Murdered Teen Inspires Changes to State Stalking Law

A major step forward was taken Thursday for those behind renovating the state's stalking laws, specifically for the family of murdered teen Jodi Sanderholm.

The Arkansas City family is the inspiration to strengthen and change the state stalking law. Jodi's parents were in Topeka Thursday to talk to lawmakers about why they feel the law needs to be changed.

Jodi's father testified, "Nothing can bring back my daughter, but by passing House Bill 2850 my hope is that another family doesn't have to experience the pain that mine has over the past 13 months."

Jodi Sanderholm disappeared January 5, 2006, after dance practice at Cowley County Community College. Her body was found four days later near Cowley State Fishing Lake, brutally raped and murdered.

The Sanderholm's were the inspiration for Arkansas City Representative Kasha Kelly to take the bill before the Judiciary Committee Thursday.

The measure would remove the credible threat requirement from the current stalking bill. It's a requirement law enforcement say prevents them from putting a stop to stalking early on.

One such officer told the committee Thursday he was "frustrated with the conversations that I've had with prosecutors, trying to convince them that this was a good case and that it did meet the statute, only to be told, 'No, it's way too vague.'"

An attorney who spoke to the committe Thursday said, "Presently, the crime of stalking is extremely difficult to prosecute because of the seemingly insignificant phrase, 'and making a credible threat.'"

Other changes to the bill include tidying definitions on code of conduct and tougher penalties.

The bill must go through the committee before hitting the House floor. If approved by the House, it will then go to the Senate.

As of January 31, 2008, a Cowley County judge had yet to decide if he will allow testimony from witnesses in the murder trial of Jodi's alleged killer, Justin Thurber.

The judge has to decide if he will allow testimony from 10 women from Thurber's past who say he harassed, stalked or abducted them from 2001, right up to the day before Jodi disappeared.

Thurber is charged with capital murder, rape, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated sodomy in Sanderholm's death.

Thurber's trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on June 24, 2008. He faces the death penalty if convicted.