NEWTON, Iowa — Attorneys for a woman accused in a 1983 double murder in Jasper County were able to get her bond reduced at a hearing Tuesday.
Fifty-four-year-old Theresa Supino is charged with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of her estranged husband, 20-year-old Steven Fisher, and his new girlfriend 17-year-old Melisa Gregory.
The badly beaten bodies of Fisher and Gregory were found at the Copper Dollar Ranch in rural Jasper County.
Supino was charged with the murders in March.
At the pre-trial hearing a judge declined to rule on a change of venue motion because the proper documentation wasn’t included by the defense. The judge did reduce Supino’s bond from $400,000 to $300,000.
Because of the amount of evidence that will need to be reviewed in the case, the earliest a trial date could be set is January of 2015.
PREVIOUS UPDATE — Victim’s Wife Charged in 1983 Murders
Monday, March 3, 2014
Courtesy WHO-TV and findjodi.com
In a press conference held Monday, March 3, 2014, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office announced that the estranged wife of one of the Copper Dollar Ranch murder victims had been arrested and charged in the case.
Theresa “Terri” Supino, 53, was arrested March 3, 2014 at her Altoona apartment and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
The arrest came exactly 31 years to the day since Steven Fisher, 20, and Melisa Gregory, 17, were found brutally slain at a horse ranch northwest of Newton, Iowa. According to WHO-TV Channel 13, Supino was married to Fisher at the time, though the couple, who had two children, were separated and Fisher had been dating Melisa Gregory.
Altoona police and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office arrived Monday morning at Supino’s 405 8th Street apartment, and according to neighbor Travis Cunningham, knocked on the door and stated they had a warrant for Supino’s arrest before busting in.
“When I came out, I saw one of those battering rams and it said DEA,” Cunningham is quoted as saying in a KCCI article published shortly after the arrest.
Jasper County in Iowa
Supino remains in the Jasper County Jail in lieu of a $400,000 bond.
In 1983, Supino was known as Theresa Fisher, Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said in a Des Moines Register story published March 3, 2014.
“For the last 31 years, the deaths of Steven and Melisa have weighed heavy on the Fisher and Gregory families, this sheriff’s office and many in Jasper County,” Halferty said. “Since the bodies of Steven and Melisa were discovered, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the Newton Police Department, the Jasper County Attorney’s Office, the Office of the State Medical Examiner and the Division of Criminal Investigation, have continued to work to bring justice for Steven and Melisa.”
Supino entered a written plea of not guilty on Monday, March 10, 2014. A trial date has not yet been set.
WHO-TV Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck reports on the arrest, includes original video footage from crime.
Airdate: March 5, 2014
Steven Fisher and girlfriend Melisa Gregory were found bludgeoned to death at the Copper Dollar Ranch northwest of Newton, Iowa, in Jasper County on March 3, 1983. The attack’s sheer brutality initially led police to believe the pair had been shot in their heads.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines
Officials remove the bodies from the crime scene.
“Just the amount of blood… I don’t think the people who reported it realized that somebody could be injured that badly without being shot or something,” (then) Jasper County Sheriff Mike Balmer told WHO-TV Channel 13‘s Aaron Brilbeck for an update on the case that aired May 6, 2011. “I think that’s the original reason it came out as a gunshot case till we got there and actually looked at the scene and realized … these people had been bludgeoned to death.”
The Copper Dollar Ranch — located at West 48th Street North about a quarter-mile north of Hwy F36 West and about four miles northwest of Newton — was a horse ranch where Harold Snedeker and Alan Shad, both of Newton, raised quarter horses and Appaloosas.
[The late] foreman Jeff Illingworth arrived at the ranch shortly before 8 a.m. on March 3 and discovered the body of Steven Fisher, who also worked at the ranch, lying face down on the ground near the barn and a camper, wearing only blue jeans and covered in blood.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV
Melisa Gregory’s mother, Ida Reynolds, wants answers. Steven Fisher’s mother, Thelma Fisher, died in January 2011 still waiting for them.
Illingworth immediately checked inside the trailer, where he discovered Melisa Gregory’s body. Illingworth ran to a neighboring home and contacted authorities.
Illingworth and the homeowner then returned to the ranch to wait for law enforcement officials. Illingworth’s brother was married to Fisher’s sister, and the two were close friends.
Authorities confirmed the identity of the victims through dental records and fingerprints, and autopsy reports stated that both Fisher and Gregory died from massive head injuries.
According to a Newton Daily News article written by Mandi Lamb and published on March 3, 2008, Melisa’s mother, Ida Reynolds, and sister, Lisa Gregory, said they learned through television news reports that a couple had been killed at the Copper Dollar Ranch, and Melisa’s brother Scott said he heard the news through a friend’s brother before any were informed of Melisa’s death by investigators.
Courtesy Newton High School
Theresa “Terri” Supino
At the time of his death, Fisher was still married to Theresa “Terri” Supino and the couple had two young children, though Fisher and Supino had been separated for several months prior to the homicides. Fisher began dating Gregory after separating from his wife.
In a Newton Daily News article published September 15, 2009, Terri Supino announced her plans to write a book featuring facts, opinions and theories about the unsolved murders. She encouraged local residents who had any information about the murder to contact her at an email address she’d set up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attack wasn’t ‘random’
Jasper County Attorney Steve Johnson acknowledged there was some known drug activity in the area, but said he personally believed the murders were “up close and personal.”
Police and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office agreed that they didn’t believe drugs were a factor, and were certain the attack wasn’t random.
An FBI profiler profiled the case, said Balmer, who worked as a deputy when the crime occurred. “It was definitely a crime of passion. Someone that was angry,” he said.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Then-Jasper County Sheriff Mike Balmer (shown here in 2011) was a deputy when the murders occurred.
Balmer told Channel 13 they followed up on dozens of leads but met nothing but dead ends.
“We were able to track and trace the victims’ travels that night … what they’d done, what they’d seen, who they talked to,” he said.
Gregory’s family members — who also met with Brilbeck for WHO TV’s May 2011 story — said Melisa was funny and warm, loved animals and her family.
Twenty-eight years after her murder, her brother Scott and sister Lisa still had trouble talking about what happened.
“She would have loved being around my girls, and my sister’s boys,” Lisa said. “She missed out on having a family of her own.”
The girls’ little sister, Tanna, is the spitting image of Melisa, said Lisa Gregory.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Melisa Gregory’s sister, Lisa (left) and brother Scott (next to Lisa) talk to Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck about what the years have been like since their sister’s murder.
The family said they wanted anyone who knew what happened to come forward to give not just the family some peace, but closure to the killer as well.
“It’s like, how can they live with themselves 24/7 for what they’ve done?” said Melisa’s brother, Scott Gregory.
Steven Fisher’s mother, Thelma Fisher, died just a few months before WHO TV’s story aired, but Balmer said the murder bothered her throughout her whole life.
“Every day she thought about her son,” Balmer said.
WHO-TV made attempts to contact Terri Supino for the 2011 story but said they received no response.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Melisa Gregory (third from right) came from a large, loving family.
“You know it’s gonna come down to an interview and someone admitting what they did,” said Balmer. “Someone’s conscience is gonna get the best of them. Someone may be terminally ill at some point in their life. But this office is never gonna give this case up.”
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, the murders of Melisa Gregory and Steven Fisher were two of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA technology.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continued to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads developed or as technological advances allowed for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
In November 2012, John Halferty was elected as Jasper County’s new sheriff.
The sheriff’s office and the DCI’s determination to solve the case eventually paid off.
Courtesy photo KCRG
Theresa “Terri” Supino was arrested March 3, 2014, and charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Melisa Gregory, 17, and Supino’s then-husband, Steven Fisher, 20.
Fisher’s estranged wife arrested
On Monday, March 3, 2014 — exactly 31 years to the day when Melisa and Steven’s bodies were found — the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference to announce they’d arrested Fisher’s estranged wife, Terri Supino, and charged her with two counts of first-degree murder.
Altoona police and the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office arrived Monday morning at Supino’s 405 8th Street Altoona apartment and, according to neighbor Travis Cunningham, knocked on the door and stated they had a warrant for Supino’s arrest before busting in.
“When I came out, I saw one of those battering rams and it said DEA,” Cunningham is quoted as saying in a KCCI story airing shortly after the arrest.
Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty (Courtesy Jasper County Sheriff’s Office)
“For the last 31 years, the deaths of Steven and Melisa have weighed heavy on the Fisher and Gregory families, this sheriff’s office and many in Jasper County,” Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said in a Des Moines Register article published Monday, March 3. “Since the bodies of Steven and Melisa were discovered, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the Newton Police Department, the Jasper County Attorney’s Office, the Office of the State Medical Examiner and the Division of Criminal Investigation, have continued to work to bring justice for Steven and Melisa.”
Halferty said the arrest of Ms. Supino “does not end this investigation,” though declined to say what new evidence broke open the cold case. Halferty thanked the Newton Police Department, the Jasper County Attorney’s Office, the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s office and the Iowa DCI for their assistance in the investigation.
Supino is being held in the Jasper County Jail on a $400,000 bond.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV
Family members say Melisa Gregory, shown here, was funny and warm, loved animals and her family.
A candlelight vigil held that night in Newton — already scheduled to mark the anniversary of Gregory’s and Fisher’s death — went ahead as planned, and a March 4 Des Moines Register story said about 50 people braved the frigid temperatures to attend.
“There’s what’s called forgiveness, and I’ve done that,” Melisa Gregory’s sister, Lisa Gregory, 50, told the Register. “And we’re glad justice could be done… On the other hand, there are now other families that are in mourning as well.”
During the vigil, Melisa Gregory’s sister-in-law, Karen Gregory, the wife of Melisa’s brother, Scott, told KCRG-TV9 what many already suspected before Terri Supino’s arrest:
“Deep down, I think everybody has known there was a connection there somewhere,” Karen Gregory said.
Many at the vigil praised Halferty — who knew Melisa Gregory from junior high school — for his continued dedication to working the case.
TNT network airs “Cold Justice” episode on slayings
In a separate Register report dated March 4, 2014, Supino’s two adult children, son Rocky Supino, 33, and daughter Casey Supino, 31, said they felt their family deserved answers from law enforcement about what evidence led to their mother’s arrest decades after the crime.
The Register said Jasper County Attorney Mike Jacobsen declined to answer questions about the (then) upcoming episode of “Cold Justice,” a true-crime television show on the TNT network that focused on the Copper Dollar Ranch slayings in an episode that aired March 28, 2014.
The show’s hosts, former Texas prosecutor Kelly Siegler and crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary work to find new evidence in unsolved murders across the country. “Cold Justice” is co-produced by Dick Wolf, the award-winning creator of the “Law and Order” series.
Courtesy photo Edward M. Pio Roda/TNT and Des Moines Register
“Cold Justice” cast members investigating the 1983 double slaying of Melisa Gregory and Steven Fisher visit with the victims’ relatives in Newton, Iowa, in February 2014. The episode aired March 28.
In the Register’s March 4 article, Casey Supino said she’d not been contacted by anyone from the TV show and wasn’t aware if her mother knew it was being filmed.
The show’s producers, had, in fact, already conducted an interview with Theresa Supino in February 2014 outside Supino’s Altoona apartment.
Iowa DCI Special Agent in Charge Adam DeCamp told the Register the DCI had been investigating the double homicide since 1983 and began looking at it again around 2008.
According to a March 27, 2014 WHO-TV story, Sheriff Halferty contacted “Cold Justice” in 2012 to ask for help in solving the Copper Dollar Ranch murders. The show accepted the invitation in late 2013, and by February 2014 were already in Iowa conducting interviews, including the one with the prime suspect.
Despite what some initially questioned as an arrest “coincidentally” taking place on the double homicide’s 31st anniversary, Halferty’s explanation proved not only quite appropriate given the investigation’s time frame, but resonated with families of other cold case victims.
“I felt the families had had over 30 years of March thirds with no good news,” Halferty told WHO-TV, “that it was time to give them some good news.”
On Monday, March 10, 2014, Theresa Supino entered a written “not guilty” plea.
A trial date has not been set but a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for July 7, 2014.
Courtesy photo ZBonnie at findagrave.com
Melisa Gregory is buried at the Greencastle Cemetery in Jasper County.
About Melisa and Steven
Melisa Lynn Gregory was born January 8, 1966.
Survivors included her mother, Ida Reynolds; two brothers, Scott Gregory and Travis Reynolds of Newton; and two sisters, Lisa Gregory and Tanna Reynolds of Newton.
Melisa was buried at the Greencastle Cemetery in Green Castle, Jasper County.
Courtesy photo Iowa Gravestone Project
Steven Fisher is buried at the Newton Union Cemetery in Jasper County.
Steven Joseph Fisher was born March 27, 1962, the son of William L. and Thelma Fisher.
He was survived by his mother, Thelma Fisher of Newton (now deceased); his wife Terri Supino and their two young children; two brothers, Ron and Billy Fisher of Newton; and a sister, Darlene Illingworth of Newton.
Steven was buried at the Newton Union Cemetery in Jasper County.
WHO-TV Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck reports on the March 3, 1983 unsolved double homicide of Steven Fisher and Melisa Gregory. Air Date: May 6, 2011
From Jan. 20, 2007: Cold Case Victim’s Mom Has Renewed Hope A KCCI-TV interview with the late Thelma Fisher
Authorities are asking anyone with information about the case to come forward and contact the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office at 641-792-5912.