Johnny Gosch: An Iowa Kidnapping In 1982 That Changed The Nation

Johnny Gosch: Went Missing In 1982 But Visited His Mother In 1997

John Gosch went missing without a trace on September 5, 1982. It was assumed that he got kidnapped, and although the case remains open to this day, no arrests have ever been made.

When he went missing, Johnny Gosch was a paperboy in Iowa.

Born in 1969, Johnny was 12 at the time, and that means he has been missing for about 40 years today.

According to his mother, Noreen Gosch, Johnny was taken by kidnappers.

Apparently, he managed to visit her with an unidentified man in 1997. The authorities have never confirmed these claims. Not even his father, who divorced her in 1993, can confirm that their son re-emerged after all those years.

After he disappeared, Johnny Gosch's picture was put on milk cartons to help people find him. Two dairies in Des Moines started the practice with Johnny and another missing child known as Gene Martin.

Martin went missing on August 12, 1984, at the age of 13 while delivering copies of the Sunday Des Moines Register, and people immediately drew parallels between the two cases.

Eventually, about 700 dairies throughout the country took part in a drive that resulted in about 3 billion milk cartons having photos of missing children printed on them.

How Did Johnny Gosch Disappear?

Johnny Gosch: Still Missing 30 Years Later

On the day Johnny Gosch went missing, he had left home before dawn in order to start his paper route. However, that morning, he decided to go on his own instead of awaking his dad to help out as he usually did. All he took was the family dog, a dachshund.

Fellow paper carriers remember seeing him pick up his newspapers, which would be the last time multiple people saw him.

From there, a neighbor recalls seeing the boy having a conversation with a man in a vehicle bearing Nebraska plates. The neighbor also remembered seeing another man following Johnny.

Eventually, his parents started getting calls from his customers saying they did not get their newspapers. At around 6 in the morning, his father did a brief search for him, but he found his wagon full of his newspapers just two blocks from their home before long.

Johnny Gosch: An Iowa Kidnapping In 1982 That Changed The Nation

Strangely, the family dog returned on its own. The mysterious events made the Gosch's call the police to report that Johnny was missing.

The reaction by the police did not satisfy Noreen, which she has mentioned in her book, Why Johnny Can't Come Home. Apparently, the police claimed that he would not be considered a missing person until 72 hours had passed unless demands had been made for his ransom.

The police believed that the boy had run away but later thought he might have been kidnapped. However, even then, they could not find a motive behind his capture.

The Hopeless Search For Johnny Gosch

In their search for Jimmy, the police were not able to collect much evidence. The only evidence they had was the red wagon with undelivered papers that Johnny Gosch left behind. Private investigators were also engaged in the search after John and Noreen became increasingly frustrated with the slow progress the authorities were making in the case. Still, they did not meet with much success either.

However, John and Noreen Gosch went on television and also distributed more than 10,000 posters.

After a couple of months, Johnny Gosch was seen in Oklahoma. A boy allegedly yelled, asking a woman to help him as two men dragged him away.

In 1985, the Goschs got a letter from a man known as Robert Herman Meier II, who used the alias "Samuel Forbes Dakota." In the letter, Meier claimed that he was present when the boy was kidnapped in 1982 by members of a child-slavery ring operated by a motorcycle club he belonged to.

Meier allegedly received $11,000 from Johnny Gosch's family before requesting $100,000 more to return their son. The police thought the family was getting defrauded, but Noreen Gosch believed the man was telling the truth. Apparently, Johnny was in the hands of a high-level drug dealer based in Mexico City.

The couple criticized the FBI after they got an arrest warrant against Meier, arguing that the move destroyed the credibility they might have built while trying to retrieve their son, even if that meant paying a ransom.

Johnny's Case In The Media

Johnny Gosch: Still Missing 30 Years Later

Johnny Gosch's disappearance shocked everyone as the Des Moines area was considered a completely safe neighborhood. According to the media, the area that should have been immune to these sorts of crimes. Des Moines had only about 6.9 percent Black population in 1980, making it an American "heartland" that should have been free from kidnappings.

Later, President Ronald Reagan also spoke about paperboy disappearances during a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He also praised efforts the locals had made to establish citizen's watch programs to prevent such incidents and promised "full support" in search for both Johnny and Martin.

However, he also implied that the kidnapping was an external threat by claiming that Iowa was an open prairie before colonial settlers came in and created a peaceful community. Initially, the area was occupied by Indigenous communities.

Months after the boy went missing, his mother, Noreen Gosch, founded the Johnny Gosch Foundation to make other people aware of the seriousness of kidnapping, pornography, and how it can affect any family. She desired to make people know just how dangerous pedophiles can be.

The foundation was instrumental in passing the Johnny Gosch Law, which has been in use in Iowa since 1984. The law demanded that police be involved immediately after someone is reported missing and not after 72 hours, as was the case with Johnny.

Johnny Allegedly Visited His Mother In 1997

Johnny Gosch: Still Missing 30 Years Later

Noreen claimed that back in March 1997, she was woken up at 2:30 in the morning by someone knocking on her door. At the door was 27-year-old Johnny in the company of an unidentified man.

She immediately knew it was him, and he even opened his shirt to show her a birthmark he had on his chest. Apparently, they talked for about an hour and a half, and he would always look at the man for approval before speaking.

However, Johnny never revealed where they lived and where they were headed.

After the encounter, she got in touch with the FBI, and they created an updated photo of him to aid in his search.

Several years later, in 2006, she reported that someone left photos at her front door, which she posted on her website. In one of the photos, she claimed to recognize her 12-year-old son tied up and gagged. He also apparently had a brand on his shoulder and something tied to his neck.

However, the police later claimed that someone was playing a cruel trick on Noreen by showing her photos of boys taking part in an escape contest.

However, although three of the boys in the photo could be identified, the third could not, and Johnny's mother thought it was him.

Johnny Gosch's Case Today

Johnny Gosch: Still Missing 30 Years Later

A movie called Who Took Johnny was released about Johnny Gosch's case in 2014. The film addresses the mystery of Johnny's disappearance, and it was made in recognition of the 30th anniversary of his disappearance.

For the most part, the movie looks at the efforts made by Noreen Gosch, Johnny's mother, who has been searching for her son since he went missing.

However, the filmmakers took a year to convince Noreen Gosch to participate in the interviews she had to give for the sake of the film. She was afraid that they would use dirty tricks as others had done in the past during interviews.

The film also confronts a person who claimed to have assisted with the boy's abduction.

Johnny Gosch: Still Missing 30 Years Later

A fundraising effort had been launched online, and in just a month, the goal of raising $15,000 had already been surpassed.

To this day, Johnny Gosch's disappearance remains to be among the most mysterious kidnappings in recent history. Johnny Gosch has also made history as the first missing child to appear on a milk carton.

Although John Gosch was only 12 years old when he went missing, those searching for him are now looking for a man in his 50s. This goes to show just how serious and heart-breaking his disappearance has been.