MASON CITY — DNA analysis helped Mason City police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation make an arrest in the 1994 murder of 20-month-old John Joseph Snyder Jr.
Michael Jason Cisneros, 37, formerly of Mason City, has been charged with first-degree murder in the Mason City toddler’s death.
The arrest was announced during a Monday afternoon news conference at the Mason City Police Department by Chief Mike Lashbrook.
The boy was reported missing by his father, John Joseph Snyder Sr., on July 20, 1994. Snyder said he put his son to bed at 11 p.m. July 19 and awoke the next morning to find the boy missing from their apartment at 10 S. Adams Ave.
The boy’s body was found July 21 snagged on a tree in Willow Creek just east of the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge.
According to autopsy reports, the cause of death was drowning and a crushing skull injury.
Snyder and the boy’s mother, Lisa Sellmann, did not reside together at the time.
In 1994, DNA analysis was not done on evidence collected in this case as the technology was not yet available.
But on Dec. 2, 2002, the police department was able to submit the evidence associated with the case and obtain DNA results. Those results were retained as part of the case file.
On Dec. 19, 2012, 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 Lashbrook.
DCI special agent Mike Krapfl said samples are submitted to the criminalistics laboratory where DNA profiles are developed.
Krapfl said the profiles are compared to the forensic database that contains samples from crime scenes in the hope that a match will eventually occur as it did in this case.
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Beginning in 2014, anyone convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor will also be required to submit a DNA sample.
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.
The pajama bottoms and a diaper belonging to the boy were found along Willow Creek.
A warrant for Cisneros’ arrest was issued Friday.
Lashbrook said over the years, Cisneros was a person of interest looked at by police.
He also thanked 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.
“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.”
Lashbrook and Krapfl took no questions at the conclusion of the news conference.
No other details about the circumstances of the murder are being released at this time.
Cisneros is being held in the Cerro Gordo County Jail.