Today marks 40 years that one of the most high-profile cases of a missing child in modern times began in Iowa.
The story of the missing West Des Moines paperboy continues to captivate people worldwide.
Johnny Gosch disappeared in the early hours of September 5, 1982 on his paper route.
Witnesses saw Johnny at a paper drop, where he was picking up his newspapers for delivery.
Another paperboy said he saw Johnny talking with a stocky man in a blue two-toned car near the paper drop. According to another witness, Johnny said the man was asking for directions and that a man seemed to be following Johnny.
Johnny’s parents, John and Noreen Gosch, realized he was missing after they began to receive phone calls from customers whose papers hadn’t arrived.
Two blocks from their home, John Gosch found Johnny’s wagon with newspapers.
In March 1983, a woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said Johnny ran up to her. He was being chased by two men.
Johnny said “Please, lady, help me! My name is John David Gosch.”
The two men dragged the boy away.
Johnny’s picture was among the first to be featured on milk cartons in a campaign to find missing children.
Meanwhile, law enforcement continues to track leads. Officials say this this is not considered to be a cold case, and that the investigation continues.
“This case is not a cold case,” police said Monday. “It is not closed. At this time, it is still open, and we’re going to continue to pursue any tip that we get so we can help bring that closure to the family, the nation and the community that has such a vested interest in this case.”
Still, the Johnny Gosch case is listed on cold-case websites and other missing-person sites. And this case continues to receive national publicity.
The 2014 documentary “Who Took Johnny?” is streaming on Amazon Prime and other platforms.
Noreen Gosch lobbied for “The Johnny Gosch Bill” – state legislation that mandated an immediate police response to reports of missing children. It became law in Iowa in 1984, and similar laws were passed in Missouri and other states.
Johnny’s mother says he visited her in 1997, and told her he had been a victim of a pedophile ring. He said he lived under an assumed identity because he did not think it was safe to come home.
No arrests ever have been made in connection with the case. But that is not discouraging Des Moines police:
“We are not going to stop investigating this case until we get some form of closure,” police said Monday. “So our practice remains the same and our goal remains the same. We want closure for the family, for all the people that have a vested interest, in this case, law enforcement agencies of the community, the nation, we want to bring Johnny home every night and with his family. And if that can’t happen, we at least want some form of closure for this case.”
Law enforcement asks the public to help. If you have any tips or information that could help bring close to Johnny’s family, please call your local law enforcement agency.