046 & 47 - The Abduction of Jodi Huisentruit Parts 1 & 2
Jodi Sue Huisentruit was born on June 5th, 1968 in Long Prairie, Minnesota to Maurice and Imogene. Jodi was Maurice and Imogene’s third daughter and would be their final child, having now filled out a family that spanned a wide age gap with JoAnn, the eldest, Jill the middle child and Jodi as the baby. When Jodi was born, her sister JoAnn was already eighteen years old. In a way, this put JoAnn in a position where she often felt more like a parent to Jodi than a sister, but regardless, their relationship was well developed and exceedingly loving. JoAnn would later describe Jodi, stating “Jodi had probably the greatest personality. I know she’s my kid sister and I’m very proud of her, but she was so personable and so bubbly. Everybody says that about her. There’s a lot of pretty faces out there, but to have a personality like hers… it was very unique.”
Long Prairie is a small city in Todd County, with a population of just over three thousand residents in a total of 2.67 square miles. The city was named after the Long Prairie River and is bordered on the south by Lake Charlotte. Housed at the junction of US Highway 71, as well as state highways 27 and 287, Long Prairie is a city built around the beauty of its natural surroundings as well as recreational and leisure activities. The educational system revolves within the Long Prairie Grey Eagle Public School system, containing an elementary school and a secondary or high school, along with options for early childhood education. Suffice it to say, Long Prairie is a sleepy, calm town that, despite its designations, feels more like a small town than that of a city, so to speak.
Jodi’s early life was filled with joy and happiness. She was an active child, and in a sense, was almost a surrogate son for her father, who had never had one, but secretly had hoped for one. In that sense, Jodi was the baby, and exceedingly close to her father who introduced her to sports and athletic activities, something which her older sisters had shown much less of an interest in. As a result of this, the bond between Jodi and Maurice was extremely strong, and the two often spent a great deal of time together. It was on the golf course, though, where Jodi and her father would connect the most. While Maurice taught Jodi how to swing a club, they would talk about life, hopes and dreams. In a way, the golf course became their own private world where they could share everything and the relationship between father and daughter was galvanized on the fresh cut green and the rolling landscapes.
It wasn’t all about sports for Jodi, though. Her prime interest from a young age was television and she dreamed of being broadcast around the country. Jodi’s love for television and film drew her into theater where she would frequently pursue the larger roles, with dreams of celebrity in her young eyes. JoAnn would later say of Jodi’s aspirations, “Jodi always knew she wanted to go into television from little on, she just loved to be on the stage. She was the one that wanted the big roles in the plays.” This wasn’t unusual for Jodi, as she was known to pursue every venture in her life with the same drive and determination that would come to be a key characteristic of her later life. She wasn’t prone to letting go of ambition, and instead, would double down on her efforts in hopes of achieving all that she dreamed. Sadly, when Jodi was thirteen years old, a family tragedy would disrupt the flow and lead her into a world of confusion and self doubt.
In 1982, Jodi’s father Maurice lost his battle with colon cancer. Jodi was absolutely devastated by the loss of not only her father, but her best friend and confidant. Maurice had been his daughter’s biggest cheerleader, and now, without him, there was almost a sense of not knowing what to do next. The man she would usually turn to for advice was no longer there, and stepping out onto the golf course, at first, was just too painful for her to confront. JoAnn would later remark “It was very hard on everybody, and hard of Jodi, because he suffered from colon cancer and she was very close to him because she was like the boy he never had.” At this time, Jodi’s best friend, Amy, witnessed some changes in her behavior, but they were short lived, and Jodi’s typical tenacity would ultimately win out. Her positive mindset and intense focus would guide her through the darkness of this time, and Amy would later say “It was a very profound loss. She had a rough summer after her dad died. I remember she lost a lot of weight and was very, very thin. But she kind of was the type of person not to really dwell and never be ‘oh woe is me.’”
After her struggle to come to terms with the loss of her father, Jodi reinvested her efforts and began stepping back out onto the green, finding a sense of peace and comfort on the golf course, almost as if her father was there with her. It was through golf that she ultimately managed to overcome her pain and find a sense of purpose and drive, but for JoAnn, she believed that golf represented something more to Jodi. It was almost as if, through golf, she felt she could commune with Maurice and she strove to show him all that she could do with what he had taught her. This mindset would spill over into all aspects of her life, from academics to personal achievements, and for Jodi, it was all about doing the best she could do and pushing herself beyond what she thought she was capable of. JoAnn would later say “She just applied herself 110% to everything she did and I think she wanted her dad to be proud of her, I think that was part of what drove her.”
Jodi would continue playing golf as she aged, and joined the golf team in high school. She was reported to have been an excellent player and her team won the state Class A Tournaments in both 1985 and 1986, during which time Jodi played a vital role. Throughout high school she obtained great grades and it was during this time that she started to develop her interest in a career in teleivison moreso than Hollywood, and as her dreams of acting began to change, they were replaced with her growing interest in the news. She began to look at the possibilities of pursuing a job working for a television news station. Upon her graduation from high school in 1986, Jodi would move on to St. Cloud State University. St. Cloud, Minnesota is located along the Mississippi river and is one of the largest schools in the Minnesota State College system. It boasts a revolving population of nearly 150,000 students and offers more than 200 majors, minors and pre-professional programs throughout six colleges and schools.
The city of St. Cloud offered Jodi a wider view of the world, with its population being over twenty times that of Long Prairie, at over 65,000 residents, making it Minnesota’s tenth largest city. According to friends and family, it was Jodi’s time in St. Cloud that seemed to truly open her eyes to the possibility of traveling, a passion to see the world which had already germinated within her was in full bloom as she attended classes. Jodi’s pursuits at St. Cloud were in the fields of mass communications and speech communication, and after four years away, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 1990. While everyone expected Jodi to immediately leap into her passion for the news and to begin making attempts at getting on board with a local station, the free spirited and passionate twenty-two year old had other ideas in mind.
Jodi had plans for her future, and while the news and broadcasting were always part of the picture, she knew that life could often throw you curve balls and surprises, and before she made the choice to lock herself into a specific direction of life, she wanted to see a bit more of the world. She had always dreamed of moving away from Long Prairie, of being in a larger city with a more vibrant life, and she saw this as her opportunity to do so and so her first job, post college, was working as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. Her childhood friend, Amy, would later say “I think she felt like ‘I want to see more of the world before I settle down and get into a career and maybe find a relationship and end up, you know, more tied down.’ So she did a lot of seeing the world from that time when she was a flight attendant.”
Jodi loved being on the move and living her life in a different place from day to day. Her warm and sociable personality made her exceptional at this particular job, where she got to speak to different people every day and watch the world spin from the windows of a plane. While this was an exciting time in her life, Jodi never viewed it as her future and she knew that being a flight attendant was just a way to make a living while living out her dreams of experiencing the world in a broader scope. It wasn’t too long before the traveling bug was worked out of her system and Jodi began to set her sights back on her one true dream: broadcast journalism. This would take her out of Minnesota, and to Iowa, for the first time. Her first job in the industry was for KGAN, a local news channel located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jodi worked as the Bureau Chief. Despite her lack of experience in the field, Jodi was trusted with coordinating the efforts of reports to investigate and cover stories. While this got her foot in the door, and showed her skill and talent, this position placed her in the background and Jodi still held out dreams of being in front of the camera.
Her second job in this field brought her back to Minnesota, where she was hired on to KSAX in Alexandria. Alexandria was larger than Long Prairie, though not by a great deal, but was certainly much smaller than Cedar Rapids. Her choice to take this position simply involved her desire to move closer to the position she sought, and each new job suited her with new challenges and chances to prove herself. Displaying her typical hard work and diligence, Jodi quickly earned the respect and admiration of her fellow co-workers. One thing, which remained consistent throughout Jodi’s moves and jobs, was her ability to develop strong friendships. Newsrooms can be stressful places to work, everything moves so rapidly and the stories can become all encompassing. This often breeds a competitive environment, but for Jodi, everyone was a part of the team and she had no issues establishing strong connections that would last throughout her life.
Finally, after spending some time learning all there was, and mastering it, at KSAX, Jodi was offered a job which she considered a big break for her career. KIMT, located in Mason City, Iowa, had an open position for a morning and afternoon producer. While this was an exciting move for Jodi, it was the other caveat to this position which drew her in: this producer would also function as an anchor on the morning and news broadcasts. After years working both behind and in front of the camera, though the latter was less so than the former, Jodi finally had the opportunity to sit at the desk and guide the program. About this new job, JoAnn would later say “She thought it was a promotion, that she was gonna be moving up the ladder gradually and she was really excited.” The position required Jodi to report in at 3am, where she would put stories together, do research, make adjustments and then she’d settle into the chair for the 6am and noon broadcasts.
Mason City, Iowa, is not exactly the burgeoning metropolis that Jodi dreamed of, with a population of just under 30,000, but to her, it was an opportunity and another chance to get a leg up. She dreamed of anchoring the news, and KIMT offered her this chance. She saw it as another challenge, but also, a platform from which she might be able to make a case for herself to become an on air broadcaster for a larger network sometime in the future. KIMT was a CBS affiliate, and one who was always driven to do her best, Jodi believed that if she worked hard and knocked it out of the park, she might just catch the eye of one of the bigger shows producers. While it wasn’t a guarantee, Jodi knew she was going to give it her best either way.
Jodi rented an apartment from the Key Apartments, located on North Kentucky Avenue, on the outskirts of Mason City. This placed her less than a twenty minute drive to her new job and provided her with enough distance to be able to settle down and unwind after a long day. Her shifts typically found her working from three am until twelve or one pm, which while it was early, and required her to cut out a bit of her nightlife activities, this didn’t bother her very much. JoAnn would later say “She really didn’t complain about the morning shift, at all. She had her afternoons and she just enjoyed being on television.”
Outside of her career pursuits, Jodi found her life in Mason City to be fun and exciting. She developed a close circle of friends with whom she would frequent local bars while also finding ways to satisfy her urges to travel and perform in athletic activities. She still golfed, and would play with friends and also alone, as a way to clear her head. She was known to enjoy skiing and was even known to go to Iowa City for water skiing. Jodi’s love life was one area which seemed to have a noticeable vacancy. By 1994, Jodi was twenty-six years old and her beauty was easily noticed and drew men towards her.
The blond haired, brown eyed girl had a captivating smile and an undeniable charm. Jodi knew how to talk to a man, and this often served her well when trying to get information from someone for a story, but it also served a different story. According to some friends, during their college days, when money was tight and they were looking to have fun, it wasn’t uncommon for them to go out to the local bars and use their flirtation to get free drinks. Jodi didn’t have to work very hard to beguile a man, but she’d yet to find one who truly captured her attention but the twenty-seven year old wasn’t worried. Her career was beginning to surge and, she assumed, there would be plenty of time for that later.
It was during this time with KIMT that Jodi began to show the first signs of possible burnout from a life marked by hard driving determination and constant movements. She made friends quickly at the station, but some noted that Jodi would sometimes seem as though she were completely exhausted, though she could burst out in total excitement and energy at any moment. Perhaps it was her ventures out to the bar with friends, or her struggle to adjust with the early morning schedule, but Jodi developed a reputation for being late.
Another producer at KIMT, Amy Kuns, functioned as Jodi’s assistant at the time. In a later interview, when asked about Jodi’s punctuality, Kuns responded “She was often late. About once a week. I would call her and wake her up, and she’d be in to work within twenty minutes.” It was during this time that quiet whispers began to circulate about the possibility of drug use. Jodi was known to show erratic energy patterns and when asked about this, Kuns responded “Jodi had been really up and down before her disappearance. She would fall asleep in edit bays, and later in the day would be really perky. I wondered what was going on with her. I would not be surprised if drugs were involved.” When asked about Jodi’s behavior at work, Kun stated “She was very demanding. She would often snap at me. Then she would turn around, clap, stand up at her desk and proclaim “I love life!” I could never figure her out.”
Among those in Jodi’s social circle was a local man with a lot of money to throw around and, allegedly, a predilection for boasting and drawing attention to himself. Arthur John Vancise, who typically went by his middle name, was forty nine years old when he met and began hanging around Jodi. At the time, he worked as a district sales manager for Pfister Hybrid Seed Company. Mason City Detective Terrance Proschaka, when asked about Vancise, described him as “very well known, but he’s also active in his personal life. He liked to be out at bars at night, he liked to be somewhat of a showoff, maybe a playboy type. He had a very fancy boat for that time.” Vancise had met Jodi when he moved into the Key Apartments, upon first arriving in Mason City in the Fall of 1994.
According to friends, it wasn’t uncommon for Jodi and Vancise to flirt and dance together, but it was abundantly clear that Jodi’s interests were no more than playful and platonic. It has been debated whether or not Vancise had designs on Jodi, but the general consensus is that, for Jodi, that was never going to happen. Vancise seemed to fill a role in her life, that missing father figure that she still longed for, but even according to Jodi’s own diary, there was not the possibility for anything even resembling an intimate relationship there. Vancise maintains that he never had an interest in Jodi in that way, and that, they were simply good friends and he viewed her like a daughter.
It wasn’t uncommon for Vancise to be around Jodi and her friends. He was slowly accepted into the group and Jodi spoke about him, not as an individual, but as part of that group of friends in general. Half a year after meeting, Jodi’s twenty-seventh birthday was approaching, and Vancise made the decision to organize a surprise party at a local bar. Jodi was gleefully shocked by the gesture and had a great time that night, dancing with friends, drinking and, perhaps even flirting a little. At the party, a camcorder was present to record the events of the evening and the tape will later play a role in Vancie’s accounts of the events leading up to Jodi’s disappearance.
On the weekend of June 23rd through 25th, Jodi had gone down to Iowa City for a fun weekend of water skiing. On Monday, June 26th, 1995, Jodi participated in a local golf tournament. According to the official timeline, Jodi left the tournament at approximately 8pm. Her comings and goings are tracked by telephone calls, one of which was placed from her apartment that evening at 8:24pm. Jodi called her friend, Kelly Torgasen, but her husband answered. Kelly wasn’t home at the time, so Jodi spoke to the husband for a period of time. According to the husband, Jodi was in high spirits and when she got off the call, she requested that he let Kelly know she had called and to give her a call back when she got in. Detective Proschaka, when asked about the call, said that, according to Kelly’s husband, “There was nothing in her voice that she was scared or mentioned any problems with anybody recently. She actually made a long conversation about the trip she’d had, her skiing trip, she was actually more or less bragging to him about how much fun she had.”
It should be noted that Jodi reported to work at 3am, meaning that her arrival time was a mere seven hours after she had arrived home at 8pm that night. The 8:24pm phone call, even if only lasting five minutes, would leave her with only six hours and ten minutes to get ready for bed, sleep and then wake up, do her morning preparations and drive the twenty minutes to work. Though later evenings weren’t exactly uncommon for Jodi, this may have played a role in her tendency to be late to work.
The following morning, on Tuesday, June 27th, Jodi’s arrival time of 3am came and went without her arriving. Being that it wasn’t uncommon for Jodi to be late, Amy Kuns doesn’t think a great deal about it and assumes that Jodi will arrive before 4am. However, when 4am comes and Jodi still hasn’t shown up, Amy finds it necessary to make a call to her apartment, a call she had made multiple times in the past. At approximately 4:10am, Kuns calls and the phone rings and rings. At this point she feels her assumption that Jodi overslept is the most likely outcome of the situation. Eventually, Jodi answers and Kuns can hear the sleepiness in her voice. She explains that it’s now after 4am and she’s overslept again. Jodi is reported to have apologized profusely and tells Kuns that she will be there in twenty minutes. It should be noted that some articles report that Kuns had another employee place this call, but this seems to be due to confusion about a later call, and in an interview, Kuns confirms her call, stating “I don’t remember what time I called her, I think it was 4:10am.” She goes on saying “She asked what time it was. I told her. She said she’d be right in.”
Thinking nothing more of the situation, Kuns goes back to work preparing for that morning’s broadcast. Time continues ticking by, though, and soon 4:30 passes, and then 5am. Kuns assumes that Jodi may have fallen back to sleep, but as the 6am hour approaches, and the show is going to have to begin, Kuns decides to sit in for Jodi and anchor the episode herself. While Kuns is on the air reporting that days news, she can’t help the growing concern in her mind. While Jodi is frequently late, she is never this late and she has never missed an episode of the program before. Kuns attempts another call to Jodi, but this time, the phone never stops ringing. When asked about why she didn’t call the police right then, Kuns responded “I waited because I thought she had just fallen back asleep. At the very worst, maybe she fell and hit her head in the shower. And honestly, I was busy doing the work of two people.”
When the broadcast ends, Kuns approaches an employee and asks him to call the police and see if they’re able to go and do a welfare check at Jodi’s apartment. The call comes in to the Mason City police department at 7:15am. Within ten minutes an officer arrives at the Key Apartments and, in the distance, he sees Jodi’s red Mazda Miata. He approaches her door and knocks several times, calling out her name and asking if everything is all right. He receives no answer. Being that there is nothing immediately alarming about the call, the officer decides to check out Jodi’s vehicle, assuming that she may have experienced car trouble and caught a ride with someone else. As soon as he gets near the vehicle all semblance of this being a routine situation goes out the window.
The vehicle itself doesn’t appear damaged, but scatted all around are Jodi’s belongings. Among the items discovered are a pair of red womens dress shoes, a blow dryer, a bottle of hairspray, car keys, one of which is bent, and earrings. The car itself is not damaged, though its front, driver side mirror is folded forward. Detective Proschaka later says “it was actually folded in the outward position which would make it appear that someone had brushed up against it and actually folded it in the outward position.” The bent key draws attention as its immediately assumed that this likely happened during a struggle, and considering the items scattered about, it becomes quickly clear that this is a crime scene and there has likely been an abduction. One detail which solidifies this in investigators minds is when they discover drag marks in the silt nearby.
Investigators are called to the scene and begin a multi-pronged approach. While the vehicle and area around it is being processed, other investigators enter the apartment while uniformed police begin canvassing the area, knocking on neighbors doors and asking if they witnessed anything from the night or early morning. Multiple tenants at the complex report hearing screams at approximately 4:30am, though none had called the police to report the sounds. According to Detective Proschaka, the complex had a lot of tenants and there was a campground nearby, so hearing screaming or loud sounds in the early morning hours wasn’t all that uncommon. That being said, no one reported hearing any vehicles or other voices. One witness, a man living in the complex, will later tell investigators that, as he was leaving for work that morning, around 4:30am, he did note a light colored van sitting in the lot with its parking lights on.
Other officers, still are conducting a search of the apartment complex and surrounding area. That morning they examine the park next to the complex, as well as the area around the Winnebago River, which runs behind the complex, though they find nothing of note. Back in Jodi’s apartment, nothing appears to be out of place and there is no sign of a struggle. The more they look around, the less they believe that anything related to the disappearance happened within the apartment. At one point, while in Jodi’s bedroom, they discover a journal on her bedside table. They go through it, hoping that there may be something which gives them a possible suspect or direction to look, but ultimately there is little information considered helpful. The journal is later described as being short entries, including but not limited to Jodi’s future plans, her thoughts about her job and her dreams of moving on to a larger television market and anchoring to a larger audience.
Mason City Police Lieutenant Frank Stearns is one of the investigators surveying the apartment when he notes something that isn’t exactly unusual, but does pique his interest. In the bathroom, he finds the toilet seat in the upward position, suggesting the possibility that a male had been in the apartment recently. Despite this possibility, they find nothing else inside which suggests the presence of a man, though what exactly would suggest that is highly debatable, unless the man would have left something specific behind. Regardless, this detail is noted in their reports and it’s at this time that Stearns has to confront the reality of the situation. He places a call to Jodi’s sister, JoAnn, who at first thinks that Jodi may have been involved in an accident. When she is told Jodi is missing, she calms down a little, thinking that it might all be a mistake. She later says “He said Jodi is missing. Missing, well I was kind of uplifted. Missing, you’ll find her, you know? Then he said we’ve been searching and we can’t find her at all and there’s stuff by her car.”
While JoAnn begins the drive to Mason City to find out what exactly is going on, and where her sister is, detectives move from her apartment to the car. At this point, word has begun to travel around Mason City and they find many of the complex residents gathering in the parking lot, watching their activities. Local media grabs a hold of the story, and due to their rush to catch the scoop, multiple inaccurate reports are disseminated to the public. According to early news reports, among the items found at the car, blood evidence was also gathered. The Mason City Police, though, dispute this claim stating emphatically that no blood was found at the scene. An unidentified palm print was lifted from the vehicle, but that is the only piece of evidence publicly reported. It’s at this point that detectives have a very odd encounter with one of Jodi’s friends, John Vancise.
According to investigators, Vancise approached them in the parking lot and openly stated that he was the last person to see Jodi alive. They find this statement troubling for, as far as they know, they’re dealing with an abduction and not necessarily a murder, so Vancise’s use of past tense when speaking about Jodi makes them suspicious. According to Vancise, Jodi had been to his apartment the night before, to watch the video shot at her surprise birthday party. Officers take a statement from him and inform him that they will be speaking to him again during the course of their investigation. At the same time, they have begun checking with local newspaper companies to find out if any use a light colored van which may explain away the sighting in the parking lot that morning, but none are found which would have been at the Key Apartment Complex at that time.
For investigators, the case is complicated by Jodi’s public status. Living in such a small town and being on television, she is essentially a local celebrity. As they question friends and family, they begin to piece together strange incidents which Jodi experienced in the weeks and months leading up to her disappearance. According to police reports filed months earlier, Jodi had been out jogging when a black truck began slowly driving behind her. Worried and concerned, she turned off her path and ran up to the front door of a home, and the driver continued on down the road. Jodi reported this to police, who initially looked into it, but were unable to locate the vehicle or the driver. When JoAnn was asked about this incident, she stated “Jodi was worried a few times about stalking. A guy in a black truck had followed her and acted very creepy.”
Jodi’s childhood friend, Amy, went further, explaining that she and Jodi had discussed her desire for self defense and to be able to protect herself. According to Amy “She had talked to me at length about how she had taken a self defense class. She didn’t feel safe and she wanted to be able to defend herself.” Armed with this new information, Mason City Police begin running checks on all of the owners of black trucks in the area who have any kind of criminal background. They are unable to locate anyone that results in any possible connection to Jodi, the apartment complex or being in the area that morning.
By the next day, June 28th, agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation as well as the FBI join in with local officials in their search. Police Chief Jack Schlieper speaks to the media, informing them that at this time they are dealing with a missing persons case and that foul play is suspected, but unfortunately, they are in possession of few clues or pieces of evidence which may give them a direction to go. Searches continue but yield no results, and as the days begin passing, the possibility of an abduction becomes solidified in the minds of investigators. By July 1st, four days after Jodi vanished, it is officially announced that the disappearance is being treated as an abduction and the tip about the light colored van being seen in the parking lot is released to the public. A reward fund is established for tips and information and climbs to $11,000.
It’s around this time that John Vancise speaks to the media, and investigators find his statements strange enough to take a closer look. In his statement, Vancise says “She just makes me feel so good and so great about things. That’s just Jodi, you can’t help but love that woman, you can’t help but love Jodi.” Investigators speak to Vancise again, and again he tells the same story, saying that Jodi came over to his place a little after 8pm to watch the video, but this sets off bells for investigators. According to their timeline, Jodi left her golf event at 8pm and made a phone call from her own apartment at 8:24pm. They can’t help but wonder whether Jodi ever did go to his place that night.
Having learned about the birthday party, they speak to multiple friends and co-workers who had been present. They speak of the evening being very pleasant and fun, and multiple attendees report that Jodi had danced with Vancise several times that night. According to their statements, Jodi danced with multiple people and treated Vancise no different than anyone else, but they felt that Vancise had kept his eyes on her through the night and seemed much more invested in maintaining her attention. When Vancise is asked about where he was between the hours of 4am and 5am the morning Jodi disappeared, he states that he was at home, had woken up around 5am and elected to take a morning walk.
Investigators found Vancise’s accounting of events and his behavior troublilng, but at that time, they didn’t have any evidence which would afford them the ability to get warrants to search his home or property. Instead, they ask Vancise if he is willing to take a polygraph, and he agrees to do so. Vancise later says that he went to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take the polygraph and alleges that he “passed with flying colors” though Mason City Police have never publicly commented on the results of the polygraph. When asked about the polygraph, Vancise later states “I was offended at first, but now I understand. I’m glad I did this because it proves I had nothing to do with it.”
On July 2nd, Police Chief Schliepper speaks to the media, and once again refers to the van, stating “I want to emphasize that the person or persons associated with the van are not necessarily suspects. They simply may have information that would help us in our investigation.” Schliepper goes on to answer questions, stating that they are unsure if Jodi’s public persona and fame plays any role in her disappearance. He explains that more than 200 people have been interviewed, and goes on to say “Over the next few days, we’ll be expanding our search area and expanding the number of people assisting with the investigation.” While investigators are searching areas surrounding the complex, with an ever expanding radius, they employ helicopters to also search an area southwest of the city. Te Mason City Fire Department and state Department of Natural Resources are thoroughly searching the Winnebago river, though nothing is ultimately found. Nearly three hundred tips are phoned in to police within the first week of the investigation.
Days begin passing, with nothing new discovered. By July 7th, ground and air searches for Jodi are called off, though the interview process continues. On July 10th, Chief Schliepper states that an FBI behavioral scientist is attempting to determine if there is a link between Jodi’s disappearance and any other disappearances in the area. He also explains that they have received more than 700 tips in the nearly two weeks since Jodi vanished. JoAnn is questioned by police for any information she may have about her sisters disappearance, but the more JoAnn meets and speaks with Jodi’s friends, the more she realizes that her kid sister had much more of a life than she was aware of, and she is of little help. She eventually returns to Minnesota, feeling that she cannot be of much assistance, though she does maintain contact with the Mason City Police.
July slowly fades, and then August begins to pass with few, if any leads. Over the course of the next month, Chief Schliepper continues speaking to the media and reveals several pieces of information. On August 3rd, the Chief explains that they still have found no new leads or suspects. On August 12th, John Lang, a special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation tells the media that it appears that the suspect was likely watching Jodi and noted her behavior patterns. Back at the offices of KIMT, employees are shocked by the lack of developments in the case, though they put Jodi down as on leave and refuse to hire a replacement anchor. On August 27th, a candlelight vigil is held for Jodi at a public pool area while local businesses display yellow ribbons carrying the message “Find Jodi.”
In early September, the reward for information about Jodi’s disappearance grows to $30,000 but no one is supplying information that leads to any new discoveries. Jodi’s family take it upon themselves to hire a private investigation firm, McCarthy and Associates, to examine the case. They bring in private investigator Doug Jasa, from Nebraska. Through the firm, the family is put in touch with three prominent psychics who allege to be able to assist with the case. The meeting is ultimately televised on the show “Psychic Detectives.” According to the so-called psychics, Jodi’s abductor was someone who saw her on TV and had become obsessed with her. The private investigation firm is unable to come up with anything to identify a suspect. By the end of the month, her story is blasted into the national consciousness when America’s Most Wanted airs a segment on it, which results in more than sixty tips, though none appear to reveal anything which can assist investigators along the way.
Days begin turning into weeks, and weeks into months. By the six month anniversary of Jodi’s disappearance, in December of 1995, police are unable to announce any leads or suspects. They reveal that they have searched area near two Mason City dams, but turned up nothing significant. KIMT continues to hold Jodi’s position, with other staff members filling in for her and the reward offered reaches $34,000. In February of 1996, Jodi’s case is featured on the television series Unsolved Mysteries and Chief Schliepper later reveals that the segment resulted in 186 phone calls and 97 tips for investigators, though none of these will pan out.
Several months pass, and for Jodi’s family, their frustration and sadness over her disappearance is mounting. How someone could simply vanish without a trace and nothing can be found absolutely baffles them, and in hopes of contributing something to the effort, one hundred volunteers are gathered to conduct a search in the Northeart Cerro Gordo County Countryside. Volunteers are given flags to mark anything they spot which appears suspicious, and then these flags are examined by law enforcement officers. Sadly, nothing is found during this search which may reveal anything new about the case. This search is conducted in May of 1996, and just one month later, the one year anniversary of Jodi’s disappearance comes around, and investigators are frustrated that they have no new information or leads. They are essentially working with the same information they’ve had since day one, and while they cannot connect anyone to the disappearance, they are aware that someone knows something they aren’t sharing.
Soon, the months begin transforming into years, and from 1996 to 1999, there is little information about Jodi’s case or the status of the investigation revealed to the public. While investigators assure the media that the case is still very much open and ongoing, public interest begins to wain and over the next years, Jodi’s name begins to fade from the spotlight. The mystery of her disappearance only deepens, and then in the winter of 1999, the first new piece of information is brought to the attention of investigators. Anthony Jackson, a prison inmate serving a life sentence for the rapes of three women in 1997, writes a rap song. It’s alleged that one part of the song refers to a dead body in the Iowa city of Tipton, and it is suggested that the song is about Jodi.
Investigators look into Jackson and discover that, at the time Jodi vanished, he was in fact living in Mason City. This certainly piques their interest and so they begin to dig deeper. Law Enforcement officials in Tipton are contacted and brought into the investigation and the first new search in over three years is launched. Investigators employ cadaver dogs are they search areas in Tipton which are considered likely locations for concealing a body, but nothing is found. Mason City Police arrange to speak with Jackson, but he denies any involvement in the crime, or that any rap song he may or may not have come up with has anything to do with Jodi Huisentruit. Lt Frank Stearns, when asked about Jackson, states “We ran that out as far as we could, but it’s our belief that he had nothing to do with it.” When asked about Jackson, JoAnn responds “For a while were really convinced maybe it was him, that we had a prime suspect, but the police in Mason City didn’t think so. But, he had a girlfriend that looked so much like Jodi. And he’d broken up with her.” For the time being, Jackson is dismissed as a suspect, though his name will resurface later in the investigation.
Three more long and bitter years will pass, and in the Summer of 2002, some seven years after Jodi mysterious vanished from the parking lot of her apartment complex, two men will decide to examine the case themselves, and ultimately find themselves pulled deep into a world of possibly corruption, murder and cover up. News director Gary Peterson of KAAL-TV in Austin, Minnesota, received a letter from a psychic. The psychic explained that he was willing to do a reading or analysis of a cold case for free if there was any interest. Peterson had always been fascinated by Jodi’s case and figured he had nothing to lose by doing so. A picture of Jodi was sent out, and later, another letter was received. This letter contained questions and answers that the psychic alleged had to do with Jodi’s case. After speaking with Josh Benson, a news anchor at KAAL, the two decided to run a thirteen part special about Jodi’s disappearance in hopes of drawing in new attention.
The audience responds and interest in Jodi’s disappearance is reinvigorated, and throughout the course of their research into the case, both Peterson and Benson become fixated on figuring out what occurred. They begin to examine it in more detail and map out their own links as to what may have occurred. For them, one area of interest is the bizarre death of a man named Billy Pruin. Pruin was a Mason City local, and a friend of Jodi’s. Pruin was described by many as a fun loving, kind man who got along easily with everyone. According to official records, on Sunday, April 2nd, 1995, Pruin proposed to his then girlfriend, Gretchen Tusler. Two days later, on Tuesday April 4th, Pruin took his truck to Mason City to pick up a new tractor he had just purchased for in the price range of approximately $200,000. He picked up the tractor and then drove it home, leaving his vehicle behind. Though multiple calls were placed to Pruin that evening, he failed to answer his phone.
On Wednesday, April 5th, a friend went to check on Pruin after several unanswered calls. He found the front door hanging four inches open and Pruin’s keys still in the lock of the door. He is reported to have shouted for Pruin, but seeing his truck wasn’t there, and hearing no response nor commotion inside the home, the man chose to leave the property, never having entered. The next morning, on April 6th, Pruin’s mother went to the home to check on her son whom she hadn’t heard from. At this time, she entered the apartment and found Pruin deceased in the dining room. Investigators immediately arrived on seen and found Pruin with a gunshot wound in his chest, and the expended slug of Pruin’s own 44 magnum laying on the floor in the kitchen and his revolver was in his hand.
Initially this death was ruled as a suicide, though many doubted this possibility. Pruin was reported to have been in high spirits, had gotten engaged days earlier and had just made a major purchase for his farm. There were also details about the death which baffled those who looked into it, such as the fact that Billy’s chest wound was larger than the wound in his back, suggesting that the shot which killed him had actually been fired from behind him, meaning that his chest wound was actually an exit wound. For many, they believed that Billy had been murdered and among those supporters of this theory was Jodi Huisentruit. Ultimately, Pruin’s cause of death was changed to that of “undetermined” and to this day it remains unknown what exactly transpired that day.
Other details which raised suspicions were the fact that no identifiable prints were lifted from Pruin’s revolver and Pruin’s fiancée stated that, in the weeks leading up to his death, he had confessed to her that he was afraid of something, though he never specified what. In what would appear to be a very strange choice of behaviors, Pruin was noted to have recently acquired a large life insurance policy. According to that policy, several months had to pass, during which time if Pruin were to commit suicide, his policy would be void. This is a fairly standard clause, but in Pruin’s case, his death occurred just weeks before that time period would have ended, leading many to believe that even if Pruin had committed suicide, he wouldn’t have done so until after that time had elapsed.
Jodi, as well as many others, believed that Pruit had been attacked by someone and that his keys being left in the door suggested he had rushed into the home to get his gun, at which point someone may have engaged him in a struggle when the gun went off, killing him. Gunshot residue was not found on Pruin’s hands in the subsequent investigation, nor on his clothing, which for many indicates that Pruin may have come home and been ambushed by someone who had already gained entry and grabbed his revolver. Jodi’s friend, Kelly Torgelson, whom she had called the night before she vanished, reported that on the day Jodi disappeared, she had received a letter from her. In the letter Jodi is alleged to have stated that she was concerned for her safety and that she may be being stalked. In an interesting twist, when the state medical examiner, located in Des Moines, Iowa was contacted about this death, he stated that he hadn’t yet received the official autopsy report from Cerro Gordo County. This report is typically mailed within days of the autopsy being completed. For whatever reason, it took eleven years for this report to reach the State Medical Examiner. Pruin’s case remains unsolved.
According to Jodi’s friends, and her sister JoAnn, she never believed that the truth about this situation had come out and she had expressed an interest in examining it. Whether or not she dug into it, how much she discovered, if anything at all, and whether or not the circumstances surrounding Pruin’s death played a role in her disappearance, just three months later, remains unknown. It is a point of speculation, for many, but a hot button issue in regard to Jodi’s disappearance.
Peterson and Benson next looked at Thomas Corscadden, a violent criminal with a long record of sex offenses.
In 1996, Corscadden was having a conversation with an agent of the court system. The agent happened to mention Mason City, at which point it’s been reported that Corscadden smiled and simply said “Jodi Huisentruit.” The agent, at this point, is reported to have questioned Corscadden about the case, though he had little to say. The agent later stated that she didn’t believe Huisentruit was still alive, to which Corscadden is alleged to have responded “No, she’s dead.”
His name, is Thomas Corscadden. Corscadden, by the time Jodi vanished, already had a checkered and dark history. In 1975, while serving in the military and stationed in California, Corscadden sexually assaulted a woman, for which he was later arrested and convicted. In late 1995, just months after Jodi would go missing, Corscadden was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. He would be released a few years later, though he would return to prison in 1998 for violating conditions of his release, including but not limited to, drug abuse. Corscadden was released again 2000, this time, after a notification meeting in Austin, Minnesota, at which point residents were told that the sex offender would be coming to town after his release. At the time of his release, Corscadden was under heavy supervision and would be required to wear an ankle monitor for the first six months.
Corscadden would later be arrested and sentenced to serve in Oak Park Height’s maximum security prison in March of 2002 on crimes of sexual assault against women and children. According to Mason City investigators, they did look at Corscadden as a possible suspect as early as 1995 but were unable to find anything which linked him to Jodi. Corscadden was reported to have owned a van fitting the description of the one seen in the apartment complex parking lot the morning Jodi vanished. Corscadden’s wife also told investigators that he had tried to obtain tickets to attend a television taping at KIMT in early 1995 and had become enraged when he was unable to do so. Corscadden was familiar with Mason City and was known to frequent bars and strip clubs in the area. When asked about the location of his van, Corscadden reported giving it away to a friend, but before police could examine it, it caught on fire. Corscadden claimed to have no knowledge of the fire or how it had started. Outside of his disturbing remark about Jodi, and a history of violent sex crimes, there is little which investigators feel can link Corscadden to Jodi’s disappearance. Mason City Police would later obtain a copy of Corscadden’s fingerprints, as well as his palm print, which was compared to the print found on the vehicle, though it did not match. In 2004, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd was asked if Corscadden had been officially ruled out as a suspect. He replied that he had not, but “there is nothing that I can see that connects him to the Huisentruit abduction.”
In May of 2001, Jodi’s family had her declared legally dead. Though they had not given up on Jodi, it seemed necessary to take this step in hopes of handling final legal situations regarding Jodi. Seven more years would pass before there would be any new information or leads developed in Jodi’s case. In the meantime, her family struggled to accept the possibility that they may never find the truth. Peterson and Benson established a website, FindJodi.com which began as a place to gather all of the information and, in the time since, has become a non profit organization employing multiple people including former police officers, in hopes of bringing attention to Jodi’s case. Then, in June of 2008, thirteen years after Jodi vanished, newspapers published a story which included pages from Jodi’s journal. This was bizarre since the Journal remained in the possession of the Mason City Police Department.
The Iowa Globe Gazette received an anonymous package in early June of 2008 which contained photocopies of 84 pages from Jodi’s journal. When reached for comment, the Mason City Police Department confirmed that the pages were in fact from Jodi’s journal. The journal included writings from Jodi about her current job. In April of 1995, she wrote “My number one goal is to get a new job.” On Sunday, June 25th, two days before she vanished, her entry reads in part “Great friends in Mason City, but professionally I’m fed up. It’s difficult finding a new job and I’m confused about agents and what to do.” When JoAnn was reached for comment about the journal, she explained that even she had never seen the Journal, and she later stated “It’s just such a cold case. Somebody knows something and we wish they’d come forward.” Interestingly, several of the entries made in the days leading up to her disappearance mentioned John Vancise. On June 11th she noted John throwing her a surprise birthday part. On June 13th she discussed attending the Glen Miller Orchestra with John. On Sunday, the 25th, she noted that she had been water skiing and she mentions John’s son, Trent, giving her tips.
Police immediately began an investigation to determine how the journal was leaked to the press. Within twenty-four hours they were able to discover the source, the wife of a former Mason City Police Chief who had since retired. Lt. Frank Stearns would later state “It was one our retired Chief’s wife who released that to the media. Why she would release that, I don’t know. As a chief of police he had copies of records for himself and he must have mistakenly took that when he retired and his wife took that and realeased it to the media.” Ultimately, his wife was questioned but no real motive was determined, nor were they able to establish any links between the former chief or his wife and Huisentruit. After the release of the journal, which investigators felt was damaging to their investigation, the case once again went quiet.
Several years later, in 2011, former Mason City police officer Maria Ohl was appealing her termination in a meeting with the Civil Service Commission at City Hall. When her appeal was rejected, Ohl spoke to the media and, for the first time, publicly discussed information she had received in relation to possible police corruption in the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. According to Ohl, she had been called to a disturbance at an apartment complex and had responded, alongside another officer. While at the apartment, she alleged to have overheard two men discussing Jodi’s disappearance, and in that discussion, the men named two Mason City Police officers and a Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officer.
According to Ohl, she had been subject to a great deal of harassment and intimidation, sexism and threats during her time with the Mason City Police Department, which she joined in 2001. She would go on to explain that these experiences only got worse after she began raising questions about Jodi’s disappearance. Ohl was ultimately fired from the department in August of 2011 for, allegedly, not following department rules and procedures regarding possible evidence in a criminal case. The evidence Ohl is alleged to have mishandled hasn’t been revealed, but it has been stated it was evidence in the Jodi Huisetruit investigation. Later, a department psychologist ruled that Ohl was not fit for duty.
According to Ohl’s story, the man at the apartment had alleged that the officers involved in Jodi’s disappearance were Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Bill Basler, along with Mason City Police Officers Lt. Ron Vande Weerd and Lt. Frank Stearns. It’s important to note that both Stearns and Vande Weerd have played roles in Jodi’s investigation over the years, including speaking on television shows and in news articles about the investigation. All three denied any possible involvement in the crime and called the claims assanine and nothing more than the ravings of a drunken person. Ohl later stated “All I want is for the truth to come out. I’m trying to get it out in the open so it won’t be a secret anymore.” Details regarding this have been few, outside of the fact that the officers were accused of being involved. However, Shane Philpott, a pastor in Mason City, and Maria’s brother-in-law, reported hearing a similar story. In his statements he has suggested that he was contacted by a pastor, Raymond Tucks, located in Minnesota, who informed him that he had been told by a local, Donald Milks, that police had been involved in Jodi’s disappearance. Milk’s alleged that he knew the location of Jodi’s body, which he had been told by a drug dealer, though he never revealed it.
Philpott reported this tip to the Mason City Police, though whether or not it was taken seriously is unknown. During the time when Maria was fighting for her job, and also suing the city for her treatment during her time with the Mason City police department, she reached out to Gary Peterson. Peterson later was able to track down the two informants who Ohl had gotten the information from. According to Peterson, by the time he located them, both were deceased. Milk’s is reported to have died of an overdose, though the medical examiner noted there were no drugs in the victims system, even though a needle was found in his hand. I have also read accounts where Milk’s is alleged to have not died of an overdose, but rather, as a result of the stresses put on his body by years of drug abuse. The other man had been murdered in a stabbing. While some view this as furthering the coverup, others have suggested that the men were known to hang around other criminals and were not quite upstanding citizens themselves.
In October of 2012, over a year after her termination, Maria Ohl was awarded a $95,000 settlement from Mason City, which put an end to her lawsuit. She maintains that her story about officers being involved is true and that there is more going on with the Mason City Police Department than they are letting on, but an internal affairs investigation did ultimately clear all three officers who were suggested to have been involved. With this information present, but few details available, many have been unsure of where to stand on it. When asked about these accusations, JoAnn stated “Officer Ohl did call me, we had a nice conversation. I do trust the Mason City Police, I want to work with them.”
Several more years would pass before much would be stated about Jodi’s case. Sadly, in 2014, Jodi’s mother passed away, having never learned the truth about what happened to her daughter. It is a fight and a hope which Jodi’s sisters now carry, along with her circle of friends and those who loved her. It is their hope that someday, the truth will be revealed. Within the past few years, Jodi’s case has once again been rising to the surface.
In 2015, a former friend of Anthony Jackson, the convicted rapist who had been examined previously after allegedly writing a rap song about Jodi, came forward with startling claims. The friend, who elected to remain anonymous, stated that in 1995, after playing basketball with Jackson, he was invited to a local bar where he alleged to know that Jodi Huisentruit was a regular. The bar, South Bridge Lounge, was only a few blocks away and so the anonymous source claims to have gone along.
According to his statements, when they entered the bar, Jackson approached Jodi and began speaking with her. The source says he was too far away to hear the conversation, but that he assumed Jackson was discussing broadcasting with her. Jackson had attended North Iowa Community College where he had developed an interest in broadcasting and even hosted his own student talk show. This informant thought nothing of it at the time, but says that, in retrospect “My gut tells me that he probably did it, after all the stuff he’s done since.” Another anonymous source claimed, at this time, that he often jogged back in 1995 and would run past Jodi’s apartment, along his route, every morning between 4 and 5am. According to his statement, she had been jogging by on the morning of June 27th when “I’m coming up to the apartments and a car comes out really fast, and it nearly hits me and then I have to jump onto the sidewalk, and its headlights were off as it was speeding out.”
This witness alleges that, around the same time the previous day, when she had been jogging by, she witnessed an African American male riding a bike outside of the complex. She says the man noticed her as she was jogging and began pedaling toward her, riding his bike right beside her as she ran, which she found strange and disturbing at the time. Regardless of this information, Mason City investigators refuted the claims, stating that they had found no evidence in their investigation which would connection Anthony Jackson to Jodi’s disappearance.
In 2016, Iowa State House of Represenatives Repesentative John Kookier of Sioux County release a blistering article describing his experience as a member of the Iowa State House Public Safety Committee.
He discussed the fact that there was once a cold case investigative team within the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation but that it had been dissolved due to budgetary restraints. He went on to discuss four major cases that got him invested in cold cases. Third on this list was the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. According to Kookier, on the twentieth anniversary of her disappearance, in 2005, he had attempted to develop a program to draw attention back to the case, part of which included declaring a Jodi Huisentruit awareness day. He wanted to involve the Iowa media in this project in hopes of advancing their efforts in regards to all cold cases. He circulated a letter addressed to the city of Mason City asking them to recognize the twentieth anniversary and to solicit help. According to his statements, all one hundred repesentatives signed the letter. He also spoke to one of Jodi’s sister who encouraged him to bring attention to the case, though the idea of an awareness day for Jodi, she described as “tacky” and not something which would bring in good attention.
Kookier would go on to write “Chief Mike Lashbrook insisted that he did not want the letter to be sent to him or anybody else in Mason City. Mayor Eric Bookmeyer complied and vouched for what a wonderful job the chief had been doing and that he was close to retirement so he did not need this issue to come before the public and sully his record.” Kookier goes on to allege that he was accused of meddling with the investigation and that the letter was, ultimately, disregarded by Mason City officials.
Kookier goes on to state that the Mason City Police had developed new leads in 2008 and that these leads, which are supposed to be sent to the Division of Criminal Investigation but they had not been passed on until 2015, seven years later. In a discussion with DCI director Jim Saunders, Kookier was informed that under Iowa law, the DCI may only assist in the investigation and that, ultimately, it belongs to the Mason City Police Department. When Chief Brinkley took over in 2016, Kookier states that he sent him a registered letter about the case and received no response. In his article, Kookier wrote “I will simply say the Mason City Police Department seems to have a dubious lack of interest in following up on leads that could shed the light of day on Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance.”
Chief Lashbrook responded saying “So far this letter has proven to be an unnecessary distraction for the Mason City Police Department, involving the expense of time and resources. The fact it received such a mixed reaction from legislators, the city, the Police Department and particularly the family of Jodi Huisentruit makes me question its value. It’s unfortunate that those seeking to promote this letter don’t respect the wishes of those who have a more personal interest in this tragic event.” Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer also stated “I concur with Chief Lashbrook. The MCPD is conducting an ongoing investigation and continues to coordinate with other law enforcement agencies. I fully support their position and their plans to respectfully mark the 20th anniversary of this tragic occurrence. Lastly, it was and still is my position that after reviewing the letter, consulting with the MCPD and the remaining Huisentruit family, that an unintended precedence would likely be set and be disrespectful to other victims and their families. I do not believe there is a place for politicians or politics in this investigation.”
In February of 2017, in response to revelations in the Jacob Wetterling case, Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley discussed similar possibilities in the twenty-two year old disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. Chief Brinkley stated “Mayb there will be something similar to the Wetterling case, you know, where it was a matter of a new opportunity to find DNA and match up some of those things that broke.” When asked whether or not there could be similar evidence in Jodi’s case, Brinkley responded “Yes. Yes is the short answer. I think in 22 years, in my career, I cannot believe where we’ve come with science and how we’ve adapted science to policing.”
In March of 2017, just a month after this statement, news broke that the Mason City Police department had sought and received search warrants in relation to the GPS data on two vehicles owned by John Vansice. The warrants were executed on March 20th against Vansice, now seventy-two years old and living in Arizona. They were seeking data on a 1999 Honda Civic as well as a 2013 GMC 1500. Vansice is listed as the interested party on the warranty, which is under seal. Mason City Chief Brinkley stated “As you know, we continue to actively work Jodi Huisentruit’s missing persons case from June 27th, 1995. The search warrant you are referring to is part of our ongoing investigation. We do not have any public comment at this time about the content of the search warrant o the person named in it. We would ask that anyone with information about Jodi’s disappearance contact the Mason City Police Department.” It would seem that, for the Mason City Police Department, John Vansice remains their one and only person of interest.
On May 20th, 2018, the Cerro Gordo Sheriff’s department received a 911 call. The caller reported the discovery of human remains at a rural location in the 22000 block of 275th Street in Mason City. Upon arrival and examination, an anthropologist determined that the remains had been in that location for any time between five and fifteen years and are thought to belong to a female between the ages of twenty and forty-five who is believed to have stood 5’5” to 5’7” tall. . Even at their eldest, being fifteen years, that would only go back to 2003, a full eight years after Jodi vanished. However, this didn’t stop rumor from spreading that they may in fact be Jodi’s remains. The remains were brought to the medical examiners office for an autopsy, though once the rumor about Jodi began to circulate, officials did state that a forensic odontologist definitely determined that the remains were not Jodi’s.
On Wednesday, May 30th, The Iowa Public Safety Department released a news briefing which stated that after the autopsy, it was official that the remains did not belong to Jodi. Simultaneously, on this day, a billboard campaign was launched by friends, family and members of FindJodi.com. Four billboards featuring a photo of Jodi and the message “Somebody knows something… is it you?” are being put up all around Mason City to coincide with what would be Jodi’s fiftieth birthday, on June 5th. In an article about the billboards, Josh Benson was contacted and stated “Someone knows what happened. We have to continue to find ways to reach people. We’ve never tried billboards before, and felt this is a good way to saturate Mason City with our message and reach out to those who may know something.”
In a case that has been frought with accusations of police corruption, cover ups by city officials and the alleged involvement possible roles played by two convicted rapists, the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit still created a firestorm of controversy and speculation among investigations, both official and civilian alike. In the absence of solid evidence, multiple theories have been suggested in Jodi’s case.
The first theory is that Jodi may have been stalked, abducted and possibly murdered by someone who has never been on investigators radar. Her statements in regard to the black truck following her, her desire for self defense lessons and the inability of investigators to identify the owner of the palm print found on her vehicle all fuel this possibility.
The second theory is that Jodi Huisentruit was abducted and murdered by Anthony Jackson, the convicted rapist currently serving a life sentence for three rapes committed in 1997. The former Mason City resident is alleged to have written a rap song about Jodi, suggesting that she was dead and buried in the city of Tipton.
The third theory points towards Thomas Corscadden, a convicted rapist of women and children with a sadistic personality who has, in the past, allegedly made statements about knowing that Jodi is dead. Corscadden spent time in Mason City in the 90’s and, according to his wife at the time, was angered when he was unable to get tickets to a show recorded at KIMT where Jodi worked. In addition to this, Corscadden is alleged to have driven a similar style van.
The fourth theory is that Jodi’s abduction may have been perpetrated by members of the Mason City Police Department and DCI in some attempt to cover up other crimes, possibly related to the deaths of Billy Pruin and two informants who had spoken to former police officer Maria Ohl.
The fifth and final theory is that Jodi may have been abducted and murdered by her friend and neighbor, John Vancise, against whom the Mason City Police Department executed search warrants as recently as March 2017. Vansice’s behavior and statements in the days and weeks following Jodi’s disappearance have garnered suspicion from both Police and civilian investigators.
The disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit is a complex mystery filled with unsavory characters, accusations of corrupt officials, mysterious actions and a rich, older man who many believe had eyes for his much younger friend. It has all of the necessary details to tell a compelling mystery story, except in this case, there isn’t a broad spanning fiction, but the devastating story of a family losing their younger sister, their cousin, their daughter. It has been nearly twenty-three years since Jodi Huisentruit vanished from the parking lot of her apartment complex, and in all of that time, little if anything has broken. The most recent news comes from March of 2017, when search warrants were executed, but all has been silent since then.
On the morning of June 27th, Jodi awoke late, answering a phone call from work. She assured her assistant that she’d arrive in twenty minutes, as she’d done so many times before. Sometime between then and 5am, Jodi would mysteriously vanish without an explanation. When last seen, Jodi Huisentruit was described as being a Caucasian female with blond hair and brown eyes. Jodi’s ears are pierced. Her clothing as the time of her disappearance is unknown. At the time of her disappearance, Jodi was twenty-seven years old. On June fifth, 2018, Jodi would have turned fifty years old. She has been missing for nearly twenty-three years. Twenty-three missed birthdays, the expansion of her family, the lives of nieces and nephews, the passing of her mother. These important milestone events for which her absence has always been felt. In that time, her family has struggled to accept the likelihood that they will never seen her again. They have been forced to move forward, though they will never forget.
Her childhood friend, Amy, stated “It can be all consuming, so I’ve chosen to focus on the parts of Jodi that were life affirming, and the way she wanted to live her life. It was the complete opposite from the way she’s now remembered, as this unsolved mystery, this victim. I choose to move forward and focus on the good.” JoAnn, Jodi’s older sister, cannot accept that after all this time, the truth has never come out. She later said “Every day I think about Jodi. You just shake your head and say “I wish we could get this solved.”
[Thoughts & Theories]
The abduction of Jodi Huisentruit is a disturbing and complicated case, with so many different angles, purported people of interest and theories revolving around it. While not on a major, national level, Jodi was, in Mason City, a celebrity. She was well known as the anchor of the morning and afternoon news and while celebrity can be incredibly wonderful, it can also bring you into a public life where you can be exposed to troubled people who develop obsessions. Jodi experienced this in the form of being followed while jogging, and other instances, after which she felt the need to take self defense classes and learn to protect herself.
Unfortunately, on the morning of June 27th, 1995, just three weeks after her twenty-seventh birthday, Jodi was abducted from the parking lot of her apartment complex, and never seen again. The beautiful, bright and talented young woman was only so far down the path she’d set before herself. Her potential seemed nearly unlimited, and most everyone who knew her described her as a bubbly, kind woman who had a strong work ethic and big dreams. Those dreams, though, would never be realized. At least, not completely. Nearly twenty-three years later, the investigation continues, the rumors are still perculating and the debate about who may have been involved, what might of happened and why, has never ended. Amongst all the debate, five primary theories have been developed which seem to encompass the general thoughts and assumptions propagated around this incredibly baffling case. The first of these theories suggest that Jodi Huisentruit was abducted by someone who has never been considered by authorities, and perhaps even, someone who Jodi herself had never known.
Jodi was known to be late to work, and according to co-workers, this happened approximately once a week. In the days and weeks after her disappearance, authorities were quick to decide and reveal that her disappearance was believed to be the result of an abduction. During the course of their investigation, certain individuals made statements to the effect that Jodi’s abductor or abductors may have watched her, stalker her and been familiar with her schedule. If this was the case, which it certainly seems likely as it’s hard to imagine someone happened to be in that parking lot, at 4:30am, and on impulse, made the choice to abduct her, then it isn’t hard to imagine that almost anyone could have learned Jodi’s routine fairly quickly.
She worked at KIMT, and the studio location was easy to locate. Knowing her television schedule, and that she anchored live news, it wouldn’t have been difficult for someone to wait outside of the studio for Jodi to leave. She was hard to miss, in her new, red Mazda Miata. From that point on, it’s a matter of following her home, watching her for several days and getting a good idea of her comings and goings. One wouldn’t necessarily even have needed to go that far as she was on the news at 6am, so determining that she would likely be traveling to work in the early morning hours wouldn’t take a great deal of insight to figure out. So, if we are in fact dealing with someone who was a total stranger to Jodi, this person’s abilities to map out her drive, her timing and her behavior wouldn’t have been complicated.
While we don’t hear about it too much, unless it has to do with a hugely popular movie star or television personality, there have been many occasions upon which an individual has developed an obsession with a celebrity personality, and in some of those cases, these obsessions have led to violent and aggressive behaviors including assault, kidnapping and even murder. There’s an interesting psychological disorder known as celebrity worship syndrome in which an individual may develop an unhealthy obsession with a celebrity’s professional, as well as personal life. There are different facets to the disorder, some of which remain debated among scholars. Listed are Simple Obsessional, which constitutes for anywhere between 69-79% of all stalking cases. Individuals in this classification often few successful personal relationships, social awkwardness, feelings of worthlessness and feelings of powerlessness. Interestingly, feelings of self worth are thought to be most important as it has been suggested that the individuals inability to connect with the celebrity may actually decrease their own self esteem.
Love Obsessional covers 20-25% of stalking cases, and as the name would suggest, covers individuals who develop what they believe to be a love obsession with someone they’ve never met, and may even believe they actually have a relationship with the celebrity. We have seen this happen to people such as David Letterman, Mila Kunis and Halle Berry. People who fall into this category typically suffer from other mental health issues such as schizophrenia or paranoia. On the other side, Erotomanic individuals believe that the person they are stalking is actually in love with them. This label comprises less than 10% of stalking situations and almost always involves someone well known in their community or the media. Often times they believe that the celebrity is sending them hidden signals through the films, television or other forms of media, but they are less likely seek out face to face contact with the celebrity.
Entertainment Social is a label attributed to those who have a low level obsession, which may result in behaviors such as discussing the celebrity, following them on social media, doing web searches for them, etc. Typically benign behaviors which typically do not result in any major confrontations. Intense Personal is an intermediate level associated with neuroticism and can be connected to psychotic behaviors. People under this label may believe that a celebrity is their soul mate, that they truly know this person or that they are meant to meet. Interestingly, body image plays a large role in this label and often times is involved with individuals who have cosmetic surgeries to achieve similar attributes to the celebrity. Finally, there is borderline pathological which is considered the most severe level of celebrity worship in which cases you’ve often see an individual do something such as spend an exorbitant amount of money to acquire an item that the celebrity has merely touched, such as a hairbrush or letter.
The one common thread throughout all of these is that, in almost all cases, there is some form or fashion of mental health issue in regard to the individual exhibiting these behaiors and those issues usually revolve around self esteem, depression, social anxiety and in some cases deeper issues such as schizophrenia, bi-polar or psychosis. The idea that someone may have had an obsession with Jodi based purely on her celebrity status is not impossible to imagine, and what lengths that person may have gone to is difficult to determine, but abduction is certainly something which must be considered possible. Of course, Jodi’s abduction doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around her celebrity status.
As was established, Jodi was a very sociable person who had keen skills for making friends, and for flirting with men. This isn’t to disparage Jodi in any way, as harmless flirtation can be fun and exciting for all parties involved, but some people often take innocent, or even playful statements, to mean much more than they do. With that said, there is the possibility that someone from Jodi’s personal life may have played a role in her disappearance. Whether it be a friend, someone she knew casually, a man she had dated off and on, someone she had simply spent time with or someone she had worked with. Jealousy, desire, anger, all of these have to be taken into consideration. If Jodi had spent her birthday party, just a few weeks earlier, dancing with various people, it isn’t impossible to imagine one of them could have thought there was more to it.
In her diary, Jodi talks about dating. She essentially say that it isn’t hard for her to get a man’s attention, but that she thus far had been unsuccessful at finding one who could keep hers, or who was interested in something of a more serious level. Mason City Police did a thorough investigation into almost everyone who could possibly have been able to have abducted Jodi that day, and so the idea that someone she dated could have slipped by their radar seems unlikely, but we do have to keep in mind this was 1995. The internet, though beginning to boom, was very much in its infancy. Dating apps were a decade away and smart phones weren’t a consideration. It’s certainly possible that Jodi could have met a man out one night, gone on a date or two, which no one knew about, and that this person could have had any number of issues that could have led to Jodi’s disappearance. The toilet seat being found in the upright position in her apartment that morning does suggest the presence of a man, though authorities found nothing else significant, which I am led to believe means there was no evidence of intercourse having taken place. But is it still possible a man was in her apartment that morning? Absolutely.
The one detail which, to many, suggests the possibility of a yet unknown suspect is the inability of the Mason City Police to match the palm print found on Jodi’s vehicle to any individuals. Whether or not the palm print can be 100% ascribed to the abductor is unclear, but the sheer fact that this print was found and hasn’t been matched does lead many to wonder if this person is simply unknown. While it could have been an obsessive fan, or it could have been someone Jodi may have known, it also could have been someone who was passing through the area and saw an opportunity. While the circumstances of this opportunity arising at 4am on a weekday seems unlikely, it can’t be completely ruled out either. Some believe that Jodi’s disappearance may have to do with her investigation into the death of Billy Pruin, which I’ll discuss in more detail in a subsequent theory. The possibility of the suspect simply not being known to authorities remains a consideration for many, and perhaps as likely as any other theory.
The second theory revolves around convicted rapist Tony Dejuan Jackson, most frequently referred to as Anthony Jackson, was originally linked to this case because he allegedly wrote a rap song in which he referred to dumping a body in the Iowa town of Tipton, and the song was suggested to have been about Jodi Huisentruit. Who suggested this, and whether or not Jackson himself said anything about it seems unclear. When this news reached investigators in 1999, they began to look into it. They had conversations with Jackson and began mapping out his life in Mason City around the time Jodi disappeared. It was discovered that he had lived a mere two blocks away from KIMT and was twenty-one years old at the time.
Jackson would later be arrested for raping three women, in 1997, for which he was sentenced to life. Obviously, violent and a sexual criminal, it’s not difficult to see why his later behavior and proximity to Jodi would make him a probable suspect. In the years following the investigation, several witnesses came forward telling stories that Jackson knew a bar Jodi frequented, had spoken to her and that he himself was interested in broadcasting. While all of these details are interesting, and certainly make it seems more suspicious, they are based on anonymous accounts which have never been able to be verified. The story about the man going to the bar with Jackson and watching him speak to Jodi is fascinating, through there’s no way to know for certain that it really happened. Also, if Jackson were looking at Jodi as a potential victim, would he have gone out of his way to speak to her in a public location in the weeks and months leading up to the attack?
When asked about his involvement, Jackson alleged to have never met nor had any conversations with Jodi, and continued on that he played no role in her disappearance. Obviously it’s difficult to take his word about much of anything, but again, there is also nothing which places him in the parking lot of her apartment complex that night either. One witness told the story of seeing a young African American man on a bike in the parking lot and that the man then rode beside her. While this is a creepy and disturbing story, why would Jackson be hanging out in the parking lot on a bike, and then expose himself further by riding next to this jogger, if his plan was to abduct a well known person? It’s difficult to determine the thoughts and behavior patterns of a clearly troubled individual, but this has never made sense to me. The same jogger alleges that on the day Jodi vanished, a car sped out of the parking lot so again, if Jackson had a car, why is he previously there on a bike? It can’t be ruled out, of course, but it also doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Again we come to the palm print, and Mason City police did in fact get Jackon’s palm print for comparison, and as far as we know, it did not match. That doesn’t necessarily clear his name, but without any solid evidnence to connect him to the apartment, Jodi or the abduction, it’s incredibly difficult to view him as anything more than a possibility, but not a great one. Obviously this is a very disturbed man who has committed heinous crimes, but it also seems odd that he would abduct and likely murder Jodi, and then later de-escalate to rape and allow the victims to survive. Typically, individuals like this do not get better, they get worse. While Jackson should certainly be held as a possibility, and tested and compared to any evidence which may be discovered as technology advances, he can merely be considered a target of speculation and possibility.
The third theory points us to a different sex offender, this one being Thomas Corscadden, the man who is alleged to stated Jodi’s name to a court officer and then made the statement that she’d dead way back in 1996, just a year after Jodi’s disappearance. While these statements are bizarre and certainly intriguing, it’s always seemed unlikely that Corscadden would just openly implicate himself in Jodi’s disappearance, not to a friend, not to a guy at a bar, but to a woman who worked for the court system. Corscadden had spent time in Mason City and was obviously aware of Jodi’s case, which does make it not all that out of the ordinary that when the city was mentioned, he’d think of Jodi. In addition to this, it’s so difficult to read a quote, out of context, with little to support it. While the court officer pushed for more information, all she got in the end was him suggesting that Jodi wasn’t alive. I know that this is a scintillating piece of information, especially when spoken by a convicted, violent sex offender, but if it were merely a passing comment that he believes she’s dead, it doesn’t carry a great deal of intrigue or weight.
The question becomes whether or not Corscadden may have played a role. His wife, at the time, made a statement that he had tried to get tickets to a show at KIMT and when he was unable to do so, that he was angry. This establishes that he had knowledge of KIMT, and likely would be familiar with Jodi, but at the same time, news broadcasts are not shows which supply tickets for a live audience to witness. So it’s an interesting angle, and certainly seems to at least suggest that Corscadden knew who Jodi was, but after her disappearance, there were very few people who had been to Mason City, or lived nearby, that were not familiar with Jodi or her disappearance.
One detail which has been told is that Corscadden owned a light colored van similar to the one a witness had seen in the parking lot the morning Jodi was taken. Corscadden had since given the van to a friend, but before police could examine it, the van caught on, or was set on fire, and of course Corscadden claimed he had nothing to do with it. While I find this to be fascinating, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he was linked to Jodi. Corscadden has a long history of sexual assaults and violent acts, and the destruction of the van could have been perpetrated, if indeed he was involved, to cover up evidence of numerous other crimes, rather than Jodi’s abduction. Though it definitely is hard to ignore that this man is a violent sexual predator, with access to a van that may or may not have been the one in the parking lot that morning.
Investigators state they looked into Corscodden thoroughly and were unable to make any links between he and Jodi In 1995, which includes failing to match his prints to the palm print found at the scene. Corscadden would later admit to multiple rapes and attempted rapes going back more than twenty-five years, so one would have to wonder, if he was admitting to his crimes, why would he not admit to Jodi’s disappearance if he played a role in it? He seems boastful about his past, and Jodi’s case would provide him with a bargaining chip in terms of the location of her remains if he were trying to play the system in his favor. Then again, a lot of sick an sadistic individuals such as Corscadden often like to toy with investigators and through this means have some control over them. It’s really impossible to determine Corscadden’s motive if indeed he was involved, and why he wouldn’t share that information later. Of course, his crimes were all rapes and assaults, so perhaps he didn’t want to admit to what is likely a homicide. While Corscadden is definitely someone who needs to be looked at more thoroughly, and there is a good chance other crimes he perpetrated remain undiscovered, no true connection to Jodi has ever been established and the Mason City police are fairly certain that he was not involved. He remains a possibility, but there is little else that can be developed from that possibility.
The fourth theory in this case involves the accusations of former Mason City Police officer Maria Ohl. This is a complicated path to follow, but essentially, Ohl tells the story of having a difficult time working for the Mason City Police Department. She suggested that she was harassed, insulted, subjected to unnecessary discipline and punishment, and eventually termination. She did sue over these allegations, but the trial never went through as she agreed to a $95,000 settlement, at which point Mason City stated that paying the settlement in no way suggests that they have culpability in her allegations. All of that being said, what seemed to truly kick the harassment into high gear, in her opinion, was when she overheard a conversation where a man at an apartment stated that two Mason City Detectives and a DCI Investigator were involved in Jodi’s disappearance.
The officers, Frank Stearns, Ron Vande Weerd and Bill Basler, had all played roles in Jodi’s investigation. Stearns was, in fact, one of the first investigators inside the apartment and the one who had noted that the toilet seat was in the raised up position. The allegations are difficult to examine though, as Ohl has never revealed a great deal about them, other than the fact that they were suggested to have been involved. Why they would have been involved, what their motives were and other important details remain unknown. One of the men who claimed to have this information was Donald Milks, who claimed that he’d heard from a drug dealer that police were involved in Jodi’s disappearance. He would later claim he knew where she was buried in a conversation with Pastor Raymond Tucks, in Minnesota.
Pastor Tucks would later contact Shane Phil Philpott in Mason City after thumbing through the phone book, hoping to find someone in the area that he could direct Milks to. This is where things get a little complicated. Philpott is Maria Ohl’s brother-in-law, and while she has alleged that she tried to deliver the information she’d heard at the apartment, and which was corroborated by the story Tucks told Philpott, authorities felt that Ohl had shared information with someone and thus tampered with evidence in the Jodi Huisentruit case, which ultimately played a role in his dismissal and later termination. Ohl alleges that the reason she was terminated was because she’d learned of law enforcement’s involvement in the disappearance and that when she refused to let it go, they had to get rid of her.
It essentially became a he said she said sort of situation, but the problem for me is, much of this information came out in 2011 and 2012. It has been six years since then, and no further details or information has been revealed. If indeed there was knowledge of, or possible links to, police corruption and involvement in this case, it’s difficult to imagine why it would be kept secret. Internal affairs did conduct an investigation and cleared all of the officers name as possibly being involved, though I am aware for many that the idea of police investigating their colleagues doesn’t build a great deal of confidence. That being said, none of the men named have ever been involved in anything of this nature and none have ever been successfully linked to Jodi Huisentruit in a way which suggests culpability or involvement.
Milks would later die, under what many have called suspicious circumstances, without ever revealing Jodi’s location or further information. Whether or not what he knew was legit, or simply the musings of a drug addled drug dealer who was talking negatively about the police, we may never know for sure. Many have developed a large conspiracy around this, believing that the Mason City police murdered Jodi because of her investigation into the murder of Billy Pruin, though no links have ever been made there, either. Some believe that when Billy’s cause of death was set as suicide, this was done as a cover up effort to protect a killer, and that Jodi may have gained the knowledge of who this killer was, with many speculating it was a name within law enforcement. We really don’t know how much, if it all, Jodi dug into Pruin’s death, and if she had discovered something, how law enforcement officials who were alleged to have been involved would have found out about it. While this is all very compelling, there is almost nothing to follow through on besides statements, whispers and suggestions, but in terms of evidence, this story comes up short, at least for now.
While I understand the interest in believing in the more conspiratorial aspect of this angle, there are things about it which bother me. If indeed law enforcement was involved in this, and we are obviously talking about more than one, would they really leave behind such a messy crime scene as to suggest an abduction had taken place? I know that things can get crazy in the moment, but I find it hard to believe that experienced investigators would have done such a sloppy job at the apartment complex and would likely have a better plan to ensure that things weren’t discovered so quickly. Perhaps that is my own skiewed perception that they’d be smarter than this, but again, the entire angle is so speculative its difficult to know whats heads or tails here.
That brings us to the article written by John Kookier in which he alleged that the Mason City Police department had done a poor job of investigating and were either disinterested in the case or were actively working to sabotage it. While the article is compelling, it’s important to note that Kookier wanted to establish an annual Jodi Huisentruit day to draw attention to her case, something even her own sister wasn’t in favor of, and his accusations essentially revolve around a police chief not responding to him. In fact, he was responded to, and essentially told that while they could use more information, it was an active investigation, and they weren’t interested in sharing details of their investigation with the public. This, to me, comes across very much as a political debate involving Kookier’s frustration and the Mason City Police Departments frustration in return.
The only detail which has emerged over the years that is bizarre in relation to the Mason City Police, and which is actually proven, is that the wife of a former chief is the one who leaked Jodi’s diary to the press. It’s strange that they’ve never released a reason for this, their investigation into the matter or what they ultimately thought about it. While it isn’t difficult to see a possible conspiracy there, it seems more likely that the woman wanted to share something she knew her husband had in his possession, either to bring attention to the case, or because she had something she considered to be juicy. It doesn’t appear that there’s any link there to the investigation, the disappearance or Jodi herself. It also didn’t add up to much as while the release of the diary was frustrating to investigators, there was nothing found within the pages that contained any majorly important details about possible suspects or the crime itself.
The possibility of law enforcement officials being involved, or a coverup being executed at a high level isn’t an impossibility in this case, but the case has spanned twenty-three years. Multiple detectives and police chiefs have been involved, and the idea that a small group, back in 1995, committed this crime, and somehow managed to keep it covered up for all of these years, while new investigators came long, and never found anything linking them, seems unlikely. Also, one would imagine that if this was something they were willing to do to a young reporter, it’s likely something that would have happened again, before or after. It’s certainly a controversial issue, and some have reported that the Mason City police have been less than cooperative when it comes to drawing attention to this case, but does that necessarily mean corruption and conspiracy? Difficult to say, but again, pending further information and details, this seems to be a dead end.
The final theory in the abduction of Jodi Huisentruit revolves around her close friend and associate, John Vansice. Almost since day one, Vansice has been considered a person of interest. From his bizarre behavior in telling investigators that he was the last one to see Jodi alive, to statements from friends who believed Vansice had romantic interests in Jodi, which she didn’t reciprocate, Vansice has become, in many people’s eyes, the prime suspect in this case. Beginning with Vansice himself, he certainly has said some strange things in interviews over the years. Early on, he spoke about how good Jodi made him feel and how easy it was to love her. He even named his boat after her. While this could be all symbolic, and simply representative of a loving friend, many read more into it.
According to Vansice, the night before Jodi vanished, she’d come to his place to watch a video tape which was shot at a surprise birthday party he’d thrown for her weeks earlier. Of course, under the official timeline, Jodi was driving home at 8pm, and made a call at 8:24. Vansice alleges she came over shortly after 8, which doesn’t seem to fit in with those details unless the video tape itself was merely five minutes. He later said she was in good spirits when she left. Certainly enough to draw suspicion from investigators who later asked Vansice to submit to a polygraph, which he did. Now, Vansice alleges that he passed, but Mason City police have never revealed the results of that test and their actions just late year seem to imply that, even if he did pass, they don’t necessarily believe he is innocent in this case.
We know, based on entries from Jodi’s diary, that she spent time with Vansice. The weekend before she vanished she was in Iowa City with him and his son on a water skiing trip. She talks about going to the orchestra with him, and she was seen dancing with him the night of her birthday, as well as other nights when they’d go out to local bars. Vancise was described by some as a playboy type who had a lot of money to throw around and who very much enjoyed the social scene. While he may have had interest in Jodi, and most men around her at that time did find the beautiful woman difficult to ignore, as far as we have been made publicly aware, their relationship never went beyond platonic friendship. In those diary entries, Jodi makes it clear that her interest in Vansice was never romantic.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Vansice didn’t try, though we have no evidence to suggest he ever made a move on her and nothing she said to friends, or wrote in the diary, allude to anything like that happening. So why would Vansice tell the story about her coming over if she didn’t? Doesn’t make a great deal of sense, but often times in cases such as these, the suspect will attempt to insinuate him or herself into the investigation. That could be what happened here, or Vansice could have a poor recollection of the time the event took place. Either way, it’s difficult to know for sure. The question becomes, if Vansice did play a role in Jodi’s involvement, why abduct her at 4 in the morning when he obviously had times where he was alone with her and wouldn’t need to commit the crime in such a public forum?
Being that Jodi often went out with Vansice, and even took trips with him, he had a multitude of opportunities during which time he could have murdered her if he had planned to. He owned a boat, and could have more easily take her out on it and left no crime scene behind, though that may have left him in a position of having to explain where she went. Ultimately, there’s a lot of possibilities here, some for Vansice’s guilt, and some against them. I find it difficult to imagine he wasn’t compared to the palm print found at the scene, and since he wasn’t immediately named a suspect, it seems a safe assumption that he wasn’t a match either, even though the prints origin remains debated. All of that being said, if Vansice had been involved, why would he volunteer any information to police that day? It just doesn’t make sense, but much of his words and behaviors over the years haven’t.
We know that in 2017, warrants were issued for the GPS data from two of his vehicles, ones which he didn’t own in 1995. To me, that suggests the possibility that authorities may believe Vansice could know the location of Jodi’s remains and that he may visit there, but it’s almost important to note that Vansice has lived in Arizona for years now, so would he be making a drive to Iowa without arousing suspicion or thinking he would get caught? It’s hard to say but, Mason City Police have listed Vansice as their only person of interest. Some have suggest that this warrant may have come as the result of someone bringing information forward to police, while others have argued that it may simply be another step in the investigation in hopes of establishing evidence or clearing Vansice out of their line of focus.
Unfortunately, without further evidence or information, Vancise remains the only named person of interest and there is almost nothing which connects him to the crime. He knew Jodi, may have had an interest in Jodi, spent time around her and claimed to have seen her the night before she vanished. That’s it. There is nothing more here, and while I admit that Vancise’s actions and behaviors do arouse suspicions, I don’t know the man and he could act like that all the time. It’s very difficult to analyze someone from such limited information and few, if any, hard facts about his possible role in all of this. While Vancise cannot be ruled out of the investigation, he also cannot, at this time, be tied to the abduction of Jodi Huisentruit.
The abduction of Jodi Huisentruit is a highly complicated, multi-layered case filled with theories, accusations, allegations and speculation. It has everything that would seem to make it the focus of attention and curiosity. A beautiful young woman, talented, driven career oriented with a penchant for having fun and dreams of stardom. Law enforcement officials accused of corruption and a cover up, convicted criminals alleged to have been involved, stories about unsolved murders listed as suicides and conspiracies galore. The one thing this case is answers. For twenty-three years those who knew and loved Jodi have had to live with the difficult reality that they may never find out what happened, and Jodi may never be discovered. Sadly, Jodi’s mother passed away never knowing what happened to her daughter, never having the ability to truly mourn her, never having a location to visit to pay her respects and to feel close to her.
In just a few days, on June 5th, it will be what would have been Jodi’s fiftieth birthday. Jodi has been missing for just shy of twenty-three years and we draw closer to a time where she has been missing for the same amount of time that she was known to be alive. Attention for her case has been ramping up in preparation for this solemn birthday, and one can only hope that the new billboard program and what will likely be a slew of articles and news reports on her case in the coming week can drum up something new, something to finally reveal the truth of what happened. Until more information can be found, someone confesses, or advances in technology allow for the receipt of new knowledge, the abduction of Jodi Huisentruit remains open, unsolved and very cold.