The recent 48 Hours special focused on Jodi Huisentruit focused on two possible persons of interests: John Vansice and Tony Jackson.
There’s been no sign of Jodi for more than 23 years since she was abducted from her Mason City, Iowa, apartment parking lot. She was running late to anchor the morning news at KIMT TV when someone grabbed her from behind at about 4:30 a.m. as she attempted to get into her Mazda Miata.
I’m frequently asked which man I think was most likely to have abducted Jodi. My answer remains the same: Both men clearly needed to be investigated, but it could turn out to be none of the above.
Documents just released on the Mollie Tibbett’s case are a revealing window into an investigation where four people were under suspicion. All were eventually cleared in connection with her murder.
The same thing occurred in the Jacob Wetterling case. A neighbor, Dan Rassier, was a police target for many years but had nothing to do with Jacob’s kidnapping and murder in St. Joseph, MN. in 1989.
As for Jodi’s case, her sister JoAnn Nathe said it best in her interview with 48 Hours, “It could be someone you least expect.”
Most of the time, victims are killed by people they know. That’s one reason Vansice was quickly up high up on the police list to be investigated.
Twenty-two years older than Jodi, Vansice told police he was the last person to see her alive. He claimed she stopped by his Mason City home the night before she disappeared to look at a video of her surprise birthday party he hosted earlier that month.
Vansice spent a lot of time with Jodi in the weeks before she vanished. Beside the party, she and her friends joined him on weekend water-skiing trips. He even says he named his boat after Jodi. Vansice also said he passed a police polygraph.
Although he spoke with the news media and 48 Hours crew shortly after Jodi’s abduction, Vansice has consistently refused to do talk with reporters since then (I attempted to interview him in a restaurant parking lot in Arizona in 1998 after I did the WCCO I-Team report focusing on Jackson as a possible lead. Vansice told me the news media had done nothing but ruined him and drove off.)
If he were involved, Vansice would have had just 90 minutes to abduct Jodi and be home by 6 a.m., when a friend, LaDonna Woodford, said he answered his landline phone.
Woodford said she testified under oath for five hours before a federal grand jury in 1997 that Vansice answered her early morning call to confirm their morning walk. During the walk, LaDonna said Vansice didn’t seem anxious, and he told her Jodi had stopped by the night before to watch the birthday video.
In March of 2017, Mason City Police executed a search warrant on two vehicles associated with Vansice. Details of the probable cause investigators provided to a judge to get a warrant remain sealed.
That brings us to Tony Jackson. Jackson was a serial rapist who stalked his Minnesota victims and lived two blocks from KIMT TV in Mason City at the time Jodi disappeared. Jackson broke up with his girlfriend, who looked similar to Jodi, five days earlier, and he hosted a talk show at a college in Mason City.
Jackson didn’t get on police radar until 1997 when he was arrested for four rapes in 18 days in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He’s now serving a life sentence in prison for the rape convictions.
After doing a background check on Jackson, Woodbury police Commander Jay Alberio learned Jackson was living in Mason City in June 1995. That prompted Alberio, now a member of our FindJodi team, to send his rape case file to Mason City police, urging them to take a close look at Jackson for possible involvement in Jodi’s abduction.
After a 1998 WCCO I-Team report on Jackson, Mason City police said in a brief press release they had ruled him out as a possible suspect. In phone interviews I did with Jackson from jail, he repeatedly denied he’d abducted Jodi. He also insisted he’d never met her, something two people have disputed in interviews with WCCO-TV and Alberio. He also repeatedly denied being involved in the MN rapes he was convicted of committing.
Alberio, who’s now retired from the Woodbury Police Department, believes Jackson’s background as a violent rapist, who stalked his victims, precludes ruling him out as potential suspect in Jodi’s abduction.
Alberio shared more details about his investigation of Jackson in these earlier posts on FindJodicom, including the one earlier this week on Alibis. He’ll be providing more details in a future post on FindJodi.com.
Maybe Jackson or Vansice was involved. But until Jodi is found, or more evidence is revealed, my view remains the same: Don’t rule out the possibility Jodi’s abductor may be none of the above.