MASON CITY | A 20-year-old Mason City murder case will remain unsolved at least for now after a Cerro Gordo County jury found Michael Cisneros not guilty in July of first-degree murder in the death of 20-month-old John Snyder Jr.
The toddler was reported missing by his father John Snyder Sr. from the family's apartment in the 00 block of South Adams Avenue on July 20, 1994. The boy's body was pulled from Willow Creek the next day.
Cisneros, 38, was arrested after a DNA match between his DNA profile and blood found on the boy's pajama bottoms came up on a statewide database.
Following the announcement of the verdict, Cisneros' family members hugged and thanked defense attorneys Letitia Turner and Steven Kloberdanz.
The panel of eight men and four women spent about three hours in deliberations after 10 days of testimony spread over three weeks.
"This has been a years' worth of work for us, too," said Turner.
"It's been a long road and we're at the end and it feels great," Kloberdanz added.
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The defense focused on the actions of Snyder Sr. on the day the boy went missing to try and shift suspicion away from Cisneros.
Snyder Sr. testified he smoked marijuana with Cisneros at his apartment in the weeks before his son went missing.
"We were disappointed with the verdict but obviously the state does respect the jury's decision," said Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand. "That's the way our system works. We give them the case and we let them decide."
He said the defense strategy was to make the state prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Obviously we had strong evidence with the DNA evidence and the fact that the defendant knew the location and the cause of death, but the jurors thought otherwise," Hammerand said.
Cisneros' defense costs topped $125,000, according to online court records. His attorneys certified 1,280 hours of work at $70 an hour.
Other fees included $3,443 for preparation of transcripts, $9,680 in deposition costs, $6,123 for the services of a private investigator and $6,360 in fees for expert witnesses.