The charges against Thurber also changed Tuesday. Thurber is now officially charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping. Prosecutors dropped two previous sexual assault charges from the official complaint, but prosecutors say they'll still use the sexual assaults to help prove the murder charge.
In October, prosecutors filed motions to allow evidence of some "prior bad acts" to a growing list of character issues prosecutors are mounting against Thurber. One of those prior bad acts included Thurber allegedly raping another Cowley College student, and prosecutors acknowledged motions filed during the fall were addressed while court was closed to the public Tuesday morning.
With the competency ruling, attorneys have set a tentative start date of January 26th for jury selection. Evidence could start the week after. Thurber will be back in court on January 2nd for more motions. Most, if not all, of those motions are scheduled to be part of a closed hearing.
by Cliff Judy & Chris Durden (COWLEY COUNTY, Kan.)
A judge will likely decide today if Justin Thurber is competent to stand trial. The hearing is going on right now in Winfield.
Thurber is accused of killing 19-year-old Jodi Sanderholm nearly two years ago. A judge put the case on hold pending a mental evaluation at the state hospital in Larned.
If Thurber is found competent to stand trial, jury selection would begin next month with the trial to start shortly thereafter. January 5th marks two year since Sanderholm's murder.
Eyewitness News Reporter Cliff Judy is in Winfield and monitoring the hearing - look for the decision as soon as it becomes available here at kwch.com. Read below for the details on how today's hearing will proceed and the details of what will happen once the judge makes his ruling.
Right now, the judge is hearing from Larned officials. Attorneys may make some very minor, short arguments on the competency issue. The hearing is closed right now. If the judge rules Thurber is competent, attorneys will continue to give arguments on some motions this morning that are still closed. If the judge rules Thurber is incompetent, we're done until 1:00 p.m.
Court is scheduled back in at 1:00 p.m. for the judge to make his competency ruling in open court. If Thurber is competent, there will be some more motions in open court. If Thurber is incompetent, we move on to a motion to have Thurber committed.
If Thurber is ruled competent, attorneys have set a tentative date of January 26th for the beginning of jury selection in Thurber's capital murder trial. Opening statements would begin on or after February 2nd.
Thurber will obviously stay in custody if he's ruled incompetent. By law, there will immediately be a motion to commit Thurber back to Larned indefinitely. Thurber would stay at Larned until officials there decide he's competent to stand trial.