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Nancy Grace

Nancy Grace Mysteries: Jodi Huisentruit

Aired December 06, 2013 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: A beautiful young TV news anchor vanishes on her way to work, her personal items found scattered only feet from her apartment door. Tonight, NANCY GRACE MYSTERIES investigates the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. Was she targeted or the victim of a random abduction?


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Breaking news in a decade-long mystery of a 27- year-old rising TV star, last seen en route to work.



GRACE: This is what we know. We know that some of her neighbors heard screams. Question. Why didn`t they call 911? If I heard a lady screaming in the parking lot, I would call 911, or I`d at least look out the curtains to see what was happening. Only in retrospect did the neighbors go, Oh, yes, you know, I heard somebody screaming bloody murder. Thanks!

4:00 AM, June 27th, Mason City, Iowa. Most people were not even awake when Jodi Huisentruit goes missing, Huisentruit a very popular, beautiful young anchor, I believe it was KIMT station there in Mason City. She didn`t report to work. She was supposed to get there around 2:00 or 3:00 AM, and she never showed. 4:00 AM, they report her missing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out on the Internet goes the picture of 27-year- old Jodi Huisentruit, TV news anchor in a small Iowa town, missing since she failed to report for her morning anchor shift here on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has shocked the city. This is a young lady that was a darling. She was our sweetheart. She was an all-American young lady that -- overall, a very, very good person. And everybody saw her, every morning woke up to their coffee and their breakfast with her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oklahoma City is still shaking from the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huisentruit`s car and some personal belongings were found in the parking lot of her Mason City, Iowa, apartment complex. Dogs searched the area surrounding the apartment. No trace. In the KIMT television newsroom, investigators gathered her personal belongings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s now been nearly two-and-a-half days since the person who usually sits in this chair disappeared.


GRACE: Cops immediately go to Jodi Huisentruit`s apartment complex, and there what they find was not favorable. It was certainly a disturbing find to pass on to Jodi`s family. They find her car there, her red Mazda Miata. It had a partial print on it, partial handprint.

But what they found in the parking lot was much more disturbing than finding her car, indicating she had never left for work. They find there near her car her hair dryer. They find her car key, bent. They find her can of hair spray and her red high heels, which she would have worn to work. She would wear, typically, tennis shoes or comfortable shoes to work and then change into her nice shoes.

All these things were found there in the parking lot near her car, indicating she had made it out of her apartment, on her way to her car, that she may have even tried to get the key into the lock when it was ripped away because that key was bent.

Interesting, it had been raining at the time. The ground was still wet. They found drag marks leading away from her car.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was to be at work at 4:00 AM Tuesday. A colleague called her apartment, and Huisentruit said she was running late and would be there in a few minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was on the air (INAUDIBLE) I don`t know of anyone that didn`t like that person. She was such a joyful, joyful person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ribbons adorn trees and cars in Mason City, a town frightened by news that would have surely made the lead of this anchor`s newscast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no new developments at this point in time that would lead us to Jodi`s whereabouts or to what may have happened to Jodi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reports say Huisentruit told police at least once in the past that she had been followed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we thought we knew her. She was in our home and she was our friend. And that`s probably the dangerous part of being in the media, is everybody knows who you are when you`re on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, far beyond the viewers in her small Iowa town, people know of Jodi Huisentruit. Perhaps that will lead a clue as to what happened to her.


GRACE: Interesting, Jodi Huisentruit had never missed work before. And her popularity was only gaining. She was really getting momentum there in her local network area.

The question is, did she know her attacker? There are two trains of thought on this. One, her car was only about 12 steps from her apartment door. Was it someone that knew her and knew she would have such a short walk? That indicates that it was someone that knew her.

On the other hand, another anchor had been bludgeoned to death in her own bed in Arkansas. Are the two connected? That would suggest an obsessive fan killed her.

Here`s the problem with the obsessive fan theory. There were no gifts, there were no letters, there were no e-mails that we know of. No phone calls, no crank calls, no stalker, no peeping tom had been reported, nothing. She had not discussed anyone that she was afraid of. She had not had lunch or dinner with someone that skeeved her out, nothing. That may rule out the obsessive fan theory. It takes us back to her attacker is someone she knows.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By all accounts, Bill Pruin was a well-known, well-liked man in north Iowa. The divorced father of two had a lot of friends and seemed to have a lot going for him. So when his mother found him dead of a gunshot wound at his farmhouse, friends say they were shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For one thing, when they initially told me it was a suicide, I never, ever, and will still never believe that is what happened to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The official cause of death, self-inflicted gunshot wound. Investigators say it could be suicide or an accident. Neither was conclusive. Others have their own ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a situation, for some reason, that he needed to get his gun. I want to say there had to have been a struggle, but I don`t know who it would have been with.

HUISENTRUIT: Thanks for joining us. I`m Jodi Huisentruit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like Billy Pruin, Jodi Huisentruit was well known and well liked in north Iowa. Her disappearance sent shockwaves through the community and made national headlines. For Lanai Good (ph), it brought back thoughts of Billy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I always said, then when Jodi disappeared, I always thought that there might have been some kind of connection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do know Jodi and Billy knew each other and hung out in the same group, and according to people close to Jodi, she was so upset by Billy`s death, she started looking into it on her own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope she did. I know she was -- she took it hard, like I said, with the rest of us. But I hope she did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interviewed by the sheriff`s department about Pruin`s death in December of `95, Good told Deputy Tim Lichman she was concerned Jodi`s disappearance might be linked to Billy. But Lichman says they never found anything to back up Good`s suspicions, and Mason City police were not told of her statement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know that we could ever make any connection between the two, other than they were just friends, or acquaintances, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A conclusion Mason City police lieutenant Ron Vande Weerd agrees with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I don`t see anything in that case that would indicate other than Mr. Pruin`s death being a tragic accident.



GRACE: We`ve got neighbors hearing a woman screaming in the parking lot. Then Jodi Huisentruit`s landlord says you could very audibly hear two male voices raised in the parking lot, then the sound, loud car sounds, like a car screeching off.

Also, one witness states that they observed a white van that normally wasn`t in the area, in the area. Well, police really beat that lead to death. They looked up every white van, every make and model and tag number, within a several-mile radius and came up with nothing.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Joann Nathe (ph) -- she`s the sister of Jodi Huisentruit, the anchorwoman for KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa, who disappeared on June 27th, 1995. That`s a long time ago -- did not report to work that morning and has not been seen since.

What happened that morning? Do we know? What do we know?

JOANN NATHE, SISTER: Well, Larry, my mom and I were in northern Minnesota, and we received an emergency phone call from Mason City. And right away, I thought that Jodi had probably been in a traffic accident because she kind of did have a heavy foot.

However, when I got on, Captain Halvorson (ph) said, Is your mother sitting down? Are you sitting down? Jodi is missing. We never thought anything like that, never thought along those lines. It was very, very shocking for us.

KING: And nothing...

NATHE: A nightmare...

KING: And nothing since, Joann? Nothing?

NATHE: Really nothing. Lots of inquiries. People have been interviewed, and lots of work on the case, but nothing is tying together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other than during the waterfowl hunting season, Eagle Lake is about as calm and quiet a place as might be found anywhere in the Midwest. But was it once the scene of some unthinkable violence? The question is being raised in the Jodi Huisentruit disappearance, and not for the first time.

HUISENTRUIT: Good afternoon, and welcome. I`m Jodi Huisentruit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 11 years, we`ve watched the video of 27-year- old Huisentruit hard at work, building a career in television news, and we`ve wondered who interrupted that career one morning in 1995 as she left her Mason City apartment. Who kidnapped her? Who probably killed her?

Lead after lead, suspect after suspect has cropped up and been cut down. Shortly after her disappearance, a resident of the duck hunting cabins on the west shore of Eagle Lake, about 30 miles from Mason City, believed that Jodi had been slain and buried in the slough behind the row of cabins. Again, a search came up empty. But the image of the missing woman continues to haunt many here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do police think the boy (ph) is dead or alive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brian, at this hour, anything is possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In April, resident Dwayne Arnold (ph) hired a company with ground radar to search at the edge of the reeds one more time. He claims they found something consistent with a burial, and he wants the Hancock County sheriff`s department to dig again.

The wind (ph) itself is a harvest crop in this part of Iowa.

She was declared legally dead many years ago, but at each mention of her name, Mason Cityians hope that someone, the pretty young anchor who just vanished into thin air may finally be found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A person has just disappeared without absolutely any trace.



GRACE: Now, interesting, the case seemingly goes cold, goes dead for a while, and it fades away from the public view. But then, amazingly, one of the local newspapers gets ahold of Jodi Huisentruit`s diary and actually is printing portions of it.

So the big controversy arises. How did they get Jodi Huisentruit`s diary? Because, see, that had to come from the crime scene. So there was a big drama. Did they get it from the killer? Did they get it from the kidnapper? Was it found somewhere that could lead to who`s the killer, who`s the kidnapper?

Well, after it blew up in the media, it turns out the wife of the police chief got the diary and mailed it to the newspaper.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Journal entries were very much like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three weeks ago, "The Mason City Globe Gazette" got a mysterious envelope marked, "Attention to Bob Link (ph)." He`s the paper`s police and courts reporter. The envelope was postmarked Waterloo, Iowa, but had no name or return address.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s kind of eerie but yet somewhat exciting to have something that, you know, the public hasn`t seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In it were pages of Jodi Huisentruit`s final journal entries. Police confirmed its authenticity, so the paper decided to print it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much summed up who she was at that time of her life, in the last year, in the last days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mason City`s chief of police confirmed there was a journal taken from her apartment after she disappeared almost 13 years ago. There are only three known copies, all in the hands of authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can say that we know that the copy that they received did not come from our case file and it did not come from the DCI`s case file, OK? And we haven`t talked with the FBI, so -- but I`m confident, too, that it didn`t come with theirs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lashbrooke (ph) explains there are stamps, punchholes and other marks on the journal in their files. A copy of that would be obvious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, as a kind of a sidebar to this whole investigation, is where did the copy come from? Who sent it? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And while police try to find those answers, we learned more about the young woman who disappeared more than a decade ago - - her laughter, love for learning and life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) little picture of Jodi and what was going through her mind, you know, before the ultimate mystery started.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A mystery eager to be solved. In Mason City, Stacy Lillienthal (ph), ABC 6 News.


GRACE: While it did not specifically point a finger at who was the killer and/or kidnapper, it did generate renewed interest in the case of the missing anchor, Jodi Huisentruit.


KING: Amy Wall (ph) is Jodi`s best friend and has been for 20 years. Do you have any suspicions about what might have been happened? I mean, as a best friend, you know about boyfriends, you know about things like this. What -- do you have any read on this, Amy?

AMY WALL, FRIEND: Jodi had so many acquaintances through her work and travel, and so forth, so it`s hard to say. She didn`t have a serious boyfriend, and there was no enemies or people who would be out (ph) to her, that we knew of. So it really looks like it was an obsession of someone maybe who saw her on television and wanted...

KING: A fan, maybe?

WALL: Yes.

KING: All right. And we do know that she -- do we know she left her apartment that morning early to go to work?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, there were items beside her car.

KING: OK, so she left...


KING: ... the car. And where was the car found?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right in the parking lot.

KING: Of the station or the house?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of the apartment complex.

KING: And are you saying that you know she got to the car?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we`re certain of it.

KING: Certain she got to the car?


KING: So therefore, if taken, she was taken from the car in her own parking lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or taken from outside of the car in the parking lot.

KING: Outside the -- she didn`t drive it or move it.


KING: So therefore, it had to be somebody waiting for her.


KING: Who also knew her schedule.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her keys were found on the floor, or on the ground.

KING: Her keys were found on the floor. And also, Amy, it had to be someone who knew her schedule, right?

WALL: Exactly.

KING: OK, when was the last time, Amy, you spoke with her?

WALL: The week before this happened.

KING: Did she mention any fears at all along the line of somebody bugging her?

WALL: No, nothing.

KING: Nothing. Where are we in the investigation, Jack? Jack is our police chief in Mason City, Iowa, Jack Schlieper. Where are we in this investigation?

JACK SCHLIEPER, MASON CITY POLICE CHIEF: Well, right now, we`re basically at the starting point as far as any tips or leads that have led us to a possible suspect.

KING: Nothing at all? No tips, no leads?

SCHLIEPER: No, we have had tips and leads, but as far as a tip or lead that led us to a suspect, we have no definite suspect at this time.

KING: The suspicion is obviously foul play, Jack?

SCHLIEPER: At this point in time, we believe, yes.

KING: Nothing to indicate that she may have just run off?

SCHLIEPER: Not at this time.

KING: And there would be nothing, I guess, Amy or Joann (ph), about her that would indicate her doing something like this, right?



KING: How old is Joann?


KING: Oh, Jodi. I`m sorry. She`s how old?


KING: And she`s been an anchor person a long time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, not too long, a year-and-a-half in Mason City. She just loved her work there. She loved the people. She was really going places. She was really into her career, very goal-oriented.



GRACE: There have been so many red herrings. Police have been led down so many primrose paths, false sightings, false tips. One, for a moment, seemed legitimate. A woman came forward and stated that she was a runaway at the time and that she saw several men and they were involved in Huisentruit`s kidnapping and that they stabbed Jodi Huisentruit to death.

As it turned out, this lead that for a brief period of time was believed to be legitimate -- she admits she was lying. So this has been a case of emotional ups and downs, like a roller-coaster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And right now, we have followed up on a lot of leads, a lot of tips, over a thousand 1,500, and conducted a little over a thousand interviews with individuals. And at this point in time, there`s nothing that would lead us conclusively to a suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it`s a grave, fresh grave I seen dug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We first met Dwayne Arnold a year ago, and his story has a way of making you listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really, truly believe she`s right there somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jodi disappeared on a Tuesday. Arnold says just days later, he noticed a grave-shaped digging near his cabin on Eagle Lake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It didn`t dawn on me at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it did dawn on him later, and Arnold`s been living with it ever since.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to know. I got to know what`s -- it`s eating me up. I`ve lost a lot of sleep. You can`t get it out of your mind, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Arnold is hoping science can help him rest easy by solving the mystery of what happened to Jodi. Late last month, we were there when Arnold hired an engineering firm to survey Eagle Lake with ground-penetrating radar. He paid $2,000 out of his own pocket to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s worth every penny I had to spend on it, I know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After helping map out the area, all Arnold can do is watch and wait and hope. Slowly by surely, the survey moves forward, pulses of electricity giving a view inside the earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Targets on the screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then the results start coming in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And right where Arnold said it would be, a target appears on the screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This type of thing here is what you`re looking at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reading on the penetrating radar was right in the general area, as I remember it from 10-and-a-half years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The right spot, and according to the experts, the right look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... because it has a shape and the boundary characteristics of a burial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it could be a body?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be a body.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the results in, the hard part starts, digging the only way to know for sure what`s really under the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... can guarantee the location of something, it just can`t guarantee what it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Problem is, the best target is in the worst location. And with hand tools out of the question, now Dwayne Arnold needs more help to get the answer he`s looking for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s up to the Hancock County sheriff now. They`ve got a backhoe. I can`t do it by hand. I`m too old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This time, though, he hopes he doesn`t have to wait another decade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now`s the time. The lake is -- they`re draining the lake and it`s way down now. Now is the time. It`s either now or never. We`re in the right area. I think she`s there.


GRACE: Then police focused in on a convicted rapist, Tony Jackson. And this is why. He is from the Mason City area, where Jodi Huisentruit was. He was behind bars, talking about the Jodi Huisentruit case, the disappearance, and he kept reciting some rap lyrics called "Stiffin` (ph) and Tiffin." Well, it just turns out that Tiffin is a small area, a city near Mason City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-four-year-old Tony Dejuan (ph) Jackson is in jail in Minnesota, awaiting trial on charges of being a serial rapist. The I-team has learned that Jackson lived in Mason City, Iowa, at the same time Jodi Huisentruit was abducted. For these reasons alone...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Mason City authorities should be looking at him quite closely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vernon Gebbers (ph) is a national homicide expert. He wrote the textbook, "Practical Homicide Investigation." We shared our investigation with him. The I-team discovered that Jackson`s duplex was just two blocks from the TV station where Jodi worked. He lived with this woman. When we showed her picture to police, they noticed a striking resemblance to Jodi Huisentruit. The woman told us that Jackson physically abused her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he snapped, he snapped. And it was -- it was violent. It was very violent. I mean, he was a totally different person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She moved out June 22nd in a stormy breakup. Jodi vanished five days later. The I-team has obtained these records showing that Jackson bought this car on June 26th, the day before Jodi disappeared. He returned it to the dealer a couple weeks later when a $7,000 check bounced.

The I-team also learned that Jackson worked the night shift at a meat- packing plant and that he left early the night before Jodi disappeared. He said he hurt his leg and went to the emergency room for crutches. Jodi was abducted the next day. And Jackson worked just one hour that afternoon.

What could be clues could also just be coincidences. So about two weeks ago, the I-team took our investigation to Lieutenant Ron Vande Weerd of the Mason City police. He`d already heard about Jackson four months earlier from police in Woodbury, who had sent them this fat file, urging them to check him out in the Huisentruit case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven`t found anything to connect him to Jodi at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since we shared our investigation with them, Mason City police are taking a closer look at Tony Jackson. Last Friday, they met with FBI and state investigators. Among other things, they are going to compare a still-unidentified palm print found on Huisentruit`s car with Jackson`s prints.


GRACE: So when you put all those facts together, you`ve got a convicted rapist who seems to know a little more than he should about the Huisentruit case. He`s talking about it behind bars. He`s from Mason City, where Huisentruit was. He`s already a sex offender. And he`s rapping about a nearby town where they think maybe the body may be.

Well, they searched and searched and searched. They never found her body in Tiffin. They have subsequently ruled out Tony Jackson.



HUISENTRUIT: I`m Jodi Huisentruit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 11 years, we`ve watched the video of 27-year- old Huisentruit, hard at work building a career in television news, and we`ve wondered who interrupted that career one morning in 1995 as she left her Mason City apartment. Who kidnapped her? Who probably killed her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was on the air, and everybody loved her. I don`t know of anyone that didn`t like that person. She was such a joyful, joyful person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was an all-American young lady that -- overall, a very, very good person. And everybody saw her every morning, woke up to their coffee and their breakfast with her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has shocked the city. This is a young lady that was a darling. She was our sweetheart. She was an all-American young lady that -- overall, a very, very good person. And everybody saw her every morning, woke up to their coffee and their breakfast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve had no new developments at this point in time that would lead us to Jodi`s whereabouts or to what may have happened to Jodi.


GRACE: Ultimately, her family, her own family, had Jodi Huisentruit declared dead. Now, many people thought that was a cold and calculated move. I disagree. Her family had her declared dead so they could settle her estate, all of her affairs. Her family`s very, very loving. They were doing this for her.

Can you imagine how sad that private memorial was for Jodi Huisentruit? They had no body, nothing to bury, nothing to cremate, nothing to stand by and pray over her, miss her, remember her. They`ll never know what happened to her, what she endured before her death.

Or is she alive? Could it be?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My spin on this is that this is a crime of strong premeditation. It`s one where somebody had to know exactly where her car was. They were waiting at 4:00 o`clock in the morning. It wasn`t a crime of killing or anything because they took her -- they took her with.

So it seems to me like this is one of fixation, and that led you to believe that it was the TV, that this TV has a lot of power. When you come into your bedroom at night with that camera, the people begin to think that they know you, that they want to be close to you. And I would suspect that the suspect -- and I`m sure the chief and the FBI are looking for somebody who might have been attracted to her through that medium.

KING: Is there also, despite the amount of time now, a chance that she may be alive and being held somewhere?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if it was somebody who wanted to be close to her, who wanted to get to know her, who wanted to be with her, there is this likelihood, there is that possibility. Unfortunately, as time goes on, that`s less likely.

GRACE: Surrounding the time of her disappearance -- it was early in the morning, 3:00, 4:00 AM. She didn`t show up on time, early for her show. They called her. She said she was sorry, said she was on her way in. What happened then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what happened was she never made it to work. And when police went to the apartment complex in Mason City where she lived, they found a variety of her personal effects scattered around her red Mazda Miata, things like her shoes. There were some initial suspicion that she just wasn`t in a car accident or hadn`t just -- hadn`t just taken a detour on the way to work and gotten lost or something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Mason City in northern Iowa, one of the big home town stars was the anchor of the morning news on KIMT, Jodi Huisentruit.

HUISENTRUIT: So you`re listening to me? OK, I got it! Let`s place the wreath.

Good afternoon, and welcome to your local midday news. I`m Jodi Huisentruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone in Mason City felt like they knew her not just because of the news, but because she was, you know, a visible person in the community, and she did a really good job.

HUISENTRUIT: And thank you. Way to go!


HUISENTRUIT: Way to keep me in check!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was just one of those rare people who, what they project through the camera is what you see in person. And you know, that`s star quality. She could have gone very, very far.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been another difficult day here at KIMT. It`s been more than 24 hours now since the mysterious disappearance of News Channel 3`s morning and noon anchor Jodi Huisentruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really scares me that somebody could just vanish like that, and all you find is a few of their belongings and nothing else.

GRACE: The bent key found in the car door lock, blood evidence at scene, showing a struggle, red dress, shoes, purse, hair dryer, hairspray, earrings found at scene, palm print on car.

Now, that says to me she never got into her car. The key was found, distorted, in the lock. Obviously, her outfit that she planned to wear when she got to work. It`s my understanding, normally, she would wear something, you know, rattier to work and then change into her nice clothes when she got there. All of her belongings that typically you`d take to work as an anchor lying beside her car.

What type of blood evidence, Mitch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`m not familiar with the blood evidence. I know of the palm print that was found at the scene, and from my knowledge, that was the most direct piece of evidence that they had found. The blood evidence may have been broken nails or something along those lines that...

GRACE: What about the palm print, Mitch? What about the palm print, Mitch? Where was the palm print?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The palm print, I believe, was on the car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within the first day or two, the numbers grew into over 100 of law enforcement people that were either searching or doing interviews, looking for Jodi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the height of the investigation, Mason City police called this the war room. It was outfitted with a dozen phone lines. Officers manned them around the clock. It became one of the largest manhunts in Iowa history, with police officer interviewing more than 400 people and tracking down at least 1,300 leads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The investigation got so big, so fast that people who knew Jodi years ago were questioned within days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police called me a few days after the disappearance and wanted to know what my relationship was with her. And I told them that we routinely sent letters to each other and called each other, and we were good friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suddenly, everyone became something of a suspect because it was so -- it was so uncertain what happened to her. So yes, everyone connected with her life. I know many of us here thought, Could it have been you? Could it have been you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Called her about 10 after 4:00, and she still wasn`t there in half an hour. I thought, Well, I`ll give her, like, 20 more minutes. It got to be 5:00 o`clock, 5:30.

And at that point, you know, I`m the only person in the building besides our master control operator because it`s a small TV station. I didn`t have time to call -- I called her a couple more times, no answer. I didn`t have time to call police or anybody else.

At that point, I was just concerned about getting the show on the air. We couldn`t sit in black. I went on the air for her. And then one of our creative services guys walked through the studio at about, I would guess, somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30. And I told him, Dave, Jodi`s not here. Go to her apartment, call the police, whatever you need to do, but she`s not here and I`m really worried. And that`s when we kind of got the ball rolling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even when she was a little girl, she thought she`d like to be on TV. Well, her dad used to tease her, of course, Oh, here comes my movie star, you know, and stuff, and, You belong in Hollywood and all that. So -- but she took it really seriously in high school. It just came natural for her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She always talked about being a news anchor. That`s what she always wanted to do. And she followed her dream, and she was very much a goal setter and she met her goals, and that`s what she was doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jodi pursued her media dreams at Minnesota`s St. Cloud University, where she studied mass communications. Professors say Jodi stood out at a time when more and more college students were drawn to the television spotlight.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a river right behind her apartment. We had boats going up and down that river. We had dogs brought in to see if they could sniff anything out.


GRACE: It was an exhaustive search for Jodi Huisentruit. The local police, of course, searched by land by air, by foot. They even brought in the state agencies, the DCI, the Department of Criminal Investigation. So it was a local and state effort trying to find her. It was the most exhaustive search ever done in Iowa history, the search for Jodi Huisentruit.


HUISENTRUIT: You`re watching KIMT`s morning show, "Daybreak." Thank you so much for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By now, her time behind the anchor desk...

HUISENTRUIT: June 15th already. I`m Jodi Huisentruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... just days before her disappearance is etched in the minds of anyone who`s heard her story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: June is a very hard month for us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But for a family that`s gone on without her for almost 18 years, Jodi Huisentruit is much more than the missing woman a generation has grown to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel deprived because maybe she would have had children. I could have spoiled her kids like she soiled mine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joann Nathe does all she can to keep the memory of her youngest sister alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don`t keep it out there, it will die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mason City has not forgotten Jodi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lieutenant Frank Stearns (ph) is the only officer still with the Mason City Police Department since that morning the anchorwoman never made it to work. They found Jodi`s blow dryer, car keys and red high heels scattered across her apartment parking lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you any further along in finding answers to what happened to Jodi now than you were 18 years ago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, we`ve made some headway, but as far as being able to say, you know, we`re getting closer to making -- no, we really haven`t made that much headway in the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The department still takes at least a couple of calls a month on the case. It only dedicates time to investigate if they are new clues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It haunts -- it haunts you. Somebody has gotten away with murder for nearly 18 years. People can`t get away with murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alberio has put his passion for Jodi`s case to work since he retired. He is one of six professionals...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a TV news producer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... from across the country...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I live in Miami, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in law enforcement and media...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Medical-legal death scene investigator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... looking back on this case to move it forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never know who`s going to see it, what it`ll jog in their memory, and what lead we`ll get next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: went on line as a nonprofit three years ago. We sat in on one of the group`s monthly meetings on Skype to watch them go over new leads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to add one thing. You know, it`s intensely personal for all of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over the last decade, the Internet has made it possible to do this kind of on-line detective work. Web sleuthing, as it`s called, has been credited for solving cold cases all across the country. But it`s what happens in that very public process that police departments are still trying to figure out how to handle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a bit of a wild West out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, Chris Yougan (ph), worries about the potential harm in what can sometimes be considered an on-line witch hunt. Anonymous comments make it easy to point fingers, and in some cases, the consequences can be serious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even under the most controlled circumstances, you are playing with fire in a certain sense.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yougan believes cold case Web sites need to exercise some kind of editorial control and establish a good working relationship with the police department that`s handling the case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Stearns?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Mason City, police have been working with the FindJodi team for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has it led to an arrest? No, it hasn`t. But they`ve forwarded tips to us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I do think there`s somebody out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But for a family still waiting to know what happened, they`ll take the help no matter where it comes from as they begin another June without Jodi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want answers. We want to find her.


GRACE: To this day, Jodi Huisentruit`s body has never been found.