A popular news anchor with her sights set on a long career suddenly vanished in June 1995. Jodi Huisentruit’s abduction has captured news headlines for the past two decades, but the case has remained unsolved. ABC News’ ‘20/20: Gone at Dawn’ focuses on the mysterious circumstances surrounding Jodi’s disappearance and the possible theories behind it. So, if you’re wondering what happened, we’ve got you covered.
What Happened to Jodi Huisentruit?
Jodi was a Long Prairie, Minnesota, native with dreams of eventually working a TV job in the Twin Cities. After gaining her mass communications degree, Jodi interned at a studio in Iowa before a stint in Minnesota. Then, the 27-year-old landed a job as an anchor for a CBS affiliate in Mason City, Iowa. She was described as a hardworking and friendly individual close to her family. By June 1995, she was a well-known figure in the city and had celebrated her birthday just weeks prior.
At around 4 AM on June 27, 1995, producer Amy Kuns called Jodi when she didn’t report at her usual time. Jodi stated she had overslept and promised to be there within a few minutes. However, as the show’s airtime of 6 AM inched closer, she was nowhere to be seen. Jodi couldn’t be reached after her initial phone call, and by 7 AM, the police were called to have them check on the 27-year-old.
Jodi’s apartment was just minutes away from the studio, but when the police got there, it was clear something terrible had happened. While nothing seemed out of place inside Jodi’s apartment, the parking lot was entirely a different story. There were signs of struggle around Jodi’s car; her shoes, blow dryer, earrings, and car keys were found strewn about. The belief was that she was abducted as she was going to work. Despite extensive searches, Jodi’s remains have never been found, and she was declared dead in 2001.
Who Killed Jodi Huisentruit?
The bent car keys added to the authorities’ suspicion that Jodi was taken as she was about to enter her car at around 4 AM. Neighbors told the police about hearing screams around that time and seeing a white van parked in the lot. Over the next year, the authorities followed up on around 1500 tips and interviewed several people, but to no avail. The family hired private investigators and even visited psychics in hopes of a resolution. However, the case went nowhere.
Apart from an unidentified palm print on the car and a strand of hair at the scene, the authorities didn’t have much in terms of physical evidence. Looking into Jodi’s past, they learned that she feared her safety and had talked to the police about someone following her sometime in 1994. Back then, Jodi had even taken self-defense classes. According to another report, she mentioned receiving harassing phone calls just a day before her disappearance.
The authorities believed that whoever kidnapped Jodi knew her routine well and waited for her even though she was late. Initially, they investigated a man named John Vansice, the last person to have seen Jodi alive. The previous evening, she was at John’s apartment to watch a video from her surprise birthday party. John passed a polygraph test, and nothing tied him to the kidnapping, ruling him out as a suspect.
Over the years, the case has received considerable attention, with a group of journalists and former police officers setting up a website by the name of FindJodi. They believed a serial rapist, Tony Jackson, who lived in the area in June 1995, should have been considered a person of interest. However, the police have maintained there was no tangible evidence tying him to Jodi’s case, and Tony also claimed to have nothing to do with it.
Josh Benson, the co-founder of FindJodi, said in 2015, “The biggest problem is time. 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.” Jodi’s case bore some similarities to the murder of another woman just hours away.
Michelle Martinko was killed as she entered her car in a parking lot in 1979, and the case was solved decades later through DNA evidence. The killer, Jerry Burns, had mentioned Jodi’s name during an interview without being prompted. Furthermore, a search of his computer revealed his obsession with blonde-haired women, including searches about murdering them and pornography involving them. But no evidence proved Jerry was responsible for Jodi’s abduction. As of 2020, the authorities had an officer specifically assigned to the case and followed up on any new information. But without DNA evidence, the disappearance remains unlikely to be ever solved.
Read More: Where is Tony Jackson Today?