Iowa History Daily: November 12 - Happy Birthday, Johnny Gosch

Iowa History Daily: On November 12, 1969, Johnny Gosch was born in Des Moines. In 1982, 12-year-old Johnny disappeared in an apparent kidnapping while delivering the Des Moines Register. Still an unsolved cold case 40 years later, police never found Gosch’s body, made an arrest, or even identified a potential motive.

Starting as a West Des Moines paperboy roughly a year before his disappearance, Gosch built a reputation for reliability with customers along his route. A 7th grader at Indian Hills Junior High, Gosch’s friends described him as well liked and involved in activities including karate and football. On the morning of September 5, Gosch left his house with the family dog and never returned.

By 7:45 a.m. on the day in question the phone at the Gosch household started to ring with customer complaints of undelivered papers, and an initial search of the neighborhood by Johnny’s father uncovered the boy’s red wagon still loaded with newspaper only a few blocks from home. Reported to the police immediately, an archaic law demanded officials wait 72-hours before registering the missing persons case.

While Johnny Gosch’s face graced milk cartons (one of the first missing children printed on cartons), another Des Moines area paperboy, Eugene Martin, disappeared on the morning of August 12, 1984. No arrest resulted in Martin’s case, despite similar initial leads paralleling the Gosch case. In 1984 the Iowa Legislature passed a bill requiring immediate investigation in cases involving missing children.

Noreen Gosch, mother of Johnny, claims her son visited her during 1997 and claimed to be living under an assumed identity after years of abuse at the hands of a child-trafficking ring. Her 2000 book “Why Johnny Can’t Come Home,” details her research and beliefs about the case. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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