Early on a cold spring morning 11 years ago, two Colorado College maintenance workers were walking outside near the southwest corner of Armstrong Hall when they stumbled across a grisly sight: a woman’s body, face down and riddled with stab wounds.
“Most of the trauma was to the front of her body,” Colorado Springs police Lt. Skip Arms told The Gazette a few days after the discovery. “At the scene, we couldn’t tell if she was beaten, shot or stabbed.”
As police investigated, the CC and Colorado Springs communities came to a shocking realization: the woman was Jocelyn Sandberg, the 41-year-old operations manager at KRCC, the college-affiliated public radio station for southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
Almost 12 years later, police are still searching for Sandberg’s killer, and her death remains one of roughly 90 cold case homicides that the Colorado Springs Police Department has yet to solve.
Detectives continue to diligently investigate the case, and just last week they were following leads into Sandberg’s death.
The night she was killed, Sandberg was returning home from a Zero 7 — one of her favorite bands — show in Boulder with a friend. The two were near the intersection of Dale and Tejon Streets just south of campus, just feet from Sandberg’s home, when a man stepped in front of their vehicle and threw a rock at their car, police and colleagues say.
Sandberg exited the car to confront the man, at which point he started walking north towards campus. She followed.
What happened next in the early morning hours of April 26, 2002 has perplexed police and loved ones for over a decade.
WHO WAS SANDBERG?
Sandberg started volunteering at KRCC in the early 90s, working odd jobs at the radio station and “cobbling together a living,” said Jeff Bieri, the current program director at KRCC who worked with Sandberg for roughly a decade.
Slowly, she gained her footing at KRCC, becoming a part-time employee until the station’s operation manager passed away of cancer. She applied for the
job and got it.
Before long, Sandberg became a community voice, broadcasting to thousands in the region each day.
Her job involved a little bit of everything — scheduling on-air shifts, hosting the evening news program, and arranging to download programs off of the satellite and make sure that they aired in the proper time slots.
“Tunes were always cranked when she was on-air,” Bieri, who has worked at KRCC for 25 years, said in his office this week. “It was ear-splitting, the level she would play.”
Mike Procell, a 23-year veteran of KRCC who took over as operations manager when Sandberg was killed, remembers his late friend similarly as a “take-charge,” “very loud,” and loving member of the station.
“I was in the air studio one time when she was doing a contest,” Procell said on Tuesday. “I remember she was answering the phone, and took the winner, and she puts them on hold, and starts answering all the subsequent calls like, ‘KRCC; you’re a loser.’ I wouldn’t have the balls to do that, but she did.”
Sandberg was also in charge of overseeing the station’s volunteers — which she once was — and membership drives.
When she wasn’t working, Sandberg would drive her beat-up Chevy to Denver or Boulder for every concert she could.
The tickets to the last concert she ever saw were given to her by Bieri.
“She was just settling into it,” Bieri said. “It was like her first full-time job as an adult. She really dug it. She was really good at it.”
In 2008, six years after Sandberg’s death, a federal grant allowed the Colorado Springs Police Department to create a Cold Case Unit and allocate further resources towards solving the city’s most complicated crimes
The grant allowed DNA testing for evidence in cases that had remained unsolved a year after they happened, or in other words were “cold.”
Almost immediately, local detectives started working to solve decades-old crimes dating back to the 1949 murder of Walter Parsons, an 18-year-old who was found strangled and beaten to death in Garden of the Gods.
So far this year, three cases have been solved.
When cases become cold, investigators don’t simply stop trying to solve them, said Detective Mike Montez, who has worked for the CSPD for over 20 years and took the helm of the Cold Case Unit in 2012.
“There are cases that are a couple years old and the detectives that worked those [cases] initially are still working them,” he said. “We’ve had several people who were retired FBI or CIA agents working with us on the cold cases.”
Cold cases are delicate ones that impact everyone from victims’ families, to the city, to the offices and detectives that spend countless hours combing through evidence, conducting interviews, and searching tirelessly for the answers that bring about justice.
In Colorado Springs, where police have one of the highest clearance rates solving crimes, cold cases are particularly impactful. Only one of the 29 homicides in the city this year — the February slaying of a 20-year-old student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs — remains unsolved.
“I think what we have to look at is that all of these cases have a huge impact on the community themselves,” said Montez. “It’s just not the family who’s impacted. That’s who is impacted most, but the whole city of Colorado Springs is impacted. It makes a huge impact when these go unsolved.”
Two days after Sandberg’s murder on April 28, a witness came forward.
A man riding his bicycle past the college when Sandberg was killed told investigators he saw a woman walking side-by-side with another person near the intersection where Sandberg’s body was found hours later, police said.
“The two were gesturing and appeared to be arguing before separating, the man told police,” according to case reports. “One of them chased after the
other and hit the person in the back, the witness said, striking again and again when the person turned to face him or her. The witness said he saw the person being hit fall to the ground. The witness said he attempted to chase after the attacker on his bicycle, but lost sight of the person. He did not check on the person who’d been attacked and did not call police.”
Police only had a generic description of a possible suspect to go on: An averaged-size, young white man wearing dark clothes and a dark backpack.
Immediately after her death there were few clues — no sign of a struggle, little physical evidence, and no immediate ideas on who the suspect could be.
Former colleagues at KRCC said that Sandberg’s friend, the woman who went with her to Boulder the night she was killed, went home to sleep after Sandberg exited the car to chase down the man who had thrown a rock at their car. The friend was informed of the homicide the next day.
One man investigated in connection with the homicide was CC student Alexander Pring-Wilson.
Pring-Wilson’s involvement in Sandberg’s murder was later questioned when doubts about whether he was actually in Colorado Springs during the time of the killing surfaced, Montez said.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jeanne Smith told The Gazette in 2004 that police were still looking at Pring-Wilson in connection with Sandberg’s murder, but that she stopped short of calling him a suspect and that calling him as such would “be a stretch.”
Pring-Wilson graduated from CC and attended graduate school at Harvard University where he was accused of killing 18-year-old Michael Colono of Cambridge in 2003, and later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Colono’s death in 2004. The conviction was later overturned and Pring-Wilson
was granted a new trial in 2008, which ended in a hung jury. He later agreed to a deal to serve two years in prison.
Police initially drew connections between the similarities in Pring-Wilson’s alleged slaying of Colono and Sandberg’s killing. Both had been stabbed repeatedly with a knife — Sandberg over a dozen times — and both reportedly died following heated verbal arguments.
Thomas B. Drohan, a lawyer based in Boston, Mass. who was Pring-Wilson’s last attorney of record, did not return a voicemail seeking comment Thursday.
In 2008 when the Cold Case Unit was founded, evidence from Sandberg’s slaying was sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation — the state’s most well equipped crime lab and investigative body — for DNA analysis.
While Montez says he cannot comment on whether or not any DNA was actually found on the evidence, he said that any genetic material would have been fed through a national database and compared to all samples taken from criminals throughout the country.
“As of last Thursday, we were following up leads on her case,” Montez said Monday. “We still get people calling anonymously, people [providing us with tips] on our website. Leads come in all the time on these cases.”
A ‘DEVASTATING IMPACT’
Sandberg’s death was one of several that rattled the close-knit KRCC team.
Station volunteer and taxi driver Stephen White, 30, was shot in the back of the head by a man who had solicited a ride some ten years before, The Gazette reported in 1990.
Before Sandberg was killed, the previous operations manager at KRCC had passed away of cancer in her early 50s.
“It’s been kind of traumatic, but the two murders have been like — you kind of just chalk it up to life if someone gets cancer or smokes a pack and a half a day,” Bieri said Tuesday. “With those two it was just like, ‘oh fuck.’ It was just really shocking. Really shocking, both times.”
woman’s chest and stomach, symbolizing Sandberg’s strong spirit and personality.
After her death, a service in Sandberg’s honor was held in Shove Chapel.
“I remember her service was in Shove, and it was packed,” Procell said. “Jam-packed.”
There, organizers handed out Sandberg’s endless collection of burned CDs containing the music that she loved.
“Everyone took one,” said Procell.
If you have any information that would be of assistance in any of the Colorado Springs Police Departments’ cold case investigations, please contact detectives at 719-444-7613, by email at CSPDColdCase@springsgov.com or use the Cold Case Unit’s online form. You may remain anonymous and could earn a cash reward by calling Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP (7867).
Jesse Paul, Editor-in-Chief