More than nine years after the murder of their daughter, the parents of Jodi Sanderholm are speaking out to KSN News, as the execution of the man convicted in her murder remains very much in doubt.

Jodi Sanderholm was 19 years old when she was murdered in Ark City, Kansas.
Jodi Sanderholm was 19 years old when she was murdered in Ark City, Kansas.

“I’m sure she, Jodi, pleaded for her life, and he didn’t give it to her,” said Cindy Sanderholm, Jodi’s mother. “She didn’t get a second choice. She didn’t get a second chance,” she added.

Arkansas City native Justin Eugene Thurber was 25-years-old when he was sentenced to death in the murder of Sanderholm. Prosecutors said Thurber had a habit of stalking young women. They said Thurber followed the Cowley County College dancer home, abducted her, beat and raped her, then strangled her to death.

For Cindy and Brian Sanderholm, life since their daughter’s murder has never been the same.

“She was just a very smart, talented little girl,” said Cindy.

Brian and Cindy Sanderholm sat down with KSN's Brittany Glas to discuss the death penalty process in Kansas.
Brian and Cindy Sanderholm sat down with KSN’s Brittany Glas to discuss the death penalty process in Kansas.

Jodi’s parents say they feel as if they were robbed of a life with their young daughter, who they said, had a promising future.

“To me, she’s always 19, and so, when I see her friends, and they’re getting older, it’s like, ‘Gosh, what would she be doing?’ ‘What would she be like?’ Lots of ifs,” added Cindy.

“We suffered through it this long,” said Brian Sanderholm, the father of murder victim Jodi Sanderholm. “It’s time for you [Thurber] to suffer.”

Inmates Serving Death in Kansas


Thurber is now one of 10 inmates in the state of Kansas serving death sentences. They are all on Kansas’ version of “death row” at El Dorado Correctional Facility, where they are housed on ‘Administrative Segregation’ status.

  • Justin Eugene Thurber
    • Convicted of 2007 murder of Jodi Sanderholm near Arkansas City.
  • Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. (aka Frazier Cross)
    • Convicted of 2014 killing of William Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno in Kansas City.
  • Gary Wayne Kleypas
    • Convicted of 1996 raping and killing 20-year-old Carrie Williams in Pittsburg.
  • James Kraig Kahler
    • Convicted of 2009 murder of Karen Kahler; daughters Lauren and Emily Kahler and Karen Kahler’s grandmother, Dorothy Wight in Burlingame.
  • John Edward Robinson, Sr.
    • Capital conviction for 1999 killing of Izabela Lewicka and the 2000 death of Suzette Trouten. He is accused of killing 7 women.
  • Scott Dever Cheever
    • Convicted of 2005 shooting of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels during a drug raid.
  • Sidney John Gleason
    • Convicted of 2004 murder of Miki Martinez and Darren Wornkey in Great Bend.
  • Johnathan Daniel Carr
    • The Carr brothers were convicted of the 2000 murders of Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort in Wichita.
  • Reginald Dexter Carr, Jr.
    • The Carr brothers were convicted of the 2000 murders of Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort in Wichita.
  • Kyle Trevor Flack
    • Convicted of 2013 murders of Kaylie Bailey, Lana Bailey, Andrew Stout and Steven White near Ottawa.

A KSN Investigation concludes it is very likely that Jodi Sanderholm’s killer, along with the nine other inmates on our state’s ‘death row,’ may never be executed in the state of Kansas. This is due to the fact that Kansas’ processes are either nonexistent or designed not to carry out the sentence.

Justin Thurber, Photo Courtesy: KDOC, 5.27.2013
Justin Thurber Photo Courtesy: KDOC, 5.27.2013

In fact, it has been so long since Kansas has executed an inmate with a death sentence that it has become clear that the people responsible for carrying out the sentence don’t seem to know exactly what to do or how to do it.

Since Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994, 22 years ago, no one has been executed. The last time someone was executed in our state was in 1965, by hanging.

KSN went straight to the Kansas Department of Corrections to find out why.

“We haven’t executed anyone in that time frame, and there’s no timetable to have any other future executions,” said Adam Pfannenstiel, the Communications Spokesperson for KDOC.

That’s right … The state of Kansas doesn’t have a plan on how to execute any of the 10 inmates on ‘death row.’

Hearing this infuriates the family of Jodi Sanderholm.

“There’s no time table to have any other future executions”
— Adam Pfannenstiel, KDOC

“I really figured they had a plan,” said Cindy Sanderholm.

“I think it’s a little shocking that Kansas reinstated the death penalty over 20 years ago, and there’s not a plan yet,” said Jennifer Aldridge, Jodi’s older sister. “I thought this would have been something that would have been discussed 20 years ago when it was reinstated.”

So then, what accounts for the delay?

Average number of years between sentencing and execution.
Average number of years between sentencing and execution.

The Appeals Process

First, the appeals process takes time … in Kansas and across the United States.

In the past 30 years, the average time between a sentence to execution grew in the U.S. from just over six years per inmate to 15.5 years.

However, Kansas is approaching 22 years without an execution ever.

Regional analysis, time from sentence to execution
Regional analysis, time from sentence to execution

Kansas’ neighboring states, in the meantime, average nearly half that time: 12 years.

Our KSN Investigation learned that even when an appeals process is exhausted, the state is not prepared for what comes next — whether that be the actual order of execution and/or the act of carrying out the execution sentence.

KSN sat down with Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

“Unlike some of our neighboring states, like Oklahoma, Missouri, that have had a death penalty law on the books longer, that have cases that have moved through the system further, that have actually reached the point of carrying out executions, Kansas isn’t there yet,” said Derek Schmidt.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt sat down with KSN News about the process of carrying out the death penalty.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt sat down with KSN News about the process of carrying out the death penalty.

“Nobody knows, with certainty, what step would follow, but I am certain we would be closely involved in the legalities if that were to come. That’s not imminent in any of the cases,” continued the Attorney General.

Because no executions are imminent, the Department of Corrections in Kansas, the entity which would carry out the order, has no process, no timetable, and no injection drugs in stock to fulfill any execution orders.

“There’s no plans, no intentions to execute anyone,” said Adam Pfannenstiel, with the KDOC. “We’ll be prepared when someone tells us that it’s time, but I couldn’t even predict when that would be.”

Concerning injection drugs, Pfannenstiel said, “There’s no reason for us to have a supply or a supplier at this time because there’s no need for it.”

The Sanderholms are frustrated with a lack of preparation on the part of our state and what it means concerning the seriousness of the Kansas statute.

“It’s wrong that we, as a state, have a law on the books that says, ‘If you commit this crime, this is the punishment that you’re going to get,’ and then, we turn around and don’t issue the punishment,” explained Jodi’s father, Brian. “Well … we need to change the law. Don’t have it on the books.”

While the family members of victims like Jodi Sanderholm say the process is too long, the Attorney General tells KSN News regardless. It is the process.

“There’s no way to move a death penalty case at lightning speed,” said Schmidt. “We can do better than we’re doing, but it’s not going to be a rapid process.”

The Financial Factors

While the Sanderholm Family is impacted in a painful and very personal way after losing their daughter, the state of Kansas and taxpayers in our state are all impacted by the process or lack thereof. In fact, for an inmate serving time at El Dorado, the average annual cost of incarceration is $24,951, as documented for the Fiscal Year 2015. That number, divided by 365 days of the year, equates to $68.36 per day.

However, it costs even more to house inmates serving death sentences and/or sentences in Administrative Segregation.

According to a Kansas Legislative Post Audit Committee report published in 2014, each of the inmates serving time in Administrative Segregation at El Dorado comes with an annual cost of nearly $49,000.

In fact, the Report of the Judicial Council’s Death Penalty Advisory Committee states:

According to the DOC, the average annual cost to house an inmate in administrative segregation is $49,380, or double the cost to house an inmate in the general population. Administrative segregation is more expensive primarily because of the need for more officers per inmate.”

“It hurts me so bad every week when I see my paycheck, and I know I’m paying tax money to feed him,” said Brian Sanderholm.

Court Costs Death Penalty Case

Further, it is not only the cost to house an inmate sentenced to death. Taxpayers also pay nearly four times the price to prosecute a case where the death penalty if pursued by the prosecution — $395,000 per case — compared to only $100,000 per case when the death penalty is not sought.

For the Sanderholms, taxes are added insult to an unbearable injury and a grueling wait for justice in the case of their daughter, Jodi.

“[Death is] what he deserves, and that’s what the law stated,” said Cindy Sanderholm. “So, we need to get the law fixed so we can use it.”

“If it was your daughter, your son, it was our daughter, what would you want to have happen?” asked Brian Sanderholm.

For an in-depth look at the 10 inmates’ criminal histories and housing information, visit the DOC’s Kansas Adult Supervised Population Electronic Repository, or KASPER Offender Population Search, by clicking here.

The most recent death penalty sentence in Kansas was handed down Wednesday, May 18. To read the story behind Kyle Flack, click the story: Kansas man convicted of killing 4 gets death sentence.