Missing: TV anchor Jodi Huisentruit never made it to work

(NewsNation) —Jodi Huisentruit was considered by those who knew her to have a bright future in TV news. But on June 27, 1995, the hopes and dreams of the 27-year-old local TV anchor faded to black.

Huisentruit was supposed to show up for work at KIMT in Mason City, Iowa, at 3:30 a.m. that day. She didn’t show.

At 4 a.m., her producer, Amy Kuns, called her.

“By 4, she wasn’t in, so I called her. Obviously, I’d woken her up,” Kuns said. “Didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary. Just, ‘Jodi where are you?’ ‘Oh, what time is it?’ I’m like, ‘it’s 4 o’clock, you’re coming into work?’ ‘I’ll be right there.'”

Kuns’ conversation with Huisentruit is the last known time anyone spoke with her. She never showed up for work and hasn’t been seen since.

Her co-workers called the police to check on her.

“By the time I got here to the station, it wasn’t just a case of ‘Jodi was ill’ or ‘Jodi overslept,'” said KIMT’s former news director, Doug Merbach. “It was, ‘there’s police that are in the parking lot, Doug, and they’re looking at it as a possible crime scene.’ That just stops you in your tracks.”

Police arrived at Huisentruit’s apartment shortly after 7 a.m. Inside, they found nothing out of the ordinary. Outside, however, signs of a possible struggle were found next to her car, which was still in the parking lot.

Her car key was bent. Her blow dryer, earring and hairspray were found scattered near the car on the ground.

Police said at the time this evidence indicated foul play.

There were no eyewitnesses to her disappearance and little forensic evidence was found at the scene in the parking lot. A partial palm print and strand of hair were recovered from her vehicle.

No evidence was found, either, that anyone was with her at her apartment before she went missing. Her toilet seat was left up, indicating she might have had a male visitor, but nothing ever came to fruition from that finding.

Huisentruit had spent the weeks leading up to her disappearance at nearby lakes with friends, among them John Vancise, a man 20 years her senior. He had named his boat after her.

Shortly before she disappeared, Vancise threw her a birthday party in a Clear Lake bar.

The morning she went missing, before her colleagues realized she was gone, Amy Kuns says she received a call in the KIMT newsroom from a man named John asking for Huisentruit around 7:20 a.m.

Police believe Vancise was possibly the last person to see Huisentruit alive. The night before she went missing, he said she came to his apartment to watch a video taken at her birthday party.

Vancise was questioned by police about Huisentruit’s disappearance and even said he passed a lie detector test given to him by authorities.

“I’ve been in the police station a lot talking to (police). I gave (police) all the information I could possibly give. I’ve tried to help as much as I possibly could,” Vancise said at the time. “I’ve been able to verify where I’ve been and my times, that’s not a problem. And they called me at night and asked me a couple questions, no problem, I’ll do anything I can to help. Anything I can do.”

In 2017, a search warrant of Vancise was executed by police. The details of the warrant, however, were sealed. Vancise provided finger and palm prints to authorities and was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury regarding the case. Grand jury records, too, are sealed.

Vancise came forward in 2019 and said through an intermediary that he had nothing to do with Huisentruit’s disappearance and denied having any kind of romantic relationship with her.

The FBI joined the investigation in 1995 and the focus of inquiries soon turned to convicted rapist Tony Jackson, who lived a few blocks from Huisentruit. He too was cleared by police.

Another convicted sex offender, Tom Corscadden, was also ruled out by police.

Questions have also been raised about a police report Huisentruit filed a year before she went missing, claiming she was being followed by a white truck.

Police have still not classified Huisentruit’s case as a homicide; it remains a missing person’s case. Her family, however, had her declared dead in 2001.

The hunt for Huisentruit continues, however. Police insist they are still working the 27-year-old case and a group of former journalists and law enforcement officials has been conducting an investigation of its own under the name FindJodi.

The group put up billboards and launched probes on the internet, trying to keep awareness of Huisentruit’s case high.

She remains missing, though, and hope for her to ever be found is waning, but not gone. A tree planted in her honor remains outside the KIMT offices to this day.

“After 27 years, Jodi’s 27th anniversary on June 27th. … She was 27 when she disappeared, she was alive for 27 years and it has been that long since she’s been gone,” Kuns said. “I’m tired of this. We need to know what happened and I feel like I don’t think she’ll ever be found, but I think we’re close to maybe having answers. I hope. …”