Born on November 12, 1969, John David Gosch was a paperboy in West Des Moines, Iowa. He was last seen on September 5, 1982, between 6 and 7 a.m. He is thought to have been taken away. No one has been arrested yet in this case, which is still “cold” but not closed as of 2023.
Johnny Gosch Goes Undetected
On September 5, 1982, before dawn, Johnny Gosch and his dachshund, Gretchen, went to West Des Moines, Iowa to deliver newspapers. In most cases, his father would go with him, but John David Gosch chose to stay home that Sunday morning.
Sometime around 7:45 a.m., a neighbor called the Gosch family to complain that his newspaper still hadn’t been delivered. Johnny Gosch should have finished his newspaper route by that time, so this was strange. The family dog was back home, but Gosch wasn’t.
John Gosch began looking for his son right away in the neighborhood.
John and his wife Noreen called the police because they were scared. The police thought Johnny Gosch had run away because there was no note or demand for money. They had to wait 72 hours before they could legally say he was missing and start looking for him. But Gosch’s parents were sure that something very wrong was going on.
The Search Begins
As the police began to look into Johnny Gosch’s disappearance, a disturbing chain of events began to play out. Other paperboys who worked with Gosch the morning he went missing said they saw him talking to a man in a blue Ford Fairmont around 6 a.m.
Iowa Cold Cases says that Noreen told what people who saw what happened had said: “The man turned off his engine, opened the passenger door, and stepped out onto the curb where the boys were getting their newspapers ready.”
The man had asked her son for directions, and Johnny Gosch had begun to walk away after talking to him, she said.
However, the different stories were not all the same, and no one could remember many details about the man or his car. This meant that the police did not have many leads to follow. Because Gosch’s parents were unhappy with how the police handled the situation, they took matters into their own hands.
On TV, John and Noreen Gosch talked about their son and handed out more than 10,000 posters with his picture on them. The story of the Gosch family got even more attention when a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Martin went missing while delivering newspapers just 12 miles from where Johnny Gosch was last seen two years later.
A family member of Eugene Martin worked at the nearby Anderson & Erickson Dairy, and they asked the company to put pictures of Martin, Gosch, and other missing kids from the area on their milk cartons. The dairy said yes to the request, and the idea spread quickly across the country.
The Gosches’ extensive efforts to locate their son ensured that news of his abduction spread far and wide, prompting people to contact the police with sightings of the young boy.
Reported Appearances of Johnny Gosch Throughout the Years
Since Johnny Gosch went missing several years ago, many people from all over the country have said they have seen him in different places.
OurQuadCities says that in 1983, a woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said Gosch had approached her in public and said, “Lady, please help me!” This is John David Gosch. The boy was dragged away by two men before she could do anything.
In July 1985, two years later, a woman in Sioux City, Iowa, got a dollar bill along with her change when she paid for something at a store. On the bill was a short note that said, “I am alive.” Johnny Gosch’s signature was under the message, and three different handwriting experts confirmed that it was real.
People from all walks of life said they had seen Johnny Gosch. Even his mother, Noreen, said he came to her house one night 15 years after he went missing.
At 2:30 a.m. in March 1997, Noreen Gosch heard a knock on her door. In front of her 27-year-old son Johnny Gosch was a stranger when she opened the door. Noreen says her son talked to her for over an hour after taking off his shirt to show her a unique birthmark.
Afterward, she told The Des Moines Register, “I don’t know who the other man was; he was with someone else.” Johnny would look at the other person to make sure it was okay to speak. Not one word about where he lived or where he was going.
Noreen says that Gosch told her not to call the police because it would put their lives in danger. She said that her son was taken by a child se*x trafficking ring and sold into it. Almost ten years later, a strange package showed up at her door, which seemed to back up her claims.
Unexplained Photos and Allegations of Se*x Trafficking
The police and John Gosch Sr., who divorced Noreen in 1993, don’t believe her when she says that Johnny Gosch visited her in 1997, but a set of photos sent to her in 2006 made them change their minds.
Around September of that year, almost 24 years after Johnny went missing, Noreen found an envelope on her doorstep with three photos of boys who were tied up. One of them looked like Johnny Gosch.
The police were shocked and quickly looked into where the pictures came from, but in the end they decided that they were not from Gosch. The pictures were reportedly looked into before in Florida and found to be of a group of friends having fun. But Noreen has a hard time believing it.
Although Noreen Gosch was frequently dismissed as a mourning mother driven to extravagant conclusions and stories after her son’s disappearance, her determination helped ensure that missing child cases were handled with greater attention.
Iowa passed the Johnny Gosch Bill in 1984, which said that police had to look into cases of missing children right away instead of waiting 72 hours. Young Gosch has never been found, but his legacy as one of the first “milk carton kids” and as the driving force behind important laws may have saved many others from the same fate.