OTTUMWA – Nearly 400 missing Iowans have not been found, and that number remains steady as old cases are closed and new cases are filed, according to Medina Rahmanovic, manager of the Missing Person Information Clearinghouse.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety, which maintains the Clearinghouse, listed 204 missing males and 192 missing females -- 248 of them under the age of 18 -- on its website Thursday morning.
Some of the cases are old and well-known. Jodi Huisentruit, an anchor with KIMT television in Mason City, disappeared June 27, 1995. She was 27 at the time. Huisentruit is believed to have been abducted in the parking lot of her apartment complex as she was leaving for work around 4 a.m.
Johnny Gosch, was 12 years old in September 1982 when he disappeared while delivering newspapers in West Des Moines. As dictated by law at the time, police waited 72 hours before declaring Gosch missing. In 1984, Iowa passed the Johnny Gosch Bill requiring police to investigate missing-child cases immediately.
Two years later, in August 1984, Eugene W. Martin, 13, also disappeared while delivering newspapers in West Des Moines. Police never found either boy and never proved a connection between the two cases.
These cases, like the case of Mollie Tibbetts who was listed on the Clearinghouse website until her body was found, receive national attention. Other cases never reach further than local police.
When people are reported missing by local police, their names are added to the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Missing Person Information Clearinghouse which is available to the public.
The family of Sebastian Husted of Centerville maintains a Facebook page called Find Sebastian Husted where it raises reward money and asks for help finding the 19-year-old who disappeared in January. Also known as Ty, Husted’s case is called an involuntary disappearance on the Clearinghouse list.
“He was the most recent one that we added a picture for,” Rahmanovic said, which is why Husted appears on the Clearinghouse home page.
“Anybody can report someone missing,” Rahmanovic said, “and all entries are made at the local level. They stay on there until a person is located.”
Rahmanovic has no answer for families who wonder why their cases don’t attract national media coverage and others do, but she said national coverage of any case brings attention to missing persons. During heightened media coverage, the public visits the Clearinghouse website.
“It’s an educational tool so the public is aware who’s missing in the state of Iowa,” Rahmanovic said. “We are one of the few states in the U.S. that… shares that information.”
The database allows the public to assist law enforcement in finding missing people. “You may see somebody, and you may know somebody who is on our website, and you can call in to the local law enforcement agency,” Rahmanovic said.
Ottumwa currently has two active missing person cases, said Ottumwa Police Chief Tom McAndrew. One is from 2016 and is a juvenile that police believe is in another country, he said. Another is a man who is listed as missing but has been posting on Facebook.
“Sometimes they don’t want to be found,” McAndrew said. “It’s not illegal not to want to be found.”
The Clearinghouse lists four Ottumwa missing persons: Lesley S. Juarez, 11, missing since October 15; Jeremy J. Richardson, 49, missing since October 2018; Aiden T. Rock, 15, missing since December 2016, and Dennison C. Stookesberry, 56, missing since February 1999.
The Ottumwa Police Department entered 49 missing persons into Iowa’s system in 2017 and 49 to day in 2018, OPD said. They have since been found.
Ottumwa police receive reports of missing persons nearly every day, McAndrew said. “Very rarely, is foul play involved.
“Normally we find them right away. Most of the time they are run-away juveniles,” McAndrew said. Sometimes police will find them, but often they simply return home.
Even if parents call and report that their children have returned, the children are still listed as missing until police see them and confirm that they are OK, McAndrew said. “Until we see them physically and see they are OK, they are still missing.”
When a child’s parents divorce, one parent might take the child and disappear, sometimes to another country, McAndrew said.
Some missing persons have mental illnesses, McAndrew said. “We have people that leave home in the middle of the night, and they’re just out walking around. Most of the time we find them within a matter of hours.”
These people are often attracted to specific places, McAndrew said. One person who is often reported missing likes trains. “And normally we find him somewhere around train tracks.”
Police are familiar with juveniles who run away on a regular basis. “We’re not going to call people on overtime if it’s someone that has run away five or six times a year.”
However, police know the signs that indict foul play. “If we get a missing persons report on someone that is not known to run away … you know something is up.”
To find a list of missing persons in Iowa, visit https://www.iowaonline.state.ia.us/mpic/Controller.aspx. The website updates every four hours.
Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.