The recent 48 Hours special on Jodi Huisentruit focused on two people who have been investigated in connection with her abduction 23 years ago: friend John Vansice and convicted serial rapist, Tony Jackson.
One of the questions we’ve heard about a lot since the show aired was whether Vansice or Jackson have alibis for June 27, 1995 – the morning Jodi disappeared.
Before we get to that, we’ll answer the question: What is an alibi?
You often hear the term in TV crime dramas when police ask, “does his or her alibi check out?”
Through my 27-year career in law enforcement, checking out a person’s alibi was used to help determine if a person could have been involved in a crime.
During interviews with suspects and persons of interest, we’d ask the individuals to tell us where they were at the time a crime occurred.
While they may have given reasons or excuses why they could not have been involved, we’d follow-up to see if anything put them in the area, or ruled them out.
For example, if they claimed to be at a certain location at the time, we’d look for such things as video surveillance that might confirm or discount their story.
In some cases, people were soon eliminated when we determined they were in prison at the time and not in a position to have committed the crime under investigation.
But if the alibis couldn’t be verified, it was impossible to rule them out for an unsolved crime.
Here’s what we know about John Vansice and Tony Jackson whereabouts on the morning Jodi disappeared about 4:30.
During the 48 Hours show, a friend of Vansice, LaDonna Woodford, said he was home when she called at 6 a.m. on his landline, to confirm their plans to go for a walk and that they met shortly thereafter.
It’s the same story she says she told under oath to a federal grand jury investigating Vansice and to the Mason City police and FBI investigators.
If Woodford’s story is true, that would have left a small window – 90 minutes – to have abducted Jodi and be home by 6 a.m.
While we don’t know what detectives did to check out Woodford’s account, from my experience it would have been standard police procedure to track down Vansice’s and Woodford’s phone records to verify whether a call happened.
If it hadn’t, Woodford could have charged with lying to the grand jury which did not indict Vansice or anyone in connection with Jodi’s abduction.
As a Woodbury, Minnesota detective who investigated Jackson’s Twin Cities rape spree in May of 1997, I learned learned in background investigations that Tony Jackson had been living close to Jodi’s TV station in Mason City at the time she disappeared.
We learned Jackson had no verifiable alibi for when the crime occurred in her apartment parking lot.
His claims to his whereabouts at the time changed several times.
Jackson has said he doesn’t remember where he was at 4:30 a.m., on June 27, 1995. He once said he was on his way to marry his girlfriend. Another time he told a KIMT-TV reporter he worked until 6 or 7 that morning, and “never missed work or had weird days off.”
Regarding Jackson’s claim that he was on his way to get married is false. During our Minnesota rape investigations, we learned Jackson’s girlfriend broke up with him just days before Jodi disappeared.
We also found he was not at work at the Armour plant as he claimed. According to a WCCO investigative report, Jackson had left work early the evening before Jodi was abducted, claiming he had injured his ankle.
The fact is, our investigation revealed Jackson had no verifiable alibi during the time frame that Jodi was abducted.
Jackson’s various versions about what he was doing at that time were similar to his multiple alibis during the Minnesota rapes he was charged and convicted with – which also didn’t hold up.
Regarding Jackson’s claims:
In the Cottage Grove, Minnesota case, he first said he was at a mall with his girlfriend and then during the trial he claimed to have been at a Cinco De Mayo event during the time of the assault.
The Woodbury case, he claimed he was at home with his girlfriend, then at trial he says he was at a “stripe club Buns and Roses” in Minneapolis.
Finally, the St. Paul case, claimed to have been in Minnetonka at the time of the assault.
Ultimately, Jackson’s alibis were not believed by several juries that convicted him of rape based on physical evidence, including DNA and fingerprints.
In summary, the fact that neither Vansice nor Jackson have verifiable alibis for 4:30 on the morning Jodi was abducted doesn’t mean either one was involved in the crime…It just shows that neither man be eliminated as a person of interest.