Johnny Gosch Disappearance

The Disappearance of Johnny Gosch | True Crime iRL

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This is a transcript of our live show on 4/7/22. Please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. 

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JOHNNY GOSCH

KELLI:
Every day, 2300 people go missing in America. This is the story of one of them.
It has been 40 years since 12 year old Johnny Gosch disappeared from his newspaper delivery route around 6am, Sunday, September 5th, 1982. The disappearance changed the way parents everywhere watched over their children. Johnny’s case has never been solved.

KEVIN:
John Gosch Senior & Noreen Gosch were the parents of three children, Johnny being the youngest. Noreen had been married once before, and faced a lot of tragedy in her life.
She and her first husband, and their two children, barely survived a devastating Iowa tornado that leveled their home and almost killed them.
Just weeks after this, Noreen would lose her husband to cancer.

JOE:
Noreen was a STRONG woman, and carried on, raising her children as a single, widowed mother, until she met John Gosch a few years later. They fell in love, married, and very soon after that, Johnny was born in 1969.
For 12 years, things seemed perfect, and this family lived a picturesque life in the suburbs of West Des Moines, Iowa.

KELLI:
At 12 years old, Johnny was ready to take on some responsibility and make his own money. He really wanted a paper route so that he could save up enough cash to buy his very own dirtbike. And although his parents were fairly protective of Johnny, they agreed – with one stipulation… Johnny’s dad would go with him to deliver papers in the early morning hours. They didn’t want their son to go alone.

KEVIN:
HOWEVER, on that fateful Sunday morning in 1982, Johnny did convince his parents to let him do his paper route alone. He woke up very early, and left the house with his wagon, and his miniature Dachshund dog, Gretchen.

JOE:
Johnny made it to the paper drop off point where other carriers interacted with him. He loaded the newspapers into his wagon.

KELLI:
Two witnesses, one named John Rossi, and the other, just known as “Mike,” reported seeing Johnny talking to a man in a blue car near the newspaper drop off point. He was asking for directions, but both other boys thought something was very strange about the interaction. Something inside them told them to leave, and not speak to this man. So the boys dispersed, heading out on their routes to deliver the papers.
But Mike noticed something else strange as he started his own route. He saw another man following close behind Johnny as he went onto his route about a block away.

KEVIN:
A neighbor would report hearing a car door slam.
This neighbor went outside and began walking towards the car, and upon doing that, the silver Ford Fairmont with Nebraska plates sped away north from where Johnny’s wagon was later found.

JOE:
There were five witnesses in total that reported seeing Johnny talking to an unknown male before disappearing.
Witnesses would later undergo hypnosis in an attempt to remember buried details of what they saw, but this would not bring up any new information.

KELLI:
Soon after that car sped away with Johnny in it, Noreen and John Sr would begin receiving phone calls at their home from angry residents who never received their newspapers.
John Senior immediately left the house to do a quick search of Johnny’s route and right away found Johnny’s wagon and papers, but no Johnny.

KEVIN:
But where was Gretchen, the dog?

KELLI:
I literally scoured the internet searching for an article that mentioned whether or not she was found and I read at least six article before I found out that Gretchen was later found, safe & unharmed. I had to know. 😊 She actually wandered home on her own, without Johnny, which was one of the first indicators that something had happened to Johnny.

JOE:
The Gosches immediately contacted the West Des Moines police department, and reported Johnny’s disappearance.
They took nearly an hour to arrive.
And – this is infuriating, but the police department would not declare Johnny as a missing person until 72 hours had passed. 72 hours.
At first, investigator insisted on classifying Johnny as a runaway.

KEVIN:
He was 12 years old. A happy little boy who adored his family and was just delivering newspapers. He had never even done a paper route by himself until that day. He would never have run away. Noreen tried to explain this to police, but they just didn’t listen.
Even with all the witness accounts of the strange man, the car that sped away, all of that…Police did not take the disappearance seriously.

KELLI:
At the time, it was pretty normal for police to classify any missing child as a runaway, regardless of feedback from the parents. They often let days pass before investigating a disappearance. The Johnny Gosch case would become a huge influence on changing these practices.

JOE:
Since several days passed before police took this as a serious and legitimate kidnapping, they had not really investigated the crime scene, and had very little evidence to go on.
No suspect would ever be arrested in connection to Johnny’s disappearance, and the Des Moines police department would be heavily criticized for their role, or lack thereof.

KELLI:
Noreen Gosch was one of the most outspoken critics of the Des Moines PD. As months and year went by with no leads in the case, Noreen refused to give up hope that her son would eventually be found. She refused to just let this case fade away like so many other missing persons cases have. She kept pushing for answers, so much so that detectives used many words to describe her… difficult, abrasive to name a few.

KEVIN:
A lead officer in the case, Chief Cooney, was even quoted in the local newspaper as saying, “I don’t give a damn about what Noreen Gosch has to say. I’m sick of her.” This is just reprehensible treatment by police and this would not be tolerated today. Chief Cooney resigned soon after that comment. As years went on, law enforcement and the Gosch family would butt heads. They did not work well together at all.

JOE:
The case grew cold. No leads. Few tips. And no Johnny.

KELLI:
A few months after Johnny’s disappearance, Noreen Gosch stated that her son was spotted in Oklahoma, when a witness came forward saying that she saw a young boy who looked like Johnny screaming for help, and then being dragged off by two men. Police could not substantiate these claims, and nothing further was ever reported about the event, although Noreen remains convinced that it was her son.
KEVIN:
Then almost exactly two years later, another Des Moines Iowa paperboy, Eugene Martin, went missing in the early morning hours as he set out on his paper route.
Eugene Martin was just about the same age as Johnny, just 13.
The details of Eugene’s story were almost identical to Johnny’s.
Eugene was reported to have been seen speaking a man in a car before disappearing. Could this be a coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences.
They were too similar to not be related, in my opinion.

JOE:
Authorities were unable to prove a connection between the cases, yet Noreen Gosch says that she was personally informed of Eugene Martin’s abduction a few months in advance by a private investigator who was searching for her son.

KELLI:
Yes, She was told the kidnapping “would take place the second weekend in August 1984 and it would be a paperboy from the southside of Des Moines.”
Someone was stealing Iowa’s children, and the fear grew within America’s Heartland.

KEVIN:
Noreen Gosch became not only an advocate for her own son’s case, but for all missing children in the US.
In 1984, she joined forces with John Walsh, and other parents of missing children, to form the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

JOE:
Milk cartons began to show photos of missing children in an effort to bring attention to their cases. Johnny Gosch was one of the first of these.
Most people buy milk, so it was thought that these photos would gain the most exposure this way.

KELLI:
Also in 1984, the Johnny Gosch Bill was signed into legislation, which requires law enforcement to act immediately when a minor is reported missing. Finally, law enforcement began to acknowledge that the first 24 hours are the most crucial in finding a child and returning them home alive. Experts believe that if abducted children are harmed or killed, it happens in the first three to four hours, so it’s essential that they are found right away… 72 hours, like in Johnny’s case…was too long.

KEVIN:
In 1985, Noreen Gosch received a letter from a man claiming he had info on Johnny’s disappearance. He said he belonged to a motorcycle club that was running a large child-slavery ring, and that they had Johnny. He demanded $100,000 from the Gosch family for the safe return of their son. Noreen sent him $11,000 before he was apprehended by the FBI who said the story was a hoax. Noreen Gosch, though, was extremely upset about his apprehension because she wholeheartedly believed this story, and she later said that she felt the FBI ruined their chances of getting their son back.
What do you think??

KELLI:
Also in 1985, Three years since Johnny was taken, a dollar bill surfaced with a handwritten note– “I’m alive, Johnny Gosch”. The dollar bill was given as change to a woman at a Sioux City, Iowa, grocery store and she knew she had to hand it over to Noreen Gosch. At a news conference, both John Gosch and Noreen Gosch showed the media the dollar bill in question and said they would trade $400,000 in reward money for the safe return of Johnny.

JOE:
In 1986: 14-year-old Marc Allen, a third paper carrier in Des Moines, disappeared without a trace on his way to his friend’s house down the street. Again, police state that none of these disappearances are connected in any way.

KELLI:
In 1988: The Gosches state that they received a letter believed to be from Johnny and it was turned over into evidence. The letter had spelling mistakes. It said: “I’ll never be permitted to return home. They’ve cut my hair. They’ve dyed my hair. I look different. Please don’t ever forget me. Love, Your Son, Johnny Gosch.” Noreen Gosch said the letter showed that whoever wrote it was familiar with things about the Gosch family that no one else could have known, but added that it was never confirmed whether this letter was real or a hoax.
—–
JOE:
This case blew wide open with some earth shattering twists in 1991, when Paul Bonacci, (Bah-noss-ee) an inmate at a Nebraska prison, confessed to his attorney that he helped abduct Johnny Gosch.

KELLI:
Bonacci claimed that there was a huge child sex slavery ring that reached far across the US, and that he had actually been abducted years before as well. Private investigators who were hired by the Gosch family and had worked on similar cases corroborated this story.

KEVIN:
Bonacci gave detailed information about a house in Monument Colorado where Johnny Gocsh and other boys possibly including Chris were kept in the cellar as sex slaves. He knew details about Johnny that Noreen Gosch said he couldn’t know unless he was telling the truth.
KELLI:
Private investigators said that in the child sex trafficking world, a client would put in a request for a certain type of child, and people would then seek out children that met that description.
They might stalk their potential victim for a bit, take a photo to verify that was the type of child they wanted, and then they’d take the child, and receive payment.
Basically, they were kidnapping and selling children to pedophiles. This is a real thing, it happens in America every single day.
INSERT THE THREE DAYS PRIOR AT FOOTBALL GAME – COP, TWICE, AND UNDER BLEACHER, PARENTS THOUGHT WEIRD

JOE:
In a bathroom at a restaurant in Denver in red finger nail polish painted on the stall wall was “Im Johnny Gocsh. I’m alive” I could see this can be explained as a cruel hoax or joke if it happened in des moines where Johnny went missing. Hard to explain this in a bathroom 100’s of miles away in the state of Colorado, where this known trap house was.
Police could neither confirm nor deny this really happened… because they never once interviewed Bonacci!

KELLI:
But, Noreen and her private investigators are adamant that Bonacci is being truthful. In her recorded conversations with Paul, Noreen said he described details about her son that were not reported in the media, including physical markings on Johnny’s body and idiosyncratic, personal behavior.
In a 1992 investigation conducted by America’s Most Wanted, the show used Bonacci’s description to locate the then-abandoned house in Colorado. There the team discovered a hidden underground chamber where, according to executive producer Paul Sperry, there were children’s initials carved into the walls. For many reasons, this seems like a credible story.

JOE:
Years later, Noreen would actually claim that Johnny came knocking on her door one night, now an adult, and told her the same story that Paul Bonacci had told her. He stated that he had been taken, sold into slavery, and that there were many people that wanted to kill him. He instructed her not to call the police or else their lives would be in danger.

KEVIN:
This would be a story that Noreen’s husband, John Senior, did not believe. In fact, John Senior did not believe really any of the conspiracy theories about Johnny’s kidnapping, and he was ready to move on. He divorced Noreen and didn’t stay as involved with the case as she did. He dismissed a lot of Noreen’s ideas. Like many other people in the community, he seemed to think Noreen had become a delusional grieving mother.

KELLI:
OK SO – this is where the story gets even deeper and delves into conspiracy theories….but these aren’t JUST theories, most of this has been substantiated.
This child sex trafficking ring is said to have been based out of Omaha NE, and led by Lawrence E. King, general manager of the Franklin Federal Credit Union.

KEVIN:
He was one of the rising black stars in the GOP, the former Vice Chairman of the National Black Republican Council, and he even sang the national anthem at the 1984 Republican National Convention. He was known for throwing extravagant parties costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

JOE:
In April 1988 the FBI raided his bank and charged King with embezzling nearly $40 million. But that’s not all.
Six young adults—including Paul Bonacci—came forward saying that as teenagers they had been forced into prostitution by King, and flown to Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and other cities to participate in orgies with pedophiles.

KELLI:
Alleged attendees at these gatherings included some of the wealthiest and most influential figures in Nebraska, including men prominent in politics, the media, and police.
A state senate committee investigated both Lawrence E. King’s financial dealings and the allegations of sex trafficking.

KEVIN:
The claims originated in the foster care system where a social worker’s report on victim’s stories had been forwarded to authorities but was ignored.
Boys Town, the nationally renowned orphanage, had numerous connections to the Franklin Credit Union, including commercial accounts and sending minors to gain work experience under King.

JOE:
The senate committee hired private investigator Gary Caradori to work on this case and compile evidence.
Caradori was a former state trooper, and he drew up a list of sixty potential victims and conducted videotaped interviews.

KELLI:
In July 1990, Caradori had in his possession photographs taken at King’s sex parties. Ironically, on a trip, Caradori’s small plane unexplainably disintegrated mid-air over Illinois. He and his eight-year-old son were killed, and his briefcase containing the incriminating photos was never found.

KEVIN:
Victims started to receive anonymous threats.
The feds used intimidation and fear to get four of the victims to retract their stories.
There are many similarities between the Franklin scandal and the Jeffery Epstein sex trafficking network.
The grand jury indicted Lawrence E. King for financial crimes and for paying men for sex—for which he would serve ten years in prison—but called the allegations of sex trafficking a “carefully crafted hoax.”

JOE:
The two people who refused to retract their story, Alisha Owens and Paul Bonacci, were indicted for perjury.
At twenty-one years old, Owens was convicted and served over four years in prison, two of which were in solitary confinement.
Bonacci later sued King in civil court for damages done and was awarded $1 million—which was never paid.

KELLI:
Here’s the thing…..most people think this story is so crazy that it couldn’t possibly be true.
But there’s a ton of evidence to support it.
There are many witnesses with the same stories and there are substantiating facts.
Conspiracies and cover ups happen all the time and when big money is involved, the victims get squashed and silenced.
Just think about the Catholic Church cover ups that reach all the way from the US to Rome.
The Jeffery Eppstein sex trafficking network that involved some of the world’s most famous people.
The Penn State University/Jerry Sundusky cover up that ruined the lives of young men and boys just to protect a football team.
There’s a preponderance of evidence that the depravity in our society is focused near the top and is darker and deeper than most people can possibly imagine.
So tonight, I leave you with one question…who took Johnny Gosch?

TRUE CRIME IRL is written, produced, & hosted by Kelli Berens-Brink.

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Sometimes, we directly quote online articles in podcast episodes. Anytime we do, we list them in our sources.

SOURCES USED FOR RESEARCHING THIS EPISODE INCLUDE:

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-child-sex-trafficking-scandal-america-forgot/

https://www.google.com/search?q=john+noreen+gosch+divorce&rlz=1C1VDKB_enUS984US984&oq=john+noreen+gosch+divorce&aqs=chrome..69i57j33i160l2.9036j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

https://www.grunge.com/714669/the-tragic-story-of-the-kidnapping-of-johnny-gosch/

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/27228445/the-des-moines-register/

https://www.google.com/search?q=eugene+martin+disappearance&rlz=1C1VDKB_enUS984US984&oq=eugene+martin+disappearance&aqs=chrome.0.0i512j0i22i30j0i390l2.5079j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

https://serialnapper.medium.com/the-story-of-johnny-gosch-the-boy-on-the-back-of-the-milk-carton-be2fdea7e7c2

https://patch.com/iowa/iowacity/30-years-after-johnny-gosch-vanished-iowas-innocence-ac28a16c61

https://ohhowpeculiar.tumblr.com/post/157996458934/what-happened-to-johnny-gosch-on-september-5

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearance_of_Johnny_Gosch

https://whotookjohnny.tumblr.com/timeline

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