So exactly what has changed?
In my last post, I addressed a question received during a recent speech to an area service club. The member’s question was not accusatory, but direct and to the point: “What changes have you seen since the publication of Dead Air two years ago?”
As I explained in that post, the primary change we have seen is in the re-awakening of interest in this old case. Local and national media has helped to bring the story back to life. If nothing else, the book served as a real catalyst for change, and brought us into the company of new people, people we might not otherwise have met.
But several other factors point to the real changes since 2011 and the new challenges we face:
1. A former Mason City police officer came forward with her own specific allegations against the MCPD, and she named names. Maria Ohl’s allegations of police involvement in connection with the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit would have likely been made public with or without the book in the picture. Information Maria Ohl gained and the handling of it (on both sides) put her and her former employer at odds. She was fired and subsequently declared unfit for service in the late summer and fall of 2011.
Though Maria and I and others on our team have talked at length, she still can’t share specific details of the incidents in which she says she learned the information. While Maria attempts to move forward with her post-police life, the Mason City department steadfastly dismisses some of the information she learned as the ravings of a drunken man (or men). Others reasonably argue that alcohol is often called the “elixir of truth” for a reason!
2. A local pastor found himself unwittingly being pulled into the case. Shane Philpott, pastor of the non-denominational Christian Fellowship Church in Mason City (and Maria Ohl’s brother-in-law), does not see eye-to-eye with the Mason City Police Department, either. He was awarded a settlement in a past (unrelated) dispute with the police department, but that’s a story for another time.
In his role as pastor, though, he has been called upon to counsel people who wanted to unburden their souls in connection with the Jodi Huisentruit case, and thus finds himself the holder of confidential information. At least for the time being, he is staying out of the fray, and has chosen to focus on his duties as spiritual leader to his church.
3. The perceived distance between some members of our team and the Mason City Police Department has increased. Please know this is not malicious finger-pointing nor idle blaming on our part. The reality is, after eighteen years, a busy police department in a bustling Midwestern community has plenty of other things to worry about in addition to investigating an eighteen-year-old crime. And, let’s face it, every workplace, public or private, has to pay attention to the budget.
However, despite having an officer in charge of the Huisentruit investigation unit, and despite repeated attempts to try to increase the cooperative connection between FindJodi.com and the MCPD, our efforts to reasonably work together have not borne much fruit. FindJodi.com has become the go-to place for substantive information.
4. The screenplay Fade to Black debuted last summer in Spring Valley, Minnesota. FindJodi.com, Inc. co-founder Gary Peterson co-wrote and produced the screenplay, which drew large audiences from Minnesota and North Iowa.
5. The FindJodi team and FindJodi.com website has grown exponentially since then. Our small but mighty team now represents a group spanning three time zones. With Caroline Lowe in California, Gary Peterson, Jay Alberio, and me in Minnesota, and Josh Benson and Tara Manis in Florida, I’d say we’ve got good representation from all over the United States.
The website gets hundreds of visits per day. Recent media coverage has propelled the visits into the thousands and the website continues to be the most complete and up-to-date collection of information related to the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit.
6. The book publication has forced our team to look more closely at two other unsolved Iowa crimes, which may have a bearing on what happened to Jodi. As part of our work, we are naturally invested in the 1995 death of Jodi’s friend and acquaintance Bill Pruin, who died of a gunshot wound just three months before Jodi disappeared. We have also spent more time in Jasper County in connection with the thirty-year-old Copper Dollar Ranch double homicide. This trio of cold cases (Jodi, Bill, and the Copper Dollar victims) may serve to shed some light on one another. The connections between these three seemingly disparate cases are viewed by some as uncanny and remarkable.
7. Perhaps most importantly, the entire Jodi Huisentruit story has seen increased visibility and a real renewed interest in solving it. Many are sincerely interested in getting this cold case resolved.
If Dead Air has served as a catalyst, that can only work for the good of the overall cause. Our team is working diligently toward the goal of putting this case (and maybe some others) to bed. It is a tribute to Jodi and many other tragic missing persons cases, and we very much appreciate your support of these efforts.
If you haven’t read ‘Dead Air’ you can purchase your copy here. Thanks for your support.