What Happened To Iowa News Anchor Jodi Huisentruit?

The television journalist vanished without a trace in 1995 while on her way to the station for an early morning broadcast.

Jodi Huisentruit, 27, pictured here smiling, vanished on June 27, 1995.

Jodi Huisentruit, an Iowa television journalist, vanished without a trace in 1995 while on her way to the station for an early morning broadcast.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Hometown Homicide: Local Mysteries")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Hometown Homicide: Local Mysteries")

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A television personality known for her thick Midwestern accent and beaming smile vanished nearly 30 years ago from the parking lot outside her apartment — and she hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Jodi Huisentruit, 27, was originally from Minnesota, but in the mid-1990s she was working as a morning and noon news anchor on KIMT-TV in Mason City, Iowa.

On June 27, 1995, a producer called Huisentruit at home when she was late getting to the station to prepare for her regular 6 a.m. broadcast. Huisentruit answered the phone and explained she had overslept but was going to be on her way in, the Des Moines Register reported.

Huisentruit still had not shown up to work by 5 a.m. and the producer phoned her apartment again, this time without luck. Staff then contacted local police and requested officers check on the anchor.

Outside Huisentruit’s complex, police found her hairdryer, shoes and hairspray scattered on the ground around her Mazda Miata. A palm print was lifted from the vehicle.

Police believe Huisentruit got into a struggle with an abductor when she left her home sometime around 4 a.m. Despite extensive searches and an ongoing investigation, police have never publicly identified a suspect in the case or locate Huisentruit, who was declared legally dead in 2001.

The journalist’s family doesn’t have concrete answers about what happened, but their theories include the possibility she was stalked and that her remains could be in a lake near where she lived, according to the Des Moines Register.

Even with so much time passing, there have been some developments in the investigation in recent years.

In 2017, a search warrant was issued and detectives in Arizona gathered GPS data from vehicles associated with a male friend of Huisentruit. According to the Des Moines Register, the man possibly was the last person who had seen Huisentruit alive.

Not long after, investigators in Cedar Rapids, a town two hours from where Huisentruit disappeared, got a break in the 1979 case of another murdered woman, Michelle Martinko.

Like Huisentruit, the 18-year-old high school senior was blonde and attacked while in a parking lot.

In 2018, Detective Matt Denlinger of the Cedar Rapids Police Department contacted a laboratory and submitted DNA from blood evidence collected at that crime scene, CBS News reported. Through genetic genealogy, he was able to identify a suspect, Jerry Burns, who was living in Iowa and younger at the time of Martinko’s murder almost four decades earlier.

Burns denied he killed Martinko, but he was later convicted of the teenager’s killing and sent to prison.

Prior to his arrest, detectives were questioning Burns about Martinko on video when, unprompted, he brought up Huisentruit’s name. “It was a big deal,” he said, according to CBS News. “I don't exactly remember what happened, seen something about Jodi Huisentruit recently.”

“My gut tells me there's probably something else out there,” Detective Delinger noted about the parallels in the two cases.

Police in Mason City have not said if Burns was considered a person of interest in the Huisentruit disappearance, which occurred 16 years after Martinko died.

In February 2023, licensed private investigator Steve Ridge offered a $25,000 reward for information in the Huisentruit case.

Ridge said in a news release that he regularly speaks with Huisentruit’s sister, JoAnne Nathe, and together they “decided the timing is right to seek information on where Jodi’s body was discarded.”

“This reward does not require an arrest or conviction — but simply the recovery of Jodi’s remains,” Ridge explained. “I am now extremely confident that multiple people know what happened to Jodi. Eventually, someone may decide to talk. We hope to encourage that possibility.”

Ridge has a personal connection to Huisentruit. He once worked for the media consulting firm Magid, which is where the anchor received on-air coaching when she was starting out in the news business

“She was one of ours, a fellow journalist, who at a very young age was very susceptible, perhaps more susceptible than she realized and very vulnerable,” said Ridge, who has spent over three years now investigating what happened to the missing woman. “And I've just always felt as though we need to bring some peace to her family.”

Anyone with information about the Jodi Huisentruit case is urged to contact the Mason City Police Department at (641) 421-3636.

For more on this case, stream Hometown Homicide: Local Mysteries on Max.

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