"20/20" UPDATES A REPORT ON AN IOWA NEWSWOMAN 10 YEARS AFTER HER MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE, AIRING FRIDAY, JULY 1 ON ABC
Elizabeth Vargas Reports on the Disappearance of Local News Anchor Jodi Huisentruit
Ten years ago, popular Mason City, Iowa anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit mysteriously disappeared in a case that set off one of the largest manhunts in Iowa history. Police suspect Huisentruit was abducted, and they say the roots of that abduction may lie in her dream to be on television. Huisentruit vanished while on her way to work as the morning news anchor on KIMT, and police believe an obsessive viewer may be to blame. "20/20" updates an original ABC News in-depth report that aired in August 2000 on Huisentruit's disappearance, a town's search for a beloved local celebrity; and why her disappearance made some anchorwomen terrified that they could be next. Elizabeth Vargas' report airs on "20/20," FRIDAY, JULY 1 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
For many viewers in northern Iowa, the dawn brings the morning news on KIMT, and Jodi Huisentruit was their first contact with the outside world. She was tremendously popular. "People could relate to her as the girl next door, and she just had a midwestern kind of personality that people around her loved," said Doug Merbach, news director at KIMT.
But in June 1995, police began to fear that one viewer may have taken that intimacy too far when Jodi disappeared after she left her apartment at 4:20 a.m. to prepare for her KIMT morning news show. Her co-workers reported her missing when she didn't show up for her early morning shift.
When police arrived at Jodi's residence, things seemed very wrong. "There was obviously a struggle outside of her car door. In fact, we believe she actually had the key in her door lock and [was] unlocking it at the time that she was grabbed from behind . . . it was very apparent that she was fighting for her life," recalls Frank Stearns, a Mason City police officer.
The grief and fear triggered by Jodi's disappearance spread throughout Mason City, especially around local newsrooms, where other anchorwomen began to worry about who might be watching, and what strange attachments they might be making.
"It's scary," said Leigh Geramanis, a former anchorwoman, who says she never got over the fear of wondering who might be watching -- and waiting. "You want to think it's a fluke, it's a lightning strike, that it's not going to happen again, but who knows?"
"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is executive producer.
Vargas' original report aired in August 2000 as a "Vanished" special.