Hello, my loyal true crime readers! I’m excited to present a guest post by Scott Fuller, the genius behind two true crime podcasts that you definitely need to check out: What Happened to Jodi? and Frozen Truth Podcast. What Happened to Jodi? and season three of Frozen Truth Podcast explore the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit, the case that Scott writes about below. Season one of Frozen Truth Podcast delves into the mysterious 1997 disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel and season two examines the 2011 disappearance of Ayla Reynolds.
Make sure you read all the way to the end so you don’t miss out on an interview with Scott.
Enjoy the guest post ~ Christine
The Disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit
What happened to Jodi?
An entire generation in the upper midwest has been uneasily waiting for an answer to that question since 1995.
Law enforcement are certain she was forcibly abducted within the few seconds it would have taken Jodi to leave her apartment and unlock her car door after she was called by her co-worker from the TV station at 4:10 AM. Jodi was an hour late for work.
Police found some of Jodi’s belongings strewn about the parking lot next to her car: two earrings, two shoes, a hairdryer and her car key (which was bent from the struggle) among other items from Jodi’s purse.
Any other physical evidence is scarce. A partial palm print was found by police on Jodi’s car. It’s been revealed in the years since that police also recovered a hair from the scene (we don’t know precisely from where). No blood evidence was found at the scene.
Useful witness accounts are also sparse. A man reported to police he’d seen a van idling with its rear lights on in the same parking lot at about the same time. Some in the apartment complex later said they’d heard screams. Nobody called police.
While Jodi lived alone and was not known to have had any guests the night before, police found the toilet seat inside her apartment had been left up.
No arrests have ever been made in the case and no suspect has ever been linked via physical evidence, though a few have been considered by police.
Tony Jackson is currently serving time in a Minnesota prison for committing a violent rape spree in the Twin Cities area. Jackson was living very close to the TV station in Mason City at the time Jodi disappeared. Jackson confessed involvement in Jodi’s disappearance to a cell mate, but authorities have so far been unable to confirm his claims.
A local farm seed dealer, John Vansice, quickly became a prime suspect. Vansice met Jodi while they were neighbors in the same apartment complex. They became good friends in the year prior to her disappearance.
Despite being several years older than Jodi, it was clear to everyone who knew both that Vansice was enamored with her. Vansice named his power boat after Jodi, which the two were on – along with a friend of Jodi’s and Vansice’s son – just a few days before she disappeared.
Vansice approached police and the media the morning Jodi disappeared claiming to be the last person to see her alive. He said Jodi had been in his apartment until about 9 PM the night before while the two watched a video Vansice had made of a birthday party he’d recently thrown for Jodi.
A myriad of other theories have been proposed to explain the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. As yet, none of them have closed the case.
Jodi’s case has been kept alive on a not-for-profit website – FindJodi.com – run by a group of volunteers. They are journalists, private investigators and retired law enforcement who found that Jodi’s disappearance had become a part of their professional DNA at some point during their respective careers. She had never left any of them and so, in 2010, they decided they would never leave her either. They formed the website which has become the clearing house for all things related to Jodi’s disappearance.
Earlier this month the FindJodi.com team made headlines after reporting on a search warrant executed by the Mason City Police Department in 2017 seeking GPS data from two vehicles believed to be connected to John Vansice.
Most are encouraged by the recent action in the case, though some wonder how much the MCPD could have learned from the GPS data. Others read the search warrant as being an extremely positive sign, assuming police may have sought the warrant based on some other as yet undisclosed specific information.
Cold cases are closing at a more frequent rate than ever before. I’m just one of so many who hope Jodi’s case will someday be another of the solved.
If her killer were a contemporary of Jodi’s, he would be 45 to 55 years old today. He would likely have connections to Iowa or Minnesota, including family property (possibly farm land). He may behave strangely around the anniversary of Jodi’s disappearance.
Interview with Scott Fuller
Q – First off, Scott, thank you for the excellent overview of Jodi’s disappearance. You created a podcast in 2017 called What Happened to Jodi? What sparked your interest in Jodi’s case? And what compelled you to move to podcasting as a communication platform?
I once worked with one of Jodi’s colleagues here in the area. She introduced me to the case and we spent the afternoon huddled around a computer discussing theories (instead of actually working).
I first experimented with podcasting about 10 years ago without really knowing what I was doing. I’ve come to realize it’s by far my favorite medium. Podcasting combines many of my passions for writing, research and reporting with storytelling possibilities only achievable through audio.
Within a series, there’s the added element of meeting a deadline. It’s been absolutely addicting for me.
Q – What theory out there do you think is the most plausible explanation for what happened to Jodi?
I’ve been very careful not to adopt a theory. In cases like Jodi’s, I tend to obsess over one or two key pieces of evidence instead.
Here, it’s the toilet seat.
We need to explain why the toilet seat was left up inside the apartment of a woman who lived alone and was not known to have any recent visitors. There are only three conceivable explanations:
1) Somebody was indeed with Jodi in her apartment the night before she disappeared
2) Jodi left the seat up (perhaps cleaning it)
3) Police bungled it (one officer left it up another noted it)
I discount #3 out of hand, both out of deference to the trained professionals at the scene and because it’s a practical non-starter.
#2 seems unlikely, given that Jodi got home late the night before and had to work early the next morning.
Which leaves #1. For me, that’s the screaming variable in Jodi’s case.
Q – You are now working on a new podcast project on the 1997 disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel called Frozen Truth Podcast. What does a typical day look like for you during case research and podcast production?
I spent several months becoming an expert in the case before I did anything else. I absorbed every piece of material I could find before reaching out to the key players for interviews, so I’m not spending a great deal of time researching now during production.
I like to have a draft episode recorded as early in the week as possible. I spend the next 4-5 days tweaking, editing and obsessing over every word and production element.
On Sunday, I let it go and move on to the next episode.
Q – Are there any future cases in the works for Scott Fuller?
Absolutely, but I’m not sure what they are yet. I’d love your readers’ suggestions.
Q – What are your three go-to true crime podcasts?
Can I give you seven or ten instead?
Q – What advice would you give someone who wants to start her or his own true crime podcast?
Always respect your listener’s time. Your podcast in their earbuds is the most personal form of mass communication there is. Your job is to make that experience meaningful for them in some way.
Even with the amazing local media coverage my projects have received, 85% of my listeners still come from Apple Podcasts/iTunes. You hear every podcaster say it, but it’s true: a great way to show support for your favorite podcast is to leave a positive iTunes rating and review.
Really, the best way to show support for my podcast is to send the link to a friend. If you’ve done that, I know I’ve done my job.