Sins of the Past, Part 5

Beth Bednar, Gary Peterson, and Terri Supino; August, 2012

The Sins of the Past series  is certainly striking a nerve among some readers, and it has raised some emotional discussion in recent weeks.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that this thirty-year-old crime in Newton, Iowa is still able to produce such heated commentary on both sides of the issue.

So far, I’ve explored the Copper Dollar murders from the viewpoint of Terri Supino, who, although it could be argued is still the primary person of interest in connection with the crime, vehemently maintains her innocence.  To be fair, Terri has people in her family (as well as some within the Fisher and Gregory families) who wholeheartedly believe in her and her innocence.  For example, as I mentioned in a previous post, a cousin of the late Melisa Gregory says she has talked to Terri at length about the case, and “believes with everything I am” that Terri had nothing to do with the crime.  Another reader speculated the crime had to be the work of someone bigger and strong than Terri Supino.  He specifically mentioned her “diminutive” stature, which would have made her physically unable to perform the extreme physical damage and mutilation of the victims.

As can be expected, though, others are quite critical of what they call Terri’s “selective memory” and her version of the events of the night of March 2, 1983, which led to the discovery of the bodies of Steven Fisher and Melisa Gregory the following morning.  They point out that Terri was accompanied by her twin brother on the night in question.  A member of Steven Fisher’s extended family had this emotional response to a recent installment:

“[I’m] wondering why Terri and Tim initally denied being at the ranch the night before the bodies were found, when interviewed by police.  It wasn’t until after an eyewitness who lives in the area had seen [Terri’s brother] Tim’s Gremlin out by the ranch that evening, that she told police that she and her brother had been at the ranch.  Is it possible that they went there ‘to stir the pot,’ but left outraged and angry and returned?  This crime was extremely brutal and the anger was targeted at both victims.  Evidence suggests that they made Steven watch as they mutilated Melisa’s body.  She had no face left.  When police finally did locate Terri and her brother the day the bodies were found, they located them at an attorney’s office.  From what I understand, the police department refused to give her confiscated items back because she is still a main suspect in the murders.”

The writer goes on to say that the violence in the relationship was not one-sided, and that Steven was often the victim of the abuse.

“There was definitely abuse in the relationship.  So much abuse and fear that Steven moved away from Newton to stay with a family friend in Missouri following an incident in the fall of 1982.  Steven ended up in the hospital …  [and] his injuries were so severe that he ended up in traction.  Steven told the hospital that a vehicle had fallen on him while working on it.  But in reality, Terri had found Steven hanging out at Maytag Park.  She started a fight with him that ended up with Terri shutting him in the car door and dragging him through the park with her vehicle, injuring him badly.  After this incident, Steven moved to Missouri to escape her volatile nature and the relationship that had already ended months ago.”

The writer was quite vehement in rebutting Terri’s comment about Steven staying at the trailer for the first time on the night of the crime.

“As a family member of Steven Fisher, I have verified as FACT that Steven had been staying at the trailer on Copper Dollar Ranch for quite some time.  The night of the murders was NOT the first time he had stayed at the ranch.  I verified this as FACT through the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office with Deputy John Halferty.  Makes one wonder why someone who is ‘innocent’ is still lying after thirty years.  Plus, if this was the ONLY night that he had stayed at the trailer, then how did Terri know where to find him that night?  They were separateed for over a year at that time.”

I recently spoke to Hal Snedecker, the former owner of the Copper Dollar Ranch.  He verified that Steven often stayed at the trailer on the ranch in the previous year, and that to his knowledge, Melisa was often there with him.  In our phone conversation, Snedecker said he knew of John Vansice (one primary person of interest in the Jodi Huisentruit disappearance case), of course, but claimed Vansice did not work at the Copper Dollar Ranch at the time of the Fisher and Gregory murders.  Snedecker, now 66, still lives in Newton and has moved on to other business interests.  As you might guess, he has decidedly different views from those of Supino, and we will hear more from him in future posts.