NEARLY 22 YEARS AFTER SHE WAS ABDUCTED OUTSIDE HER MASON CITY APARTMENT, INVESTIGATORS HAVE NEW HOPE THEY’LL FIND MISSING TELEVISION NEWS ANCHOR JODI HUISENTRUIT.
(Via KARE-11) Nearly 22 years after she was abducted outside her Mason City apartment, investigators have new hope they’ll find missing television news anchor Jodi Huisentruit.
And that hope stems from the closure in another high profile missing person case in the region.
“Maybe there will be something similar to the [Jacob] Wetterling case, you know, where it was a matter of a new opportunity to find DNA and to match up some of those things that broke that,” said Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley, referring to the discovery of remains and answers in the 1989 abduction of the 11-year-old St. Joseph boy last fall.
Brinkley told KARE 11 he thinks it’s possible evidence in Huisentruit’s case also still holds answers, if examined with modern science.
“Do you think it’s possible that there’s similar evidence in Jodi’s case – that if it’s checked just one more time – it could reveal an answer?” asked KARE 11’s Karla Hult.
“Yes. Yes is the short answer,” responded Brinkley, adding, “I think in 22 years, in my career, I cannot believe where we’ve come with science and how we’ve adapted science to policing.”
“Somebody may develop the process that we’re going to be able to glean some new piece of information that we didn’t have – off some old cigarette butt, you know, piece of clothing. You just don’t know,” Brinkley said.
And that’s a comforting perspective to Huisentruit’s friends and family, who’ve wondered about the Long Prairie, Minn. native for decades.
“I just miss her. We all do,” said Kelly Boyle, who last saw her beloved college friend weeks before she disappeared.
On June 27, 1995, a morning producer called Huisentruit at her Mason City apartment when the 27-year-old anchor failed to show up for work. Huisentruit – who had spent the day before playing in a local golf tournament — answered the phone and said she’d be at the station soon. Hours later, workers at KIMT-TV notified police when Huisentruit still hadn’t been seen.
Video from that day reveals what police quickly concluded. Shortly after 4 a.m., Huisentruit had been grabbed outside her apartment building. Her hairspray, blow dryer and earrings were strewn across the parking lot. Her bent car key was found near her red convertible car. A partial palm print was also found on the car.
Other key details from early in the investigation: neighbors heard a scream shortly after 4 a.m. and someone also spotted a white van.
“At first you don’t think it’s anything crime-related or an abduction or anything like what it turned out to be,” former KIMT-TV News Director Doug Merbach told KARE 11, adding, “And throughout the day, the nightmare just kept getting worse and worse and worse.”
Merbach recalled the following frantic days, as his newsroom balanced reporting a story that had rocked their community with grieving over the unknown fate of a dear friend and colleague.
“There’s no guidebook. There’s no course in journalism class that teaches you how to cover something like that,” Merbach said.
Standing in front of Huisentruit’s apartment complex on a frigid February afternoon, Merbach acknowledged he still agrees to interviews about the missing journalist to “keep the story alive and out there.”
But giving the same details for decades has undoubtedly taken a toll on the 30-year news veteran who finally left the business a couple years ago.
“Decades of pain. It still hurts,” he said.
“I think to her mother, she lost a daughter. Her sister lost a sibling. Her friends lost somebody that was very close to them that they grew up with. And Mason City you know, lost a lot of innocence,” Merbach said.
A committed crusader, who happens to be a KARE 11 colleague, is among those trying to find answers for Huisentruit’s friends and family.
Long-time crime reporter Caroline Lowe joined the KARE 11 team 15 months ago to help work on the Wetterling investigation. The veteran journalist – who’s also a licensed private investigator and now lives in California – also brought her commitment to Jodi.
“My mission is to work on unsolved cold cases, unsolved homicides. And Jacob and Jodi have always been at the top of my list,” Lowe said in a recent interview back in Minnesota.
Lowe’s commitment to cold cases goes back decades and also resulted in her involvement in the FindJodi.com non-profit organization. The FindJodi.com team includes other journalists and a retired investigator who coordinate their efforts to further investigate and bring attention to the high profile case. The group’s website of the same name features interviews, evidence and even, a letter to Huisentruit’s attacker.
“We’re not the police. We don’t pretend to be. But we know the Internet – somebody might come there,” Lowe said.
She continued, “We didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have DNA. Those are powerful tools, and maybe if we use our ability to communicate, we can help get some answers.”
And while the FindJodi.com team continues digging, they also believe answers will come with cooperation.
“I’ve seen over the years, that relationships have changed where cases have been solved. Sometimes the motive is reward money. Sometimes it’s revenge. There are a lot of different motives,” Lowe said.
“Let’s give Jodi’s family the answers that Jacob’s family finally got. Let’s not wait 27 years to give them answers,” Lowe said.
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