Thurber Trial - Day 2: Jury Visits Crime Scenes

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Tuesday, Feb 3 - 5:00pm

Jurors returned from seeing the Cowley College campus, the Kaw Wildlife Area, and the lake where Sanderholm's car was submerged around 4:30 this afternoon.

Judge Pringle reminded jurors they are not to discuss the case, and allowed them to go home for the evening.

Court resumes Wednesday morning at 9:00. Prosecutors say they are building a timeline of events, with today focussing on what lead up to Sanderholm's disappearance. Tomorrow is expected to largely focus on what happened afterwards in the evening hours of January 5, 2007.

Stay with KAKE News and for updates throughout the day.


Tuesday, Feb 3 - 2:30pm

The jury is preparing to leave the courthouse for their group road trip to various crime scenes in Cowley County.

They are expected to return to court at the end of the day to collect their personal belongings and go home.

We'll have live updates from Winfield at 4, 5 and 6pm.

Tuesday, Feb 3 - 1:00pm

Court is back in session.

This afternoon, jurors will have an opportunity to travel as a group and visit various crime scenes in and around Ark City. Prosecutors will take them by bus to the Cowley College campus to give them a better idea of the proximity from the Tigerette practice area to the parking lot where Jodi's and Thurber's cars would have been. They will also see the Kaw Wildlife Area and the lake where Jodi's car was found.

Prosecutors say the purpose of the trip is to give jurors a better perspective on space, distance and time during the course of the events of January 5th, 2007.

Jodi Sanderholm's family says they will not visit the scenes with the jury. They say they don't want their presence to have any possible influence on jurors as the observe the various locations where Jodi was last seen, and later discovered.

Although there is no court ruling at this time that would prohibit cameras from visiting the scenes alongside jurors, prosecutors have indicated they would prefer the jury see the locations without interference from a large crowd or members of the media.

Before the trip begins, prosecutors have a few more witnesses to call.

Elizabeth Rush takes the stand. She asks her face not be shown on camera. She testifies she was on the Tigerette dance team with Jodi Sanderholm and Lori Legleiter. She says she knew Justin Thurber and points to him in court.

Rush testifies she saw Thurber around the Cowley College campus the day Sanderholm vanished.

Lori Legleiter takes the stand for the second time today. This morning, she testified a car matching that of Thurber's followed her home one evening. Prosecutors have maintained Thurber had a habit of stalking young women, particularly members of the Tigerette dance team.

Legleiter was with Sanderholm at dance practice before she disappeared around lunch of January 5, 2007. Authorities believe Sanderholm left practice and was abducted as she checked the mail outside her home.

Before practice that morning, Legleiter says she saw Thurber's car at Central & 2nd in Ark City.

At dance practice, Legleiter says she told Sanderholm the story about being followed.

After practice, Legleiter says she and Sanderholm went to their cars at the same time. She says Sanderholm followed behind her car as they left the Cowley College campus, then turned a different direction as the two parted ways.

Legleiter says she ran a few errands. At one of her stops, she says she noticed her rear passenger tire was almost completely flat, and that the hiss of escaping air can be heard.

Legleiter then went to another friends home to help do her hair. Jodi was supposed to help, and Legleiter called her several times, but she never answered.

That afternoon, Legleiter says Cindy Sanderholm -- Jodi's mother -- called asking if they'd seen Jodi. Legleiter said Jodi was not with her. She and her friend then went to look for Jodi, saying it was not like her to not show up. They checked Jodi's boyfriends business and her family business, but found nothing.

She says around 7:00, she begins telling others about being followed by Thurber earlier in the week, and then seeing him that same morning.

Legleiter, who attended cosmetology school, describes the type of french-tip fingernails Jodi was wearing when she died. Prosecutors said in opening statements they would be discussing those fingernails, and DNA evidence found underneath them that reportedly links Justin Thurber to the crime.


Tuesday, Feb 3 - Noon

Court is in recess for lunch.

Before the end of the morning session, prosecutors spoke with ACPD investigators who pulled security video from a Casey's general store the day Sanderholm vanished. In it, you can see Thurber walking in the morning Sanderholm died. He is seen wearing a black jacket, stone-washed jeans, and white tennis shoes. This will be important later as prosecutors allege he changed clothes after the crime.

ACPD officer Travis Stroud also takes the stand. He stopped Justin Thurber at 11:07 on Friday, January 5th, 2007 -- approximately an hour before prosecutors say Thurber kidnapped Sanderholm near her home. The car stop happened on the Cowley College Campus, during the time Sanderholm would have been in dance practice. Thurber was stopped for failing to yield right of way and no insurance.

The Ark City Police Department has cameras mounted in their patrol cars. Officer Stroud captured video of the car stop.

As the traffic stop ends, Thurber is seen leaving and turning out of sight.


Tuesday, Feb 3 - 11:15am

KBI agent David Faletti takes the stand. He describes the weather the day Jodi vanished. Temperatures that day were in the 40s. The conditions will have importance as investigators discuss how her body was found and evidence recovered at the scene.

Justin Thurber's ex-girlfriend's grandfather takes the stand next. Bill Nicely discusses the events of January 3, between 11:00 and noon.

He says he was at McDonald's with his great gradndaughter, whom prosecutors said during opening statements Thurber considered to be a daughter of his own. (Thurber was not the child's biological father, but may have become close during his relationship with the child's mother).

Nicely says he had a conversation with Thurber that morning, and that Thurber's relationship with his granddaughter had been an unhappy one before their breakup at the end of Dec. 2006. The specifics of the conversation were not discussed.


Tuesday, Feb. 3 - 10:50am

Samantha Doffing takes the stand after Lori Legleiter. She recounts the phone call she had with Lori as Lori says Thurber followed her home from work one night. Her testimony is very brief, lasting only two minutes.

Jimmy Middendorp takes the stand next. He was the regional manager for the Subway sandwich shop in Ark City in January 2007.

Middendorp has requested video of his face not be recorded, though audio of his testimony is fine. He describes for the jury the surveillance system at the Ark City Subway, which he says was working properly on the day Jodi vanished, and in the days before.

Prosecutors hope to show the surveillance video to jurors.

The next witness is Lt. Mark McCaslin, a detective with the Ark City Police Department. He was the investigator who took the surveillance video from Subway (and the same investigator to find Jodi Sanderholm's body). He says he collected video from January 4th of Jodi Sanderholm buying a sandwich in the subway, as well as video of one of the managers closing shop a few nights earlier, and another manager opening shop the next morning.

On Monday, those managers testified Thurber, a previous employee, made them uncomfortable. One testified that he drove by the shop a dozen times as she was closing down for the night. Another says he approached her in the parking lot before sunrise one morning, and the next day she found the keyhole to the back door disabled.

Prosecutors show the jury video taken from the surveillance cameras on January 2nd, three days before Jodi's disappearance. The closing-manager at Subway is seen leaving a note for the opening-manager, saying Thurber's "drive-by" that night made her uncomfortable.

The next morning, the opening manager is seen nervously entering the business, and on her cell phone. The manager told jurors yesterday Thurber had approached her in the parking lot before dawn, asking for a ride. She told jurors she ran inside the store and used her cell to call a friend for help.

In the next video shot (taken the morning of January 4th), the same opening manager is seen coming to work with a police escort. This was the same morning the lock to the back door was discovered to be disabled.

Later in the day on January 4th, Jodi Sanderholm is seen on video coming through the Subway. It is the last picture of her taken before her death the next day.

Although Thurber previously worked at the Subway, he had been fired by the time the video of Jodi was taken on January 4th. On Monday, his manager said he had a poor work ethic.


Tuesday, Feb. 3 - 9:45am

Testimony continues this morning in the capital murder trial of Justin Thurber, accused of kidnapping, raping and killing Ark City teenager Jodi Sanderholm in January of 2007.

Prosecutors hope to call as many as 24 witnesses today, including friends of Jodi Sanderholm, other girls in whom Thurber reportedly had romantic interests, and investigators who opened the case when Jodi disappeared.

The first witness on the stand is Megan Martinson, a former member of the Cowley College Tigerette dance team. She says she knew Justin Thurber. Her testimony is brief, saying she once gave the number of a friend to Justin.

That friend is Stacia Barerra, who takes the stand next. Prosecutors ask her to describe herself. She says she is a petite, brown-haired girl. In pre-trial hearings, prosecutors asked all of the girls who say Thurber stalked them to describe themselves. Every girl was similar in height, weight, age and hair color.

Stacia says after Thurber got her number, he made contact with her in the fall of 2004. One day, Stacia says she found a rose and note on her car's windshield from Thurber. He also exchanged a few text messages with her, but that was the extent of their interactivity.

Lori Legleiter takes the stand next. She was one of Jodi's best friends, and a member of the Cowley College Tigerettes. She also describes herself as a petite brunette, similar in height and size to Jodi Sanderholm.

Prosecutors say Lori's testimony this morning will focus on events in the days and weeks before Jodi's disappearance. She is expected to take the stand again this afternoon to discuss the specifics of January 5th, the day prosecutors say Sanderholm was kidnapped and murdered.

Lori describes Thurber's car, a blue older-model Cadillac. She says she saw it around town often, and parked at the Sirloin Stockade where she and Stacia Barrera worked.

On one particular occasion, Lori says Thurber followed her in his car. She says she was on her way home from work when she noticed a blue-Cadillac behind her. She says she altered her route home, but the car followed. She says it frightened her.

Lori stands with prosecutor Vic Braden in front of the jury box. She shows them on a map the route she took home the night she says Thurber followed her.

She says after a series of turns, she was able to lose the Cadillac behind her. However, she says within a few minutes she spotted the car again. She says it began following her a second time.

Lori says she called friend Samantha Doffing, who told her to go to the police department where her brother works. She also called her father, who told her to come straight home.

Lori was able to make it home safely.

Although Thurber is not charged with any specific crimes in these circumstances, prosecutors maintain the alleged conduct shows a pattern or history of repeated actions that mirrors what happened to Jodi Sanderholm on January 5th.

The judge ruled at the end of court on Monday that a recent Kansas Supreme Court decision allows jurors to hear evidence of so-called "prior bad acts" if the allegations bare a striking resemblance to the accusations made in the actual crime.

KAKE News will post online updates as often as possible. Also watch the latest from the courtroom on KAKE News at 11:30, 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00.

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