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Assumed Deceased: Jodi Sue Huisentruit - IA - 06/26/1995

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National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA)


Jodi Sue Huisentruit

Classification: Endangered Missing Adult
Date of Birth: 2068-06-05
Date Missing: 1995-06-26
From City/State: Mason City, IA
Missing From (Country): USA
Age at Time of Disappearance: 27
Gender: Female
Race: White
Height: 63 inches
Weight: 120 pounds
Hair Color: Blonde
Eye Color: Brown

Circumstances of Disappearance: Unknown. Jodi Huisentruit had left her residence at approximately 4:00am for her scheduled shift at a local television station where she anchored the morning news. When investigators arrived at her apartment complex they found her red Miata convertible in the parking lot. Personal items were scattered around her vehicle. Witnesses indicate that they heard a scream that morning. Investigators are looking for a white mid 1980s Ford Econoline van.

Investigative Agency: Mason City Police Department
Phone: (641) 421-3636

If you have seen any of our missing persons, please call the law enforcement agency listed on the post. All missing persons are loved by someone, and their families deserve to find the answers they seek in regards to the disappearance.

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The Case

Since 1995 the Mason City, Iowa Police Department has been investigating the disappearance of television news anchorwoman, Jodi Huisentruit. She was abducted from the parking lot of her apartment complex in the Key Apartments about 4:30 a.m. on June 27th, 1995. Her body has never been found and there have been very few clues that point to a killer.

Four years ago Jodi Huisentruit was declared legally dead by a judge in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. The volumes of the case take up several file cabinets and numerous binders. Somewhere in the midst of all the paperwork could lie the answer to the question: what happened to Jodi Huisentruit? Over the years investigators have interviewed hundreds of people. By their own admission Police say they aren’t much closer to solving this case than they were at the beginning.

The beginning...

Jodi had gotten home about 9pm on Monday, June 26th, 1995. She had been at a golf tournament at the Mason City Country Club and then went to the home of a friend, John VanSice. They viewed a video tape of her birthday party earlier that month. When she returned to her apartments she called a friend in Mississippi. The friend said Jodi sounded cheerful and happy. Jodi normally left for work around 3 a.m. But this morning she overslept. Her producer called at 3:45 a.m. and woke Jodi up. The producer said everything sounded okay. Jodi said she would be right in to work. A subsequent call by producer Amy Kuns at 5:00 a.m. went unanswered.

[align=center]Click on the link provided above to read the complete article.[/align]

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Find Jodi Huisentruit - Missing Anchorwoman

These are headlines from television stations, radio stations, newspapers, internet sites and stories reported right from We have developed this page as a way to collect those stories and compile them in one area. Come here for the latest and oldest news reports.

2006 Headlines

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Plea For False Info in TV Anchor-woman's Disappearance  

MASON CITY, IOWA -- It appears a woman who authorities say gave investigators false information about the disappearance of a former television anchor will be changing her plea.

Twelve years ago, 27-year-old Jodi Huisentruit disappeared after telling a colleague she was on her way to work.

25-year old Cynthia Sweeney of Anoka Minnesota claimed to have seen six men kill Huisentruit inside a barn near Mason City.

If Sweeney pleads guilty she could be sentenced Monday on charges of filling a false report and malicious prosecution.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008 12:10 AM CDT

Finding the lost, naming the unnamed


MASON CITY  It was the year that Michael Jackson introduced “Thriller.†Ronald Reagan was president. “Terms of Endearment†swept the Oscars.

It was also the year Grace Esquivel disappeared.

Grace, then 25, was last seen on June 10, 1983. She lived at 1619 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Mason City with her daughter, Angie, 6.

Grace’s story has faded in most memories. But not all.

“I don’t want anyone to forget about Grace,†said Angie Bunch, an area director in Iowa and Indiana for the Doe Network, a group of nationwide volunteers who try to find the missing or identify the unknown. “I still have hope.â€Â

Grace is just one of 200 cases of missing men, women and children in the two states she investigates. The 34-year-old Kentucky woman is familiar with each of them, even calling the victims by first names.

Bunch roams the Internet for information, updates files  and contacts law enforcement agencies in the hope of uncovering that one clue that might lead to a discovery. She works on multiple cases daily.

“There aren’t many nights I go to bed before 4 a.m.,†she said, her soft southern voice like velvet. “If you ask my fiancé or my children, they’ll say I have an addiction. But I believe this is a way I can help.â€Â

The Doe Network was founded on a simple principle: If the correct information  dental records, DNA, police reports, photographs  is entered into the right databases, many of the unidentified can be matched with the missing.

In the United States, there are more than 40,000 unnamed bodies, according to the National Crime Information Center and about 100,000 people are formally listed as missing.

In Iowa, there are six unidentified bodies and 43 listed as missing. The oldest case is the 1973 disappearance of 11-year-old Boy Scout Guy Heckle of Cedar Rapids; the most recent are the 1999 disappearances of 56-year-old Dennison Stookesberry of Blakesburg and Dennis Addlesberger, 46, of Council Bluffs.

There are four North Iowa cases on the list. Besides Esquivel, there is the 1986 disappearance of Rodney J. Olsen of rural Mason City; the 1995 disappearance of KIMT-TV anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit of Mason City; and the little-known case of Kenora Cavan, a 16-year-old Clear Lake teenager who was last seen on her birthday, June 6, 1998.

Although Bunch has not resolved any case herself  she has only devoted full-time hours to the position since 2006  she is hopeful her work will pay off.

She continually seeks media reports and other bits of information to add to and update files, but all information must be verified first through law enforcement agencies.

“It’s only then that we will post that information,†Bunch said. There is also an Iowa-based researcher who works with Bunch to seek out information.

Cooperation shown by law enforcement has been good, Bunch said.

Cerro Gordo Sheriff Kevin Pals said he is more than willing to work with “any agency that might help us shed light†on a case.

His department is the primary investigating agency for the Olsen case. He still believes there are some in the area “who still can be re-interviewed in this case,†he said.

The problem is time, he said. That’s hard to admit, he added, when family members continue to hope for breaks in the cold cases.

“But the day-to-day never ends,†he said. “The work on new cases is always there. So when someone like this (Doe Network) inquires, I am very open-minded about them helping us solve cases.â€Â

Lt. Ron Vande Weerd of the Mason City Police Department agreed.

“I have no problem†with the work done by the network; in fact, he said, they have contacted the department on the cases several times.

“I think they have done some amazing things,†he added.

Bunch said that older cases like Esquivel’s make investigations tougher, but not unsolvable. Primary investigators retire and, sometimes, family members move from the town in which they lived at the time of a disappearance.

In other cases, DNA has not been secured from family members in case where remains are found. Losing ties with family can make it hard to obtain DNA or even dental records.

Vande Weerd said his department is fortunate to have kept in contact with Grace’s family and does have DNA from Grace’s family members in case remains are found.

In Cavan’s case, however, investigators found that the family moved at some point after her disappearance and are not sure where they are today, said Clear Lake Police Chief Greg Peterson.

Keeping in touch with families is important for other reasons, said Bunch, especially if there are children. Sons and daughters often take up searches after their parents, or other older relatives, die or can no longer be involved. Bunch believes the more looking into cases, the better.

Bunch becomes very close to many victims’ families, she said. “I have one case in Indiana; sisters who are looking for their sibling. I talk to them weekly. In many ways, they become like extended family.â€Â

Her own interest in resolving cases came with a first-hand experience when a childhood friend disappeared. She and other children were on a playground with a young boy who left the playground on his bike to go to a nearby store. He was not seen after that.

“My family moved from that area and I never heard what happened to him,†she said. Years later, she began to look for information about him on the Internet and  discovered the boy’s body had been found in a pond near the town.

“Along the way, when I was on the Net, I came across the Doe Web site and I was fascinated with all of it,†she said.

If the hours of searching get long, she does not get depressed, she said.

“For me, not being able to find someone just fuels the fire. It pushes me to work harder,†she said.

It is hard, though, when some cases  like Grace’s  provide little information. Vande Weerd agreed that few leads have surfaced since 1983.

“I really want to find more,†Bunch said. “It’s such a long time.

“I feel bad, too, when some cases overtake others, just because we know more about them. I want to get Grace’s case out there (in the public eye), get out as much as we can. And we can hope.â€Â

North Iowa's Missing:

Kenora (or Kenore) Cavan. Cavan, of Clear Lake, has been missing since June 6, 1998, her 16th birthday.

She was not immediately classified as missing and questions remain about whether she was a runaway. Her parents, Noi and Natly Cavan, moved from the area.

Description: Height: 5 feet, 5 inches tall; weight: 107 pounds; Asian female with brown hair and brown eyes.

Graciela (Grace) Esquivel. Esquivel, 25, the mother of a 6-year-old daughter, Angie, was reported missing in June 1983. She lived at 1619 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Mason City.

Her daughter spent the night of June 10 with her grandparents, Manuela and the late Armando Esquivel, while Grace said she was going out with friends.

According to reports, her bed was found turned down as if someone was ready to go to bed and her wallet and driver’s license were left behind. Her Social Security number has never been used since her disappearance, according to Lt. Ron Vande Weerd of the Mason City Police Department.

Manuela Esquivel  moved to Missouri several years ago.

Description of Grace: height: 4 feet, 11 inches; weight: 140 pounds; Hispanic female with brown hair and brown eyes.

Jodi Huisentruit. Huisentruit’s disappearance is one of the most widely known of Iowa’s missing persons cases.  Huisentruit, an anchor for KIMT-TV in Mason City, failed to show up for work on June 27, 1995. Personal effects were found scattered near her car at the Key Apartments in the northeast part of the city, leading law enforcement to term her disappearance as an abduction.

Description: height: 5 feet, 3 or 4 inches; weight: 110-120 pounds; white female with blonde hair and brown eyes.

Rodney J. Olsen. Olsen, a rural Mason City farmer, was 32 when he was reported missing on October 18, 1986. Olsen was the father of a young son and farmed northeast of Mason City. He had moved from his native Britt area not too long before he disappeared.

He reportedly left his rural home at 1 a.m. to visit someone and has not been seen since.

Several months later, Olsen’s car, a black 1978 Pontiac Sunbird, was found in a Forest City trailer park. No clues were found to indicate what happened to Olsen, according to reports at that time.

Twenty-one years later, Olsen’s family still thinks of their lost son.

“You always want to know,†said his father, Myrlen, who lives in Britt. “We always have hope.â€Â

Myrlen believes that Rodney, one of his three children, “went off in the middle of the night by himself  and after that, we just don’t know.â€Â

Rodney Olsen’s son today lives in California, Merlyn said.

Myrlen Olsen keeps in contact with the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department, in hopes new information about the case can be developed.

Description: height, 6 feet; weight, 210 pounds; white male with brown hair and brown eyes.

Iowa's Missing Persons

1973  Guy Heckle, 11, Cedar Rapids.

1975  Colleen Simpson, 14, Bedford; Jane Wakefield, 26, Iowa City.

1976  Alice Mae Vanalstine, 28, Polk County.

1978  Mattie Zabel, 45, Cedar Falls; Steven Kirchhoff, 22, Waterloo.

1979  Norma Maynard, 61, Boone; Ronald Westwick, 34, Ames; Richard Forsyth, 27, Waterloo; Charles R. Elmquist, 34, Iowa City.

1981  Naomi Wilson, 32, Cedar Rapids.

1982  John Gosch, 12, West Des Moines; Kimberly Doss, 16, Davenport; Denise Fraley, 30, Cedar Rapids; Dale Strassburger, 34, LaClaire; Theodore Hoerstman, 45, Dubuque.

1983  Maurice Kneifl, 58, Sioux City; Grace Esquivel, 25, Mason City.

1984  Harry Milligan, 21, Albia; Eugene Martin, 13, Des Moines.

1985  Ronald Zellmer, 31, Sioux City.

1986  Marc James-Warren Allen, 13, Des Moines; Rodney J. Olsen, 32, Mason City; Sandra S. Vanderhoef, 42, Webster County.

1987  James Jamison, 75, Burlington; Sharon Pinegar, 42, Des Moines.

1988  Johnny Shields, 32, Carter Lake.

1989  Barbara Lenz, 31, Woodbine.

1990  Robert Lee Kellar, 19, Muscatine; Mervin L. Walvatne, 53, Paul Knockel, 53, Dubuque.

1991  Matthew Ferris, 20, Des Moines.

1993  Barbara Lee Elms, 50, Cedar Rapids.

1995  Jodi Huisentruit, 27, Mason City.

1996  Kenneth Harker, 34, Sioux City; John Johnson, 71, Des Moines.

1997  Robert Bresson, 57, Independence.

1998  John Steven Conaway, 36, Council Bluffs; Gary Allan Brown, 23, Waterloo; Crystal Sue Hunt, 21, Centerville; Kenora Cavan, 16, Clear Lake.

1999  Dennison Stookesberry, 56, Blakesburg; Dennis Addlesberger, 46, Council Bluffs.

For m re information on disappearances and remains found in Iowa being investigated by the Doe Network, go to:

The ProjectEDAN (Everyone Deserves A Name) organization, formed in conjunction with the Doe Network, brings together volunteer forensic artists who offer their time on facial reconstruction and age progressions that help identify remains. Go to:


The Iowa Department of Public Safety also maintains a database of missing people at

NOTE: Listings on different Web sites do not match in all cases. The Iowa-based IDPS Web site, for instance, includes many listings for juvenile disappearances, some of which may be runaways. They are not listed on the Doe Network.

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List of people still missing in the region

4/5/2008 7:55:02 AM

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN 

Linda Jean Anger

Age at disappearance: 40

Date of disappearance: May 7, 1993

Description: 5'8" tall, 130 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. She was wearing a maroon-colored ski jacket, maroon Levi's jeans and white tennis shoes.

Circumstances: Anger's ex-husband told authorities he had dropped her off for an appointment at the Olmsted County Courthouse at 8 a.m. May 7. Authorities say they could not confirm that Anger had an appointment on that day. She was reported missing a week later by a co-worker after she failed to show up for work. She never has been heard from or seen again.

If you have information on this case, call the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office at 285-8300.

Helen Vorhees Brach

Age at disappearance: 65

Date of Disappearance: Feb. 17, 1977

Description: 5'10", red hair and brown eyes. A "little overweight" at the time of her disappearance.

Circumstances: The Chicago candy heiress finished a checkup at Mayo Clinic and was on her way back to the Kahler Hotel when she stopped at a gift shop and bought a few items. After that, she never was seen again. She had a ticket to fly back to Chicago the next day, and an airline official confirmed that someone used the ticket -- but no one could remember who. Brach was estimated to be worth $100 million after the death of her husband, Frank V. Brach Sr. In 1995, Richard J. Bailey, an owner of horses and stables in the Chicago area, was convicted of conspiring to kill her after she had found out in 1977 that he had been duping her on horse deals. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Jodi Huisentruit

Age at disappearance: 27

Date of disappearance: June 27, 1995

Description: 5'3" to 5'4", 110-120 pounds, blonde hair and brown eyes.

Circumstances: Co-workers at KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa, called police after the anchorwoman failed to show up for work after they had spoken with her early that morning. Officers found a pair of shoes, blow dryer, car keys, earrings and a bottle of hairspray scattered next to her car in her apartment building parking lot.

If you have information in this case, call the Mason City Police Department at (641) 421-3636.

Donna Lee Ingersoll

Age at disappearance: 25

Date of disappearance: Dec. 17, 1990

Description: 4'11", 106 pounds with blonde hair, green eyes and a tattoo of a cross on her right arm. She was wearing boots and blue jeans.

Circumstances: The night of her disappearance, the Hammond woman was at a house in Wabasha. She had been drinking and got into a fight with her boyfriend. She ran out the back door of the house and never was seen again.

If you have information in this case, call the Wabasha Police Department at (651) 565-3261.

Sophia Tareq

Age at disappearance: 26

Date of disappearance: Sept. 17, 1999

Description: Originally from Bangladesh, with brown eyes and brown hair.

Circumstances: She and her 2-year-old son Mohammed Tahseen Taef had been living in Rochester with her sister Mary Zaman. In 1999, the decapitated bodies of Zaman and Taef were discovered in a ditch along 60th Avenue Northwest in Rochester. Tareq has been missing since the bodies were found. Zaman's husband, Iqbal Ahmed, fled to Bangladesh soon after the bodies were discovered and was charged with the two murders. He is serving a life sentence in Bangladesh for two unrelated murders.

If you have information in this case, call the Olmsted County Sheriff's Department at 285-8300.

Marvin Duane Witte

Age at disappearance: 51

Date of disappearance: Dec. 22, 2005

Description: 5'8", 220 to 235 pounds. He has a gap between his upper teeth, and his right-front tooth is missing. He also has a mole on the right side of his face and wears eyeglasses with large, tan-colored plastic frames.

Circumstances: He was last seen leaving the Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center in Winona at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 22. He had been diagnosed with asthma, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Last spring, authorities launched a major search of the Mississippi River and Lake Winona using underwater cameras. They also searched nearby woodlands. No trace of Witte was found.

If you have information in this case, call the Winona Police Department at (507) 457-6302.

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Journal of missing television anchor mailed to newspaper

Associated Press

11:36 AM CDT, June 23, 2008

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

Jodi Huisentruit, 27, a KIMT-TV morning news anchor, disappeared on her way to work on June 27, 1995.

She had talked to a fellow worker early that morning, saying she was on her way to the station. She has not been seen or heard from since.

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

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

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

Police and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officials said they do not believe the document was leaked by their employees, but are conducting an investigation to determine where it came from.

Representatives of both agencies confirmed that the copy was a reproduction of a journal they took into evidence after searching Huisentruit's apartment in the days following her abduction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mason City Globe Gazette has the personal journal of a television anchorwoman missing since 1995.

The journal belonged to Jodi Huisentruit, 27, a morning anchor who was abducted on her way to work at KIMT-TV.

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

Law enforcement has followed thousands of leads in the case, which has been publicized nationally. But many details, including the 84-page journal, remain confidential.

Police and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation officials said they do not believe the document was leaked by their employees.

However, they are conducting an investigation to determine where it came from.

Representatives of both agencies confirmed that the copy was a reproduction of a journal they took into evidence after Huisentruit's abduction.

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Huisentruit Journal Sent to Local Newspaper by Cole Mathisen

KIMT News 3 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mason City Police say although Jodi’s disappearance is considered a cold case, they still get tips on a regular basis.  Last November Cindy Sweeney was sentenced to jail time for lying to police about the case.

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Police pinpoint possible source of Huisentruit's diary

Associated Press - June 24, 2008 5:25 PM ET

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Investigators say they have identified "the individual" they believe is responsible for sending a copy of a missing television anchor's diary to the Mason City newspaper.

The journal belonged to 27-year-old Jodi Huisentruit (HOO'-zen-troot). She disappeared on her way to KIMT-TV in June 1995. She was a native of Long Prairie, Minnesota.

The Globe Gazette received a copy of the 84-page journal in a large envelope with no return address and a June 4th postmark from Waterloo.

Jeff Jacobson of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says authorities are not releasing the person's name because the investigation continues.

Jacobson said Tuesday that officials know why the journal was mailed but he declined to comment "until we release the whole thing and the investigation is complete."

Huisentruit's diary was taken into evidence after her disappearance.

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DCI Investigates Leak Of Missing TV Anchor's Diary

POSTED: 2:11 pm CDT June 24, 2008

UPDATED: 2:12 pm CDT June 24, 2008

MASON CITY, Iowa -- Officials with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation said Tuesday that they're conducting an investigation into evidence leaked to a Mason City newspaper.

The evidence is a personal journal of a television anchorwoman missing since 1995. The journal belonged to Jodi Huisentruit, 27, a morning anchor who was abducted on her way to work at KIMT-TV.


The Mason City Globe Gazette received the journal in a large envelope with no return address and a June 4 postmark from Waterloo. Reporters then researched the information and reported much of it in a June 22 article.

Most of the journal entries focus on Jodi's career dreams and goals.

Law enforcement has followed thousands of leads in the case, which has been publicized nationally. But many details, including the 84-page journal, remain confidential.

DCI investigators said Tuesday that they have identified the person who leaked the evidence, but they will not yet release the person's name.

The journal sent to the newspaper was a reproduction of the original journal accepted into evidence after Huisentruit's disappearance.

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Yesterday marked 13 years that Jodi has been missing.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family. 

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Spring Valley couple goes after the missing

1/9/2009 3:55:01 PM

By Debi Neville

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN 

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

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

Residents of Spring Valley, the Petersons are one of three investigators in Fillmore County. They are called upon for all deaths outside of nursing homes or hospital. Their job is to collect information and order an autopsy if necessary.

"We come upon some difficult and interesting scenarios," Gladys Peterson said. Usually, the couple works with family members, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement.

How it all began

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

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

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

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

Rewarding, yet draining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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15 Years: Jodi Still Missing

Last Update: 6/25 11:01 pm

Posted Image

MASON CITY, IA- This weekend marks 15 years since the disappearance of KIMT anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit. The 27-year old vanished without a trace on June 27th. Investigators are talking about the cold case. And despite how much time has passed, remain hopeful there's closure for this case in the future. Huisentruit normally arrived at work between three and four in the morning. Lieutenant Frank Stearns didn't believe the case would turn into this.

"When I got the case I had no idea of how big it was going to grow. I thought we'd find her quickly."

Each year the community marks the disappearance, police expect more tips to generate. Lieutenant Stearns thinks about the case often. Though some leads are less than promising, it's his duty and others on the team to follow through with all of them. Huisentruit was declared legally dead in 2001.

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15 years later, family of Huisentruit feeling frustration, hope


Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010 12:00 am

MASON CITY, Iowa -- There is a small, plastic card stuck behind a piece of electrical conduit that runs the length of wall near Lt. Frank Stearns desk.

“It’s Jodi’s driver’s license,” says Stearns, who is commander of investigations at the Mason City Police Department.

He glances at the card, showing a smiling Jodi Huisentruit, the KIMT-TV anchorwoman who disappeared 15 years ago today.

“I put it there to make sure I’d never forget. Now, I don’t really need it to remember,” Stearns said.

Stearns -- and scores of others -- have spent thousands of hours trying to unlock the mystery of Huisentruit’s disappearance.

Today’s anniversary brings with it frustration.

“We don’t know anymore today than we did on June 27, 1995,” Stearns said.

Tantalizingly little is known about what happened on that Tuesday morning.

It had been hot in Mason City the previous few days; over the weekend, Civil War re-enactors had been fighting the Battle of Pleasant Hill in East Park in 95-degree heat, according to the Globe Gazette.

Huisentruit had just returned from “a road trip to Iowa City ... oh, we had fun! It was wild, partying and water skiing,” she wrote in her journal two nights before her disappearance.

Early Tuesday, then-KIMT producer Amy Kuns said she had called Huisentruit about 4 a.m. when Huisentruit did not show up for work. Huisentruit answered the telephone, saying she had overslept.

When Huisentruit failed to arrive at work by 7 a.m., KIMT management called authorities.

Not that kind of place

When police arrived at the Key Apartments, at 600 N. Kentucky, Ave., where Huisentruit lived, it was clear something bad had happened.

Items were scattered on the ground near Huisentruit’s Mazda Miata, indicating a struggle.

Then-Globe Gazette reporter, Julie Birkedal wrote later, “Beyond the police officer keeping curious reporters and passers-by at bay were a pair of red pumps sitting on the ground near her car. When I went back later, a chalk line marked the place in the parking lot where the shoes had been.

“It seemed so out of kilter. This was Mason City, the home of Meredith Willson, the Band Festival parade and ‘76 Trombones.’ It wasn't the kind of place where people disappear.”

KIMT President and General Manager Steve Martinson, then a sales manager at the station, recalled, “when I came in that morning, we knew immediately it was serious; she was always someone who showed up for work.”

Leads of any substance were few.

Neighbors at the apartments might have heard her scream; there was a report of a white van seen in the parking lot that morning.

At first, the search was conducted in an area around the Key Apartments. Soon, the perimeter widened over and over again, spiraling out as more hands became involved.

“Those first weeks, we had FBI, DCI — not just investigators; we had teams of investigators,” Stearns said.

In just two days, 30 people had been interviewed by 15 investigators. A man she was seeing socially at the time, John Vansice, remains “a person of interest,” said Stearns.

Vansice, 64, who saw Huisentruit the evening before she disappeared, today lives in Arizona. He passed a lie detector test after her disappearance.

Years go by

The anniversaries have clicked by: one year, then five years, then 10.

Martinson is only one of about three employees who worked with Huisentruit who remain at the station. Three police chiefs have been in office since then. Lead investigators have come and gone.

Rewards offered early went unclaimed. They were eventually transferred to scholarships in Huisentruit’s hometown of Long Prairie, Minn. A reward through local Crimestoppers remains in place.

“You think about it everyday,” Martinson said earlier this week. “It’s amazing that after 15 years, no has been able to find out what’s happened.

“I am not being critical (of law enforcement). I just can’t believe it. It blows my mind. How can someone not tell anybody about it? After all this time?”

There has been no scarcity of odd happenings in connection with the case.

In 1998, investigators looked closely at Tony D. Jackson, a convicted Minnesota rapist who lived in Mason City at the time Huisentruit disappeared.

Allegedly Jackson made a reference -- imbedded into a rap song -- about a body buried in a silo in rural Johnson County, near Tiffin. No link was ever found.

The case took an even stranger turn in 2006, when an Anoka, Minn., woman reported that she saw the murder of Huisentruit — an account she later admitted she had fictionalized.

In 2008, Huisentruit’s journal ended up in the hands of a Globe Gazette reporter. The item had been sent anonymously, as it turned out, by the wife of former police chief Dave Ellingson. No explanation was ever given. The journal yielded little information concerning the case.

Huisentruit’s story was carried on national TV — “20/20,” “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries” among them, plus newspapers, magazines and hundreds of websites.

“We see a spike in tips” when the shows are re-run on cable channels, Stearns said. Still, “not one” viable clue has emerged from the publicity, Stearns said.

“When you get down to basics, it’s like any other crime. Hard work is a big part of it -- and luck is, too. And we haven’t caught a break on this case since Day One.”

Fifteen years later

“Today, I can be in Minneapolis; New York City, and I still have people ask: ‘Did you ever find her?’ ” Martinson says. “People do remember.”

The case has a new lead investigator for the MCPD. Jeremy Cole “will put new eyes” on the case, said Stearns.

Leads come to the MCPD, “weekly,” said Cole.

There is still hope.

Stearns said he still believes there is one person who saw a bit of something, heard that odd piece of conversation, who will give police the clue they need to break the case. “It could be something that you think is not important -- but it could make the case,” Stearns said.

Stearns has watched a host of investigators come and go -- and then retire.

“I don’t want to be that guy,” Stearns said. “I want to get this done.”

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Book on Jodi Huisentruit may surprise, author says

12:15 AM, Jun. 25, 2011 


Beth Bednar remembers her shock at hearing about the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit 16 years ago.

That prompted her to write a book about the case, "Dead Air: The Disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit," which was published in May. Bednar will autograph books in Ames today.

Huisentruit, a popular Mason City TV anchor, disappeared before making it to work on June 27, 1995.

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State: Police not linked to missing Iowa woman

Published 11:50 a.m., Saturday, September 3, 2011

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa authorities investigating the 1995 disappearance of a TV news anchor say no state agents or Mason City police officers have been linked to the case.

The state Department of Criminal Investigations said Friday in a statement that its investigators have followed up on numerous leads and interviewed hundreds of people in the disappearance of KIMT-TV morning anchor Jodi Huisentruit. But, the department says, the investigation has not yielded any credible evidence to support rumored police involvement in her disappearance.

Huisentruit went missing on her way to work in 1995. She was 27 years old at the time.

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Jodi Huisentruit Cold Case Revisited by Author

Posted: 11/13/2011

By Mallory Peebles, News Reporter

A news anchor who disappeared in 1995 is still very much on the mind of an author and former TV reporter who is now promoting her book about the case- Dead Air:  The Disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit.  KIMT morning anchor Jodi Huisentruit disappeared in the early morning and ever since her case has gained national attention... every couple of years supposed leads come forward bringing her case back into the spotlight. 

Police never convicted anyone in her disappearance but this author believes there are still many leads to be followed up on.  Many people in the Midwest have followed the disappearance of TV anchor Jodi Huisentruit since 1995.

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MISSING ANCHOR: TV Show Focuses On 1995 Case

Posted on: 4:16 pm, January 24, 2013

by Kayleigh McCullough

The disappearance case of an Iowa anchorwoman will be the focus of a Discovery Channel television show.

An upcoming episode of Disappeared will feature Jodi Huisentruit a Mason City TV Anchor who vanished in 1995.

Witnesses say they heard screams from outside of Huisentruit’s apartment complex and investigators found her jewelry and shoes near her car.

Huisentruit was never found, but she was declared legally dead in 2001. No charges have been made in the case.

The one hour episode with air Monday at 9 p.m. on the Investigation Discovery Channel.

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After 18 Years, Team Continues Search For Jodi Huisentruit

June 5, 2013 10:30 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — She was a beautiful, blonde TV anchor that went missing nearly two decades ago. Jodi Huisentruit was declared legally dead in 2001. She would have turned 45 on Wednesday.

No one has ever been arrested for the disappearance of the Iowa news anchor but a team of experts in different fields from across the country have come together to work her case on a website called

It’s considered a growing trend in fighting crime, taking a community approach to find answers.

For a family that’s gone on without her for almost 18 years, Huisentruit is much more than the missing woman a generation has grown to know.

JoAnn Nathe is Huisentruit’s oldest sister. She does all she can to keep the memory of her baby sister alive.

“If you don’t keep it out there then it will die,”Nathe said.

Lt. Frank Sterns is the only officer still with the Mason City Police Department since that morning the anchorwoman never made it to work.

“Mason City has not forgotten Jodi. I don’t think America has forgotten Jodi,” Lt. Stearns said.

They found Huisentruit’s blowdryer, car keys and red high heels scattered across her apartment parking lot.

“We’ve made some headway but as far as being able to say are we getting closer to solving her case, no. We really haven’t made that much headway in the case,” Lt. Stearns said.

The department still takes at least a couple of calls a month on the case and only dedicates time to investigate if there are new clues.

A hundred and fifty miles from Mason City, a then-detective for the Woodbury Police Department, Jay Alberio believed a serial rapist they arrested in the mid 90s, may have been the man with answers.

Tony Jackson, serving a life sentence for multiple rapes in Minnesota, has always maintained his innocence in Huisentruit’s case. With no body and no physical evidence, police haven’t been able to prove anything.

Still, Jackson remains on a list of several men, investigators haven’t ruled out.

“Somebody has gotten away with murder for 18 years. People can’t get away with murder,” Alberio said.

Alberio has since retired as a Commander with the Woodbury Police Department. He has put his passion for Huisentruit’s case to work since he retired.

He is one of six professionals from across the country in law enforcement and media, looking back on this case to move it forward.

Tara Manis is another team member. She’s a TV producer living in Miami, Florida.

“You never know whose going to see it, what it will job in their memory and what lead we’ll get in next,” Manis said. became a nonprofit three years ago. WCCO sat in one of the group’s monthly meetings on Skype to watch them go over new leads.

Beth Bednar is another team member. She wrote a book called “Dead Air” about Huisentruit’s case.

“It’s intensely personal for all of us,” Bednar said.

The other team members include: former WCCO crime reporter Caroline Lowe, TV anchor and reporter Josh Benson, investigative reporter and death scene investigator, Gary Peterson.

Over the last decade, the internet has made it possible to do this kind of online detective work. Websleuthing, as it’s called, has been credited for solving cold cases all across the country. It’s what happens in that very public process that police departments are still trying to figure out how to handle.

A professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, Chris Uggen worries about the potential harm in what can sometimes be considered an online witch hunt.

“It’s a bit of a wild west out there,” he said.

Anonymous comments make it easy to point fingers and in some cases, the consequences can be serious.

“Even under the most controlled circumstances you are playing with fire in a certain sense,” Uggen said.

Uggen believes cold case websites need to exercise some kind of editorial control and establish a good working relationship with the police department that’s handling the crime. has done that with the Mason City Police Department. The team has been working with police for years.

“Has it lead to an arrest? No it hasn’t. But they’ve forwarded tips to us,” Lt. Stearns said.

For a family still waiting to know what happened, they’ll take the help no matter where it comes from as they begin another June without Jodi.

“We want to answers. We want to find her,” Nathe said.

An annual golf tournament will be held for Jodi in her hometown of Long Prairie, Minnesota on June 14.

Beginning on June 25, the FindJodi team will be live tweeting Huisentruit’s last 48 hours before she disappeared on June 27. You can sign up for updates on Jodi’s case on

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A question that’s haunted for 20 years: ‘Where’s Jodi?’

By Mary Divine, St. Paul Pioneer Press

06/20/2015 at 5:32 p.m.


LONG PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Jodi Huisentruit overslept on the day she disappeared.


On June 27, 1995, when a co-worker at the TV station where she worked in Mason City, Iowa, called to check on her, the 27-year-old Long Prairie, Minn., native said she would be racing to the station and be there in time for her 6 a.m. broadcast.


It was the last anyone heard from Huisentruit.


On the eve of the 20th anniversary of her disappearance, her family, police and a dedicated team of journalists and retired cops continue the quest to solve the cold-case mystery.


“I thought for sure it would be solved within five years. But it just kept going on and on and on, and now it’s been 20 years,” said JoAnn Nathe, who said the memories of her younger sister haunt her every day.


“We just want to find her. We want to know what happened.”


For months, the case dominated the headlines in the Upper Midwest. How could a TV news anchor disappear from a small town in Iowa without a clue?


Mason City police have received thousands of tips on Huisentruit’s disappearance over the years, and they continue to trickle in. Police Lt. Rich Jensen said the department still gets one to three a month.


“We expect that with the 20th anniversary, we will get more,” Jensen said. “It’s like any anniversary — it stirs people’s emotions. We’re waiting for the call. We’re hoping that there will be a day we’re in the courtroom, and somebody will be held accountable.”


Huisentruit arrived at CBS affiliate KIMT-TV in Mason City after stints at stations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Alexandria, Minn. She hoped to someday land a TV job in the Twin Cities.


Nathe suspects her sister overslept that morning because she was worn out from playing in a golf tournament the previous day. “Maybe she was just exhausted,” said Nathe, who lives in Sauk Centre, Minn.


It was Huisentruit’s assistant producer, Amy Kuns, who called her when she didn’t arrive at the station. Kuns said she called two or three times but never got an answer after the first phone call. She ended up producing the show and going on air herself.


“My first gut reaction was just to be mad,” said Kuns, who now lives in Clear Lake, Iowa. “I’m like, ‘Where the hell is she?’ … I thought she had just gone back to sleep and wasn’t answering her phone. Never in a million years did I envision abduction.”


Authorities believe someone grabbed Huisentruit shortly after 4 a.m. as she went to her red Mazda Miata in the parking lot of the Key Apartments. Neighbors said they heard a scream about that time and saw a white van in the parking lot.


Police found Huisentruit’s red high heels, blow dryer, hair spray and earrings strewn across the lot. Her bent car key lay on the ground near the Miata, and police believe the young woman was unlocking her car door when she was taken.


An unidentified partial palm print was found on her car, but there were no other substantial clues.


Jensen said Huisentruit’s abduction rocked Mason City, a community of 27,700 people.


“People here have a real connection with the local media,” the police lieutenant said. “They would turn on the news, in the morning or at noon, and there she was. They didn’t know her personally, but they knew her.”


Volunteers work on case


A team of journalists and retired police officers — called — is hoping renewed attention on the 20th anniversary of her disappearance will help crack the case.


The team includes former WCCO-TV reporter Caroline Lowe and retired Woodbury police Cmdr. Jay Alberio. The two met last month at Alberio’s house in Woodbury to compare notes on convicted serial rapist Tony Dejuan Jackson, someone they believe should be a “person of interest” in the case.


Jackson was 21 at the time of Huisentruit’s disappearance and living just two blocks from KIMT-TV — a fact Lowe and Alberio say can’t be overlooked.


“We don’t know if he is involved,” said Lowe, who worked on the WCCO-TV I-Team investigation on Jackson. “We, to this day, don’t know, but if you think of a person living that close who is capable of very violent stuff, he had to be investigated.”


Sitting at a computer in Alberio’s home office, the two scrolled through a Minneapolis police transcript of an interview with a woman Jackson was convicted of sexually assaulting in 1997. They were searching for a clue that could connect Huisentruit to Jackson, who is serving a life sentence at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Rush City for raping three women that year in Cottage Grove, Inver Grove Heights and St. Paul.


“One of the questions that the detective asked the victim was: ‘When you woke up, did he say anything to you?’ ” said Alberio, who investigated Jackson in connection with a sexual assault in Woodbury. “He said, ‘Damn, I thought I killed you,’ like he meant to, and he was disappointed that he hadn’t.”


When Alberio learned Jackson had lived in Mason City, he alerted Mason City police.


“We sent them a file down and said, ‘You’ve got to look at this guy,’ ” he said. “Based on his m.o., his pattern, we felt that he needed to be looked at.”


“You don’t wake up one morning and become a serial rapist,” Lowe said. “What had gone on before? And one of the cities that popped up was Mason City.”


She said that after stories about Jackson’s assaults appeared in the media, other possible victims stepped forward.


“We heard from two women in Iowa, including one (in Worth County) that police were skeptical was even a rape,” Lowe said. “They went back into their property room and took out a towel that she said had been used during the rape, and Tony’s DNA was on there.”


While living in Mason City, Lowe said, Jackson attended North Iowa Area Community College and put on a talk show at the Multi-Cultural Student Union.


“One of the things we hoped to find, but never did, was whether we could actually put him at KIMT. Did he ever visit there?” she said. “You look for those connectors. I haven’t found it yet, but you never know when one person might have seen something.”


In 1996, Jackson was charged with domestic violence in Muscatine, Iowa, but the charges were later dismissed.


“After the charges were dropped, he got his gun back,” Lowe said. “Police say he used that same gun in several sexual assaults in the Twin Cities, so you can see why we say he needs to be looked at.”


Despite Lowe’s and Alberio’s suspicions, Mason City police say no link between the convicted rapist and Huisentruit has ever been found and that Jackson is not a suspect in her disappearance. Jackson, who has denied any involvement in the case and said he never met Huisentruit, could not be reached for comment.


“Maybe there is something that eliminates him; we just don’t know what it is,” Lowe said. “We’re not locked into any one person. We’re there to keep digging. We’re going to continue her journey until we have answers.”


Lowe, who now works for KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo, Calif., recently moved to a part-time investigative reporting job to have more time for her volunteer work on unsolved crimes. She keeps a photo of Huisentruit on her desk next to a photo of Jacob Wetterling, the 11-year-old Minnesota boy abducted at gunpoint in 1989 in St. Joseph.


“I’ll be working on this until it’s solved,” Lowe said.


Website founders


News anchor Josh Benson, co-founder of the website, became interested in the Huisentruit case after he went to work at KAAL-TV in Austin, Minn., in 2002. Benson and his news director, Gary Peterson, started the website in 2003.


“We hated the idea of somebody disappearing off the face of the planet and not having any answers,” said Benson, now a news anchor for WFLA-TV in Tampa, Fla. “There are tragedies every day, but when you just don’t have an answer, when you can’t put closure to it, that’s probably the worst hell anybody could go through.”


But Benson said the team is “working against the clock.”


“The biggest problem is time,” he said. “People are passing away — people who had details regarding the past. We have to get this thing figured out. It just gets harder and harder, and we just don’t want to see a 21st anniversary.”


Benson hopes Saturday’s anniversary, which includes a “Finishing Jodi’s Journey” walk from a church near Huisentruit’s apartment complex to KIMT-TV, will help revive interest in the case.


“Anniversaries always serve as a way to get people reinvigorated,” Benson said. “People start to remember things again.


“Take a look at some of these cases that are being solved thanks to technology and thanks to social media and thanks to people just putting a renewed focus into them.”


Benson mentions the case of Cassandra Rhimes, a Minneapolis woman missing for nearly three decades. Her remains were found in May 2014 in Gooseberry Falls State Park in northern Minnesota and identified last month.


“If you just keep fighting and working on it, somebody slips at some point, or somebody dies and leaves a clue, or something happens where someone says, ‘Hey, we’re too far away from when it happened. I’m in the clear,’ and they screw up,” he said. “We’re waiting for the big screw-up, or to connect the dot that is just sitting there waiting to be connected.”


Light of family’s life


Nathe remembers her sister as the light of her family’s life — someone who liked to play golf, bicycle, boat and in-line skate, who loved to travel and spent college summers working the golf beverage cart at Madden’s on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minn. Someone who made people laugh.


“She brought so much joy to the family,” Nathe said. “She was just our sunshine.”


Nathe said it breaks her heart that their mother, Imogene, died last December at age 91 without knowing what happened to Jodi.


“She so wanted to find Jodi.”

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