Murder of Jodi Sanderholm by Justin Thurber investigated on Crime Junkie

Mugshot of Justin Thurber
Justin Thurber was sentenced to death for killing Jodi Sanderholm. Pic credit: KS Dept. of Corrections

Crime Junkie is investigating the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Jodi Sanderholm, a teenager from Arkansas City, Kansas, who was cruelly killed by Justin Thurber.

On Friday, January 5, 2007, 19-year-old Jodi was reported missing. She was a member of the local Cowley Community College Tigerette dance team and had vanished after leaving dance practice.

The cops quickly focused their attention on Thurber as Jodi’s dance colleagues said he’d been hanging around the college campus.

The investigators soon learned that Thurber had a history of stalking the teenagers from the dance group and had recently developed an interest in Jodi.

The police subsequently learned from Thurber’s father that he had picked up his son on the day Jodi disappeared near the Cowley County State Fishing Lake to the east of Arkansas City. The father said his son was muddy and wet.

The search for Jodi was focused on the area around the Fishing Lake and at the Kaw Wildlife Area to the southeast of Arkansas City.

The searchers knew they were on the right track when they found items belonging to Jodi, including clothing, her driver’s license, and her social security card. They also uncovered footprints that matched footwear belonging to Jodi and Thurber.

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On January 9, divers discovered Jodi’s submerged car in the Fishing Lake, and her naked body was recovered from a wood pile in the Kaw Wildlife Area.

Police gathered evidence against Justin Thurber for Jodi Sanderholm killing

The evidence against Thurber was mounting up; cellphone records indicated that he and Jodi had been together in the wildlife area, and finally, the killer’s DNA was found under his victim’s fingernails.

Thurber was charged and ultimately convicted of capital murder, sodomy, and aggravated kidnapping. In March 2009, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection.

At the time, Jodi’s family said they were happy that they wouldn’t have to worry about him hurting anybody again.

However, that was not the end of the case, as in 2017, Thurber’s defense team appealed against the death penalty. Thurber’s lawyers argued their client was developmentally disabled, which would render him exempt from execution.

Justin Thurber death sentence suspended in Jodi Sanderholm murder case

In 2018, the Supreme Court of Kansas upheld the killer’s sentence but recommended a suspension of the death penalty.

Jodi’s father, Brian Sanderholm, lamented to reporters, “Yeah, I’m upset with the whole system, entirely. I really… I can not for the life of me believe our system has gotten to the point you can actually go out and do a crime like this and not have to pay for it with the ultimate sentence.”

Thurber remains imprisoned in the El Dorado Correctional Facility. He is still technically on death row, but his ultimate status remains unknown.

MURDERED: Jodi Sanderholm is available to download now on Crime Junkie.

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