The Events Leading Up To His Disappearance:
On that fateful September morning in 1982, Johnny was up early as usual to deliver newspapers for his neighborhood. He usually took the same route each morning but this time something went wrong. At around 7AM, customers began calling asking where their papers were. That's when his parents realized Johnny had never returned home from his paper route and immediately contacted the police. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Johnny's wagon full of undelivered papers at the corner of 42nd Street and Marcourt Lane—roughly 320 meters away from his home.
Investigators believed foul play was involved due to reports of high crime rates in the area as well as suspicious characters lurking around late at night. However, no evidence linking anyone to Johnny's disappearance has ever been found leading many people to suspect he may have been abducted by human traffickers or another organized criminal group operating in the area at the time. Furthermore, rumors began circulating suggesting that Johnny may have been kidnapped by a ring of pedophiles who were active in Iowa during this period—though these claims remain unsubstantiated, and theories abound concerning what actually happened to him that fateful morning.
What We Know Now:
Over thirty years later and there are still more questions than answers about what happened to young Johnny Gosch on that fateful September morning in 1982. Despite extensive public campaigns from his family and several private investigations into his disappearance, no solid leads or concrete evidence have ever come out of this case leaving it one of America’s most mysterious unsolved mysteries even now in 2023.
Could Johnny and Eugene's Abductions Be Linked?
Despite the fact that there are discrepancies in the car and suspect descriptions of both abductions, the circumstances seem to match almost perfectly. In this blog post, we look at a few of the similarities between Johnny and Eugene's cases to explore whether they could have been victims of the same predator.
Let’s start with their ages - they were only a year apart in age when they disappeared. Both boys were paperboys for the Des Moines Register who had vanished on an early Sunday morning. What’s more, both boys had gone missing around the same time of year - August/September - with Gene vanishing only three weeks shy of the 2-year anniversary of Johnny’s disappearance. The abductions also took place roughly eight miles apart in quiet suburban neighborhoods with low crime rates.
In addition to these similarities, both boys' possessions were found abandoned on street corners near their respective homes – Johnny’s wagon filled with undelivered papers and Gene’s bag containing his route money and deliveries. While it is possible that these instances are merely coincidences, it seems more likely that they were abducted by the same predator given all these circumstantial similarities between their cases.
The suspiciously similar set of circumstances between Johnny and Eugene's abductions leads one to wonder if there was indeed a connection between them or if it was simply a tragic coincidence that two boys went missing so close together in time and space. It is still unknown whether either boy ever made it home safely, but one thing is for certain - justice has yet to be served for these two young victims who still remain missing after all these years.
Johnny and Eugene were not the only paperboys who were attacked back then. In fact, there was a string of attempted abductions of newspaper carriers in the Des Moines area in the 1980s, which investigators at the time suspected was connected to Gosch and Martin. I’ve plotted all seven events (the two disappearances & five attempted abductions) on a map. I must stress that none of these were ever officially tied to the two missing boys. It is also not known if the five attempted kidnappings were committed by the same person.
INCIDENT 1 - July 10, 1986
15-year-old Jim Pollack, a carrier for the Des Moines Register, was out delivering papers on the morning of July 10, 1986, when he was grabbed by a man in a camouflage poncho. Jim managed to wrestle away from his assailant, then ran home and called the police. This occurred in the 500 block of 45th street, only half a mile from where Johnny’s wagon was found abandoned 3 1/2 years earlier. Jim told police he had been chased six weeks prior in a separate incident, but it is unknown if it was the same man who chased him on July 10th.
INCIDENT 2 - September 1988
I have very limited information about this one. From what I've gathered, a boy between the ages of 10 and 13 was chased by a man while delivering papers in Indianola, less than 20 miles from Des Moines.The perpetrator in this case was driving a white van. This occurred six weeks prior to Incident 3, which would put the date as sometime in mid-to-late September.
INCIDENT 3 - November 1, 1988
At around 5AM on November 1, 1988, 10-year-old Mike Fackler was delivering newspapers for the Des Moines Register when a heavyset man wearing a white jogging suit jumped out of his car and began to chase him.4 Mike ditched his bag and ran screaming to a neighbor’s home, where the owner pulled Mike inside the house and called the police. Police arrived at the home at 5:15AM.
According to Des Moines Register, the man who tried to kidnap Mike matched the same physical description as the man in Incident 2. In both cases, the abductor drove a white vehicle, although it's called a “car” in Mike's case and a “van” in the Indianola case. Which doesn’t seem like a significant discrepancy, considering this came from a 10-year-old boy who had just had a traumatic experience.Mike lived roughly 2 miles from Johnny's home and less than 8 miles from Gene's. For what it’s worth, Noreen Gosch believed the attempted abduction was connected to her son's disappearance, but Fackler's father doubted it.
INCIDENT 4 - 15/7/89
On 15 July 1989, yet another carrier for the Des Moines Register was almost abducted while delivering the morning paper.6 At 5:15AM, an unnamed 11-year-old noticed a white vehicle following him, going the wrong way on a one-way street. The man got out of the car and began chasing him, screaming profanities and threatening to stab him if he didn't get in the car. He caught up to the boy and grabbed him by his sweatshirt, but the boy managed to wriggle out of the shirt and flee to a neighbor's home.
The carrier told police his would-be kidnapper was in his 40s, about 6'2, and had salt-and-pepper hair. He described the vehicle as a large, white car with a red vinyl top.
INCIDENT 5 - 14/9/89
11-year-old Melissa Gale was another carrier for the Des Moines Register. While delivering newspapers at about 6:20AM on September 14, 1989, an unknown man in a blue car pulled up to her and ordered her to get in the car.7 Melissa turned around and ran to her father, who was helping deliver papers only a short distance away. Melissa said the man as a white, late 20s to early 30s, with large eyes and a large nose. He had a mole underneath his right eye. He drove a small, dark blue car (possibly a Chevrolet Chevette) with a beige-colored blanket in the back seat. The site of the attempted abduction (the 3500 block of Fleur Drive) is less than two miles from Gene’s home.
A SERIAL CHILD PREDATOR?
The possibility of a serial predator targeting children in the Des Moines area is not a new theory. The Des Moines Register reported on July 17, 19898 that the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) suspected a connection between the recent Indianola cases and both Johnny and Eugene’s disappearances. The DCI, which normally wouldn’t get involved in a seemingly routine local crime, was so suspicious of a link that they began investigating the July 15, 1989 attack themselves. Mike Fackler and the two Indianola paperboys’ encounters all took place within a 10-month period (September 1988 and July 1989). In all three, the perpetrator drove a large white vehicle. Mike’s attacker reportedly matched the physical description of the perpetrator in the September 1988 event. And what are the chances that Indianola, a city with less than 11,000 residents in the 1980s, would suddenly have two cases of a man with a white car chasing paperboys within the space of a year? The only difference between Mike’s case and the other two has to do with the date (Mike’s occurred on a weekday in November, as opposed to a weekend in the summer or early fall). Unfortunately, because the physical description isn’t publicly available in those two incidents, I am unable to say if it’s consistent with the description provided in the July 1989 attack (of a ~6’2 man in his 40s with graying hair). But, even if the connection isn’t as clear, it’s not a far reach to suggest that whoever chased the paperboy in Indianola in September 1988 is probably the same one who struck in July 1989. The circumstances, timing, similar car, and the fact that they both occurred in the same small city all point to that.
Let’s look at this Indianola predator. How similar are his crimes to the abductions of Johnny and Eugene?
- All incidents involved boys between the ages of 10 and 13.
- Four delivered papers for the Des Moines Register. It is unclear who the fifth (the boy chased in September 1988) worked for.
- With the exception of Mike Fackler, all were attacked in the summer months.
- With the exception of Mike Fackler, all occurred on weekends.
- All occurred in the early morning hours.
- The suspects in the Gosch and Martin cases were in their mid-30s to early 40s. This would be consistent with the Indianola predator being described as 40 - 45 years old in 1988/1989.
Details of Disappearance
John's mother, Noreen Gosch, hired private investigators to look into her son's disappearance. She believes he was kidnapped and sold into a pedophile prostitution ring. She claimed she was visited by her son when she testified during a 1999 pedophile crime organization trial in Nebraska. Noreen said that he had visited her Iowa apartment in the middle of the night in March 1997 with an unidentified male and stayed for over an hour. Noreen went on to say that her son told her he had been abducted by members of a pedophile crime ring. He said he had escaped from the group sometime earlier, was keeping a low profile to avoid repercussions from his former captors and would probably not visit her again. Noreen maintained that she had no further contact with her son since that time, as she feared for his well-being.
In 1999, a witness in an embezzlement trial claimed he had participated in John's abduction and that he himself was a victim of the same child sex ring that got John. When police investigated, however, they discovered the witness had been in Omaha, Nebraska on the date John disappeared. In August 2006, Noreen told the press that she had found photographs left by the front door of her home. The images depicted three boys, one of them resembling John, and all of them were bound and gagged. In one of the pictures, the boy resembling John was wearing sweatpants similar to the pair John had worn when he was abducted. Other people connected the case reported receiving copies of the photos, either through the internet or through anonymous deliveries. Noreen stated she believed the photos were of her son and were authentic, but the police think otherwise. A Florida law enforcement officer stated he had investigated the very same photographs in the 1970s, before John disappeared, and had identified all the boys pictured, and they had willingly posed for the photos. Iowa police have yet to confirm the Florida investigator's account, but they stated they thought whoever gave the photographs to Noreen may have been playing a cruel prank. John vanished from the same vicinity that Eugene Martin disappeared from in 1984. Both boys were newspaper carriers in the Des Moines area. It is not known if the two cases are related.
The kidnapping of Johnny Gosch in 1982 is one of the most high-profile child abduction cases in the United States. The case remains unsolved, and there are various theories about what happened to Johnny Gosch.
Here are some of the most widely discussed theories:
- Human trafficking: One of the most common theories is that Johnny was kidnapped by a human trafficking ring. According to this theory, he was taken out of the country and forced into prostitution or some other form of sexual exploitation. There have been several reported sightings of Johnny in the years since his disappearance, but none of them have been confirmed.
- Pedophile ring: Another theory is that Johnny was taken by a pedophile ring that was operating in the area. According to this theory, Johnny was groomed and then taken by the ring, which may have included prominent members of the community. Some people believe that Johnny was killed by the ring when he became too old to be useful to them.
- Parental involvement: Some people believe that Johnny's parents were somehow involved in his disappearance. There are several reasons why people might believe this, including the fact that Johnny's mother claimed to have seen him after he disappeared, but did not report the sighting to the police until several years later.
- CIA involvement: There are also theories that the CIA was involved in Johnny's kidnapping, either as part of a larger conspiracy or as part of an effort to recruit him as a spy. There is little evidence to support this theory, however.
- Satanic cult: Another theory is that Johnny was taken by a satanic cult that was operating in the area. According to this theory, the cult may have been involved in other crimes, including the murder of several other children in the area.
It's important to note that none of these theories have been proven, and the case remains unsolved.