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A Minnesota man serving life in prison on child rape charges continues to deny any involvement in the unsolved disappearance of an Iowa television journalist more than 25 years ago.
Tony Dejuan Jackson, 48, who is incarcerated on first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, and first-degree burglary charges, is speaking out from prison to clear his name in the 1995 cold case disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit.
"All that I can tell you about Jodi Huisentruit is that she has become a central part of my life since I've been incarcerated," Jackson told ABC’s "20/20" in a prison interview from Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater last year. "It's been something that I've been, for many years, hoping will be resolved so that that stigma can be taken away from me so that I can rest."
Jackson, who was first convicted of a string of sexual assaults in 1998 and 1999 in the Minneapolis area, has served 23 years of his life sentence, according to court records obtained by Oxygen.com.
Years earlier, Huisentruit had disappeared from Mason City, Iowa.
Law enforcement suspects she was abducted from the parking lot of her apartment building at approximately 4 a.m. on June 27, 1995, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Around the time of the 27-year-old news anchor’s suspected kidnapping, witnesses claimed to have heard a scream coming from outside the complex.
Prior to vanishing, Huisentruit worked as a news anchor for Iowa television station KMIT. No arrests were ever made in her disappearance.
Jackson, however, is adamant that absolutely no connection exists between his convictions and Huisentruit’s missing person’s case.
"It's unfortunate that people try to take rape and murder and put it all together as one big heinous act and say that if you had did this, you would have done this," Jackson explained.
He was first implicated in Huisentruit’s disappearance after a jailhouse informant told authorities the convicted rapist had confessed to carrying out Huisentruit’s murder, according to ABC News. The informant also claimed Jackson wrote rap lyrics outlining where he’d buried the missing Iowa woman’s body. The allegations, which were never proven, ultimately led to a police search of a silo in Tiffin, Iowa with cadaver dogs.
No meaningful evidence implicating Jackson was recovered by investigators.
"I'm telling you right now, I'd never been to Tiffin, Iowa. Never traveled to Tiffin, Iowa," he added. "I would imagine that Tiffin, Iowa, is pretty much kinda like all of the other small towns in Iowa. That if a Black male introduced himself in Tiffin, Iowa, somebody would remember that."
In 1999, detectives for the Mason City Police Department also ruled Jackson out as a suspect in Huisentruit’s disappearance.
“We've had no reports or indications that he had anything to do with Jodi Huisentruit's disappearance,” Terrence Prochaska, of the Mason City Police Department, said in 2016, 20/20 reported.
DNA evidence ultimately cleared Jackson as person of interest, police said.
"It's circumstantial evidence he did purchase a car the day before she went missing, putting the mileage on the vehicle that I can't substantiate,” Prochaska added. “[But] Tony Jackson's DNA has not matched any evidence of ours.”
In June 2020, on the 25th anniversary of Huisentruit’s disappearance, police again pleaded with the public to come forward with any tips in the unsolved case.
“We realize that circumstances have changed in the past 25 years that may have impacted your decision to not come forward sooner,” Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley said at the time. “We would ask that you consider doing so in order to provide some closure and answers for Jodi and her family.”
Decades after the unsolved disappearance, Jackson vowed to continue fighting to distance himself from the missing woman’s case.
"The problem about theories is that they're not facts," Jackson also said. "I did not kill Jodi Huisentruit or, in any way, had anything to do with whatever is going on with her demise."
Jackson is technically eligible for parole in 2044. However, he'll be imprisoned until at least 2064, since he hasn't yet begun serving a 30-year consecutive sentence related to his original series of convictions, Minnesota corrections officials confirmed.
Attorney Melvin Welch, who previously served as Jackson's acting defense counsel, wasn’t immediately available for comment on Friday when contacted by Oxygen.com.
Anyone with information related to Huisentruit’s disappearance is urged to contact Mason City Police Department at 641-494-3564 or by calling the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at 515-725-6010.
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