Upon the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Jodi Huisentruit, the Mason City police chief appealed for anyone who knows anything about what happened to the young television news anchor to come forward.
The 27-year-old Long Prairie, MN, native was heading to work to anchor the morning news at KIMT-TV when someone grabbed her as she was about to get into her car. The red Mazda Miata was parked just 12 steps from her Key Apartment building.
“We would ask people with information if we haven’t talked to them yet, or they haven’t reached out to us, who have been afraid or scared or uncertain or just haven’t known what to do, to do the right thing. Reach out to us or reach out to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Let us talk to you and let us get that information and see how that fits into what we have,” said Police Chief Jeff Brinkley.
Brinkley is the department’s 4th chief since Jodi was abducted on June 27, 1995. He became chief in 2016 after spending most of his career with the Ames Police Department.
During our interview, the chief declined to answer any questions about specifics of the investigation, or its status. He only said, “we are continuing to work this case.”
Brinkley also would not say if he’s considered asking for any kind of outside review of the 25-year-old case, to give it a fresh set of eyes.
While the current chief is tight-lipped about the investigation, previous MCPD supervisors and investigators have told the media there were no eyewitnesses and there was very little evidence in the case. A palm print was obtained from Jodi’s car, but it’s unknown if it has ever been identified.
Over the years, copies of two key pieces of evidence were leaked to the media.
The first incident was in 2008 when Jodi’s personal journal was sent to the Mason City Globe Gazette by former police chief David Ellingson’s wife. A MCPD investigation found the ex-chief inadvertently took a copy of the journal home with him when he was clearing out his office two years earlier, after he resigned. No motive was revealed for why Cheryl Ellingson mailed the 84-page journal to the newspaper, where she had worked many years earlier.
More recently, in February 2020, video of a surprise birthday party held for Jodi just weeks before she disappeared was featured in an “Up and Vanished” episode that focused on Jodi’s case. Who provided the video to the Oxygen Channel true-crime show’s producers is not publicly known.
We asked the chief how these kind of high-profile leaks affect the Huisentruit investigation.
“It’s a distraction, it makes a story… so I think that takes away effort…. it takes time to follow up on, investigate,” Brinkley said.
In a February 20th email response to our inquiry about the leaked video, and whether he planned an investigation into how the sensitive evidence got out, the MCPD chief replied, “I don’t know where Up and Vanished got the video that they used.It wasn’t from us.There are a variety of items that are being used in the media that have been obtained through the years. I don’t think an investigation into how the media obtained those items is good use of police resources.”
Another bizarre twist in the investigation happened New Year’s Eve of 2018. That’s when two people defaced a FindJodi billboard in Mason City. They spray-painted the name of a former MCPD investigator, who had worked on Jodi’s case from the beginning, and wrote the words “machine shed” on it.
The billboard was one of four FindJodi dedicated on June 5, 2018, on what would have been Jodi’s 50th birthday. They included a photo of Jodi and the message, “Someone knows something. Is it YOU?”
We asked the chief if he thought someone was trying to send a message about Jodi’s case, or if the billboard incident was just a case of vandalism.
“My suspicion is that it is New Year’s Eve night, debauchery and vandalism and somebody at the time thought it was a good idea,”said Brinkley.
No one has been arrested for the crime and FindJodi replaced the damaged billboard.
With the 25th anniversary on Saturday, we wondered how frustrating it might be for the chief to have Jodi’s case still unsolved after so many years.
“It’s not that frustrating to me. I think I knew of the case when I came here and it’s been my intention all along to give it the due effort that it needs on our part and the resources. I don’t view it as my success or failure to have it resolved one way or the other. I think my responsibility is to make sure it’s continuing to get the fair review, fair effort, and we don’t forget about it, and that we keep working it as the information that we have, resources that we have, allow us to do that in reasonable fashion.” said Brinkley.
If you have any information about the case, you can reach an investigator by contacting the MCPD or the DCI.
Mason City Police Department
Phone: (641) 421-3636
Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI)