Sioux City Journal from Sioux City, Iowa on August 26, 1984 · 17
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Sioux City Journal from Sioux City, Iowa · 17

Sioux City, Iowa
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 26, 1984
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IhgSjoux City Journal. Sunday, August 26, 1984 B 1 II 11 (O - 1 i y ' " I r ru - - a 1 I V" "'- KrJ, J V LM?, j I V, ' 1 By Betsy Burkhard Journal staff writer Always remember, we're looking lor a live, healthy child. Never give up hope. It's more than optimism: it's the credo law enforcement officials live by when investigating a child abduction. It's what keeps them going 15 hours a day, seven days a week until the case is solved. "Abductions are very difficult to Investigate because you're faced with 'where do we start?' It's terribly frustrating," Omaha FBI assistant special agent John Evans said. "But you have to keep going organize your investigation. The one thing you. can't do is sit back and wait for a development. In the Des Moines case (the disappearance of two paperboys), our goal is to get both kids back to their families." Local law enforcement officials agree the goal of finding a healthy child is paramount to a strong investigation. But they admit, at some point, every officer has doubts. "You always look for that live kid it's always in your mind," Sioux City police Cpt. Ronald Pettit said. "But after so many days, you get that premonition that feeling inside, and you know you won't find him alive. It's different for every officer, but it happens to us all." Despite premonitions, frustration and immeasureable fatigue, the case of a missing child is never closed until the child or proof of death is found. The case of the missing paperboys is on the mind of every Sioux City police officer. They know they could be part of such an investigation some day. 'Hope it never happens but be prepared if it does' is the prevailing attitude. If an area child were reported missing, an officer and a sergeant would be sent to the parents' home Immediately for a description of the child and the specifics surrounding the disappearance. They would insist upon searching the house, closets and all. "Some parents get mad when we do this," Pettit said, "but you wouldn't believe the number of times we've spent four hours searching for a kid and then the parents find him sleeping in his own house." 1 Officers also will confirm that the parents have checked with all the child's friends, relatives and neighbors. Hopefully, only 15 minutes elapses between the call to police and the beginning of the search. The child's neighborhood would be canvassed and witnesses if the child was seen talking to a stranger would be interviewed at length. With any luck, there will be a description of a car, maybe even a few digits from the license plate. While officers comb the neighborhood, a description of the child and all other information would be sent to all patrol officers, Woodbury County sheriff's deputies, Iowa State Patrol officers and across a teletype to all Iowa law enforcement agencies. It is at this point when abduction is a probability that Sioux City detectives, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI would be called in. "Investigation (division officers) will retrace the (patrol) officers' steps completely," Crime Prevention officer John Dahlin said. "They won't be satisfied with the report they'll want to go through everything again. We constantly have to make sure nothing's been missed." 'You always look for that live kid it's always in your mind.'9 Because of this rule of thumb checking everything twice FBI agents can be vital to an abduction investigation. The agency's most important contribution is manpower. "We don't do anything local law enforcement can't we provide agents to help them do the things they would normally do," Evans said. "And we have some better facilities: the FBI lab is at their disposal, we can put together psychological profiles, composite drawings (of suspects), we have analysts to plot investigations in a logical manner, and we do polygraph tests and hypnosis. "In fact, most of our Omaha office is in Des Moines right now helping with those cases," he said. "We've had agents working there on the Johnny Gosch (disappearance) case full-time for two years." Perhaps the biggest strain on officers investigating an abduction is put on them by the need to imagine themselves as the perpetrator. "What kind of guy this is goes through your mind first thing and it's always there," Pettit said. "You have to place yourself in that suspect's mind it's like role playing; 'What would I do and where would I go?' It can drive you crazy. "The majority of officers have an Instinct," he said. "Sure, we'll be wrong sometimes but most of us have been around long enough that we kind of have a sixth sense about these things." Perhaps the second biggest strain on officers is the need to investigate every tip which could amount to 100 a day to determine if it is a bona fide lead in the case. "The investigations (of missing . persons) are never closed," Dahlin said. "They're left open until a body shows up and the suspect is located or until we bring the child home. As long as there are new leads, we'll check them out." There have been no new leads in the 29-year-old case of a Sioux City toddler, Donna Sue Davis, who was taken out of her bedroom crib one summer evening in 1955. Donna, the victim of Sioux City's most notorious and only unsolved kidnapping, was found slain the day after she disappeared. No one was ever convicted in the murder and the case ramains open. Evans, "just out of curiosity," reviewed the case recenty, searching for ideas that could assist in the investigation of the missing newspaper boys. He found "no leads, nothing interesting." But the case remains open, and local authorities say, it always will. Mother's grief doesn 't subside By Marcia Poole Journal staff writer Two years after her son's disappearance, Noreen Gosch finds her grief is worse than ever. "People who have had their children die tell us that our situation is far worse than theirs," says the West Des Moines, Iowa, resident. "At least they know where their children are.... To not know is the worst torture. It gets worse with time." Noreen was "like other mothers" before her 12-year-old son, Johnny, disappeared while delivering newspapers on Sept. 5, 1982. "I had a job like most mothers do, but I would get home before my kids got home from school. I was a cookie baker. I was a decoupager. I took the kids to dance and music lessons and football games. I never had anything to do with police because there was never any need to. All that has changed. I don't have a life anymore. My husband doesn't have a life anymore," she says. -. Noreen and her husband, John, . were in shock when they discovered their child's disappearance that Labor Day weekend. "In a nice quiet neighborhood nobody expects to have their child kidnapped," she says. Their grief was intensified by the reaction of law enforcement officials and some residents of the communi-ty. ' "In our case, they (the police) just - simply didn't look for Johnny so that was another shock we had to face. We had five witnesses. We had the car, the license plate. ..but at the time there was no law that (said) : they would have to look. We had to fight the system by hiring our own private detective," says Noreen who works as an office manager in West Des Moines. The Gosches raised money for the detective by selling candy bars, having garage sales or "any other darned thing we could think of." But the couple, which also has two grown children, found some neighbors and strangers hostile when they refused to give up the search for Johnny. "The community turned against us and absolutely resented us because we wouldn't quit. We were an embarrassment, running around selling candy bars. More than one person attacked us for that," she says. Noreen bitterly recalls an incident when a woman spit at her daughter who was selling candy bars at a mall during the first Christmas season after Johnny was gone. Ordinarily, the Gosches would not permit either of their older children to participate in the fundraiser, but a volunteer had gotten sick and could not sell candy (hat day. "A lady walked up and spit at our daughter and said 'I wouldn't buy a candy bar and help your mother find that kid if it was the coldest day of the year,' " says Noreen. "That women was walking along with her children getting ready for Christmas and buying gifts. She had not an ounce of compassion about what we were going through facing Christmas that first year without our boy and trying to raise the money to pay for a search that the police wouldn't do." Her daughter fell apart, but Noreen got angry. She was angry that someone could take her child and get away with it. She was angry .about the way the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had handled the case. "I was also angry about the injustice of a set of parents having to sell candy bars to raise money to find their own child. No one would help us. We had to do it ourselves. That is an injustice and that is a crime in itself." Her anger, however, took a constructive shape, she says. Along with the belief that her son is alive, it is anger that fuels Noreen's fight to get Johnny back. "A lot of people think it's negative if you get angry. Well, I'm angry because of what's happened to Johnny. I'm angry because of what's happened to Gene Martin (a 12-year-old Des Moines newspaper boy who disappeared two weeks ago). But I'm using my anger constructively to create a safer environment." Iowa has moved ahead in the protection of children because of Noreen and her husband's efforts, she says. Signed into law recently, the Johnny Gosch Bill mandates that a missing person's report be initiated immediately after parents go to the police, rather than the usual policy of waiting 24 hours. Further, information from the report must be transmitted to other law enforcement agencies in areas where the child is suspected of being, according to Woodbury County Sheriff Russ White. "Before, in situations where there was no clear-cut evidence of an abductionkidnapping, they (law enforcement officials) relied on the statistics that indicated in these situations most teenagers returned home or made contact with their parents within that 24-hour period," according to White. The Johnny Gosch Bill no longer allows law enforcement officials to take a wait-and-see approach to a child's disappearance. "That never would have come about had our son not been kid napped. That's a rotten way to have the system progress children's lives being taken," says Noreen. An articulate, determined woman, Noreen has spent countless days campaigning for legislation to protect children. Recently, at the invitation of Sen. Charles Grassley, (R-Iowa), she testified on the FBI's involvement in Johnny's case at a U.S. Senate hearing. She also has appeared on national television news and talk shows in an effort to enlighten the public about the plight of missing children. The couple's accomplishments comfort Noreen. "I feel Johnny's kidnapping should no' be logged as a statistic for that year.... Our boy was an innocent victim and I want him to be a hero. I want the wnole country to rally for all missing children," she says. Still, there are times when it would be easy for her to say she cannot go on. Many parents of missing children never are able to come to grips with their grief, she says. "Most parents fold up and die they die trying. They just don't follow through. They become alcoholics, drug abusers. It's the kind of tragedy that incapacitates most parents." The Gosches feel they have no choice but to keep looking for Johnny. "The strength is supplied somehow, someway. I don't try to project more than a day in advance. I just get through today and if you take it that way it doesn't seem as devastating or overwhelming," she says. ' The couple is sharing such survival skills with the parents of Eugene Martin. "We've gotten together with them several times and a question they ask is 'How do you cope at 3 in the morning when you're just about ir V Noreen Gosch ready to go crazy?' " she says. "1 say, 'You keep busy every minute.' Friends have urged the Gosches to take a vacation, but such leisure time is impossible until Johnny is found. "For one thing, we can't afford it and that would be time out of Johnny's life," says Noreen. "1 couldn't lay on a sunny beach someplace thinking of what somebody might be doing to him. I could be doing something to get him back." The couple cannot discuss recent sightings of their son. "They are fitting into a pattern of other things we've learned it's extremely confidential," she says. Although she is cautiously optimistic when advancements occur In the case, Noreen considers what Johnny will need when he comes home. "Of course, he'll be different. No one would be enriched after an experience like this. He's going to need a lot of care and a lot of assistance getting back into the mainstream. 1 would hope that a, community that was so against us in searching for him would at least have compassion in their, hearts when we find him,' shesavs. !? JJ-fritlT1n iT if t 1 rl til liT 1 ft t lH II I I li I "1 T 1 1 "ll I

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