Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.


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Today is the 24th anniversary of the Jodi Huisentruit disappearance. Though disappearance doesn’t really cover it, kidnapping and murder is more accurate. I thought I’d write about it for a few reasons. It is very local, it happened in Mason City just 15 minutes from me. It’s Iowa’s biggest unsolved crime since the Villisca axe murders in 1912. And because my neighbor was a  good friend and coworker of Jodi’s. Fair warning, there’s no happy ending to this story. Jodi is still missing, she was declared legally dead in 2001. Her body has never been found, no one has ever been charged in her presumed murder.

The story is as follows. Jodi was a news anchor for KIMT television in Mason City. On June 26th 1995 she participated in a golf tournament, she was an avid golfer who in high school had led her team to victory in state tournaments twice. That evening she visited a friend, John Vansice, to view a videotape of a birthday party he had arranged for her earlier that month. At 4am the next day she had not arrived at work. The producer, Amy Kuns, called her apartment. Jodi answered, said she had overslept, and was on her way. By 6am Jodi had still not arrived and Amy covered for her 6am show. At 7am KIMT staff called the police.

The police arrived at Jodi’s apartment and found her red Mazda Miata still there. There were signs of a struggle with her personal items strewn about. Subsequent investigation determined that nearby residents had heard a brief struggle at about the time she would have been leaving for work. One reported seeing a white van with running lights on parked in her apartment parking lot at about the time of her disappearance, it has never been identified. An unidentified palmprint was found on her car.

And that basically is that. Despite major investigations by police and private investigators, being covered on various TV shows, and the going efforts of her friends, no substantial leads have ever emerged. John Vansice, the friend she saw the night before, was and remains a person of interest in the case. And in fact the police executed a search warrant against him just last spring. There’s been no word since then, so if they found anything they’re keeping it quiet. A conviction after all this time would require some pretty solid evidence, and cases without bodies tend to be especially hard to prove.

Well, here are my speculations. I don’t think the investigation was botched, a lot of the classic unsolved crimes involved botched initial investigations where evidence was missed or damaged. I’m guessing it was a stranger abduction,  Jodi thought she had a stalker. And  a pretty newscaster might well have attracted a monster, it’s happened before. I mean, if it was someone she knew, the police should have been able to solve the case. Stranger abduction, no body … cases like this often go unsolved. Unless there is a lucky break, I suspect this one will remain unsolved too.

Technology might eventually solve a lot of cold cases like Jodi’s. I’m getting really speculative here. Extreme technology. DNA sniffers of extraordinary sensitivity. Software that can reconstruct the movements of everyone in Mason City that morning. Artificial Intelligences that are fantastically sensitive at reading facial expressions in old videos. Technologies we can’t even imagine. These are all decades if not centuries away though.

Disappearances are a nightmare for friends and family. I know closure is an overused word, but with no body it is difficult for people to move on. Parents especially. Anyone who has been around will have known parents who couldn’t get over the death of a child. My neighbor, Amy Kuns, the former KIMT producer and friend of Jodi, suffers to this day over the case. As a basic rule of thumb, about a third of people who suffer trauma like this never really get past it. Sad how some people think “They should just get over it.” People easily understand that a physical injury can leave lifelong deficits, many don’t understand that psychological injuries can do the same.

So here’s to the memory of Jodi. My heart goes out to her family and friends, I hope someday she is found and can truly rest in peace.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(These billboards were put up around Mason City by the Find Jodi organisation. Donations to support their efforts are appreciated and can be made here.)


Written by unitedcats

June 27, 2019 at 9:04 am

Posted in Crime, Personal

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