Over the past week, Iowa Patches have observed the 30th anniversary of the disappearance of paperboy Johnny Gosch with a special series, Iowa’s Missing Kids: Innocence Abducted.
Johnny’s mother, Noreen Gosch of West Des Moines, steadfastly maintains that her son was kidnapped and held in the dark world of child sex trade.
Her private investigators assert the boy was almost certainly stalked and kidnapped by a nationwide ring of pedophiles trafficking children, a theory described by former Nebraska state legislator John DeCamp in his book, The Franklin Cover-Up: Child Abuse, Satanism and Murder in Nebraska.
In this open letter to her son, she expresses her hope that he is still alive, that he is happy and healthy, and living safely in anonymity.
It has been 30 long years since you were ripped away from your family and everything you knew in life to be good. On the day you were kidnapped, it was so difficult to believe such a thing could happen in a quiet neighborhood. Nothing like this had happened in our community before.
I could only imagine what was happening to you, the terror, fear and pain you endured. In the first days, thousands of people volunteered to help us search for you. Each time a search party would come back and had found nothing, I breathed a sigh of relief because perhaps it was a sign you were still alive.
My prayers for you were that you would be found safe, but until that time God would be watching over you. Each night I prayed that some new idea would come to me to try that would bring you back home. Every morning there was something new to try, someone to reach who might help, but in my heart I knew each minute, each hour of every day was time out of your life.
Within a short time TV shows wanted to hear your story; as the shows would air, new leads were coming in to be worked. We hired a private investigator to work full-time; it was at that point we began to get real answers.
What we learned, no parent would want to know, but we had to face the truth of why children are kidnapped. At that time, I not only missed you, but the pain of not "knowing" what was happening was a walking nightmare. What you have suffered, no child should ever have to go through.
At times I would remember you as a little boy and some of the things you said and did. One time, you told me at 5 years old that you wanted a "blue castle cake for your birthday."
I had no idea where you had seen that type of cake. But, eventually, I found it in a cookbook – the exact cake you described. Building the cake was a family project. You were so happy when it was finished that you didn't want to eat it. You told me you just wanted keep it forever.
Every parent wants the best for their children and it breaks my heart to know that your innocence and childhood were robbed from you. I wish you could be as happy as you were in this photo.
A short time after you were kidnapped, a neighbor lady called me and said:
"I would like to tell you what a fine boy you raised. Johnny helped my 6-year-old son. One night after school some bullies were beating up my son and smashed his lunchbox, Johnny ran to help. He jumped in, tossing each of the bullies onto the ground, telling them to get lost. They ran like the wind. Johnny then walked my little boy home. I just thought you should know what a kind boy you raised."
Johnny, you came back home and never mentioned the "good deed" you had done that day by helping the other little boy. It was very touching to hear; somehow, it made me feel as though you were not so far away.
As years passed we received valuable information that you were possibly still alive. Other victims contacted us; we had more pieces to place in this giant puzzle. Then came a real break, information that you were definitely still alive and had escaped reached us.
You are grown now and do not look like the little boy who was kidnapped, so you can "hide in plain sight" and live. Even though that means it isn't possible for a normal family life, you are safe. That information surfaced a number of years ago; my hope is that you are still alive today.
It has been a very long 30 years and no one knows that better than you. I am proud of you, Johnny, and hope you are able to see this message.
I love you,
– Mom (Noreen Gosch)
Also in this series: