Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Iowa Cold Case: Jodi Sue Huisentruit
Mason City, Mason Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
June 27, 1995

Jodi Sue HUISENTRUIT was born on June 5, 1968, and grew up in Long Prairie, Minnesota.

"Jodi's this upbeat, friendly, outgoing, very lovely person," said Ray GOVE, her former band director in Long Prairie, where she twice was a member of the state champion high school golf team. "You always knew when she was in the room." She was a graduate of St. Cloud State University.

Jodi usually arrived at CBS affliliate KIMT-TV station where she was a morning and noon news anchor and producer between 3 and 4 a.m. On the morning of Tuesday, June 27, 1995, Jodi hadn't arrived at work by 4:00 a.m. Co-producer Amy KUNS called her. HUISENTRUIT answered the phone and said she had overslept. She would be at the station shortly. Nothing in HUISENTRUIT'S tone of voice indicated that she was experiencing any undue stress.

By 7:00 a.m., HUISENTRUIT still hadn't arrived at the station. Alarmed, her co-anchor called the Mason City Police Department, asking them to check on Jodi's well-being.

The officers arrived at HUISENTRUIT'S apartment complex [600 North Kentucky Avenue] and discovered a several of her personal items strewn about the parking lot, such as her hair spray, hair dryer, key ring, earrings and a pair of red high-heeled shoes. These were items HUISENTRUIT normally carried in a canvas tote bag to and from work. One of the keys on the key ring had been bent.

Jodi's canvas tote bag in which she often carried her notebooks and computer diskettes was not found at the scene and has never been located.

The officers and agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation found the right rear-view mirror on HUISENTRUIT'S 1995 red Mazda Miata sports car had been knocked ajar and there was blood on the mirror. Blood was also found in the parking lot near the passenger door of HUISENTRUIT'S car. DNA testing indicated that the blood was a match to HUISENTRUIT'S blood.

Scuff marks in the parking lot, believed to have been made by HUISENTRUIT'S shoes, led away from her car.

Upon canvassing the neighborhood, several of Jodi's neighbors stated that they had heard screams. A few said they had seen a white van in the parking lot around the time Jodi was believed to have been abducted.

Authorities believe that HUISENTRUIT was attacked from behind when she was unlocking the passenger-side door of her vehicle. She screamed and was struck in the head with a heavy object, then dragged to her attacker's waiting vehicle. It is believed that Jodi's attacker probably had been watching her and knew her behavior patterns.

The search for Jodi was one of the largest manhunts in Iowa history.

Investigators have followed up on thousands of tips, tracked down at least 1,300 leads and interviewed more than 1,000 people. The community of Mason City continues to mark the anniversary of Jodi's disappearance every year while the police await the one solid tip they need to close the city's most infamous cold case.

Jodi's case had been featured on America's Most Wanted which generated more than 60 tips, Psychic Detectives, Unsolved Mysteries, 20/20, numerous talk shows, and the Nancy Grace program.

~ ~ ~ ~

Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Monday, May 14, 2001
by Bob Link

Court declares Jodi Huisentruit legally dead

MASON CITY - Jodi HUISENTRUIT, the KIMT anchorwoman who disappeared during June of 1995, was declared legally dead Monday in Cerro Gordo County District Court.

Judge Steven P. CARROLL signed the court order, requested by HUISENTRUIT'S family, after Clear Lake attorney Robert SWANSON, appointed by the court to represent HUISENTRUIT'S interests, issued his report.

SWANSON was appointed to independently investigate the case on behalf of HUISENTRUIT three weeks ago.

"There just isn't any evidence that Jodi voluntarily left her apartment, or staged the scene of her disappearance," SWANSON said. "There is evidence that she was involuntarily removed from her apartment complex."

SWANSON reviewed Mason City Police Department records and talked to Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents involved in the case while conducting the independent investigation for the court.

"There is no evidence that Jodi is currently alive," SWANSON said. "Presumably she met an untimely early and involuntary demise."

Saying the court order establishing HUISENTRUIT'S death is in her best interest, CARROLL signed the order without reopening the hearing.

Thaddeus V. JUDE, Maple Lake, Minn., who represents HUISENTRUIT'S family, was not at the hearing.

HUISENTRUIT'S sister, JoAnn NATHE of Sauk Centre, Minn., said the request was a "very private family matter," which legally had to be done.

"I'm glad we settled it," she said. "We did what we had to do. Jodi would have wanted us to do this. She was one to take action and do what needed to be done."

NATHE said the family would continue its search for the truth of what happened in June 1995.

JUDE said Monday's court action would allow the family to proceed in completing HUISENTRUIT'S estate matters.

HUISENTRUIT disappeared early June 27, 1995, and is believed to have been abducted from the parking lot of the Key Apartments, where she lived.

~ ~ ~ ~

Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
June 23, 2008

Journal of missing television anchor mailed to newspaper

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - The personal journal of a missing television anchorwoman was mailed to the local newspaper from an unknown source and authorities are looking into the incident.

Jodi HUISENTRUIT, 27, a KIMT-TV morning news anchor, disappeared on her way to work on June 27, 1995. She had talked to a fellow worker early that morning, saying she was on her way to the station. She has not been seen or heard from since.

Law enforcement has followed thousands of leads in a case publicized nationally. Many details of the case including the 84-page journal remain confidential.

"We like to keep the integrity of the investigation as pristine as possible," said DCI Special Agent In Charge Jeff JACOBSON.

The Mason City Globe Gazette received the journal in a large envelope with no return address and a June 4 postmark from Waterloo.

Police and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officials said they do not believe the document was leaked by their employees, but are conducting an investigation to determine where it came from. Representatives of both agencies confirmed that the copy was a reproduction of a journal they took into evidence after searching HUISENTRUIT'S apartment in the days following her abduction.

"We're confident that it didn't come from Iowa DCI case files or case files from the Mason City Police Department," said Police Chief Mike LASHBROOK. He said copies in the case files have specific markings not appearing in the copy sent to the newspaper.

Authorities said several agencies have worked on the case, but only three, the local police department, the DCI and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have copies of the journal.

"It was unlawfully released," said DCI Agent Chris CALLOWAY. "That in itself is part of the investigation right now."

Thirteen years after her disappearance, police investigators say they continue to follow leads in the HUISENTRUIT case.

Mason City Police Investigator David TYLER and CALLOWAY review information on a regular basis, following leads from across the country. Calloway said they've questioned people as recently as just before the floods.

"David and I prioritize the leads as they come in," said CALLOWAY. "On the average we get from three to four leads a month."

~ ~ ~ ~
KIMT-TV News 3, June 23, 2008

Huisentruit Journal Sent to Local Newspaper

Mason City, IA- It's the latest twist in the unsolved disappearance of KIMT anchorwoman Jodi HUISENTRUIT.

A copy of her personal journal is anonymously sent to a reporter at a local newspaper.

Jodi was on her way to work in the early morning hours of June 27, 1995. Since then, thousands of potential leads have been followed. There are still no answers of where Jodi is nearly 13-years later.

The journal contains more than 80 pages. Jodi spells out her personal goals. They include moving to a bigger TV market and trying to drop her Minnesota accent. The entries reveal a young journalist striving to become better person, both in her career, and in life.

She was energetic, fun loving, and career oriented, the words from the pages of her journal reveal some of her most intimate thoughts.

"Live with passion daily. Be passionate in everyday life. Live the way I want to live-be generous, kind," she wrote in January of 1994.

Globe Gazette Editor Joe BUTWEILER couldn't believe the documents were in his hands. He says it appears to have been part of a new life improvement program for Jodi.

"She would write down on many different days, things that she wanted, she wanted to get to a larger market, she wanted to earn so many thousand dollars a year," he said.

He called Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation and Mason City Police to find out if the journal was genuine. They told him what he has is real.

"It's not a separate copy it's the same copy that was made when our copy was made, DCI's copy was made and FBI's, it's the same," said Mason City Police Chief Mike LASHBROOK.

After learning it was real the second question is where did the journal come from? Chief LASHBROOK says it isn't from his department or any other investigating agency. He says they can tell by the markings.

"In preparing it for their files they put markings on them, or just through punch holes or staple marks, or whatever, those things become unique to that document," he explains.

And why now, after 13 years would someone send the diary anonymously to a newspaper?

"Sure I've gotten anonymous tips about things, but never the journal of someone who had gone missing like this," BUTWEILER said.

Chief LASHBROOK says they are working with DCI to figure out who sent the journal. If it's someone in law enforcement they could be prosecuted. The journal could be very helpful if they do find a suspect in Jodi's case.

Mason City Police say although Jodi's disappearance is considered a cold case, they still get tips on a regular basis. Last November Cindy SWEENEY was sentenced to jail time for lying to police about the case [stating that she was a 13-year-old runaway who was forced to watch the murder of Jodi HUISENTRUIT. None of SWEENEY's statements were credible and she later admitted that she had lied.]

NOTE: Futher investigation revealed that the wife of a former police chief had been the person who sent the copies of Jodi's journal pages to The Globe Gazette

~ ~ ~ ~

Post-Bulletin
Rochester, Minnesota
January 9, 2009

Spring Valley couple goes after the missing

When Gary and Gladys PETERSON meet new people, it's often on the worst day of their lives. It might be the death of a loved one or someone has gone missing when the Petersons are called to the scene.

"Part of this involvement started six years ago when Gladys and I became certified on an international level by the American Board of Medico/Legal Death Investigators," Gary PETERSON said.

Residents of Spring Valley, the Petersons are one of three investigators in Fillmore County. They are called upon for all deaths outside of nursing homes or hospital. Their job is to collect information and order an autopsy if necessary. "We come upon some difficult and interesting scenarios," Gladys PETERSON said. Usually, the couple works with family members, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement.

How it all began

It was the disappearance of Iowa news anchor Jodi HUISENTRUIT that led the PETERSONS to a new vocation, that of volunteer search coordinators for the nonprofit organization Texas Equusearch. When HUISENTRUIT disappeared in 1995 in Mason City, PETERSON was the news director at KAAL television in Austin. He and reporter Josh BENSON went to Mason City to report on the investigation.

"One thing led to another, and Josh and I have been involved in the HUISENTRUIT case ever since," PETERSON said. After three years of research, PETERSON and BENSON produced a 14-part report, "The HUISENTRUIT Files," which won the Eric SEVAREID Excellence in Journalism Award in 2004 and an Emmy in 2005. They also established and maintain a Web site, FindJodi.com, that receives 50 or 60 hits a day on average.

The PETERSONS have been called upon for many missing person cases. Some are high-profile cases, such as the Caylee ANTHONY case in Florida, which was recently resolved, and the Stacy PETERSON case in Chicago. The couple is working on open cases in New York, Texas, Vermont, Iowa and Illinois.

"As search manager, we are a communication liaison between family and law enforcement, help organize a ground search, ride with police, firefighters and search teams," said Gladys PETERSON. "Families are vulnerable in these horrible situations. They feel alone, and our job is to give them a first-hand, honest report. ... It doesn't take much to give them a glimmer of hope, to keep them encouraged."

Rewarding, yet draining

Involvement in missing person cases has led to a first-hand investigation for Gary PETERSON. Troubled by the deaths of 140 college students during six years in river cities in the U.S., Gary has put the dates and locations of the incidents on a spread sheet.

"The results are chilling," he said. There is almost a direct geographical line in the location and sequence of the missing person reports of men who left a bar and were not seen again. He hopes to spur further investigation into these cases by computing similarities.

The PETERSONS believe their service is worthwhile, though many cases are frustrating They volunteer their time, though they might get help with travel expenses from the non-profit organization or from families or other volunteers. The work can take a toll physically and emotionally.

"Thank God we are both involved in this," Gladys PETERSON said. "Talking through it helps relieve the burden."

Their goal is to find the missing person regardless of the outcome.

"Even when they have solved the case, you have to accept the fact that 'why' may never be answered," Gary PETERSON said.

~ ~ ~ ~

The Gerald BEST murder case became intertwined with the Jodi HUISTENTRUIT missing persons case in September of 2011 when Mason City police officer Maria OHL was investigated by internal affairs on allegations of misconduct. OHL was fired August 4th, 2011 for allegedly mishandling information she had received involving the 1995 disappearance of KIMT-TV morning anchor HUISENTRUIT.

OHL reportedly received information from a street informant regarding police misconduct in the HUISENTRUIT case, which she had recorded, and consequently failed to immediately submit the recording in as evidence. OHL had implicted Mason City police officers in the HUSIENTRUIT disappearance and in the 1999 murder of Gerald BEST of Mason City. OHL claimed that Lt. Frank STEARNS, Lt. Ron Vande WEERD and former DCI agent Bill BASLER were involved in HUSIENTRUIT'S disappearance, and that Lt. Logan WERNET was involved in a coverup in connection with the BEST murder.

Both cases remain unsolved.

Mason City attorney Susan BERNAU called OHL'S allegations as being "outrageous." OHL was put on paid administrative leave, was examined by a psychologist who determined OHL was unfit or capable of being a police officer.

OHL's claims were that Rev. Shane PHILPOTT had received a telephone call from Donald MILK, a man from Minnesota, about the police misconduct and coverup, implicating STEARNS, Vande WEERD, BASLER and WERNET. Included in the information was a claim that HUISENTRUIT was buried near a sawmill near Forest City.

OHLS held onto the information for three years before coming forward. She was terminated for violating several departmental rules which included misuse of evidence, withholding information in a criminal case and insubordination.

DCI issued a news release stating that there was no credible evidence that linked police officer or DCI agents in the HUISENTRUIT case.

OHL filed claims of sexual discrimination, religious discrimination and retaliation against the Mason City Police Department with the Mason City Human Rights Commission and filed a subsequent lawsuit in federal district court in 2010. She claimed that she was subjecto to an ongoing harassment and discriminatory treatment because of her gender and had been denied training and promotion opportunities. Additionally, OHL claimed that she had been repeatedly subjected to inappropriate behavior which included a male officer pointing an unloaded gun at her head and pulling the trigger, and several instances of lewd language and gestures.

OHL is the sister-in-law of Rev. PHILPOTT, pastor of the Christian Fellowship Church. The church was awarded early in 2011 nearly $85,000 in a settlement of a suit against Mason City. The suit claimed that Lt. LASHBROOK and Lt. Logan WERNET had made damaging remarks about the church, leading to an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the church's financial records. PHILPOTT and the church were cleared of any wrongdoing.

PHILPOTT claimed that he personally called the Mason City Police Department with the information, taling to both STEARNS and Vande WEEDE on July 3rd or 5th in 2007. Investigation revealed that neither officer had been working on either of those dates.

NOTE: Early breaking news articles about the OHL/PHILPOTT allegations stated that OHL was accusing Mason City police officers as being involved in Jodi HUISENTRUIT'S disappearance. Later articles stated that OHL and PHILPOTT claimed that Mason City police officers were involved in covering up the information they were attempting to provide in the on-going investigation.

~ Gleaned from Globe Gazette articles, September of 2011

~ ~ ~ ~

A scholarship endowment fund was established at Jodi's alma mater - St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota, in Jodi's name.

Jodi's disappearance was classified as "homicide strongly suspected" and she was legally declared dead in 2001. Her case remains an open investigation and is unsolved to this day. She was 27-years-old at the time of her disappearance.

A website covering Jodi's case has been established at www.findjodi.com.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2011

 

 

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