Justin Thurber was sentenced to death by the State of Kansas for the rape and murder of a college student. According to court documents Justin Thurber would stalk, kidnap and sexually assault Jodi Sanderholm before murdering the nineteen year old. Justin Thurber would hide the body in a forested area and it was not found for several days. Justin Thurber would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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Eleven years after her death and nine years after her murderer was convicted, Jodi Sanderholm’s family is back in court. Once again, they had to re-live the nightmare of her kidnapping, rape and murder.
“It takes a long, long time to go through all of this,” said Brian Sanderholm, Jodi’s father said after the hearing Friday morning. “You learn to have lots and lots of patience.”
In June, the State Supreme Court ordered attorneys to go back to district court in Cowley County to decide whether Justin Thurber is developmentally disabled under new guidelines issued, and whether he still qualifies to receive his sentence of lethal injection. Attorneys argued last year during a larger appeal that Thurber’s IQ was in the 70s and 80s, which many medical researchers consider to be borderline impaired.
Sanderholm’s family said they disagreed with the decision last summer by the state Supreme Court, but they also said they respect the legal process.
“It is what it is and we can’t argue with the court system,” Cindy Sanderholm said.
The court proceedings Friday were procedural, future meetings were set to discuss evidence and new witnesses that could be submitted by either the State of Kansas or Thurber’s attorneys. Thurber himself was not there, he remained in the El Dorado Correctional Facility due to a medical condition.
Sanderholm’s family was in the courtroom, after years of trips into courtrooms and years of recalling Jodi’s death, they remained mostly optimistic as they go through the legal process once again.
“To me, they’re using her case as an example to help other cases further on,” Cindy Sanderholm said.
They hope all of these years later, as Thurber goes back to court, that the focus remains on Jodi.
“Just show her pictures, don’t show him. He doesn’t deserve to have all the press on him. We don’t want to forget her,” Cindy Sanderholm said. “She was a great girl, beautiful girl. Smart, intelligent, she was just one of a kind.”
They still carry those pictures in wallets, purses, even as a locket on a bracelet. But more importantly they keep the memories close to their heart, too. They try to stay positive but still shed a few tears.
“Yeah, it happens still, but it’s not often and it’ll be okay,” Cindy Sanderholm said. “We’re going to see her again someday.”
They, and attorneys for both parties will return to the courts in March.