NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Devil Was Watching’ chronicles how John Sandoval murdered his estranged wife, Kristina “Tina” Marie Tournai Sandoval, in Weld County, Colorado, in October 1995. He was considered the prime suspect for over a decade before receiving a life sentence. Yet, he appealed and secured a plea deal to reduce his prison term. So, who is John, and what is his current whereabouts? If you’re interested, here’s what we know.
Who is John Sandoval?
Tina met John at AIMS Community College in Greeley, Colorado, in the mid-80s. While she was studying for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, he was taking classes to become a Radiology Technician. They married in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on December 31, 1991. However, the marriage did not last long once Tina reportedly learned about John’s dark side. Consequently, she filed for divorce within two years of the wedding. Hoping the divorce would be finalized soon, the young Nurse even moved into a new apartment and started dating again.
According to the show, Tina told a few of her colleagues at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley about her estranged husband suffering from a disease known as voyeurism. He allegedly followed ladies at random convenience stores, stalking them for several days. Moreover, John would allegedly go out late at night to peep through their windows. Tina even claimed he entered his victims’ homes and hid in cupboards and under the beds to get a closer look without being spotted.
John even allegedly stole women’s underwear and brought them home. Thus, the police repeatedly came to the Sandoval residence to question him after receiving complaints. When the officers knocked at the door in 1995 summer, Tina had enough and filed for divorce. She also told her co-workers how she spotted John’s car parked outside her new apartment on several occasions and expressed apprehensions about how he might be stalking her too. As per reports, he did not want a divorce and even threatened to kill himself.
Tina informed her family how John put a gun to his head in a dramatic and drastic resort to save his marriage. Besides, she had confided in her doctor about her apprehensions regarding her safety from her estranged husband. So when the Greeley Nurse went missing on October 19, 1995, after a meeting with John, he became the immediate suspect. The police surveilled his home and saw him return home around 5:46 AM on October 20. Soon, they arrested him on unrelated trespassing charges when he tried to flee from the officers. Furthermore, the detectives found muddy clothes in his home and a wet and muddy shovel in his car.
Where is John Sandoval Now?
The investigators executed a search warrant to find Tina’s credit cards inside John’s home. There were no activities on the cards since four days before her disappearance. When they brought John to the station, the detectives noticed several fresh scratch marks on his face, neck, chest, and shoulder caused by fingernails. During the interrogation, he attempted to destroy evidence by cleaning and biting his fingernails. Despite the strong suspicion, police never found a body, crime scene, or witnesses, and John refused to divulge any information about her disappearance. As a result, the District Attorney at the time did not file charges.
The case went cold for nearly 14 years before a new District Attorney went through the file and decided there was enough circumstantial evidence to charge John with first-degree murder. He was arrested on June 18, 2009, and sentenced to life without parole on August 5, 2010. One of the pivotal witnesses for the prosecution was Jesse Martinez, a cousin of John’s. According to reports, he and Tina began a relationship a month before she separated from her husband. Jesse helped convince the jury, alleging John stalked Tina and killed her.
John’s prior victims and officers investigating those cases also testified against him, leading to the conviction. But the issue was not over, with the police still looking for Tina’s corpse. Nearly eight years after the sentencing, the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned John’s guilty verdict on March 17, 2016. According to court documents, there were a few technical snags, and a new trial date was set. The District Attorney’s office was preparing for the new trial when John decided to divulge the location of Tina’s body in exchange for a plea deal.
Nearly 22 years after Tina’s disappearance, he told the police how he had hidden his estranged wife’s corpse at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Greeley on March 22, 2017. The officers dug the mentioned grave to find the victim’s decomposed remains on March 31. Due to the disclosure, John was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in 2017 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison and five years on parole. His sentence was dated back to August 2010, when he was convicted of first-degree murder.
With credit for time served, John Sandoval will have been incarcerated for 12 years by the time he is eligible for parole, which is in 2020. One of Tina’s sisters, Kelly Fryan, said, “We weren’t even expecting parole until 2028. Two years later, after this plea bargain, we’re already dealing with this.” Yet, experts argued being eligible for parole does not mean he will be given one. Meanwhile, John continues serving his sentence at the Trinidad Correctional Facility. The 58-year-old’s inmate records state his next parole hearing is in January 2026, and his expected release date is in 2032.
Read More: Tina Sandoval Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?