A reward totaling nearly $10,000 has been offered for information in the case of missing Mason City news anchor Jodi Huisentruit. Mason City Police Chief Jack Schlieper is expected to announce establishment of a Crimestoppers fund today.
On Thursday, he said businesses and individuals so far have pledged $7,000 to $10,000 toward the fund, the Mason City Globe-Gazette reported.
Huisentruit – a former reporter for KGAN-TV (Channel 2) in Cedar Rapids – has been missing since Tuesday, but her friends and co-workers still expect her to be found safe.
“I still have a great deal of hope that she’ll be back. I’ve done the schedules for the next couple weeks, and she’s on them. I’m short-handed, and I want Jodi back – my own selfish reason,” KIMT-TV news director Doug Merbach said Thursday.
Police Chief Schlieper hedged his answer.
“We’re still optimistic that we’ll have a successful conclusion to the investigation,” he said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Huisentruit, the morning and noon producer/anchor for the CBS television station has been missing since early Tuesday. She was scheduled to report to work between 3 and 4 a.m. that day and when station officials called her about 4 a.m., she said she’d be at the station in a few minutes. She never showed up.
Officers later found her red Mazda Miata in the parking lot of her downtown Mason City apartment complex. A pair of red women’s shoes, a blow drier, bottle of hair spray, car keys and earrings were scattered around the car.
Her disappearance set off a massive investigation, with volunteers joining in a search with police, officials from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and FBI agents.
Schlieper said their work has turned up few clues and said investigators have no evidence pointing them to Huisentruit’s whereabouts. He said Thursday that her disappearance is still being treated as a missing-person case.
“We have nothing to believe she’s in Mason City. We have nothing to believe that she’s in Iowa or in Mason City or anywhere in the area. Nor do we have anything to believe she’s outside of this area,” he said.
With no official answers, folks have come up with their own theories.
“I have a feeling it’s somebody that Jodi knew and trusted – that’s my gut feeling. And you can take that for what it’s worth,” Merbach said.
The search has attracted wide-spread media attention. One tavern waitress said she has seen reporters “from all over. The place is just full of it.” Motels also reported that in-state and out-of-state news crews have been staying in the Mason City area.
Karen Schultz of Mason City said she doesn’t believe Huisentruit is in the Mason City area or that she’s alive.
Schultz, 27, said she had met Huisentruit only once but felt a connection to her. Schultz has left her porch light on each night since the disappearance and has asked her neighbors to join her.
“In case she’s out wandering the streets or something and she needs a place to go, she’ll see the light on. But I have a feeling she’s not here,” Schultz said.
The police chief said investigators have interviewed more than 100 people in the case and have narrowed the list of those they want to question again to less than 12, some outside the Mason City area. However, he said none of those people are considered suspects.
The community was invited to a prayer service for Huisentruit last night at a local church.
Huisentruit, originally from Long Prairie, Minn., has worked at KIMT for about two years. She worked at KGAN in Cedar Rapids from February 1991 to April 1992. Huisentruit left KGAN for a morning anchor job at KSAX-TV in Alexandria, Minn., before going to Mason City.