At one time, newspaper delivery was a booming business. It was the perfect job for a pre-teen who couldn't yet get a traditional job. In some communities, these children would even roam neighborhoods on foot, pulling newspapers around in a wagon or cart.
For 12-year-old Johnny Gosch, that newspaper route was in his hometown of West Des Moines, Iowa. His father normally helped him with his route on Sundays but on the morning of September 5, 1982 at around 5:45 a.m., Johnny headed out alone with the family dachshund.
Witnesses reported seeing Johnny, as well as two or three other carriers, in the early morning hours. One witness said he saw a man in a blue Ford Fairmont talking to Johnny. When Johnny turned to ask if someone could come "help this guy," the guy in the car took off at top speed.
|Police drawing of man in the car. Image source: Who Took Johnny?|
According to the police report, a neighbor reported hearing a wagon behind his house just before Johnny was seen speaking to the man in the car. Soon after, two young newspaper carriers spotted Johnny and said hello. This was the last anyone saw of Johnny.
Around the same time, a neighbor reported hearing a car door open. He looked out his window and saw a Ford Fairmont in the same area where Johnny was last spotted. The car started up and took off at a high speed, rolling through a stop sign without stopping. Johnny's abandoned wagon, filled with newspapers, was on the sidewalk. Johnny was nowhere to be found
|Johnny's wagon. Image source: Who Took Johnny?|
From the start, police failed to take the case seriously. They dismissed it as a runaway, despite the strange witness reports. Some say the naïveté of the time made it difficult to consider that someone might take a child off the street.
Over the years, many theories have emerged, mostly falling under the heading of "sex trafficking." The primary reason for this theory is the large number of young boys who disappeared from that general area around that time. This includes Eugene Martin, a Des Moines newspaper delivery boy who disappeared in 1984.
Johnny's mom has become an interesting character in the case over the years. She's convinced he's still alive and claims that in 1997, he visited her at her home and informed her he was afraid for his life before disappearing again. Many have expressed skepticism that this visit ever happened.
Do you believe Johnny Gosch is still alive?
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