Pictured; Jodi Huisentruit (Photo taken prior to her disappearance, sometime between 1993-1995)
Mason City, Iowa – Jodi Huisentruit, 27, moved to Mason City to fulfill her dream-career. She was the whole package, intelligent, professional and pretty morning-anchor woman for KIMT television news. In the Summer of 95′, Jodi was enjoying a burgeoning TV career. She got a broadcasting degree at St. Cloud State and worked for a time at KSAX in Alexandria. Pretty and personable, she became a well-liked (”favorite”) TV personality when she moved to Mason City to anchor for the morning news at KIMT.
She was originally from Long Prairie but moved to Mason City in 1993 and quickly adapted to her new surroundings, she instantly became a favorite among her viewers and staff.
On the morning of June 27th, 1995, Jodi had overslept. That in itself was unusual and her producer, Amy Kuns, called to wake her up around 4am and according to Kuns, Jodi was asking normal questions and nothing seem to be wrong. “Everything sounded normal, like I had just woken her up. What time is it? She asked the question, so I told her Jodi, it’s about ten to four, you need to come in to work. How much time is left to produce on the show? I mean, she was obviously thinking, she was aware, she just knew she had overslept and she had to get in to work. I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. Nothing.”
You can imagine the surprise of staff and producers when she didn’t show up to work at 6am. They put on substitute news anchor and sent one of the staff members to check on Jodi at her apartment. “I was halfway mad because I had to do all of this stuff all by myself, halfway worried because I thought what if she’s laying in her apartment bleeding because she fell down and hit her head on the tub, you know, things like that. But never once did I think somebody nabbed her outside of her apartment. Never once did that cross my mind.”
Jodi was nowhere to be found so another producer reported her missing. Mason City Police showed up shortly after and conducted a quick check in and around the perimeter and didn’t find Jodi, they then noticed her vehicle parked and upon further inspection, they noticed what appeared to be blood and contents of her purse strewn on the ground. They also noticed the key had snapped off in the lock as well. Neihbor’s came forward and offered what little they knew: a white van had been seen nearby and a few thought they’d heard screams, but no one witnessed and actual abduction so they didn’t call police.
By noon-time a massive search was being conducted, FBI and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation were involved and rescue teams were scouring the countryside. Divers and police dogs covered the Winnebago River and its banks, but there was no trace of Jodi Huisentruit. And instead of the young woman reporting a story on the news, she was now the story in the news.
Thousands of tips, many years of work by police, private investigators, searchers and psychics all lead to nothing, no clues. Her disappearance was even aired on 20/20 and America’s Most Wanted, and ”Dead Air”, a book by Minneapolis author Beth Bednar was written and released in the Summer of 2011.
Jodi Huisentruit was declared legally dead in 2001.
Pictured; Still-shot of Jodi prior to her 1995 disappearance. Also provides a link to a website dedicated to finding out what happened to her.
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2011 Update regarding Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance.
Maria Ohl, a eleven year veteran of the Mason City Police Department came out last year with allegations that Jodi Huisentruit’s disappearance was an ”Inside job.”
Pictured; Maria Ohl
Allegations of possible police involvement in the abduction of Jodi Huisentruit did not start with former officer Maria Ohl but with her brother-in-law, the Rev. Shane Philpott of Christian Fellowship Church.
Ohl was fired from the police department in August, 2011, and filed an appeal with the Mason City Civil Service Commission in an effort to be reinstated. She made her allegations regarding police misconduct when she talked to the media after a Civil Service meeting. She supplied police with information possibly linking Lt. Ron Vande Weerd, Lt. Frank Stearns and former DCI agent Bill Basler with the abduction. She contends police never followed through on her tips.
But Philpott said allegations of police misconduct came to his attention several years prior in 2007. In a certified letter sent to city officials on May 27th, 2011, Philpott said he received a phone call from someone in Minnesota on June 28, 2007, who claimed to have information on the disapperance and death of Jodi Huisentruit. The caller did not tell Philpott names of any officers. The caller said because his information incriminated certain Mason City police officers, he didn’t want to meet or talk with local authorities. He chose to contact Philpott after watching the pastor’s “Faith in Action” television program, said Philpott. The pastor said he wanted to go through proper channels so he contacted his sister-in-law, Officer Ohl, the next day. She told him to contact the police department so as to comply with proper procedures.
Philpott said, “The reason for my concern about the details of the information was that it was vaguely reminiscent of information told to me in the summer of 1999 by Mason City resident Gerald Best at the completion of a church service. “Mr. Best had mentioned local officers possibly being involved in criminal activities. Mr. Best was found murdered later that year and his homicide is yet unsolved to this day.”
Gerald Best was found murdered in his apartment in Mason City on December 30th, 1999. His throat had been slashed.
Philpott said he contacted police on July 3rd or July 5th of 2007 and talked first with Stearns and then with Vande Weerd. He was told not to talk to anyone else and said they would get back to him. After a month passed with no contact, Philpott said he called police on Aug. 6th, 2007 and spoke again with Stearns. He said Stearns transferred him to Capt. Dennis Bengston who told him his information wasn’t credible.
A little over two years later, in September 2009, Philpott and his church filed a defamation suit against the city of Mason City and police officers on an unrelated matter. In preparing for litigation in that case, lawyers requested contact logs and discovered there was no record of Philpott’s contacts with police in Jodi’s case.
Philpott said in September 2010, as part of the litigation in the civil suit, Ohl gave a deposition in which she mentioned the Huisentruit information Philpott provided police in 2007. “At that moment, Chief Lashbrook suddenly shuts down the deposition through his attorneys and Officer Ohl is unable to complete her testimony,” said Philpott. He said the next day, Ohl came to the church office, at the request of Lashbrook, to get the information Philpott had provided police in 2007 so she could once again give it to them.
But Philpott said he had been told there was to be no contact between litigants in the court case outside of their attorneys. So he declined to give Ohl the information. Philpott then contacted his attorney, Melissa Hasso, who told him to turn over his information to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Ohl informed Lashbrook of what had transpired. Not long after that, she was put on paid administrative leave and was terminated on Aug. 4th, 2011. A few week’s later she was fired because of her handling of the Jodi’s information. A Civil Service hearing on her appeal to be reinstated was on September 13th, 2011 at City Hall.
She had also filed a seperate suit in federal district court in Sioux City, claiming sex discrimation, religion discrimination and retaliation. In the suit, she claimed she was passed over for training and promotions because of her gender and says she was subjected to harassment in the form of lewd remarks and gestures and, in one instance, an officer pointed an unloaded gun at her head. She said some of the alleged inappropriate behavior might have stemmed from her church’s lawsuit against the department. She said another factor might be that she had ticketed two officers’ wives for traffic violations.