Editor’s Note: Many people reached out to Beth Bednar, via phone and email, following the publication of her book Dead Air. During her exploration into the Huisentruit case, other Iowa cold cases were mentioned and compared, including that of the 1983 Copper Dollar Ranch double homicide. The former owner of the CDR, Hal Snedeker, was one of those who contacted Beth. Hal was, and still is, interested in setting the record straight. This is his story.
Hal Snedeker’s overall manner might rightly be described as direct, no-nonsense, and to the point. A sometimes gruff and self-important façade is no doubt a protective instinct, and he is known to exaggerate a bit. But whether he is saint or sinner is a matter of viewpoint.
The Iowa businessman and former owner of the Copper Dollar Ranch has very strong convictions about the gruesome double homicide that took place on his property early in March of 1983. Gary Peterson and I caught up with him recently to discuss the arrest of Terri Supino in connection with the case, and Snedeker’s view of who is guilty of the crime has not changed.
He says he thinks now what he thought then: He is convinced that Terri Supino was jealous and angry, and had a clear motive for the murder of her estranged husband and his lover. Snedeker strongly believes that Terri (perhaps with some help) was directly involved in the slayings of then-20 year old Steven Fisher and Fisher’s 17 year old girlfriend, Melisa Gregory. The pair was found brutally slain on the morning of March 3, 1983.
You might correctly guess there is no love lost between Terri and Hal, who occasionally have carried on some verbal warfare since the 1983 murders. When I asked if he thought Terri had any inkling she was about to be arrested in connection with the long-ago crime, Snedeker snorted and said, “What do you think? She had quit her job and was half-packed,” [ready to leave town].
For her part, Terri has continued to level drug accusations toward Snedeker. She’s not alone – fully half the people in Newton are still convinced that Snedeker’s Copper Dollar Ranch was a conduit and a convenient cover for illegal drug trafficking. And all agree that Steve Fisher had, at least on one occasion, acted as an informant for police.
Snedeker says, with his permission, ranch hand Fisher lived in the working trailer on the property in the late winter of 1983. Because Steve had already been separated for some time from Terri Supino, it was obviously a good arrangement for him, but Snedeker says it was to his own advantage, as well. Especially during foaling season at the ranch, it was good to have someone onsite. Melisa Gregory would often stay with Steve at the trailer.
A self-professed horse lover, Snedeker at the peak of his ranch operation owned 53 quarter-horses and three breeding stallions. Snedeker says he respected his animals and loved the ranch just outside Newton, Iowa. Despite persistent stories to the contrary, and despite a statute of limitations that would make it a moot point, Snedeker still vehemently denies any and all allegations about drug-running via his horses, saying the ranch was a profitable breeding operation. He insists he would not have abused his beloved horses in that manner, and continues to roundly dismiss the drug rumors.
Originally from Ohio, Snedeker’s was a hardscrabble childhood. His father died when Hal was ten, and his mother, who was frequently ill, remarried several times. Food was scarce, so the young Hal quit school to do whatever work he could find to feed himself and his siblings. To this day, Hal admits he has food issues arising from that early hunger.
He later joined the U.S. Army, served honorably in Vietnam, and, upon his return to the States, made a living at a variety of pursuits. With a combination of hard work and street smarts, he did well – Snedeker himself claims he was a millionaire by the age of 30. With an up-by-the-bootstraps mentality, he paints the picture of his various jobs with a broad brush and brief detail. He leaves little doubt that he was resourceful and creative in pursuing an income in Florida and elsewhere, and that he survived a few drug-related legal scrapes along the way. His wife, Linda, was instrumental in bringing him to her native state of Iowa, where he began to launch his dream of a horse ranch.
After the murders, though, Snedeker’s fortunes took a turn for the worse. The drug stories, the negative publicity, and the media accounts of the horrific crime took their toll, and Snedeker says lenders began to immediately call his business loan notes due. Forced to sell the land and most of his holdings, Snedeker says he was financially ruined as a result of the crime.
Hal Snedeker still lives and works in the Des Moines area, and says he has plans to write his own book. If and when it is published, the book probably won’t contain much information about John Vansice, one of the main persons of interest in the Jodi Huisentruit story. I’ll have more about that angle in a future post.