You might have missed it, but 48 Hours recently aired an episode highlighting the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit, a TV anchor who vanished in Mason City, IA in 1995. I remember hearing about this incident when it happened as a child, but my interest has increased after seeing it featured again on national television.
In 2016, my state representative, Rep. John Kooiker, wrote an article about the case. Rep. Kooiker circulated a letter to his fellow legislators asking for Mason City to recognize the 20th anniversary of Jodi’s disappearance and to solicit help in solving the case. Every state representative signed the letter. Rep. Kooiker served on the Public Safety Committee.
Mason City officials reacted oddly, though, to news of the letter. The police chief and mayor did not want to receive the letter. Mayor Eric Bookmeyer requested Rep. Kooiker withdraw the letter.
“The chief’s mysterious reaction, manifested through the mayor, makes sense if the Mason City Police Department is mishandling this case,” Rep. Kooiker wrote. “Indeed, I soon realized certain leads first filed in 2008 had been ignored for at least seven years.”
DCI director Jim Saunders told Rep. Kooiker that Mason City PD was supposedly notifying Iowa DCI of all leads since 1995. But Mason City PD concealed the 2008 leads from Iowa DCI until 2015.
A new chief of police in 2016 failed to yield results for Rep. Kooiker, who said he never received assurance that all leads are being investigated. Rep. Kooiker said he had a “gut feeling” that something is being covered up in Mason City.
Rep. Kooiker’s letter did not receive much attention in the state or in the U.S. But it was picked up in international media.
This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in both Australia and New Zealand mainstream, national media:
“Two years later, the Globe Gazette, which had been tenacious in its reporting of the crime, was sent an envelope with no return address, postmarked Waterloo, Iowa — a town 100km from Mason City. Inside were 84 photocopied pages from Huisentruit’s personal diary. The newspaper parsed these pages, as did police, but there was little of substance. More curious was how these pages ended up in the hands of whoever sent them, given her diary had remained in the Mason City Police Department’s evidence locker. Eventually the culprit came forward: the wife of former police chief Dave Ellingson. She refused to explain how she got the pages or why she sent them to the press.
An explanation for Ellingson’s actions may be found in a blistering 2016 opinion article written by retiring Iowa state politician John Kooiker. In the article, Kooiker accuses Mason City Police of mishandling the case, ignoring then concealing possible leads, and having a “dubious lack of interest in following up on leads that could shed the light of day on Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance”.
He is more blunt in his summary. “Generally, I would not describe myself as a person who is untrusting, but I have this gut feeling that something is being covered up in Mason City,” Kooiker wrote.
“As in so many cold cases, eventually the case fades into oblivion for the public, which is what the Mason City Police Department seems to be hoping for again.”
Obviously the question is what leads were provided in 2008 and why were they ignored or not passed on to DCI? Time will tell, we hope.
What happened to Huisentruit remains a mystery — her body has never been found. With the recent national attention given to the case 48 Hours, it will be interesting to see if any of the 100 Iowa House Representatives or 50 Iowa Senators pick up where Rep. Kooiker left off.