John Snyder Jr. (courtesy Globe Gazette)

John Joseph Snyder Jr.

Homicide

John J. Snyder Jr.
20 months old
10 S. Adams Ave., Apt. 1
Mason City, IA
Cerro Gordo County
July 20, 1994

 

LATEST UPDATES

Mason City attorney found in contempt

July 30, 2014

MASON CITY — A judge has ordered Mason City public defender Letitia Turner to pay a fine after she was found in contempt of court during the Michael Cisneros murder trial.

Turner, along with Steven Kloberdanz, represented Cisneros, who was accused of first-degree murder in the 1994 death of 20-month-old John Snyder Jr.

Cisneros was found not guilty by a Cerro Gordo County District Court jury July 14.

District Judge DeDra Schroeder, who presided over the trial, found Turner in contempt of court July 8, and on July 30 ordered Turner to pay a $400 fine, according to a July 30 article on the Globe Gazette’s web site.

According to court proceedings, the issue of polygraph tests was not to be discussed in front of the jury because they are not admissible in Iowa courts and thought to be unreliable. When Turner cross-examined the boy’s father, John Snyder Sr. on July 8, she asked him about a 1994 polygraph test he’d taken, knowing full well her question would immediately force Judge Schroeder to end that line of questioning.

Turner’s subterfuge may have misled jurors into believing Snyder Sr. failed the polygraph, because after her duplicitous question brought the issue to an abrupt end, the boy’s father — whom the defense blatantly tried to prosecute — could not tell the court/jury members he’d passed the polygraph.


Cisneros acquitted in child’s death

July 14, 2014

MASON CITY, Iowa — It took less than three hours for eight men and four women to return the verdict in Michael Cisneros’ murder trial: not guilty, the Cerro Gordo County jurors decided. Read the Globe Gazette’s full story, published Monday, July 14, 2014.

Cisneros, 38, formerly of Mason City, was charged with first-degree murder in the July 1994 death of 20-month-old John Snyder Jr.

michael-jason-cisneros-150pxCourtesy photo Globe Gazette
Michael Jason Cisneros

Officials arrested Cisneros in July 2013 after a DNA match between his DNA profile and blood found on the boy’s pajama bottoms came up on a statewide database.

“Little John,” as referenced during the trial, was reported missing about 8:20 a.m. July 20, 1994, by his father, John Snyder Sr., from the South Adams Avenue apartment where the tot and his father lived.

A search-and-rescue dog found the boy’s dead body the following day, snagged on a branch in nearby Willow Creek.

State Medical Examiner Tom Bennett ruled cause of death as drowning, but said the child sustained severe head injuries — including a fractured skull, fractured jawbone, and bruises and a cut to his lower lip — prior to being dumped alive in the creek.

Despite solid DNA evidence and testimony placing Cisneros in the Snyders’ apartment prior to the murder, the defense succeeded in raising reasonable doubt by shifting suspicion for the crime to Snyder Sr.

No evidence existed to tie the boy’s father to the crime.

According to investigators, the five blood samples taken from little John’s pajama bottoms all matched Cisneros’ DNA profile, and the probability that the blood belonged to anyone else was fewer than one in one hundred billion. 

The jury received the case about 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 14, 2014, following 10 days of testimony spread over three weeks and one day.

The verdict came just six days shy of the 20th anniversary of John Snyder Jr.’s murder.

In a July 15 interview with KIMT-TV Channel 3, Snyder Sr. expressed his frustration over the verdict and said the jury failed his son ‘by not looking at the facts.’


Snyder Sr. expresses frustration over verdict, KIMT Channel 3, July 15, 2014

Visit the globegazette.com and KIMT.com for detailed articles about the trial.


Defense continues efforts to raise ‘Reasonable Doubt’

July 11, 2014

The defense spent much of Friday, July 11, 2014, centering on John Snyder Sr.’s behavior and demeanor, the Globe Gazette reported, calling to the witness stand an ex-girlfriend, an in-home day care provider and a specialist in child abuse pediatrics in efforts to raise reasonable doubt by shifting suspicion for the murder from Cisneros to Snyder Sr.

Earlier in the day, retired Mason City Police Officer Jay Lee testified about being one of the first officers on scene the day John Jr. disappeared, and described Snyder Sr. as “crying” and “very concerned, very distraught, but not what I would call overly (distraught) as in acting.”

Read the full story at the Globe Gazette


Murder trial prosecution rests; defense to begin

July 10, 2014 — (Courtesy the Globe Gazette)

MASON CITY | The mother of the toddler drowned in Willow Creek in 1994 told of her tempestuous relationship with the boy’s father and her wish to be with her child, during testimony Thursday in the Michael Cisneros murder trial.

The defense began presenting its case Thursday afternoon.

The state rested its case about 11 a.m. Thursday. The defense then asked for the judge to grant a motion for acquittal.

Attorney Steven Kloberdanz told the court, “The evidence is insufficient to show that the defendant struck or otherwise harmed the victim or placed the victim in the river.”

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Douglas Hammerand said Cisneros’ blood was present on the boy’s pajama bottoms, tying him to the murder.

Schroeder reserved a decision on the motion, telling the defense to proceed with its case.

Read the Globe Gazette’s full story


Jury hears tape of Cisneros interview with police

July 9, 2014 — (Courtesy the Globe Gazette)

Michael Cisneros repeatedly denied any involvement in the death of a toddler nearly 20 years ago in an audio tape played for the jury Wednesday in the former Mason City man’s murder trial.

The eight men and four women spent much of the day listening to the audio tape of an interview conducted with Cisneros by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

Read Globe Gazette reporter Peggy Senzarino’s full story


Dead son’s father begins testimony as murder trial resumes

July 7, 2014 — (Courtesy the Globe Gazette)

The Michael Cisneros murder trial entered its third week on Monday, July 7, 2014, and included testimony by the boy’s father, John Snyder Sr., and several witnesses who dissected Snyder Sr.’s behavior both before and after his son’s July 1994 disappearance and death.

john-snyder-sr-globe-gazette-7-8-2014Courtesy photo Arian Schuessler, The Globe Gazette
John Snyder Sr. testifies Monday, July 7, 2014, in Michael Cisneros’ first-degree murder trial.

Retired Iowa DCI agent Dan Ramaeker said Snyder was the only suspect in the murder of his son until a DNA match with Cisneros was discovered in 2013.

The defense is trying to raise reasonable doubt by attempting to shift the focus to Snyder and his possible involvement in the child’s death.

A recess last week in the murder trial led to the discovery of more than 2,000 documents, photographs and cassette tapes of interviews connected to the case.

Read Globe Gazette reporter Peggy Senzarino’s full story


PREVIOUS UPDATE

After two days of questioning, a jury was seated Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in the Michael Cisneros murder trial. The panel of eight men and four women was sworn in about 4:30 p.m., according to the Globe Gazette. Four alternates also were selected.

Testimony began at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 25, 2014.

Mason City police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation arrested and charged Cisneros in July 2013 after a DNA sample connected him to the toddler’s murder.

On December 19, 2012, Michael Cisneros had been transported to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale. Under Iowa law, Cisneros, as a convicted felon, was required to provide a DNA sample for entry in the DNA database known as CODIS, according to Mason City Police Chief Mike Lashbrook.

On January 30, 2013, a search of CODIS turned up a match between the DNA sample submitted by Cisneros and a profile taken from the little boy’s pajama bottoms.

A warrant for Cisneros’ arrest was issued Friday, July 12, 2013.

In a July 15, 2013 press conference, Lashbrook said police had long considered Cisneros a person of interest in the case.

Cisneros entered a not-guilty plea in Cerro Gordo County District Court on Monday, August 5, 2013, and waived his right to a speedy trial.

He is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail under a $500,000 cash bond. If convicted in the boy’s death, Cisneros faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Press Conference: DNA sample leads to arrest in John Snyder Jr. murder — July 15, 2013


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

Twenty-month-old John Joseph Snyder Jr., the son of John Snyder Sr. and Lisa Sellman, was reported as missing from his father’s 10 S. Adams Avenue Mason City apartment on Wednesday morning, July 20, 1994. The blond-haired, blue-eyed toddler was found dead in Willow Creek the following day.

Courtesy photo Jeff Heinz/The Globe Gazette
Doug Carnall of Snell’s Ambulance Service carries the body of John Snyder Jr. from Willow Creek two days after the boy disappeared from his home. At back is Mason City police officer Jay Lee.

After tornado sirens went off the night before, John Snyder Sr. said he briefly went outside to look at the storm passing through. Back inside, while Snyder stayed up to watch a little television, John Jr. fell asleep in his father’s bed.

Before retiring himself around 11:15 p.m., Snyder said he lifted his son and then tucked the boy into his own bed.

The next morning at approximately 8 a.m., Snyder got up to go to the bathroom and then went to check on John Jr.

His 20-month-old son was gone.

Didn’t Hear Anything

Snyder said he didn’t hear anything after he’d gone to bed that night, but that in the morning he’d found a blue blanket in the apartment’s hallway.

searching-for-john-snyderCourtesy photo Jeff Heinz/The Globe Gazette
Officials search Willow Creek for the body of John Snyder, Jr.

Police searched surrounding areas on Wednesday, and found the toddler’s blue pajama bottoms and his diaper by Willow Creek about two blocks south of the Snyder home.

Thursday morning around 10 a.m., searchers using dogs discovered the young boy’s body snagged on a tree stump near Willow Creek’s north bank, about one-half mile downstream from where the tot’s clothing had been found.

“Why did I have to put him back in his bed?” a tearful Snyder, Sr., the boy’s primary caretaker, told police.

Cerro Gordo County
Cerro Gordo County in Iowa
Mason City
Mason City in
Cerro Gordo County

State Medical Examiner Tom Bennett said the child drowned, but had sustained severe head injuries — including a fractured skull and fractured jawbone, bruises and a cut to his lower lip — prior to his drowning.

Snyder Sr. — who had never been married to the boy’s mother, Lisa Sellman — was in the process of seeking full custody of his son. He did not have a current address for Sellman and already had begun the Public Notice process.

According to the toddler’s grandmother, Kay Snyder of Mason City, Lisa Sellman had recently moved to Illinois from Arizona.

John Snyder Sr. said police located Sellman in either Las Vegas or Arizona within a day or two of their son’s disappearance, but said he is unsure as to how or under what circumstances she was located.

Frank Stearns

Frank Stearns (Courtesy photo Globe Gazette)

Efforts Re-Doubled

In a Globe Gazette story published June 18, 2000, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd of the Mason City Police Department said police interviewed suspects in connection with the Snyder baby’s death, but were never able to prove who did it.

Vande Weerd began researching four unsolved cases in early 2000, including the John Snyder Jr. murder. He assigned officers to work each case on a regular basis, asking them to re-interview witnesses, family members and any others that had been involved with the case.

Vande Weerd contacted retired police officers who’d worked the cases, but despite the painstaking work rummaging through boxes of old files and revisiting earlier contacts, none of the four cases — which also included Andy Hatges, Elgin Strait and Dillon Luna — were ever solved.

Jim Fountas

Jim Fountas (Courtesy photo Globe Gazette)

Ten years later, in a Globe Gazette article published June 27, 2010, Mason City Police Lt. Frank Stearns said the department continued to try and find something they could pick up from a cold case file and move forward with it.

Jim Fountas, a former Mason City police officer who worked the Snyder case and also helped search for the baby, retired in August 1994 after 30 years in law enforcement but told the Gazette that having a case go cold affects not only the victim’s family and friends, but law enforcement as well.

“You always feel bad,” Fountas told the Gazette. “You’d like to solve everything, but that’s almost impossible.”

Arrest made 19 years after murder

On Monday, July 15, 2013, Mason City police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation held a press conference stating that Michael Jason Cisneros, 37, formerly of Mason City, had been charged with first-degree murder in John Snyder Jr.’s death.

Michael Cisneros (jail photo)

Michael Cisneros (jail photo)

Officials were able to link Cisneros to the crime via DNA analysis.

According to a Globe Gazette story published online that same day, DNA analysis on the collected evidence was not done in 1994 because the technology was not yet available.

On Dec. 2, 2002, police submitted evidence associated with the case and were able to obtain DNA results, which were retained as part of the case file.

On Dec. 19, 2012, Michael Cisneros was transported to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale. Under Iowa law, Cisneros, as a convicted felon, was required to provide a DNA sample for entry in the DNA database known as CODIS, according to Mason City Police Chief Mike Lashbrook.

DCI special agent Mike Krapfl said samples are submitted to the criminalistics laboratory where DNA profiles are developed. The profiles, Krapfl said, are then compared to the forensic database that contains samples from crime scenes in the hopes that a match will eventually occur.

On Jan. 30, 2013, a search of CODIS turned up a match between the DNA sample submitted by Cisneros and the profile taken from the boy’s pajama bottoms.

A warrant for Cisneros’ arrest was issued Friday, July 12, 2013.

Lashbrook said Cisneros was a person of interest over the years who’d been looked at by police. He credited the officers who worked the case in 1994.

“Was it not for their hard work back in 1994, it would not be possible to bring justice to this little boy,” Lashbrook said in the July 15, 2013 Gazette article. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Snyder family. I know this is something that has been a big part of their lives for the past 19 years and hopefully there will be some closure.”

Cisneros was held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail under a $500,000 cash bond.

In a separate Globe Gazette article dated July 15, 2013, former Mason City Police Chief Duane Jewell — the chief of police when John Snyder Jr.’s body was found in 1994 — said he was stunned when told about the arrest in the case.

“Wow,” he said, “that’s hard to believe. I was just out at the cemetery yesterday and I saw a relative of the little boy putting flowers on his grave. We chatted for a few minutes. And now this comes up today.”

Cisneros’ preliminary hearing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday, July 26, 2013, in Cerro Gordo County District Court.

Murder suspect fears for safety in jail

According to a Globe Gazette article dated July 26, 2013, Cisneros apparently told his family he is afraid for his safety in jail.

Cisneros’ sister, Melissa School Boudreaux wrote a letter to the court stating that her brother told his mother Irene he was threatened verbally at the jail. Boudreaux asked that her brother be taken out of general population and placed in a private cell for his safety.

Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals said he couldn’t comment on any specific threats, but said Cisneros was being housed according to his present classification — determined by factors such as his current charge, prior violent criminal history, assault history, escape history, disciplinary history and suicidal review. That score, the Gazette reported, is merged with concerns about any known enemies in the facility, witnesses, informants, gang members, racial bias, mental condition and medical/physical impairments.

Pals said inmates facing murder charges are not housed in the general population.

The paper also reported:

Trial information filed Friday by Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen alleges the child was killed “willfully, deliberately and with premeditation” or was killed as a result of Cisneros committing a forcible felony, child endangerment resulting in serious injury.

District Judge DeDra Schroeder has been selected to preside in the case.

Cisneros pleads ‘not guilty,’ trial continued

On Monday, August 5, 2013, Cisneros entered a “not guilty” plea in Cerro Gordo County District Court. He entered the plea in a written arraignment.

Cisneros had been scheduled to go on trial on Oct. 22, 2013, but waived his right to a speedy trial.

On Oct. 25, 2013, the Globe Gazette announced Cisneros’ trial date was set for February 17, 2014.

In December, Schroeder denied a motion for a change of venue in the case. The defense sought the change of venue because of what they believed was extensive pre-trial publicity about the case and the alleged DNA match that led to Cisneros’ arrest.

On Monday, January 27, 2014, Schroeder continued the trial to June 23.

The Trial — Week One

After two days of questioning, a jury was seated Tuesday, June 24, 2014, in Cisneros’ murder trial. The panel of eight men and four women was sworn in about 4:30 p.m., according to a Globe Gazette article dated June 24, 2014.

Cisneros is being represented by Letitia Turner.

Testimony began Wednesday, June 25, and Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen took the jury through a sketch of the prosecution’s case during opening statements.


Opening statements on child’s condition and relationship to Cisneros, KIMT.com, June 25, 2014

The jury also listened to Snyder Sr.’s 911 call to report his son missing.

According to the Globe Gazette’s June 25 story, police searched the apartment building and back alley but no one had seen the child. The search expanded when a group of teenagers and a counselor from Francis Lauer Youth Services decided to go out and try and find the boy.

They were walking in tall grass along the bank of Willow Creek when one of the boys spotted a diaper and blue pajama bottoms allegedly belonging to Little John.

About 4 p.m. police then called in a search-and-rescue canine — “Charm,” a 4-year-old Newfoundland — and the dog’s handler, Kimberly Pearce Stevens. The dog and Stevens worked throughout the afternoon and evening on July 20. Around 10 a.m. on July 21, the dog found Little John’s body caught on a branch near the dam on Willow Creek. The toddler wore nothing more than a white pajama top.

Dr. Dale Andres, former Cerro Gordo County medical examiner, determined time of death as approximately 1 a.m. July 20. Andrews also testified that a full body X-ray of Snyder Jr. found no evidence of old injuries that could point to child abuse.

The Trial — Week Two

The trial entered its second week on Monday, June 30, with several DNA experts from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation crime lab providing testimony about four blood stains found on a toddler’s blue pajama bottoms.

State Medical Examiner Tom Bennett ruled cause of death as drowning, but said the child sustained severe head injuries — including a fractured skull, fractured jawbone, and bruises and a cut to his lower lip — prior to being dumped alive in the creek.

On Wednesday, July 2, Judge Schroeder sent jurors home for the weekend after controversy arose over 20-year-old crime scene photographs.

The Globe Gazette’s Peggy Senzarino, who has covered the trial since it began, wrote:

A hearing was held prior to the scheduled start of court proceedings Wednesday morning on the motion for a mistrial.

Among the photos at issue are four rolls of film taken by retired Mason City Police Department evidence technician Lowell Willock. He testified Wednesday, June 25, that the film was overexposed and unusable. But that apparently was untrue.

During cross-examination of retired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Dan Ramaeker on Tuesday, July 1, Ramaeker said he had seen the photos. He was responsible for keeping the written logs of the photos taken by Willock.

The jury was sent home early Tuesday and the parties started searching the evidence room at the Mason City Police Department for the photographs.

In resisting the defense motion for a mistrial, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand said the photos in question are very similar to photos already entered into evidence through the testimony of former Cerro Gordo County Medical Examiner Dr. Dale Andres. Andres’ pictures show the area where the child’s body was found hung up on a branch along the creek.

The recess led to the discovery of more than 2,000 documents, photographs and cassette tapes of interviews connected to the case.

dan-ramaeker-retired-ia-dci-snyder-case-globe-gazetteCourtesy Arian Schuessler, The Globe Gazette
Retired IA DCI agent Dan Ramaeker testified Monday, July 7, 2014 in Cisneros’ murder trial.
The Trial — Week Three

The trial entered its third week on Monday, July 7, 2014, and included testimony by the boy’s father, John Snyder Sr., and several witnesses who dissected Snyder Sr.’s behavior both before and after his son’s July 1994 disappearance and death.

Retired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent Dan Ramaeker said Snyder was the only suspect in the murder of his son until a DNA match with Cisneros was discovered in 2013.

The defense is trying to raise reasonable doubt by attempting to shift suspicion for the crime to Snyder Sr.

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Judge Schroeder denied a state request for a mistrial.

According to the Globe Gazette’s July 8 story, the state requested the mistrial due to the defense questioning of John Snyder Sr. about taking a polygraph test. According to court proceedings, that information was not to be discussed in front of the jury.

The defense spent most of Tuesday on its cross-examination of Snyder, including questions about his relationship with former Mason City resident and convicted killer Guy Harvey Baker.

Baker is serving two life sentences for the Aug. 26, 1994 killings of St. Paul, Minn., police officers and their police dog.

chris-callaway-dci-sa-kimtCourtesy photo KIMT.com
DCI Agent Chris Callaway

Snyder testified he and Baker smoked marijuana together.

On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, the jury spent much of the day listening to the audio tape of an interview conducted with Cisneros by DCI agent Chris Callaway and Mason City Police Lt. Frank Stearns on March 7, 2013, at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.

In the audio tape, Cisneros repeatedly denied any involvement in the toddler’s death, according to a Globe Gazette article published July 9, 2014.

When the conversation became more confrontational, Cisneros had told the two men, “I don’t remember some little kid drowning in a river.”

Neither Callaway nor Stearns had mentioned that John Jr. drowned or had been found in a river.


Jury hears Cisneros recorded interview for the first time, KIMT.com, July 9, 2014

During Thursday morning’s testimony, John Jr.’s mother, Lisa Sellman Riedesel, recounted a tempestuous relationship with the boy’s father.

Riedesel said she met Snyder while they both worked at a Waterloo gentleman’s club, the Globe Gazette reported on July 10, 2014.

John Jr. was born in November 1992, and when the couple broke up in the spring of 1993, Snyder took physical custody of the child. Riedesel said she and Snyder Sr. briefly reconciled so she could be closer to her son, but that Snyder Sr. then asked her to leave.

brenda-larson-by-jeff-heinz-globe-gazetteCourtesy photo Jeff Heinz, Globe Gazette
Brenda Larson, with whom John Snyder Sr. “hooked up” a few times in 1994, smashed two glasses against Snyder’s door after he refused to see her anymore or let her son play with Little John. Snyder moved with his son to the Adams Ave. apartment to get away from Larson. Little John was killed two weeks later.

The state rested its case about 11 a.m. Thursday, at which time the defense asked the judge to grant a motion for acquittal.

Schroeder reserved a decision on the motion and told the defense to proceed with its case.

The defense spent much of Friday, July 11, 2014, centering on Snyder Sr.’s behavior and demeanor, the Globe Gazette reported, calling to the witness stand a woman with whom Snyder Sr. had only briefly hooked up, as well as an in-home day care provider and a specialist in child abuse pediatrics.

It didn’t seem to matter that John Jr.’s autopsy report showed no signs of child abuse or neglect, or that Snyder Sr. had relocated to the Adams Ave. apartment two weeks before his son’s death to protect his son from a scorned woman with a vitriolic temper, or that Michael Cisneros — not John Snyder Sr. — was the one on trial after DNA evidence linked Cisneros to the crime.

In the ruse, the defense tried to portray the scantily clad Brenda Larson as Snyder’s “ex-girlfriend” of three months, though Snyder and Larson had only “hooked up” between a three- to four-week period in 1994. Within two weeks of having met Snyder, Larson — a woman in the middle of a divorce who’d been living with her husband in Clear Lake, Iowa — moved into the apartment directly below the unit where Snyder lived with his son.

Snyder refused to let John Jr. play with Larson’s (older) son after the boy pinched John Jr., and Snyder told Larson he never wanted to see her again after she arrived at his apartment door at 6:30 a.m. one Saturday morning after she’d been out all night long. Snyder had retained an attorney in May 1994 to seek sole custody of his son, and didn’t want Larson interfering in their lives.

Snyder said that on the same Saturday morning he’d told Larson to leave them alone, she’d smashed two glasses against his door, knowing full well Snyder’s young child was inside the apartment.

Snyder Sr. had moved with his son to the Adams Ave. apartment in efforts to get away from Larson.

On Sunday, June 22, 2014 — just two weeks and five days before the defense called Larson to the stand on Friday, July 11 to testify about her relationship with Snyder Sr. — Larson had sent Snyder Sr. a “friend request” on Facebook.

During earlier testimony on Friday, retired Mason City Police Officer Jay Lee testified about being one of the first officers on scene the day John Jr. disappeared, and described Snyder Sr. as “crying” and “very concerned, very distraught, but not what I would call overly (distraught) as in acting.”

Concerning Snyder Sr.’s reaction on July 20 after John Jr.’s body was found, Lee described Snyder Sr. as being very distraught and emotional.

Despite the DNA evidence tying Cisneros to the crime, the defense continued to try to raise reasonable doubt by shifting suspicion for the murder from Cisneros to Snyder Sr.

Nowhere was that more apparent than when the defense spent more than two hours questioning Brenda Larsen of Osage, a woman Snyder Sr. briefly dated. By all outward appearances, it could have been a prosecutor questioning a witness — but about the wrong defendant.

As KIMT’s Levi Ismail reported on July 11:

In the more than two hours Larsen was on the stand, not once was Michael Cisneros discussed.

At the close of Friday’s court session, two jurors with prior vacation plans were excused from jury service. The panel had two alternates, leaving 12 remaining jurors.

The Trial — Week Four

The jury received the case about 2:30 p.m. Monday, July 14, following 10 days of testimony spread over three weeks and one day.

It took less than three hours for the eight men and four women to return the verdict: Not Guilty.

Despite solid DNA evidence and testimony placing Cisneros in the Snyders’ apartment prior to the murder, the defense had succeeded in raising reasonable doubt by shifting suspicion for the crime to Snyder Sr.

No evidence existed to tie the boy’s father to the crime.

According to investigators, the blood samples taken from little John’s pajama bottoms — blood that matched Cisneros’ DNA profile — had a fewer than one in one hundred billion probability of matching others who were unrelated.

Read the Globe Gazette’s July 14, 2014 story announcing the verdict.

Visit globegazette.com or KIMT.com for more detailed articles about the trial.


Cisneros found not guilty, KIMT.com, July 14, 2014


Courtesy the Globe Gazette

Courtesy the Globe Gazette

About John Snyder, Jr.

John Joseph Snyder Jr. was born November 13, 1992 to John Snyder Sr. and Lisa Sellman.

He died July 20, 1994 in Mason City, Iowa.

Burial was in Memorial Park Cemetery in Mason City.

Contact Information

Anyone with additional information about John Snyder Jr.’s kidnapping and murder is asked to contact the Mason City Police Department at (641) 421-3636 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at (402) 493-8688.

Sources:

 

Copyright © 2014 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Add a Comment

23 Responses to John Snyder Jr.

  1. Scott Riedesel says:

    My wife is Lisa. And we are looking for the person who is responsible for this Childs death. It seems to me this was no accident but, a murder. If so do you have a suspect and if so why no inditment?

    • Jody Ewing says:

      This announcement literally sucked the breath out of me. I’d just posted John Jr.’s upcoming murder anniversary on the home page’s feature section a couple days ago, and wondered if the person responsible would ever be caught. The arrest reinforces my firm belief that Iowa *must* find a way to reestablish the DCI’s Cold Case Unit. DNA testing — and getting these killers off our streets — has the potential to save so many future lives.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Kim, it was all I could do to keep from crying (tears of joy, obviously) after learning about the arrest in this case. I’ve corresponded with John Snyder, Sr., and can only begin to imagine the relief he’s feeling today. I’m looking forward to reading about further details in this case.

  2. LuAnn says:

    I was just on the Iowa Cold Case website last night and read this case over again. I knew that he was murdered just by the injuries he sustained~~this cold case really touched me, as it hit so close to home~I’m so happy that they found this guy after 19 long years & I hope he serves the maximum & I hope this haunts him for the rest of his life~~My thoughts and prayers go out to John Jr’s family & friends, now they can finally be @ peace and find closure in all of this…..and ‘Lil’ Angel John Jr, can finally be @ peace~~RIP John Jr……

    • Jody Ewing says:

      I agree, LuAnn. Thanks so much for taking time to comment.

      • LuAnn says:

        Your very welcome Jody~~I’m on this site alot @ night~~It would be nice if more Cold Cases would be solved…..Hopefully they will be…..

        • LuAnn says:

          I was also going to say that my oldest son had just turned 3 in June of 1994, so John Jr, would have been a year younger then my son & I really don’t remember hearing about this case..Even though I don’t know the family, it still kind of becomes personal(because of reading the cases on this site) and you just feel for the families of these victims, and also the ones that are still missing…Like I said before it hit close to home as Im about 45 miles away from Mason City and I have family that lives in Mason City. It just tears me into pieces because John Jr’s life was robbed from him…it’s just so unfair…

          I hope law enforcement will work even harder on these cold cases and solve them like in this case…I know it all takes time, but hopefully more will be solved…….

  3. DeeAnn says:

    I do not understand how a jury found Cisneros not guilty when his DNA was found on the boy’s clothing. I just do not understand what those jurors were thinking!

  4. sam says:

    I don’t think Cisneros did it at all. I think John Snyder Sr did it and everything points to him.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Sam, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that points to John Snyder Sr., and if there were, police would have arrested him years ago. ALL evidence pointed to Michael Cisneros, including the five blood spots on little John’s pajama bottoms that matched Cisneros’ DNA profile. The sheer amount of information left out of this trial is mind-boggling. The defense didn’t even “defend” Cisneros; they simply played mind games with the jury to shift suspicion to Snyder Sr. and create “reasonable doubt.”

      Cisneros’ mother had kicked him out of her home the night John Jr. vanished, and detectives placed him in the Snyders’ neighborhood that same night. Snyder Sr. had just recently moved with his son to the new apt. because a woman he had briefly dated had twice smashed glass against his former home’s door after he’d broken things off with her, and Snyder Sr. didn’t want her violent behavior terrorizing his son.

      Projection (in this case, transferring emotions and character deficits to another person) flooded the courtroom in tidal waves, carrying away cold hard facts and common sense in a sea of waste. There’s a reason the defense shifted suspicion to Snyder Sr. — because they had absolutely nothing concrete with which to defend their own client.

    • Katrina Gavin says:

      I am with you on that 100%.

  5. Katrina Gavin says:

    Unless you were in the courtroom, day after day, listening to the testimony of all the experts, a person would conclude, the defendant had no part in this crime.

    Unless you had the copies of the depositions, reviews of the case facts, reviews of all interviews of every witness in 1994, the defendant was never brought up in any of those conversations.

    The DNA was never in question on who it belongs to. How it appeared, where it was, you don’t know the circumstances for how it came incontact yet people wanna pretend they know the facts when they clearly do not.

    Everyone is going to have their opinions, favorable or not.

    The jury sat through all that yet sided with the defendant.

    The local newspapers and television picked and chose what to report day after day and got a lot of those facts incorrect.

    I never saw such bad reporting on the part of Globe Gazette and KIMT.

    I do however, want to commend the prosecuters for putting their own witnesses up there that did nothing but assist the defense. Their own witnesses pointed the finger at the fake dad.

    Lets not forget, john sr. Is NOT the biological father of this child.

    Where was he for the past 20 years? How come you never heard him try to find who did this in the past 20 years? As soon as he was able, he put Iowa in his rearview and never brought up the child again. Least of all not to law enforcement.

    • Andrea Lea Olmanson says:

      So bloody what, Katrina, if John Sr. is not the biological father of the child? Your comment is a slap in the face of every adoptive parent who truly loves their child(ren).

      • Jody Ewing says:

        Well said, Andrea, and so very true. (Not to mention that John Snyder Sr. didn’t even know John Jr. wasn’t his biological son until almost two decades after his son’s death.) For Katrina to surreptitiously imply “motive” with the paternity issue is, in a word, shameful.

  6. John Snyder Sr. says:

    Katrina & Sam:

    Obviously, you have never had a child kidnapped from your home, and subsequently murdered. Sam, Jody’s response to your comment is spot on, and what pointed to me? I lived there, and called the police? Katrina, not sure if you were in the courtroom, but what the media reports is solely up to them. It is not always favorable for any party at any point. They are not the jury. What you unfortunately do not realize is that finding out who did this is all I was truly concerned about over the last 20 yrs., and if you are in law enforcement you would know where I was and what I was doing. What I did know is that John’s killer was out there and capable of hurting another person or child. Everything I learned about what happened to John occurred the day I heard the closing arguments. That is all I needed to hear. Whatever the defense was saying had nothing to do with a logical defense for this guy and nothing to do with the case whatsoever. Anyone can randomly throw out what ifs to create reasonable doubt, but Cisneros was in there on the Holy Grail of cold case evidence.

    He had knowledge of my apartment, because a friend of mine referred me to a Mike Cisneros to buy weed. He had come over one time when I had just moved in to that place to have me try some weed for when I wanted to buy some. That’s it.

    The witnesses (you mean the one who sent me a friend request on Facebook June 22, 2014 five days after I got back to town)?? — I had retained an attorney in May 1994 prior to John’s disappearance and paid a retainer in order obtain sole custody — FACT with proof. Who would ask a barfly to adopt their child when seeking sole custody? Who?? She was in the middle of a divorce when I met her, she moved into an apartment directly below me with two weeks of us meeting (she had been living with her husband in Clear Lake. — FACT I refused to let John play with her son any longer after John was pinched by him who was slightly older. — FACT Our last communication was when she came to my apartment at 6:30am on a Saturday morning after being out all night with none other than the person who in the past few days was found passed out behind a North End Mason City bar. I told her to get lost, and never come over again. She proceeded to smash two glasses on my door. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do knowing there is a little baby living in that apartment. — FACT I then decided to move to 10 S. Adams. Her original statement was that we knew each other (we did not ‘date’…we hooked up) about 3-4 weeks…consistent with what I said at that time and what I said 20 yrs later. All of sudden on the stand it became 3 months. FACT
    Enough of B. Larsen’s fiasco…her testimony in one word…PERJURY.

    I worked two jobs, and went to school, so for an ex-babysitter to claim I left John for three days on end is another, in any other word, laughable. I have too many family members and others who all loved John. If this were the case I would have caught Holy Hell from them, and where would ANYONE disappear for three days in Mason City? I worked as a bartender and would get off late. This person charged an additional fee for overnight which was convenient for her & me, as to not disrupt her home day car at 12am – 2am when I got off work. Enough about these people since the trial was not about John might have had something to do with it. Both these two now can live with the fact that they contributed to allowing a baby killer to go free out of spite.

    My biggest question(s) will always be: How did he happen to end up in the location of the pajama bottoms in the middle of that night, relieve himself (pee), and conveniently was near the pj’s to wipe hands off? Now, the blood was not smeared…it was drops. Wiping causes smearing. Pee, is not blood. There was no urine found on the bottoms. Any man, Sam, can we consider yourself one of these??, when urinating (especially in the dark, in the middle of the night) does not go looking for something to wipe their hands off with… a simple brush of the pant leg does the trick. He fought giving DNA for something he “knew nothing about”…he knew nothing about “a baby drowning in a river”. When I heard that part of the recording you could tell he about swallowed his heart. I ran to the hospital at the beginning to give my samples for elimination purposes. If he had nothing to worry about what was the issue?

    We could go on about this ad infinitum, but it will still not change the verdict. I have true faith this guy will end up hurting someone again in his life. My focus now is work to prevent juries from sleeping on the job (yes, a few were seen actually nodding off) and using any probability in the world to combat logic, and pure cold facts.

  7. John Snyder says:

    Katrina & Sam:

    Obviously, you have never had a child kidnapped from your home, and subsequently murdered. Sam, Jody’s response to your comment is spot on, and what pointed to me? I lived there, and called the police? Katrina, not sure if you were in the courtroom, but what the media reports is solely up to them. It is not always favorable for any party at any point. They are not the jury. What you unfortunately do not realize is that finding out who did this is all I was truly concerned about over the last 20 yrs., and if you are in law enforcement you would know where I was and what I was doing. What I did know is that John’s killer was out there and capable of hurting another person or child. Everything I learned about what happened to John occurred the day I heard the closing arguments. That is all I needed to hear. Whatever the defense was saying had nothing to do with a logical defense for this guy and nothing to do with the case whatsoever. Anyone can randomly throw out what ifs to create reasonable doubt, but Cisneros was in there on the Holy Grail of cold case evidence.

    He had knowledge of my apartment, because a friend of mine referred me to a Mike Cisneros to buy weed. He had come over one time when I had just moved in to that place to have me try some weed for when I wanted to buy some. That’s it.

    The witnesses (you mean the one who sent me a friend request on Facebook June 22, 2014 five days after I got back to town)?? — I had retained an attorney in May 1994 prior to John’s disappearance and paid a retainer in order obtain sole custody — FACT with proof. Who would ask a barfly to adopt their child when seeking sole custody? Who?? She was in the middle of a divorce when I met her, she moved into an apartment directly below me with two weeks of us meeting (she had been living with her husband in Clear Lake. — FACT I refused to let John play with her son any longer after John was pinched by him who was slightly older. — FACT Our last communication was when she came to my apartment at 6:30am on a Saturday morning after being out all night with none other than the person who in the past few days was found passed out behind a North End Mason City bar. I told her to get lost, and never come over again. She proceeded to smash two glasses on my door. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do knowing there is a little baby living in that apartment. — FACT I then decided to move to 10 S. Adams. Her original statement was that we knew each other (we did not ‘date’…we hooked up) about 3-4 weeks…consistent with what I said at that time and what I said 20 yrs later. All of sudden on the stand it became 3 months. FACT
    Enough of B. Larsen’s fiasco…her testimony in one word…PERJURY.

    I worked two jobs, and went to school, so for an ex-babysitter to claim I left John for three days on end is another, in any other word, laughable. I have too many family members and others who all loved John. If this were the case I would have caught Holy Hell from them, and where would ANYONE disappear for three days in Mason City? I worked as a bartender and would get off late. This person charged an additional fee for overnight which was convenient for her & me, as to not disrupt her home day car at 12am – 2am when I got off work. Enough about these people since the trial was not about John might have had something to do with it. Both these two now can live with the fact that they contributed to allowing a baby killer to go free out of spite.

    My biggest question(s) will always be: How did he happen to end up in the location of the pajama bottoms in the middle of that night, relieve himself (pee), and conveniently was near the pj’s to wipe hands off? Now, the blood was not smeared…it was drops. Wiping causes smearing. Pee, is not blood. There was no urine found on the bottoms. Any man, Sam, can we consider yourself one of these??, when urinating (especially in the dark, in the middle of the night) does not go looking for something to wipe their hands off with… a simple brush of the pant leg does the trick. He fought giving DNA for something he “knew nothing about”…he knew nothing about “a baby drowning in a river”. When I heard that part of the recording you could tell he about swallowed his heart. I ran to the hospital at the beginning to give my samples for elimination purposes. If he had nothing to worry about what was the issue?

    We could go on about this ad infinitum, but it will still not change the verdict. I have true faith this guy will end up hurting someone again in his life. My focus now is work to prevent juries from sleeping on the job (yes, a few were seen actually nodding off) and using any probability in the world to combat logic, and pure cold facts.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      John, thank you so much for sharing the facts about this case with our readers. I still don’t understand why the jury overlooked DNA blood spots that were “not smeared,” or why they didn’t question the fact that no urine was found on the pajama bottoms Cisneros said he used to “wipe his hands” after urinating.

      One question people repeatedly ask us regarding many of the unsolved crimes on ICC is “With so much evidence already known, why hasn’t so-and-so been charged and tried for murder?” Sadly, even with mountains of evidence against the offender (including irrefutable DNA linking the suspect to the crime), savvy criminal defense attorneys have become masters of disguise when it comes to creating reasonable doubt with juries who, all too frequently, are blinded by all the smoke and mirrors.

      John Jr., and you, deserved better. One has to wonder — how long before jurors realize they’ve been “victimized” by the defense?

  8. DeeAnn says:

    Mr. Snyder, please accept my deepest condolences. As a mother and grandmother I can’t even imagine what you have gone through all of these years. I am so sorry that you and your little boy did not receive any justice.

    • John Snyder Sr. says:

      I really appreciate that…since the arrest I truly believed we would. Talk about a surprise ending. Obviously, for reasons of a higher authority it did not turn out how we expected. I feel it is a decision meant to have ramifications beyond this case.

  9. Krystal says:

    You people who are spewing your opinions and pointing fingers at the father need to remember one thing. This was a cold case that yielded an arrest ONLY when DNA evidence was entered into CODIS of a criminal going into the prison system. If he had never gone into the prison system, his DNA would have never been made available and there never would have even been a trial. Twenty years passed and it was DNA that caught the man responsible. DNA does NOT lie! Irregardless of what some attorney says in a courtroom to create reasonable doubt, DNA is complete and total truth!

  10. Michelle says:

    Dear Mr. Snyder – after reading this whole article and the only word I can come up with is unbelievable. How a panel of 12 jurors could come back with a not guilty verdict is just not comprehensible to me. The only thing that should mattered is the DNA found on your sons pajama bottoms. And to hear you say that some of the jurors were falling asleep during the trial just boggles the mind. Why did the judge not stop the trial and replace these jurors?? This man has gotten away with murder. My heart bleeds for you. I can only hope that there is a God and he will receive his final judgment. I pray you find peace and know that there are those of us who absolutely believe you had nothing to do with this.

Leave a Reply