Joel Sandler's Murder for Hire
Against All Odds
Not wanting to take any chances, detectives caught Sandler by surprise at his home and arrested him on April 26, 2001, despite the fact that the circumstantial evidence accumulated against him to date might not hold up in court. Nonetheless, the prosecution team, headed by Montgomery County attorney Sean Cullen, took an against-all-odds approach, proceeding systematically through the case, confident that they would be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Sandler's ill intent towards his wife. They got their chance to convince the jury on January 14, 2003, when Sandler's case went to trial more than a year after his arrest.
Cullen managed to present as much evidence as possible to support his case, which included an index card, salvaged from the undercover agent's first meeting with Sandler, as well as video and audio of the transaction. Dunne reported that the evidence on its own might not be enough so "in order to ensure a conviction, Cullen knew he needed a grand finale," which he provided in the form of testimony by none other than Linda Sandler herself. When Linda took the stand, she told jurors about her troubled marriage, how it became increasingly abusive and how she had feared for her life, especially after she had filed for divorce. Jurors were also presented with testimony of Sandler's vindictive behavior during the divorce and of his refusal to concede any money to his soon to be ex-wife.
Sandler's defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom claimed that even though the prosecution made a superficially compelling case, there was inadequate proof that Sandler had in fact been planning to kill his wife and even if he had been, there was taped evidence that he had put a stop to it during his last meeting with the supposed hit man. Thus, Sandler's attorney contended, on all counts his client was not guilty of the charges against him. Yet, the jury would not agree.
After hearing the tape on which Sandler confirmed the deal, the jury knew that it meant he was willing to go through with the murder of his wife. Based on this evidence, the jury found Sandler, guilty after deliberating for four hours. When all was said and done, Sandler received up to 25 years in prison and lost as much as 75% of the multi-million fortune he had tried to withhold from Linda in the consequent divorce settlement. Even though Linda received the justice she had long sought, she continues to live in fear for her life and of the possibility that Sandler may one day seek retribution for what he probably believes is still his.