After 27 years with the Woodbury, Minnesota Police Department, I decided to retire. It was not a decision that came easy. Throughout my career I was always passionate about closing cases. There are still a few cases that haunt me to this day. They are bothersome cases because I believe there are individuals (suspects) responsible for crimes in which they have not been brought to justice for one reason or another. The Findjodi.com team shares the passion that I have in bringing justice for the victims that cannot speak out. The team’s dedication to finding the individual(s) responsible for Jodi’s disappearance is remarkable. These are the reasons I have joined Findjodi.com.
During my career I was involved numerous investigations as patrol officer to managing our criminal investigations as a police commander. The investigations ranged from street level crimes, complicated and organized identity theft rings to homicide. Some of the most heart-wrenching investigations were death scene investigations. Whether it was a suicide or homicide, they were difficult. Being from a suburban police department, we had very few homicides during my career. In fact, we only had two during my time with Woodbury PD. Both were thoroughly investigated, which lead to the identification and prosecution of the perpetrator.
All death scenes are treated as criminal investigations. Suicides were always difficult as oftentimes there were no suicide notes, contrary to the common belief. The key to these investigations was to recreate the victim’s past. Evidence discovered at the scene and interviews with known associates were crucial in determining if the case was truly a suicide. Every piece of information had to be reviewed and digested, you could never discount a tip or lead until it you’ve exhausted every possibility.
In the early morning hours of June 27, 1995, Jodi Huisentruit was abducted from the parking lot of her apartment building. Jodi’s abduction launched Mason City Police Department’s biggest and most-covered investigation in their history. Agencies such as the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the FBI and other local agencies would join the investigation over the days, months, and years to follow. To this day, Jodi’s remains have not been found nor has the person(s) responsible for her disappearance been identified and brought to justice.
Media coverage of Jodi’s abduction and disappearance from local and national news outlets was intense. Jodi’s case has been profiled on national programs such as 20/20’s Vanished (we’ll be posting video here of the episode soon) to most recently on Investigation Discovery’s Disappeared special.
Throughout the investigation and as recently reported on Investigation Discovery, Mason City authorities continually refer to John Vansice as a “person of interest”. The term “person of interest” has become widely used in law enforcement. It is essentially a euphemism for suspect or target of an investigation. If an investigation reveals enough information or reasonable suspicion, why not call the person for what he or she is, a suspect. According to Wikipedia, a Suspect is a known person suspected of committing a crime. The key word is “suspected”. You can have many reasons to suspect someone of committing a crime but unless you have eyewitnesses, physical evidence, or admissions from the suspect you don’t have probable cause to make an arrest.
If John Vansice is Mason City’s prime suspect, why don’t they come out and say why he is their main suspect? There is no question about why the police looked at Vansice. He injected himself into the investigation almost immediately by showing up at the crime scene. Vansice’s behavior was somewhat odd and out of the ordinary. He states he was the last person to see Jodi alive. It’s extremely unusual for someone to something like that unless they are, in fact, the person reasonable for the death of an individual. The perpetrator is typically is the last person to see someone alive in homicide cases.
John Vansice was Jodi’s good friend by many accounts, and by all appearances he enjoyed having her around him. They were often seen in public sharing drinks and dancing. Water skiing was a big part of their relationship. Vansice even named his boat “Jodi”. Did Vansice want more than a casual friendship with Jodi, maybe? Why would Vansice ab duct Jodi? With Jodi’s disappearance, Vansice lost an important social figure and friend.
Mason City investigators have looked into other individuals. There have been many theories and motives as to why Jodi was abducted but only the perpetrator knows what the true story. Many names have been mentioned in various aspects of the investigation. One name that rises to the top of my list is Tony Jackson.
In the summer of 1997 I became involved in the investigation of a serial rapist, Tony Dejuan Jackson. Jackson was eventually connected to 6 sexual assaults on women from North Iowa to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Jackson is considered a sexual predator. He had stalked some of his victims prior to assaulting them. Jackson carried a rape kit with him when he travelled. Some of the items in his kit included handcuffs, duct tape, mask, and a gun. Several of his victims he had threatened to kill if they did not comply with him. He even had threatened to kill one of his victim’s parents should they walk in on him. One victim was even strangled until she passed out.
What broke our case wide open was our victim believed she recognized Jackson. During the assault she was able to get a brief glimpse of her attacker through her blindfold. She had worked with Jackson at a local restaurant, therefore she knew him. Our background investigation into Jackson showed he had just been arrested for possession of a handgun without a permit. In the early morning hours Jackson had been prowling the streets of St. Paul, possibly looking for his next victim when he was stopped and arrested by police. We also learned that Jackson lived in Mason City at the time Jodi disappeared. Given Jackson’s pattern of stalking and violence involved in the assaults we believed Jackson should be considered a “person of interest”.
It has been reported Jackson wrote a rap song with a possibly reference about Jodi. In it, the lyric “stiffin around Tiffin” lead authorities to believe it could have alluded to a silo in Tiffin, Iowa, that may have been used as a hiding spot for her body. Jackson also had indicated to a cellmate he was involved with the abduction of a news anchor. Mason City investigators looked into Jackson but, based on their investigation, don’t believe he was involved in her disappearance.
It is not known exactly why Jackson was eliminated as a person of interest. Jackson is another person that could have been involved. He also displayed some odd behavior after Jodi’s disappearance and his history is indicative of a person who would fit the theory of Jodi being abducted by a stalker or ‘was just in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
In an investigation the Jodi Huisentruit case, we must remain open-minded and diligent in following up on any person of interest.
We are hopeful Mason City Police will inform the public as to why John Vansice remains their top person of interest. I understand there are times in high-profile investigations why you would withhold key information that only the perpetrator would know, but it has been nearly 18 years since Jodi disappeared. I believe by releasing further details to the public it may lead to crucial information that could aid in identifying the person responsible for this horrific unsolved crime.
The Findjodi.com team is committed to helping to find Jodi Huisentruit and bring her home to her family for proper burial. If you have any information that would help find Jodi, please contact us. You can do so anonymously as well. We also are in need of your support to keep the search active. Thank you.