KIMT News 3 – In a sit-down interview, one juror explains how there was simply too much reasonable doubt to point to Cisneros as the perpetrator.
The trial of Michael Cisneros may have ended, but it’s left some very important questions on the table. Who is responsible and why did the jury find Cisneros not guilty?
“There are some cases you just never forget,” said Former Mason City Police Chief, Duane Jewell.
After serving in law enforcement for decades, Duane Jewell says he often can get lost in the memories of so many cases and so many crimes.
In the disappearance and murder of 20-month-old, John Snyder Jr. also known as little John, Jewell has not forgotten the details of that day 20 years ago.
“This little boys aunt was a close friend of mine over the years. She comes running down the street, and I stopped her. I stopped her on the sidewalk, so she wouldn’t run down there to see her nephew. It’s still tough to do. It’s still tough to talk about that case,” said Jewell.
Despite not having much of an active role in the investigation as acting police chief, Jewell dealt more with handling the perception of the public; that a criminal abducting children was on the loose.
For nearly two decades, Jewell, along with the Mason City community would wait for answers in the mysterious case of John Snyder Jr.
Then it appeared an answer was on the horizon.
A DNA match from blood evidence on the pajamas of little John matched DNA from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s CODIS database.
CODIS is a database of convicted felons meant to help find clues and link convicted criminals to cases just like these.
Police would arrest Michael Cisneros in the Spring of 2013, and believed they had their man.
Now, with a suspect in hand, Michael Cisneros would stand trial for the first degree murder of John Snyder Jr.
For roughly four weeks, investigators, many of whom long since retired, took the stand.
Friends, family and even former inmates, either testified against Michael Cisneros or poked holes in the story of John Snyder Sr.
“He was beaten. He was thrown in to Willow Creek alive. He was drowned and was found approximately a day later,” said Cerro Gordo County Attorney, Carlyle Dalen.
On the jury, 14 men and women listened to testimony from both sides of the bench. One juror agreed to speak to us on camera, if we concealed his identity.
The juror described putting himself in the shoes of Cisneros.
“I tried to think about when I was 18. There just wasn’t enough to go with it, and all we could do is conjecture in our minds, what could have happened. Conjecturing just doesn’t cut it when you’re going to put somebody away for a long, long time,” said the Juror.
According to this juror, there were several key factors behind determining the verdict.
For example, how did Michael Cisneros’ blood end up on the pajama bottoms of John Snyder Jr. that night?
The answers to some of those questions were not compelling enough.
Instead, the focus appeared to shift toward John Snyder Sr.
“When he came on the stand, it was a surprise. I just had a hard time believing everything he said. He was not on trial, but some of his actions had a lot to do with the final decision,” said the juror.
“It’s not refreshing, we haven’t had justice. For the rest of his life, people are going to be asking him, ‘why was your blood there’? Is he just going to run away from answering for the rest of his life?” asked Snyder Sr.
In Snyder’s mind, the man who killed little John simply got away with murder.
“I don’t feel like I made the wrong decision, and I understand people questioning what we did, but they just weren’t there,” said the juror.
Since this past May, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has established more than 11 million offender DNA profiles aiding in more than 240,000 investigations.
With technology continuing to improve, the room for error is slowly fading away.
Even with trace evidence linking Cisneros to the scene of the crime, it still wasn’t enough to those who it mattered most.
“Now that it’s over, I still think about it. I still weigh things in my mind and make sure that we made the right decision, which I believe we did,” said the juror.
For Jewell, the investigation is far from over. To this day, no one has been found responsible for the death of little John.
Although Jewell says he has faith there will be answers someday, he says he keeps hope alive for the Snyder family that they may still find closure.
“I feel so bad about her not getting some closure in this whole business, because of the suspicions of the family and stuff like that going on. Maybe someday we’ll get answers. If we believe in the hereafter, we will get an answer,” said Jewell.
Many, including Jewell hope Cisneros can exercise his freedom to speak, knowing that he now has immunity from the charge of murder.
Since the trial first began, we have yet to hear from Michael Cisneros and his thoughts about no longer being a suspect.