It was still dark when Jodi Huisentruit hurried to her car in the parking lot of her apartment building on a morning in late June 1995. She was running late for work after oversleeping and getting a call from her news producer at KIMT TV in Mason City, Iowa.
Tragically, the 27-year-old anchorwoman was rushing to her apparent death. As she approached her new red sports car, an attacker emerged from the darkness. There was a struggle, a scream and then nothing. Jodi just vanished into the night.
Almost 18 years later, no trace has been found of the young woman who anchored the Daybreak newscast – of the rising star who dreamed of making a name for herself someday in Minneapolis, a much bigger television news market.
In their search for Jodi, police have investigated hundreds of leads and focused on a number of possible suspects. They include a serial rapist who lived just two blocks from the station where Jodi worked and an older male friend who was the last person known to have seen her alive.
Over the years, Jodi’s baffling disappearance has continued to generate nationwide media coverage. The latest special will air January 28, 2013, on “Disappeared,” a program on the Investigation Discovery network.
Despite all this attention, however, Jodi’s abduction remains as much a mystery as it did the morning she vanished. It is a haunting and troubling case for many of us in the TV news business. As journalists, we feel connected to Jodi and responsible for finding answers to her fate.
I first reported on Jodi’s case for WCCO TV in Minneapolis back in 1997, in connection with a serial rape investigation in the Twin Cities. At the time I never imagined her disappearance would remain unsolved so many years later. I keep a photo of Jodi on my desk in my new newsroom in Santa Maria, California, and she is never far from my mind.
Ten years ago, driven to find answers about Jodi’s abduction, two other Minnesota TV journalists aired a series of news stories on the investigation into her case. The reporter, Josh Benson, and his news director, Gary Peterson, later were inspired to create a website, www.FindJodi.com, to serve as a clearinghouse and forum for tips on Jodi’s disappearance.
More than a decade later, Josh and Gary remain the driving forces behind the FindJodi team. Josh is now a morning news anchor in Miami, while Gary is still based in Minnesota, not far from Mason City.
The FindJodi team has grown to include Tara Manis, a TV news producer in Miami; Beth Bednar, a former anchorwoman who wrote a book, “Dead Air,” about Jodi’s abduction, Jay Alberio, a retired police officer; and me.
The team members live in cities across the country but stay connected and committed to finding answers. Someday, we want to write the final chapter on what happened to Jodi Huisentruit. It seems destined to be a sad report, but the saddest outcome of all would be to never find closure.
Administrator’s Note: This article appeared on the new website Medium. Medium is a Web-based storyteller. Similar to Storify, users can compile text, photos, videos and other content into one collection that the public can view and edit. The website is the newest venture from the founders of Twitter. Caroline Lowe was given advanced access to post on the site.