Tanko pleads guilty in Clay County Court - KCTV5

Tanko pleads guilty in Clay County Court

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The man who was once under a cloud of suspicion in connection with the disappearance of baby Lisa Irwin pleaded guilty Thursday morning to an unrelated felony.

John "Jersey" Tanko pleaded guilty to a Class C felony. Tanko admitted to tampering with a motor vehicle on Oct. 13.

As a repeat offender, Tanko could have faced up to 15 years in prison if prosecutors had sought to declare him a persistent offender. But prosecutors told Clay County Judge Larry Dale Harman that in exchange for Tanko's guilty plea that they will not seek that designation, effectively cutting the maximum sentence in half.

Harman set a sentencing date of March 16.

KCTV5's Heather Staggers was the only reporter in the courtroom when a handcuffed Tanko pleaded guilty during a hearing that began at 8:30 a.m.

Tanko was arrested on Oct. 14. He did odd jobs in the Northland neighborhood from which 10-month-old Lisa Irwin went missing nearly four months ago. Neighbors also accused Tanko of committing crimes in the area.

Police questioned him about Lisa's disappearance but Tanko reportedly cooperated with investigators.

Capt. Steve Young, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, reiterated to KCTV Thursday what he has previously said.

"He cooperated with us and we are satisfied with what he told us," Young said.

 Kansas City police and the FBI have not cleared anyone in the case if new evidence arises that warrants additional scrutiny.

A telephone owned by Debbie Bradley, Lisa's mother, attempted to dial a telephone owned by Megan Wright who had dated Tanko. Wright had raised Tanko in connection with that phone call.

But Tanko's public defender told KCTV5's Bonyen Lee in December that his client was not a suspect in the baby's disappearance. This came after John Picerno, an attorney for Lisa's parents said a witness claimed Tanko was paid $300 to kidnap the child.

But that claim apparently fell apart under scrutiny.

Jeremy Irwin called 911 at 3:58 a.m. Oct. 4 to report that his daughter had been snatched from her crib while sleeping. Irwin and Bradley are appearing on a national television show Friday afternoon to discuss their daughter's appearance.

To read previous coverage about Tanko click here and here and here and here.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.


  • What do you think of John Tanko's involvement in Lisa Irwin's disappearance?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    None. A total ruse by the parents' attorney.
    35 votes
    Very suspicious based on his criminal history.
    37 votes
    Don't know enough about him to say.
    19 votes
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