“Live with passion daily. Be passionate in everyday life. Live the way I want to live — be generous, kind.”
- Jodi Huisentruit ( January 1994 excerpt from her personal journal)
It was the 27th of June 1995. A Tuesday. Twenty seven year old Jodi Huisentruit was late for work. Jodi worked as a producer and a news anchor for the Daybreak morning newscast at KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa, United States. Jodi was from Long Prairie, Minnesota. She had two sisters, JoAnn Nathe and Jill Lettau. But she was prepared to live wherever her work required her to go and she moved into an apartment alone close to work.
Even though Jodi loved her job, it was just a stepping stone for her. Her goal was to be on national news. And she was determined to make it. Jodi worked hard and she liked to socialize too. That's what made her so popular. She was always willing to try something new.
The show that Jodi anchored began at 6am so Jodi would normally try to make it in for 3am to prepare for the show. But when she still wasn't there at 4am that morning, her assistant, Amy Kuns, called her. Jodi answered and Amy said that she told her she had overslept and would be right in. It wasn't the first time Jodi was late but she lived in an apartment complex close by. The Key apartment complex where Jodi lived was just a five minute drive away so she told Amy she would be there in no time at all.
But when Jodi still wasn't there at 5am, Amy tried to call Jodi again. There was no answer. If Jodi did not arrive at work, Amy would have to anchor the show so she began to prepare for the show. It was only when the show ended, at 7am, that Amy asked a colleague to call the police to check up on Jodi. Police received a call at 7.13 am and they agreed to do a welfare check.
Police were at the Key apartments just three minutes after they received the call. When police arrived at the Key apartments, they found Jodi's car, a red Mazda Miata that she had just bought a few weeks beforehand, in the parking lot. But just beside Jodi's car, there were clear signs that a struggle had taken place.
Jodi Huisentruit's Shoe
Jodi's belongings, her hairdryer, hair spray and earrings were on the ground by the car. There were drag marks and her red high heels, a mirror and a bent car key were close by. A partial palm print was found on the car. Police believed that Jodi had put the key into the car door and was turning it when she was grabbed from behind and abducted. They believed that was the most likely scenario as the car key was bent, her belongings were scattered on the ground and there was a palm print.
Police went up to her second floor apartment. Nothing seemed out of place except that the toilet seat was up. But according to Amy, when she rang Jodi, she believed that Jodi was alone as she sounded normal, just that she had overslept.
Jodi Huisentruit's Apartment Complex
When police spoke to the neighbors, they discovered that they heard screams around the time Jodi would have left for work. None of them contacted the police. A person driving past the complex saw a van in the parking lot, a white van, and the lights were on and the van was running but they did not see who was in the van. Her landlord heard two different male voices in the parking lot and then a muffled sound.
If Jodi was abducted, police knew that they would have to establish who adducted her and why.
Similar Van to the one seen at Jodi's Apartment Complex
Jodi was well known in the area as she was the news anchor. People knew where she lived and her telephone number was listed in the directory. She told friends of a couple of incidents that had happened that had troubled her. She received a number of calls and was thinking about changing her number. She also told police that when she was out jogging a few months previously, a black truck had followed her. Police escorted her from work to her home on a few occasions.
Police looked into the days leading up to Jodi's disappearance. She had been away for the weekend, on a waterskiing trip with friends.
Inside Jodi Huisentruit's Apartment
The day before she disappeared, the Monday, nothing seemed unusual. Jodi worked that morning and anchored the show from 6am to 7am. At 9am she took part at a Mason City Chamber of Commerce charity golf tournament. Jodi was a great golf player and represented KIMT-TV at the tournament. She twice was a member of the state champion high school golf team in Long Prairie. When the golf finished, she went home to put on a new outfit for the charity golf Award ceremony that afternoon. She was back at the country club at 3pm. There were around 200 people at the event.
She told some people at that event about the calls she had received. She said that she would change her number the next day. Jodi left the event at 8pm that evening. Just before 8.30 pm, Jodi called her friend Kelly Torguson. Kelly wasn't home so she spoke briefly with Kelly's husband and he said she seemed like her normal happy self.
John Vansice, one of Jodi's friends, told police that Jodi called over to his house after 8.30 pm that night to watch a videotape of a surprise 27th birthday party he hosted for Jodi. John had also been on the waterskiing trip with Jodi and other friends the previous weekend. When Jodi went missing on the Tuesday morning, John arrived at her apartment complex and told police about the night before. He was the last known person to see Jodi.
KIMT anchor,Robin Wolfram, interviewed John. He said:
"Jodi was like a daughter to me. She was just like my own child."
John was over twenty years older than Jodi but he told the reporter that they had things in common, like waterskiing. John told Robin that police had interviewed him twice.
A few days after Jodi disappeared, on the 1st of July 1995, police held a press conference. They alerted the public to be on the lookout for a mid-1980s white Ford Econolpne van. Someone who had been passing Jodi's apartment complex the morning she disappeared saw a van like that in the parking lot.
Despite John being a person of interest, the unusual calls Jodi had received prior to her disappearance and the mystery surrounding the van, the case went cold.
As with a lot of missing person cases, rumors and speculation surround what may or may not have happened to Jodi.
In 1997, a man called Tony Jackson was charged with raping several women in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Police looked at him in relation to Jodi's case as he was living in Iowa, just two blocks from where she worked, when she disappeared. But no forensic evidence was found to link him to Jodi. He is currently in prison for the Minnesota rapes.
In June 2008, a copy of Jodi’s personal journal was sent anonymously to a Mason City Globe Gazette reporter. It contained details like what Jodi hoped to achieve in life and her personal goals. It was later revealed a former police chief’s wife had sent the copy to the Globe Gazette.
There was speculation that drugs may have been a factor in Jodi's disappearance. Her friend, Billy Pruin, was found dead from a gunshot wound at his home just three months before Jodi went missing. His death was ruled a suicide but following an investigation it was changed to undetermined. There was no gun residue found on his body. Billy had been concerned about the growing methamphetamine problem in Mason City and wanted changes. Some believed it was possible his death may have been linked to drug traffickers. And as he was Jodi's friend, there was a question mark over how much she knew, if anything, and if she was about to do a story on it.
In 2017, Mason City Police issued a search warrant for two of John Vansice's vehicles. The warrant remains sealed.
In 2018, Jodi's friends had billboards put up for what would have been Jodi's 50th Birthday. Four billboards had a photo of Jodi with the text:
“Somebody knows something …is it YOU?”
Two men spray painted the words “machine shed” and the name of a retired police investigator who worked on Jodi’s case.
But despite the rumors and speculation, Jodi is still missing.
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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