What Happened to Johnny Gosch?

Where is Johnny Gosch, Part 1?

In the 1980’s the United States was pretty innocent in many ways.  Children still went out after breakfast, briefly came home at lunch to disappear again until dinner or dark. They walked to school on their own and had copious amounts of independence compared to the hovering parents that evolved later that same decade.  I jogged in the 1980’s early in the morning. I was a tiny young woman and remember asking my college professor Hart if I needed to worry about jogging so early in the morning. He chuckled and said, “I don’t think we have ever lost a jogger in Portland”. The truth is mostly we felt safe as long as you took reasonable precautions. Johnny Gosch would in part, change that as he became one of the first missing children to get their pictures milk cartons.

At 10-12 years old many children started their first job, the paper route. It was as Americana as apple pie. Johnny Gosch had a paper route in West Des Moines, Iowa. On Sundays his father went with him to the distribution center to get his papers. This Sunday was September 5, 1982 and his father was unable to go with him.  The Gosch’s, John and Noreen knew immediately something was wrong about 7:30am when his customers started calling the house wanting to know where their papers were. Johnny was reliable. He worked delivering the Des Moines Register 13 months and got awards every month for reliability. His father immediately went to search for him. His mother Noreen called the police and the distribution center. She got the names and phone numbers for the other boys that had routes. She called all of them, and took copious notes.

The police came 45 minutes later, though the police station was 10 blocks away. They wrote nothing down and asked Noreen if it was the first time he ran away. The police assumed that if he were missing, he must have run away.  Noreen told the police he did not run away, and provided them will the information she had learned. This would be the start of a long and strained relationship between Ms. Gosch, the local police and the FBI. It was a time when neither police nor journalists were familiar with the term pedophile or Human Trafficking.

It seemed when Noreen phoned the families of the other boys, they all said the same thing. There was a man in a 2 toned car that was watching the boys that morning he even asked some of the boys for directions. He pulled up next to Johnny and was talking to him. Johnny Gosch had been kidnapped and his mother became dogged about her pursuit of the case. What she learned about her son would shock people and change the way missing children cases were handled by authorities.

6 months after his kidnapping a woman in Oklahoma was standing outside a convenience store. A young man approached her screaming, “I’m Johnny Gosch, I’ve been kidnapped”.  Two men grabbed him and he was not seen again. Over the next few years, other evidence surfaced. A dollar bill was turned over to the Gosch’s with the following message “I am alive. Johnny Gosch.” Noreen confirmed this was Johnny’s handwriting. Another clue surfaced in Denver, Colorado. “Johnny Gosch was here” was found written on the wall, in red nail polish, in the restroom of a public eatery.  Noreen continued on to search for her son. By that time the police had stopped looking, the FBI had never started, and the police chief of W. Des Moines resigned among allegations of wrong doing.  Noreen Gosch had filed a $22-million-dollar law suit against the police. 18 of his 40 men reported him as drunk, abusive and even corrupt. They were set to testify against him when he resigned.

In 1982 Noreen Gosch started the Johnny Gosch Foundation.  She also authored a bill that was signed into Iowa law in 1984, the Johnny Gosch law.  This law created a mandate that police get involved in missing children cases immediately. It was later adopted in 8 additional states. The same year she travelled to Washington D.C. to testify against organized crime, that led to death threats for her. Later all this action help created the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In August of 1984 another paper boy, 13-year-old Eugene Martin disappeared from Des Moines. Like clockwork in 1986, 13-year-old Marc Warren Allen also vanished from Des Moines. Nancy Allen, Marc’s mother stated, “I got the distinct feeling [police] did not want parents to be frightened to let their children sell newspapers or do different things,” Nancy Allen told WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck in a story Channel 13 aired November 25, 2010. (1)

Noreen lost her marriage but never her nerve and what she would learn about Johnny would shock the world. Stay tuned for part II

  1. Johnny Gosch, Missing Person, https://iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/johnny-gosch/
  2. The Johnny Gosch Tragedy: A Story of Kidnapping, Mind Control and Pedophilia, https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/The-Tragedy-Of-Johnny-Gosch
  3. Putman, Eileen (November 23, 1982). “Missing Children: We’ve Finally Begun to Recognize the Hell Their Parents Go Through”The Gainesville Sun. Associated Press. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
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