughter.  Jodi placed the call to say she was heading home.  Braden stated that evidence shows that Jodi never made it inside her home that day. 

Braden explained that testimony would show that at 12:04 p.m. a friend of Jodi’s saw her car on C Street near Kansas Ave.  The car was being driven by a “big man” with Jodi in the passenger seat.  The friend will testify she saw the czar turn east on Kansas Ave.  The direction of Cowley County Fishing Lake & the Kaw Wildlife Area where Jodi was later found.

During the time frame of 12:04 p.m. to 6 p.m. Braden plans to present evidence that Jodi and Thurber’s cell phones were using the same towers.  Until approximately 6 p.m. when Thurber calls to home to request a ride from near the Cowley County Fishing Lake.  His father went to pick him up and described him as “wet.”  His story was that he had been with friends and grown tired of waiting and left the friends.

At 6:08 p.m. Brian Sanderholm reported Jodi as missing to the Ark City Police Department.

At 7:34 p.m. Thurber went to the local Subway to pick up his paycheck.

Meanwhile, Lt. Eric Burr begins to question Jodi’s friends about where she could be. He discovers that many Tigerettes witnessed Thurber in the area that day and begins searching for Thurber.

About 8 p.m. Braden states that evidence will show Thurber began emailing another woman and showing interest in her.

About 10:30 p.m. LT. Eric Burr locates Justin Thurber and takes him into custody on previous charges.

Braden plans to bring additional testimony regarding Thurber’s friends stating they were told that Thurber bragged about watching Jodi swim and undress when Jodi was 9 years old.  

Braden detailed that on 1/8/07 Jodi’s car was located at the bottom of Cowley County Fishing Lake and that the upholstery on the passenger’s seat had been cut out.  Jodi’s clothing and mail were found in a nearby toilet.  On the car’s driver side a 5mm hair was found.  IT was DNA tested and is a match for Justin Thurber.

The next day trackers found the body of Jodi Sanderholm in the Kaw Wildlife Area under a pile of branches.  Trackers also identified muddy footprints matching that of Jodi’s flip flops and shoes taken from Justin Thurber’s house.  Jodi was wearing artificial fingernails.  Under the right hand middle finger was DNA matching that of Justin Thurber. 

WARNING THE FOLLOWING IS GRAPHIC TESTIMONY OF THE CONDITION OF JODI’S BODY: 

Braden stated the Jodi weighing barely 100-pounds was “struck so hard in the face that it snapped her head back and lacerated an artery in the back of her neck.”   She was also strangled.  Autopsy evidence show the strangulation took from 5-12 minutes for her to die.   Autopsy results also show lacerations on her back consistent with being dragged for approximately 30 feet.  It is believed that after being dragged she was disrobed and assaulted.  A stick was found shoved about 2-inches into her anal cavity autopsy results will show this happened while she was alive.  In addition, wood debris was found in her vagina.  Crushed up leaves were found in her ears and debris and leaves were found shoved in her mouth.

Prosecutor Vic Braden rested. 

Defense attorney Ron Evans delivered his opening statement in about 3 minutes.  He commended the jurors on willing to sit and be fair and impartial.  He then stated, “If you hold him accountable for the murder of Jodi…then we’ll ask you to spare his life.”