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Jodi Huisentruit mystery: The decades-long search for the missing Mason City, Iowa, TV news anchor

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Mason City Police
Long Prairie
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NewsChannel 3
Mason City's
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Waldorf College
North Iowa Community College
the State Crime Lab
the Mason City Police
Jodi's 50th
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Jodi HuisentruitProduced
Clare Friedland
Ruth Chenetz
Chris Young
Jeff Brinkley
Jim Axelrod
Doug Merbach
Robin Wolfram
Jodi?Robin Wolfram
Jodi Huisentruit's
Amy Kuns
Jack Schlieper
Robin?Robin Wolfram
JoAnn Nathe
Staci Steinman
Kim Feist
John Vansice
Ani Kruse
Jodi …
John Lessard
John Vansice's
LaDonna Woodford
in?Ani Kruse
sleeping?LaDonna Woodford:
Jay Alberio
Tony Jackson
Caroline Lowe
Tony Jackson's
Jodi?Caroline Lowe
Gary Peterson
Josh Benson--
family?Caroline Lowe
quickly?Chief Jeff Brinkley
case?Chief Jeff Brinkley
something?Chief Jeff Brinkley
Jim Axelrod [Outside


the Winnebago River

Winnebago River

Mason City
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The New York Times
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Special K-9 units quickly began a search of Jodi's apartment complex and the banks of the nearby Winnebago River.ROBIN WOLFRAM | KIMT ANCHOR: Police are investigating the disappearance but aren't saying much else at this time.That evening, KIMT's lead story was the devastating news about one of its own:  ROBIN WOLFRAM | KIMT ANCHOR: Jodi Huisentruit was and still is a very dear friend of mine, as well as all of us here at KIMT, and we're inviting all of you to join us in keeping her and her family in your prayers this evening.Jim Axelrod: Toughest thing you've ever done in your career, Robin?Robin Wolfram: Probably, yeah. Staci Steinman [crying]: A good friend of ours was a priest … and we were just like, "what do we do?" …He said, "now's a good time to keep people together; this is when we need prayer … and pray for her and don't cancel the wedding."KIMT-TV ANCHOR:  It's been 38 hours now since anyone has spoken to Jodi Huisentruit. They really love Jodi.KIMT VIEWER [1995]: She was not just a person on TV every morning … she was our friend … somebody's gotta know something to bring her home.AMY KUNS | KIMT ANCHOR: It's now been nearly two-and-a-half days since the person who usually sits in this chair disappeared."KIMT REPORTER | June 29, 1995: Investigators say they've now narrowed their focus to around a dozen people they'd like to continue questioning…The police also revealed Jodi had reported a possible stalker nine months before she disappeared. Back in 1995 "48 Hours" caught up with John Vansice and Jodi's close friend, Ani Kruse, dockside, where we learned the three often waterskied off his boat. …and just started talking to him and didn't know how we felt about him and then we met him again and again.Although he was 22 years older than Jodi, he became part of her inner circle.JOHN VANSICE TO "48 HOURS" [1995]: …just a bunch of people who really get along fine and have a good time.Two weeks before Jodi disappeared, Vansice helped Ani throw a surprise birthday party for her. Jim Axelrod: The investigators are asking you about John Vansice.Ani Kruse: Yes.Jim Axelrod: And you're saying, it couldn't be John.Ani Kruse: No, he's our friend …For me, I'm thinking, why would you hurt somebody that, that brought so much joy to your life?But Wolfram had long suspected that Vansice had feelings for Jodi that weren't mutual. Robin Wolfram: I truly believe that he had very strong and deep feelings for Jodi.And something he told her back then sent chills down her spine.JOHN VANSICE TO KIMT [1995]: I have named my boat after her, because just -- just because she's Jodi … you can't help but love that woman; you can't help but love her.Robin Wolfram: When he said I named my boat after her, that's when I said, "Ugh, that's an obsession." … I remember holding on to the microphone and just feeling so ill at ease and thinking to myself, "I think he might've done it."In the fall of 1995, some three months after Jodi Huisentruit disappeared, her family allowed a local TV reporter inside her apartment. You know, "he's like a father to me." …she made that mention quite a few times.Jim Axelrod: In front of him?Ani Kruse: Yeah, yeah.But some of Jodi's friends doubted he got the message.Robin Wolfram: I cautioned her…  I said, "Jodi, there's gonna come a point in time when he's gonna want more."Staci Steinman: When she told us he named his boat after her, we go, "OK, Jodi. I don't know, something's weird.Jim Axelrod: But she didn't see it as odd?Staci Steinman: No, she laughed.Kim Feist: I think she was like, honored, like hey, it's kinda cool.Jodi's sister JoAnn -- and other family members – met with John Vansice a few days after Jodi's disappearance. See how she's getting along.JoAnn Nathe: In my mind, there's a good chance that he is linked to Jodi's case, some way or other.Jim Axelrod: What makes you say that?JoAnn Nathe: It's just that he was so obsessed with her.JOHN VANSICE TO NATHE AND FAMILY ["48 HOURS" 1995]: If you ever go in her apartment and you see men's clothes, they're mine. …So I think that's hogwash.Jim Axelrod: Inconceivable to you.Ani Kruse: Yeah.Lessard told "48 Hours" the only time he met Jodi was to hand her the car keys. …He wanted to make sure that everybody knew Jodi was his.But Woodford insists Vansice had no romantic interest in Jodi – and no reason to hurt her.LaDonna Woodford: When he'd talk about Jodi … it was like, "I'm protecting her. She's … like my daughter."Jim Axelrod: What if – on June 26th and then into the morning of June 27th, what if John Vansice had picked then to share with Jodi that he wanted to take it to the next level?LaDonna Woodford: And people always ask me that question. … And it's sad, it's really sad.And Woodford says she knows where Vansice was the morning Jodi was abducted: he was out taking a walk with her. Remember, Jodi's producer spoke to her at around 4:10 a.m. LaDonna believes that Vansice – even though he lived only 5 minutes away -- would not have had enough time to abduct Jodi, possibly dispose of her body and be home by 6:00 a.m.LaDonna Woodford: I know the timeframe of … when I called him; when I met with him, when we walked. Jay Alberio: Tony Jackson is a predator … You gotta look at this guy.On May 4, 1996, nearly a year after Jodi disappeared, Ani Kruse was holding onto a sliver of hope that her friend could still be found. He learned Jackson was living in Iowa when Jodi disappeared -- and not just anywhere.Jay Alberio: The background investigation puts him in Mason City, two blocks from the TV station that Jodi worked at.Jackson lived two blocks from where Jodi worked.Caroline Lowe: Two blocks.Jim Axelrod: That's chilling.Caroline Lowe: It was like a bolt. And -- the boards that they found there were sent to the State Crime Lab.But, like so often in Jodi's case, the lead led nowhere.Jim Axelrod: Any forensics tying Tony Jackson to Jodi?Caroline Lowe: None that we know of. He would not answer specific questions, but in a rambling email wrote: "I Stand firm in my Integrity regarding the Jodie [sic] Huisentruit case."And so the hunt for clues crawls on – with another look at John Vansice.John Vansice's friend, LaDonna Woodford, says roughly 2 years after Jodi's disappearance, she received a visit from an FBI agent. From the beginning, Ani Kruse says she was concerned with how detectives processed the crime scene.Ani Kruse: You know I was very surprised it was not … sectioned off.Jim Axelrod: The whole area wasn't police taped off?Ani Kruse: Not the first day or so.Jim Axelrod: But there's all kinds of evidence that could've gotten compromised.Ani Kruse: That's what I thought.And what about Jodi's car -- a key piece of evidence? Jim Axelrod: So, if the car is your crime scene, why would they give it back to the family?Caroline Lowe: I think that's a question for the police.Jeff Brinkley is Mason City's fourth police chief since Jodi vanished.Jim Axelrod: Was that car given back too quickly?Chief Jeff Brinkley [nods his head]: Maybe. But police won't tell "48 Hours" exactly what other evidence they have.Jim Axelrod: Is Tony Jackson still a person of interest?Chief Jeff Brinkley: I am not going to comment on that.Jim Axelrod: Is John Vansice still a person of interest?Chief Jeff Brinkley: I can't comment on that.But, broke the news that in 2017 John Vansice, who currently lives in Arizona, was still on police radar. Jim Axelrod: So, does that mean we're talkin' about weeks, months?Chief Jeff Brinkley: I don't think it's fast.Jim Axelrod: It's not fast.Chief Jeff Brinkley: I don't think it's fast"48 Hours" traveled to Phoenix to ask John Vansice what he knows about Jodi's disappearance.Jim Axelrod [Outside Vansice's front door]:  Hi John, my name is Jim Axelrod, I'm with the CBS News broadcast "48 Hours." How are you?John Vansice: Fine.Jim Axelrod: We're conducting an investigation into the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit and --John Vansice [shaking his head]: I don't want to talk to you.Jim Axelrod: -- I want to ask you a couple of questions.John Vansice: No. [closes the door]On June 5, 2018, on what would have been Jodi's 50th birthday, the team officially unveiled four billboards around Mason City.Caroline Lowe [at billboard presentation]: It's time to bring Jodi home.Until then, these are the last images of Jodi friends and family hold onto.Staci Steinman:  When I think about her, I think about all the fun that we had.Ani Kruse: She added a lot of sunshine to many people's world.Caroline Lowe: We're not giving up.

As said here by Jim Axelrod