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What happened to Jodi Huisentruit, and can we ever solve it conclusively?

There are so many angles to this one, it can make your head spin. Let’s start, then, with the basics. Jodi Huisentruit was a TV anchor in Iowa. She disappeared in June 1995. She had the morning shift and typically woke up around 3am; on the day she went missing, she overslept and woke up at 3:45am when her station called her. She was rushing to work, thusly, but she never actually made it — she appears to have been abducted right by her car, as police arrived and found the key broken off in the lock and possessions scattered. This was June 27, 1995 — meaning that a year from this June, she’ll have been missing 20 years (she was declared legally deceased in May of 2001). You do see cases solved 20-30 years out periodically these days, so there’s hope here — but there also seem to be a whole host of people potentially involved.

There’s a central website about this case, as well as a book about it. Those obviously have way more detail than I can scrape together here, but here are a few essential things to know:

1. The distance from her door to her car has been reported as about 12-15 steps. If the abductor was thus somebody that didn’t know her, he got extremely lucky in terms of timing — first off, her routine was adjusted (she normally would have left earlier) and second off, you need to know exactly where to place yourself in order to do something like that across 12-15 steps. Screams were reported, as well as “two male voices rising,” and a white van was seen in the area. No one called 911, and the white van lead went nowhere.

2. There’s this whole issue of John Vansice, who was one of Jodi’s neighbors at the time. He was older — about 50 — and seemed to spend a lot of time with her. In fact, he was the last person to see her alive — she went over to his apartment the night before her disappearance to watch a video of her birthday party from earlier in the month — and seemed to perhaps have an “infatuation” with her. He bought a boat in 1995 and named it “Jodi” and many believe he purchased Jodi her red Mazda Miata (with the key snapped off in the lock), because she likely couldn’t afford it on her salary. He’s since moved to Phoenix and doesn’t seem to cooperate with anyone chasing leads on this case. He did pass a lie detector test, though.

3. The whole thing with the cops — was it an inside job? Maria Ohl got terminated from the Mason City Police Department — seems there was a religious issue, ultimately — and came forward naming three officers as connected to the disappearance:

Late last week, Ohl appeared to get the date of a hearing to appeal her termination. She used the opportunity to tell reporters the names the people she believes are involved: Lt. Frank Stearns, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd and a retired member of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation named Bill Basler.

If you watch any true-crime show about Huisentruit’s disappearance, chances are Stearns is interviewed several times; he was one of the lead guys on the case. For him to be involved would be nuts.

However, a neighbor from the same complex says the police played no role:

Ohl settled for $95K and the issue of the cops being involved seemed to die down around 2012.

4. Donald Milks died in December of 2011; while he seemingly had a great deal of drug problems in his life, he also claimed to know something about Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance. His theory seems to tie back to the cops theory above, but due to his premature death, we don’t completely know.

5. Mason City seemed to have a fairly large drug culture around the summer of 1995, including Dustin Honken and Angela Johnson. From 1993 to 1996, they were making meth in the area. Other people connected to them disappeared — in October 2004, Honken was found guilty of murdering three people (he claims innocence) — and it’s possible there’s some tie to Jodi’s case here (never said probable). Did she know something about the drug ring and thus had to be disposed of?

6. Tony Jackson was a convicted Minnesota rapist who lived in Mason City in June 1995. He was investigated. He even made a rap song in prison talking about a body in a silo. Nothing came of it.

7. Don Harman worked with Jodi; he was spoken to by police years later about something, then killed himself. He was never classified as a person of interest and did have a long history of depression, but the timing is still something to consider. That said, you’d have to logically figure that if Harman worked the morning shows too, he was likely already at work (accounted for) when the disappearance had to have happened.

8. Because she was on television, the “obsessed fan” theory has been out there for years. There’s no real evidence backing that up, though.

9. Huisentruit was apparently investigating the death of Billy Pruin when she herself went missing. Initially Pruin’s death was viewed as a suicide; it was later changed to “undetermined.” He had purchased an expensive tractor just days before, though. If Jodi was investigating this and found something out, that’s obviously a possible tie to her own disappearance.

There have been countless theories and claims in this case over two decades, including serial killers/rapists/etc. being connected to it. There’s also a popular Internet theory that her remains were fed to pigs. The fact is, someone knows something — whether it’s the Mason City police, the neighbor, etc. She’s almost assuredly dead (legally too), but this case can be solved.

 

 

Ted Bauer

2 Comments

  1. a redacted diary, corrupt cops, beautiful women, bogus timeline … all the ingredients for a great screenplay

  2. Investigators need to go back to the Billy Pruin case door opened, keys in the door no suicide note, I strongly feel it’s murder. Then then Don Harman died of suicide, Donald Milks died need to figure how those dots connect or if they even connect some needs to dig a little deeper.

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