December 24th, 2016 would have been Terry Armstrong's sixty-first birthday. Since 2004, her family has been searching for justice. Sometime during the late hours of August 29th and the early morning of the 30th, Terry was brutally murdered, her body dumped near an abandoned cabin--no longer standing--in the Nebraska Yellow Banks Wildlife Area. A hunter found her body while scoping out the grounds. Her neck had been slashed to the point of near-decapitation.
Like many cases I follow, this one has a glaringly obvious suspect. But unfortunately, also like many cases I follow, the police have done next to nothing to bring that suspect to justice. Terry was last seen alive with one Troy Voichoskie of Norfolk, Nebraska. After her murder, her blood and her baseball cap were found in his truck. More than that--at some point that fateful night, Voichoskie had wrecked his truck and broken pieces of his taillight were found near the crime scene. His wife at the time, Jeanne Follette (a drug informant for Madison County, but we'll get to that later), reported to police that he had come home in blood-soaked clothing the night in question, offering no explanation. Instead of being charged with murder, he was merely charged with giving false information about his whereabouts that night. Troy Voichoskie still walks free; the Madison County Sheriff's Department claims they just don't have enough evidence.
But exactly what evidence they do have is unclear, since they have repeatedly lied to Terry's family from the start. Terry's family has been fighting for answers for years, but have been continually met with setbacks. While interviewing Terry's son, Steven, and his wife for this story, I learned that the authorities have lied and manipulated many of Terry's grief-stricken family members over the years. Now that Steven and his wife have stepped in to oversee the handling of the case, they have immersed themselves in research, networking, following up on possible leads and traveling to Nebraska to meet with authorities. It didn't take them long to discover that the stories they had so long held to be true were entirely contradictory to what they are now being told by law enforcement.
Steven still hasn't been allowed to see his mother's autopsy report or any crime scene photos, with investigators telling him that since the case is technically still "open" (though reportedly no one has been questioned in regards to Terry's death since 2007) they aren't privy to that information.Steven and his family have a general idea of what happened the night of Terry's murder, but that is only because of the ever-present rumor mill in the small Nebraska town--that, and the intriguingtestimony of a young woman who was with both Terry and Troy Voichoskie before the murder. *Jordan Jay (whose name has been changed) was only eighteen at the time of the crime--but her memory of that night has never wavered, and she is ready and willing to testify should the need arise. In fact, Jordan says she already told the authorities about what happened that night. Sheswears she was called in shortly after the murder, questioned, and asked to give a written statement. She was even called in again at a later date to testify against Voichoskie, but when she arrived she was told to return home because he had already confessed earlier that morning. She was confused but accepted the explanation. At eighteen she didn't know enough about court proceedings or due process to recognize the situation was odd. Shortly thereafter, eager to leave small-town life behind her, Jordan moved away from Madison County. She had no idea Troy had never been charged with Terry's death until recently seeing a Facebook group affiliated with the case. Jordan's story about the night Terry died brings together all the disjointed puzzle pieces her family spent years trying to make sense of. Below is her account of that night, never before seen by the public. It has been edited for length and clarity.
"We [Jordan and her friend] were standing outside the house talking to Troy. He knew people we partied with and we'd been around him multiple times. I'm not sure exactly what time it was, but it was getting dark. A lady from the neighborhood came walking toward us. She smiled and introduced herself as 'Terry'. She was wearing a North Carolina baseball cap and set it on top of my car while we talked. We all stood there chatting for a bit and she offered us a beer. We accepted, and stayed awhile longer, chatting and drinking with the two of them. But my friend and I had to get going, so we said our goodbyes and left Terry and Troy alone there.
"We didn't get back until really late [around midnight-1a.m.] but when we got there, Troy was outside by himself. He had scratches on his face that weren't there when we saw him earlier, and his pickup was wrecked. The back bumper was bent and the taillight was broken. It had not been like that when we left. We teased him and asked if he and Terry had gotten a little wild, but he told us he had ditched her earlier at the bar and hadn't seen her since. It was late so we left it at that and went inside.
"The next morning, I woke up to news vans and cops up and down our street. Troy's wife [JeanneFollette] came banging on our door and told us to tell the police Troy had been with her all night. But I was young and scared to lie to the cops so I told them all I knew. We heard where they had found Terry's body, and Troy had invited my friend and me out there to party before. We also heard that a sword was used to kill Terry, and my friend had told me previously—before any of this happened—that Troy had shown her a sword that he kept behind his pickup seat.
"Personally, I think they had been partying and he took her out [to the Yellow Banks] and tried something with her, and she fought back. Troy was always being really aggressive and trying to hookup with everyone. That's why my friend and I never went anywhere alone with him.
"I ended up picking up my friend after the police questioned her, and she said they'd shown her photos of Terry's body and the sword, which had been found near the crime scene, by the edge of the water. She said it was the same sword she had seen in Troy's truck."
To date, Terry's family has never been told about the murder weapon by investigators—they have believed for years that no weapon was ever found, and that it had most likely been some type of knife. Foreign DNA found underneath Terry's fingernails is another enduring mystery. Why were members outside the family allowed to see photos that hadn't even been shown to Terry's next of kin? Why was Jordan called to testify at supposed court proceedings Terry's family knew nothing about? In particular, County Attorney Joe Smith has been especially inefficient and uncooperative--which is sadly not too surprising, considering the rampant corruption and blatant inefficacy of theMadison County justice system.
Smith has been widely accused to be a drug user and dealer, and he's been alleged to take advantage of relationships with informants and narcs--narcs like Troy Voichoskie's former wife, Jeanne Follette. He has vouched for Jeanne and kept her out of trouble on multiple occasions over the years. Offering plea deals to drug offenders who may someday be able to help him is really Smith's specialty. Smith's inappropriate friendship with a convicted drug dealer was alleged to have tainted two murder trials. The dealer in question, Jesus "Jesse" Padilla, was apparently provided inside information about search warrants that were going to be served--and Smith offered the man transport so he would not be arrested for an outstanding Colorado warrant.
Some have called Joe Smith "the most crooked attorney in Nebraska." Smith was accused of being involved with Judge Richard Garden's continuous scam to keep Garden's daughter out of jail for drug arrests. She was never charged with multiple federal crimes, as Smith ensured she was sent to various rehabilitation clinics rather than serve any time. In the trial of Art Sobey, Smith was removed from the case for hiding exculpatory evidence, hiding a pertinent medical exam that would have cleared Sobey, and violating attorney-client privilege—among other things. At one time, Smith was under federal investigation for drug trafficking. The Nebraska Civil Rights Movement ended up requesting another federal investigation of Madison County for human rights violations, law enforcement ineffectiveness, drug trafficking, and lack of due process.
All that aside, it's important to note that Smith isn't even necessarily good at his job. Three high-profile death cases in Madison County are still "under investigation" and will likely never be solved. In fact, he has been dismissive and uncooperative, according to the families of all three victims, Terry Armstrong's family being among them. All three cases have a familiar thread tying to them to Joe Smith: drugs. Is he purposefully being so ineffective to keep himself and those close to him out of trouble?
In August of 2009, nineteen-year-old Lacey Anderson went missing after leaving her home. Her body was found by hunters three months later in the woods. She had been murdered. Lacey had been involved in a rough crowd before her death, and may have been involved in methamphetamine use, according to her parents. Before her murder, Lacey had provided law enforcement with information regarding several different drug-related crimes and the individuals involved. She was due to name more individuals and testify in a criminal case as a witness in the weeks after her death. Several of Lacey's friends have come forward to say the last person she was with the night of her disappearance was drug-dealer and alleged gang member Jamie Bear. For reasons unknown, Bear has never been seriously investigated in connection with Lacey's disappearance and death--even after he bragged to multiple people that he had been the one to "shut Lacey up." He still walks free.
The death of Larry Edgell is another unsolved case in Madison County, and another case where Joe Smith has been extremely uncooperative. Larry was found dead in his parked car, shot once in the chest. His death was officially ruled a suicide in twelve minutes--without an autopsy or any sort of investigation. This did not sit well with Larry's grieving widow, Danette. The whole situation seemed strange to her. Larry's car was found on a rural road, and four of his extra-strength Fentanyl patches (prescribed to him for a terminal condition) were missing. There was also beer in his car, highly unusual to anyone who knew Larry--who had only drunk wine coolers for years. According to Danette, even the trajectory of the fatal chest wound was odd, at an angle that would have been difficult for Larry to achieve himself. The police seemed all too willing to accept the idea that the poor man with a terminal illness drove out into the middle of nowhere to end his suffering--despite the fact that the fingerprints and DNA of two other unknown individuals were found inside the car. Danette and her family fought the ruling in court, and the cause of death was quickly changed from suicide to undetermined.
However, there is another twist. Danette was recently told by Smith's colleague, Investigator Jon Downey, that the case has been officially closed, and again ruled as a suicide. Legally, if the case is closed, Danette has the right to every scrap of information in the case file. Smith and Downey refuse to give it to her. What reason could they possibly have to keep a widow from important files that rightfully belong to her? Why would they change the cause of death and close the case without notifying her first? Whispers and rumors around town have implicated drug addict and alleged informant Scott Rutan in Larry's death--but that tip has never been investigated. Why? Why would a productive and efficient police force not spend their time investigating every possible lead? Or are men like Troy Voichoskie, Jamie Bear, and Scott Rutan being protected because of the services they or those close to them have provided to men like Joe Smith?
What is happening in Madison County, Nebraska is inexcusable. Every facet of their justice system has been tainted by corruption, collusion, thievery, and lies. What is even more inexcusable is the amount of evidence present, yet they continue to operate without hindrance. You and I, dear reader, must become the hindrance. As concerned citizens, we must do all we can to make sure their corruption is not overlooked. I want Madison County to know that we know—we know that justice isn't being served because the justice system has been allowed to serve itself first and foremost. We will make the voices of the voiceless heard--and we will not be quieted.
This article was written based on information taken from public documents, news articles, online forum discussions, and various interviews with the victims' families. Anyone who finds fault with information within this article, please contact me with any inaccuracies along with sources and documentation to back your claims. I would be happy to publish them.