Guest post: Laura Henderson-Ibach: The timeline does not work and police do not care

Part 4: “The timeline does not work and police do not care” by Tiah

Two different private investigators interviewed everyone who was connected in any way to this case. Much of what they found I will discuss here. If I use the phrase “we know” it is because the information was collected and corroborated by several sources. Most of this was not known until after Mac and Jack were convicted due to the fact that their public defender did not do her job. Therefore it cannot be used to get them a new trial.

The prosecution did not use a timeline to prove their case because the timeline disproves it. Instead, the prosecution presented the events out of order and in a confusing manner so it appeared it could have happened that way. 

There are some things we know that simply don’t make sense. Police and the prosecution have stated that Mac and Kerwin picked up Laura that night at 9:00pm and then drove her out to Monashka Bay to dispose of her body. Kerwin was acquitted of all charges. The same theory was used in the 2nd trial which means that Mac would have had to work alone or, with Jack. But, Jack wasn’t involved according to police. He hired Mac to do it all!

However, that would be impossible. The timeline proves there was not enough time. This information comes from statements police made to other officers as well as what they witnessed first hand, statements police made to two different private investigators as well as in their police reports, and various witnesses.   

Let’s look at the timeline.

We know that at 55 mph (the speed limit for the road) it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes with good road conditions (dry) to drive a roundtrip from the place where Laura was last seen to Monashka Bay – this is just to the road. Add to the timeline how long it would take to walk from the road to the bluff.  

One of the officers, Officer Walton, said that on the night Laura vanished it was VERY ICY and difficult to drive more than 5 mph on those roads. He also stated it was very difficult to just stand up and walk. He remembered well because he almost slipped and hit the ground the night this happened.

We know that Mac’s van was not capable of driving more than 35 mph because the drive shaft was wired to the transmission. This was verified by testimony and an examination of the van. So, the road trip alone would have taken almost two hours roundtrip in Mac’s van. But remember police said it was so icy you could only do 5 mph at most. I can’t even imagine how long that would take. 

Laura was last seen at 9:00pm by Al Ruble. 

Mac was signed back in to his re-entry house (like a half-way house) between 9:50-10:00 pm. This is known because the person before him signed in at 9:50pm and several people signed in after him at 10:00pm. This log was monitored by the house manager. There are also five people who witnessed Mac being there by 10:00pm. One person stated that he watched a movie with Mac until 1:00am. Police woke him up at 4:00am to question him. Witnesses show he had not left the house. The house manager locks up so they couldn’t have left anyway.

Al Ruble, the PI sent by Laura’s attorney, said he last saw Laura at 9:00pm and then went to tell Matt Jamin, the attorney, that he lost track of her. Jack Ibach was seen by none other than Matt Jamin and Al Ruble at Sutliff’s bar between 9:30-10:00pm that night! Jack was with two other people described as “fisherman” yet neither Jamin nor Ruble spoke to either Jack or the other two men. They did not even try to identify those two people all the while claiming to be concerned for Laura’s safety. Until what time Jack was in the bar is also unknown because again no one asked and Jamin and Ruble had left themselves by 10pm. 

After Ruble realized he lost track of Laura, he did not go into any of the several bars on that street to look for her. He left the area and said he went to tell Jamin he lost her. Laura could have easily gotten out of Mac’s van and walked straight into any number of places on that street. She could also have been approached by the alleged man who was going to give her the tape or, she could have been picked up by a friend. We don’t know and Ruble surely didn’t try to find out. I suspect Al Ruble was actually the last person to see her and knew he didn’t need to look for her any further.

Ruble last saw Mac in the van with Laura at 9:00pm and according to both Mac and Kerwin, Laura asked Mac if he had gotten any cocaine and he said no.  She then said she had to meet someone and got out of the van. Still, even if that was not true, it would give Mac less than 50 minutes to make a two hour roundtrip on horribly icy roads plus the time it would take to carry the body (or even walk her) to the bluffs, disrobe her, and toss her off the cliff. Then he’d have to walk back to the van and drive back to town. IMPOSSIBLE! Even more impossible because the roads were so icy he couldn’t have made the trip in the two hours it would have taken on dry roads!

It would also have given Jack less than 30 minutes to have been involved with any of this because he was seen by Ruble and Jamin between 9:30-10pm.

We also know this was the first ever homicide investigation for the city of Kodiak. We know Officer Paris ignored evidence of another killer and made up false charges against Jack. James McLaughlin said he killed Laura and put her in a landfill. The Chief of Police told people that Laura’s body was cut up and placed in a crab pot and then dumped in the ocean. 

Inside Edition made two trips to Alaska to investigate this case and disproved the theory that someone could throw a body far enough out from that bluff to have it land in the water. 

Police had NO physical evidence, no forensics of any kind, and no body. In fact they had no way to get Laura declared legally dead. She was not legally declared dead until AFTER Jack and Mac were convicted. That alone has to give you pause.

Just before the trial, some clothing believed to be Laura’s, washed up right where the police say her body was thrown in the bay. Again, incredibly suspect since the tides would have caused the clothing to wash up elsewhere all those weeks later. Officer Walton was in the Navy and he has recovered 20 to 30 bodies from the ocean. This included a lot of clothing. He states when clothing is in the salt water for even a limited period of time it becomes highly bleached out. We know that the clothes that washed up on shore did not have the appearance of having been exposed to salt water very long.

We know that the purse and driver’s license that washed up were old. Laura had an Alaska driver’s license yet the one that washed up was an old expired license from Oregon. The purse it was in was an old purse Laura had given to her daughters for playing dress up.  Why would Laura be carrying an expired driver’s license when she had a current one and why would she suddenly decide to use a purse she had given her kids long before?

Officer Walton said he felt the clothes may have been planted there in time for the trial as they needed evidence. Another police officer said that IF the family or private investigator could get the photos taken by police of Laura’s apartment AFTER she disappeared, they would see the same clothes that were later found in the water.

Another issue that points to police planting evidence is that Laura’s mother, Ms. Munro, described Laura’s shoes (that she was wearing that night) as a size 9 pinkish suede Velcro tie tennis shoe. She also stated that Laura had a planter’s wart removed from her foot and she wore a band-aid on the foot while it was healing.  Officer Rhodes never asked Ms. Munro which foot the band-aid was on it. 

About a month later, a beachcomber found a tennis shoe on the beach and tossed it up above the tide line. Later Laura’s mom went out and retrieved the shoe and took it to police. The tennis shoe was a pinkish color and all parties agreed it was “consistent with the style of shoe Laura was wearing that night. It was the left shoe and it still had the band-aid in it. All of this was covered in the trial.

But the problem is this. According to Laura’s podiatrist, she had surgery on the right foot and wore the band-aid on the right foot. Oops! Of course this all came to be known after the two men were convicted. 

Another witness stated seeing a white van pulling out of the parking lot near Mac’s house that night at 9:35pm. She said the van pulled out in front of her and was swerving all over the place. Another witness recalled seeing a white van at Monashka Bay 10 or 15 minutes later between 9:45-10:00pm.

Again, we have several witnesses to show Mac was in his halfway house by 9:50pm and that he didn’t leave. We have Laura’s own attorney and private investigator who saw Jack between 9:30-10:00pm in a bar. The abduction, driving to Monashka bay, walking out to the bluff, etc. all take much longer to achieve than these few minutes alone would allow. But, someone saw a van swerving and someone else saw another van out at Monashka bay a few minutes later. This could only mean that there had to be at least 3 white vans in Kodiak and undoubtedly, there are probably more than three!

Police and several others stated they knew Kerwin was with Mac all night that night. After Kerwin was acquitted, police and prosecution refused to let Kerwin testify on Mac’s behalf. Mac or anyone could NOT have thrown a body off the cliff by themselves as the video tape shows. As you saw in the video, the body would have had to be thrown outward quite a distance from the edge of the bluff to make it into the water and even two men couldn’t do it. That means the body would have almost certainly landed somewhere on the mountain side and not in the water.

Mac and Jack were tried together in one court case. Their public defender was inept and didn’t care what evidence the prosecution presented. She didn’t even demand all police reports and to this day, no one has been able to get them. She promised that they could testify at their own trial and that she would call Kerwin as a witness. Something scared her off and she rested her case without fulfilling her promises or, presenting any witnesses on their behalf. She still refuses to answer any questions regarding this case.

Then there is that pesky detail that Officer Paris even admits to and that is that he withheld evidence showing someone else had confessed to Laura’s murder.  McLaughlin had told many people he killed her because she knew too much and because she was a police informant. 

Add to all this that neither Mac nor Jack could have hidden the body and then disposed of it later. Mac was proven to be at the half way house from 9:50pm until police came and got him at 4am. Jack was being watched by police so he couldn’t have done it either.

Another thing we know is that several people reported seeing Laura after that night and police never once investigated any of those sightings. I don’t believe it was really her but the fact remains these reports should have been taken more seriously. 

What is inescapable is that Kodiak police wanted a conviction on their first big case and they wanted the guilty party to be the ex-husband. From that they made the facts fit their theory and the truth was never a consideration. 

If we were to speculate on what could be a much more plausible explanation of what happened to Laura that night, we have a couple of scenarios we could look at.

The first and easiest explanation is of course that James “Mac” McLaughlin is the killer just as he told many people he was. He was a drug dealer, supplied cocaine to Laura, and knew Laura had become a police informant. No one actually questioned McLaughlin except the informant. No one ever looked into any other possibilities for her disappearance. It is possible that Laura was still alive and was killed later or, that later her body was moved. 

The next scenario (again just speculation) involves a much more sinister motive.  Recall that Laura said she got a call from an anonymous man whose voice she didn’t know, who wanted to give her a tape that would show two very prominent business men and Jack discussing a very large drug deal? Police have assumed all along that there never was a tape and that it was all a ruse to get Laura to meet her hit man. But what if the tape really did exist and someone didn’t want it to become public?

What if the attorney suspected that the prominent business men on the tape were his clients or, close friends and he didn’t want that tape to become part of a custody battle in court? It would incriminate all parties on the tape. What if the attorney told those business men or, just decided to intercept the tape himself?  Under that scenario, Ruble was really sent to get the tape and get rid of Laura so the identity of the business men would never became known. Maybe Ruble thought Laura was getting into the van of the man with the tape and didn’t realize she simply saw a friend and was asking for drugs.

It is very hard to believe that Ruble could lose sight of Laura in under a minute’s time and why didn’t he start looking for her then? Remember that Kodiak is a small community and at the very least he should have gone inside some of the bars along that same street to see if she was there or, look for her by car. But he didn’t.

The sad truth is that no one ever looked for her. No searches were ever conducted. The attorney and Ruble immediately reported her as being kidnapped and murdered. And that is a big leap unless they knew something no one else knew.

The End

Comments

  1. I’m the current defense investigator working on Mac’s case. I’d like to hear from anyone with information about the case and in particular anyone who knew Jim McLaughlin or his associates.

    Vidocq, I’d also like to get in touch with you.

    Andy Klamser

  2. Miriam Said says:

    If McLaughlin was indeed telling the truth about him murdering Laura, then why was the landfill not searched.

    If he is telling the truth, her remains may still be in that landfill as her body still hasn’t turned up.

  3. Hi Miriam,

    The cops were not interested in finding Laura as much as they were interested in proving their own theory and forcing the facts to make that theory work. Paris and a few other cops wanted Jack to be guilty so they set about proving that. One cop even admitted that they didn’t check out McLaughlin because they couldn’t tie Jack him so they ignore the reports.

    The cops never questioned McLaughlin, never searched the landfill. Their focus was out at Monashka Bay. My guess is after things cooled down McLaughlin dumped her elsewhere – most likely in the water. About 6 months after Laura disappeared a fisherman pulled up a body that was dressed similarly to Laura and it is my understanding no one checked to see if it was her. I don’t have all the details on that. I just know the cops didn’t want anything to disprove their case.

  4. Miriam Said says:

    In my book that makes Paris a big fat suspect.

  5. It makes his work on the case suspect, but doesn’t make him a suspect. But his work was already suspect.

    Any cop knows better than to zero in and focus on one person before starting the investigation. When you’ve got a department full of clops that are either corrupt or willingly blind to the corruption you can get by with anything.

    I ran across this blog post recently and if true it appears the KPD is still getting by with whatever they choose to do.

    http://www.usobserver.com/archive/sep05/alaska-corrupt-0905.html

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