It’s Been 40 Years Since a 12-Year-Old Iowa Boy Disappeared
If you lived in Iowa back in the early 1980s, then you no doubt remember the disappearance of Johnny Gosch. Johnny Gosch was a 12-year-old paperboy in West Des Moines who vanished from his paper route in 1982. The case remains a mystery to this day, nearly 40 years later.
It all started the morning of Sunday, September 5th. Johnny, a paper boy for the Des Moines Register, left for his paper route with the family dog Gretchen. Both Wikipedia and the Des Moines Register report that Johnny would normally leave with his father, but he went with just the dog that morning. After picking up his papers at Valley United Methodist Church at 42nd Street and Ashworth Road with other local paper boys, he set off on his route with his wagon. That was the last confirmed sighting of Johnny Gosch.
After receiving some calls about undelivered papers, Johnny's dad John went out to find him. That's when he discovered Johnny's wagon at 42nd Street and Marcourt Lane. When Johnny's parents called the police to report him missing, they were told that he couldn't be classified as a missing person until it had been 72 hours. At one point, the police thought Johnny was a runaway, but eventually decided that he was likely kidnapped, although they couldn't find much evidence. The case still remains open.
Since Johnny's disappearance 40 years ago, a lot has happened. Initially, other paper boys and neighbors reported various sightings of Johnny, which lead to suspect sketches. After disagreements with police, his parents John and Noreen ended up hiring professional investigators to help solve the case. In the Des Moines Register article, Noreen estimates that they've spent around $350,000 on various search efforts over the years. John and Noreen also lobbied to raise awareness about missing children, which led to the passing of a law requiring police to immediately investigate missing child cases.
There are many theories on what exactly happened to Johnny, but his mother Noreen believes that he was sold into a sex-trafficking ring. She also says that he came to visit her back in March of 1997, but told her that she couldn't tell anyone about it because it would put them all in danger. Johnny's father John isn't sure that visit actually happened.
Johnny was one of the first missing people to ever have his photo put on a milk carton, and his case marked a change in the way people all over Iowa lived their lives. You can read the full, detailed story from the Des Moines Register. KCCI will run an hour-long special on the case on Monday, September 5th at 7 p.m.