With majority support of the Iowa House of Representatives, a member of the Iowa Legislature has asked Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer and the City Council to declare June 27, 2015 ‘Jodi Huisentruit Day’ in an effort a honor the missing anchorwoman and the 20th anniversary of her disappearance.
June 27th, 1995, was a day most Mason City residents won’t forget. 27-year-old Jodi Huisentruit was late for work to her job as morning television news anchor at KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa. While attempting to get into her vehicle at the Key Apartments, she was attacked. A struggle ensued and it’s believed Jodi was abducted. She was never seen or heard from again.
To this day, Jodi’s case receives national media attention. It’s very evident that residents in Mason City (and beyond) are interested in seeing this case closed.
In any city at any time, many would argue that dedicating a day to an individual is a positive distinction. We discovered in Jodi’s case, however, it’s much more complicated than that. We began to quickly learn that even though all 100 members of the Iowa House of Representatives signed the letter, they are not all in support. What is the family’s view? Will the city sign the proclamation? There are many questions to answer.
FindJodi.com received a copy of Rep. John Kooiker’s (Sioux) letter to the Mayor and Council along with three additional sheets filled with the signatures of all 100 members of the Iowa House of Representatives, proving unanimous house support of the letter.
The letter reads:
To the Honorable Mayor Eric Bookmeyer and City Council Members:
On June 27th, 1995, Ms. Jodi Sue Huisentruit, a talented anchorwoman at KIMT television, disappeared in the early morning hours as she was leaving for her job as anchor of the morning show “Daybreak.” Ms. Huisentruit was a Mason City resident, a daughter, a sister, and was loved and respected by many in North Iowa and southern Minnesota. At age 27, she is believed to have been abducted and was legally declared deceased in May of 2001.
June 27, 2015, will mark the 20th anniversary of Ms. Huisentruit’s disappearance. The Mason City Police Department is jurisdictionally responsible for the investigation and is still committed to finding Ms. Huisentruit and is diligently investigating all leads that might result in solving this case.
Ms. Huisentruit’s disappearance had a profound impact on the entire state of Iowa and draws much needed attention to the many unsolved missing person cases in the state. The anguish of losing a loved one is increased exponentially in missing person cases by the lack of closure for family and friends.
Therefore, we ask the Mayor and City Council of Mason City to declare June 27, 2015, “Jodi Huisentruit Day” to honor her memory, to offer reneweed condolences to Ms. Huisentruit’s family and friends, and to urge the public the contact Iowa law enforcement authorities or the Federal Bureau of Investigation with any information related to the disappearance of Ms. Huisenrtuit or other missing persons.
Members of the Iowa General Assembly
- Click here to read the actual letter and signature pages sent to the Mayor and council.
Reached by phone, Rep. Kooiker said the reason for the letter was simple:
“It’s a letter letting people in Mason City know that the Legislature is concerned about missing persons in general but to bring the attention to missing persons and solving cold cases,” he said.
“We thought it would be an appropriate time to declare this June 27th as Jodi Huisentruit Day because it falls on the 20th anniversary of her disappearance.”
The City and MCPD respond
Rep. Kooiker said he had talked with Mayor Bookmeyer in late April asking him to consider the letter. Kooiker says he was met with several concerns by the city and police department:
“…said it would stir things up in an ongoing investigation – that was one excuse offered,” he said. “Another excuse, I had not contacted any of the family members yet and they were concerned that it would offend some family member or some friend to have it sprung on them.”
We reached out to Chief Michael Lashbrook of Mason City Police Department via email about Kooiker’s claims.
“So far this letter has proven to be an unnecessary distraction for the Mason City Police Department, involving the expense of time and resources. The fact it has received such a mixed reaction (as you put it) from legislators, the City, Police Department and particularly the family of Jodi Huisentruit makes me question it’s value,” the Chief explained.
“It is unfortunate that those seeking to promote this letter don’t respect the wishes of those who have a more personal interest in this tragic event.”
Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer sent his own reaction to the claims and the letter:
“I concur with Chief Lashbrook. The MCPD is conducting an ongoing investigation and continues to coordinate with other law enforcement agencies. I fully support their position and their plans to respectfully mark the 20th anniversary of this tragic occurrence,” he said.
“Lastly, it is was and still is my position that after reviewing the letter, consulting with the MCPD and the remaining Huisentruit family that an unintended precedence would likely be set and be disrespectful to other victims and their families. I do not believe there is a place for politicians or politics in this investigation.”
The letter was not discussed or listed in the agenda for the June 2, 2015 City Council meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16th at 7:00 p.m.
Family has ‘mixed feelings’
We did reach out to Jodi’s family for comment (full disclosure: we do stay in contact with the family when a topic may affect them. They are in support of Walk for Jodi, for instance.) While Rep. Kooiker did not initially reach out to Jodi’s sister Jo Ann Nathe or other family members prior and immediately following the creation of the letter, he said he did send her a fax with a cover letter, the letter itself and the signatures.
The family did offer up a statement related to the letter:
“We have mixed feelings regarding it. On one hand, it’s a very nice idea, and the thought is definitely appreciated by us,” the statement reads.
“However, we can see the other side of the coin in that Jodi was not an Iowa native, nor was she a Mason City native, so we can understand where people might be opposed to it as well.”
Legislators not all on board
While we haven’t heard the official stance from the City, one legislator had a change of heart after signing the letter and learning more details in the weeks to follow.
“I added my name because I believed it would be helpful. I found out later that local law enforcement and city officials did not feel it was helpful at this time. I asked to have my name removed. Apparently Representative Kookier ignored my request.”
We reached out to nearly half of the legislators and asked them about their thoughts on the letter and why they were supporting it. Surprisingly, we found not all legislators were for the measure despite having signed the document. In fact, they have asked the author Rep. Kooiker remove their names from the document.
Some Representatives were in favor of the letter:
“I do support the declaration. It is a story that has stuck with me all these years.”
“I did sign that letter as a gesture of support to my colleagues from the Mason City area.”
“Rep. Kookier has a special interest in this issue. I took the opportunity to support him. We watched channel three most of the time when this happened and was keep up to date on a daily basis. Interesting that we can’t solve the mystery.”
“Yes, I did sign the letter. It is hard to believe it has been nearly 20 years.”
“Yes I did sign the letter. I want to support Rep. Kooiker and the friends, family and residents of Mason City who knew and loved Jodi. Thank you for your work.”
Other Representatives who initially signed it had changed their minds for various reasons, or no reasons at all:
“I’d asked that my name be removed.”
“I signed on when I thought this was to be a resolution on the house floor. I understand there is some confusion and possibly some people upset with this resolution. I have been told the mayor may not want this. As such I do not think my signing onto this is a wise decision.”
“I would rather you didn’t publish my name. When the declaration was presented to sign on to, I was under the impression the family to Ms. Huisentruit were aware and fine with the declaration. I then found out that wasn’t necessarily the case and requested that my name be removed from the declaration to not hurt or offend the family. It appears Rep. Kooiker did not heed my request or that of some of my colleagues.”
One Representative didn’t know if he had signed the letter or not and just failed to follow up. His response to our first email:
“This is news to me.”
We followed up:
“Please see the attached. Your name is signed. Were you not asked to sign it?”
His last response (and never did he answer if he was in support or not of the letter):
“My mistake. That is my signature. Apology.”
When someone disappears
Rep. Kooiker said he drafted the letter as a result of a passion he has for the case. He recalls Jodi disappeared the days in between his 24th wedding anniversary and his 49th birthday. He says his family almost lost his oldest son when the boy wondered off at a flea market in Los Angeles decades ago.
“I just know the feeling a person has when a loved one disappears and you can’t find them, and then if you never find them then there’s no closure and everyone is going to wonder what actually happened to that person, that loved one,” he said.
Rep. Kooiker says the letter is now in the hands of the Mayor and Council and he doesn’t know how they’ll respond.
But with 24 days left until the anniversary, it’s not clear if the declaration will be made or even voted on for that matter. What is clear is that Jodi’s case is still unsolved. No matter how you mark a missing person anniversary, it can be a time to remember the person but more importantly, remember details that may help provide the missing link to solve the crime. We ask anyone with any information they may have to submit a tip via web or phone and it will be followed up.
What do you think?
We want to know what you think about the letter.
Do you feel this letter is proving to be a distraction or do you feel it should June 27th should be declared “Jodi Huisentruit Day”? Please leave your comments below, or take your views over the discussion we’ve set up in our Forum. You do not need to be a member of the forum to post a reply. We’re anxious to hear your thoughts.
And thanks to all who continually support this website and our mission. We look forward to seeing many of you in Mason City for “Walk for Jodi” on June 27th, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. Learn more about the event here.