Laura Henderson-Ibach, A life lost and many lives destroyed

Please welcome guest blogger Tiah who will be covering the cold case of Laura Henderson-Ibach. Unlike most guest bloggers on my site, Tiah is not involved in the legal world. Instead, she is an accountant, a far leap from the world of forensics and law!

Tiah has assisted on appeal cases in the past; she was the lay person who reviewed transcripts of court cases. Attorneys can usually see where things went wrong in a case, but it is also important to see if anyone else can see that as well. It has been found that at times a lay person can see things the legal mind missed altogether. That is the role she played.

Tiah was interested in the Ibach case from the start. She has lived in Alaska for thirty years. Alaska is a huge state with a small population; most people say Alaska is a small city, not a state, because word travels so quickly. The Ibach case intrigued her because people spoke in hushed tones. They all seemed to know the case was fixed but, no one was willing to speak up. According to Tiah, corruption and fear run deep in her state.

In a small series of post, she will give her personal opinion on the Henderson-Ibach case.

Part 1: A life lost and many lives destroyed

When someone is found guilty of a heinous crime, we all breathe a sigh of relief; thank God that monster is off the street! But what happens when the monster walks free and the innocent is jailed? The innocent loses their family, their friends and their freedom. At times the fight for justice continues, but more often than not the fight is lost due to a lack of money and/or a lack of a support system of people who will stand by you and help you fight for real justice.

In the case of Laura Henderson-Ibach, justice was never served. Not for her, not for her children or her family, and certainly not for the two men wrongly convicted for her death.

In previous posts about this crime, it was pointed out that no evidence existed and we saw in the video clip that the prosecution’s theory simply didn’t work. The previous owner of the van testified that the window of the van was broken before he sold it to Mac. The forensics expert also stated that the cracked glass of the van window proved nothing, nor did the two down feathers. In fact, he said he saw no evidence of a crime having taken place in the van at all.

That alone means nothings but there is more, much more, that shows police first formed a theory and later forced the evidence (which is suspect as well) to prove their theory. For those that have read the other posts and the comments to those posts, you know I have no personal involvement in this case, I have no axe to grind, I am not related to or friends with anyone in this case. So, why the interest? It’s simple: I believe we are all responsible for doing our part to see that the courts and law enforcement serve the purpose they were intended to serve: to remove real criminals from the streets and to keep innocent people out of jail! How else can victims get the justice they deserve?

There are so many troubling discrepancies in this case. Two men have spent 25 years locked up behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit. More importantly, the children of these men have been led to believe that their fathers are stone cold killers. These two men have lost seeing their children grow up and being a part of their life. For Ibach’s children, they lost both their mother and their father and have grown up believing their father is a monster. That alone is a tragedy.

However, someone also walked free all these years ago for the crime they did commit.

Actually, several people are responsible for that: the Kodiak Police Department (KPD) for their willingness to lie and plant evidence, Al Ruble (PI) for his ongoing lies which is evident in his repeatedly changing story about the events of that night, the people of Kodiak who also changed their stories and made the “facts” become whatever the police wanted it to be so it would fit the theory police had adopted, and of course, the real killer(s).

There are several key players in this mystery. Some we will look at now and some will be discussed in follow up posts.

First, let’s recall who the main parties are:

Laura Henderson-Ibach – Victim, mother of two daughters, and ex-wife of Jack Ibach

Jack Ibach – Ex-husband of the victim – hung jury on first trial, convicted on second trial, serving a 99-year sentence.

Jim Kerwin – known associate of Jack Ibach, acquitted on first trial, and with Mac the evening in question. He could have provided an alibi for Mac but was not allowed to testify to that.

Donald “Mac” McDonald – associate of Kerwin’s and knew Laura – hung jury on first trial, convicted on second trial, serving a 99-year sentence.

Matt Jamin – Laura’s attorney at that time

Al Ruble – The attorney’s private investigator

James “Mac” McLaughlin – a drug dealer who told several people he killed Laura because she knew too much and because she was a police informant.

I should also mention that the vast majority of what we now know to be true was not known at all during the first or second trial. The public defender did not even attempt to present a defense and did not conduct a thorough investigation in order to refute the prosecutions theory. Basically, she did not do her job at all.

The City of Kodiak is situated on the second largest island in the United States, approximately 250 air miles southwest of Anchorage in the Gulf of Alaska. In 1986, the population was approximately 4800. Today it is still less than 7000.  Kodiak is a major commercial fishing community in Alaska and the majority of both seasonal and permanent residents play some part in the fishing industry.  Kodiak is homeport to more than 700 commercial fishing vessels and serves several hundred outside vessels each year. Kodiak is the state’s largest fishing port and a thriving business community. Jack Ibach worked on one of the commercial fishing boats in Kodiak.

Laura and Jack were in a custody dispute and as custody battles tend to be, there was a lot of animosity between the two. Laura’s attorney had written a slanderous letter accusing Jack of various heinous acts in an effort to win custody for Laura. The accusations were sexually molesting his daughter, attempting to kill another child born to a different mother, as well as other criminal activity. No charges were ever brought against Jack because these accusations were based on lies and therefore, could not be proven. The point of saying these things was not to convict Jack of any crime. These lies were simply meant to persuade the guardian ad litem to favor the mother over the father in the custody battle.

It is well documented that the court appointed guardian ad litem knew these were false accusations and was planning to ask the courts to grant Mr. Ibach FULL custody.  Laura’s own psychiatrist was only willing to suggest the courts to grant Laura shared custody. In other words, Jack was winning the custody case.  But the prosecution ignored that and decided Jack hired someone to kill Laura to end the custody battle.

On the afternoon of March 28, 1986 (the same day she vanished) Laura Henderson-Ibach reported to her attorney and told him that she received a phone call early in the day from a man in possession of a tape recording which would help her get custody of her kids. Allegedly, the tape was of a conversation between two prominent Kodiak businessmen with Jack Ibach and involved a large drug deal between these men. The caller allegedly told Laura that Jack had screwed him over a drug deal so he was willing to give her the tape to get back at Jack. Laura told her best friend CW about the phone call from this unknown person who would be giving her the alleged tape. Laura also told both her attorney and her best friend she was going to meet this person that night to get the tape. CW later told the police that Laura said she didn’t know who the man was but, that she was meeting him that night to get the tape.

On the same afternoon after she returned from seeing her attorney, Mac McDonald, who was a friend and had dated Laura a few times, stopped by her workplace to talk to her. The two talked about an upcoming street dance. Laura asked Mac if he had any cocaine. Mac said he didn’t but if he got any he would give her some.

The police and Laura’s attorney would have you believe that Mac stopped by to see her, to tell her about the tape, and to see how easy it was to “get to Laura.” In fact, that is what they testified to in court. But, remember that Mac and Laura already knew each other and she did NOT know the man (e.g. recognize his voice) on the phone. Also, remember that she learned of the tape on the phone early in the day and not in person late in the afternoon. Keep in mind that only CW and Matt Jamin knew about the phone call and the tape. None of her other co-workers knew any of that!

Ask yourself: would a hired killer really call, offer a tape, arrange a meeting to give her that tape (all as a ruse to get her alone to kill her) and stop by her work in front of all her co-workers? Does any of that make sense? Of course not!

To be continued.