John Sandoval appears in Greeley court to set hearings in second murder trial | MyWindsorNow.com

John Sandoval appears in Greeley court to set hearings in second murder trial

Sharon Dunn
sdunn@greeleytribune.com

John Sandoval looks toward his attorneys during his cousin Jesse Martinez's testimony in the murder trial of Sandoval in July 2010 in the Weld County Court House in Greeley. Sandoval, 45, was accused of killing his estranged wife 14 years ago. The body of Kristina Tournai-Sandoval has never been found.

Having been in prison for the past six-plus years for the murder of his wife in 1995, John Sandoval appeared jovial Wednesday as he attended the first of many hearings in Weld District Court expected for his second trial in the matter.

It was a stark difference from his stoic demeanor in 2010, when he was tried in a monthlong trial, and subsequently convicted of the murder of his estranged wife, Tina Tournai Sandoval, 15 years prior. His hair has whitened further, and he was sporting a mustache and goatee. He even asked how one of the defense investigators was doing. As with his first trial, though, Sandoval didn't once glance at Tournai's large family in the gallery of the Greeley courtroom.

The couple was married for three years before Tournai left her husband in August 1995. Three months later, following a final visit to his home to settle a financial debt, the young nurse never was seen again. Presumed dead, her body has never been found. The Weld district attorney then refused to try the case without a body, hoping to avoid double jeopardy if he was acquitted of the murder and her body later was found.

In 2009, Greeley police presented the case to then-District Attorney Ken Buck, who opted to take it forward. After the trial, a jury took seven hours to convict Sandoval.

Sandoval's conviction was overturned last March after a lengthy review by the Colorado Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruled certain evidence of Sandoval's past stalking behavior, coupled with a domestic violence expert equating stalking with murder, unfairly prejudiced Sandoval's right to a fair trial. When the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the case this month, it reverted back to Weld District Court, where Sandoval was convicted.

Weld District Court Judge Shannon Lyons had previously set the second trial for late March, but vacated that after attorneys discussed the need for more time. By law, the court case is 16 days into the running six-month clock during which time the trial must take place. Attorneys agreed to stop that clock, what is termed "tolling speedy trial," Wednesday. The clock will resume when Sandoval formally requests the clock to begin again. The move is a time-saver of sorts, which in this case will allow a new defense attorney, Matthew Neal, to get up to speed, and more investigation. Jayme Muehlenkamp also will return as part of Sandoval's defense team.

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Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke said there would be a plethora of new evidence presented at trial, including records of jail visits to Sandoval and phone conversations while he had been serving his prison sentence.

Former Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Maillaro, who served as co-counsel with Rourke during the original trial and has since moved to the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, will return to help Rourke try the second case.

What’s next?

All parties will return to Weld District Court at 4 p.m. March 7 to set further hearings for the second murder trial of John Sandoval. He is being held in Weld County Jail without the possibility of bail.

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