BREAKING NEWS: John Sandoval arrested in Las Vegas for 14-year-old murder of Windsor woman
June 18, 2009
Las Vegas police this morning arrested John Sandoval at his home in the 1995 slaying of his wife, Tina Tournai Sandoval.
He had been living in Las Vegas for the last 10 years, after being paroled from prison on a criminal trespassing charge.
Fourteen years ago, on Oct. 19, 1995, Tina Sandoval went to meet with her estranged husband, John Sandoval, and was never seen again. Her body has never been found.
On the morning she disappeared, Tina got off the night shift as a nurse at North Colorado Medical Center, and told her sister she was going to see Sandoval to collect $200 he owed her.
Her sister warned her not to go.
John and Tina Sandoval had been separated about 10 weeks, and she was seeking a divorce. John had a criminal record – including two charges of stalking women – and was reportedly angry about the separation and divorce.
When Tina didn’t report back to her sister by that afternoon, the sister called their mother, Mary Ellen Tournai, who went to the house where Sandoval was living, in the 700 block of 35th Avenue Court in west Greeley.
His aunt told Tournai that John wasn’t home, but John had told the aunt that they’d had an argument and Tina left. Mary Ellen found her daughter’s new coat on a chair at the Sandoval residence.
Still not hearing from her daughter, Mary Ellen contacted the Greeley police that night. Because John Sandoval was well-known to Greeley police, they immediately began a search for Tina. Two blocks from the Sandoval home, they found her car.
Because they weren’t able to find either Tina or John Sandoval, Greeley police staked out John Sandoval’s home that night.
At 5:45 a.m. the next day, John Sandoval drove upin his car, parked and went into his house. Police looked in the window of the car and on the car seat saw a new shovel with mud on it, a bucket, flashlight and gloves.
The officers knocked on the door of the house, and Sandoval’s aunt told them he was in the shower. When they said they needed to talk to him right away, the aunt said she was mistaken, and John wasn’t at home.
At that moment, the officers heard noises behind the house and discovered Sandoval had climbed out a back window and was trying to escape. When they stopped him, one of the officers noted he had scratches on his face and torso. They looked like fingernail scratches, the officer said.
The arrested Sandoval on a warrant from another case. The month before, a west Greeley woman came home one night and found John Sandoval in her closet.
Using search warrants, police found a 9mm handgun in John Sandoval’s car, and some of Tina’s credit cards at his house. But there was no proof that he’d harmed her.
Numerous searches were conducted around Greeley and Weld County, with Tournai family and friends and hundreds of volunteers joining to walk the back roads and fields. At one point, a strong tip led police and sheriff’s department to a gravel pit area in northern Weld County, but nothing was found.
More than 7,000 missing person flyers were sent out by Mike and Mary Ellen Tournai.
John Sandoval was in the Weld County Jail until March 1996, when he pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released after four years for good behavior. He moved to Las Vegas to live with his father.
The Tournais became involved in FHVMP – Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons – and recently were part of a plea to Colorado lawmakers to drop the death penalty in Colorado and use the state funds to open an on-going cold case unit for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That legislation failed earlier this year.
After seven years, the Tournais accepted that their daughter was dead, and they had a memorial service for her.