The story we uncovered involved the courageous battle of Noreen Gosch, whose son Johnny was kidnapped on September 5, 1982 in West Des Moines, IA while beginning his paper delivery route, to find her son and his abductors. There is so much to this case but we wanted to describe the utter corruption and complicity of the city of West Des Moines in the travesty of human trafficking. There are a few good guys in the case but they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by officials in low and high places. The story would send chills down the spine of any American who believes that government officials are paid to protect them. That is simply not the truth as we discover in West Des Moines.
When Noreen called the West Des Moines police department it took an officer 45 minutes to travel the 10 blocks to her house. While taking her missing persons report the officer asked her if this was the only time her son had run away. The galling contempt which the police officer displayed in asking Noreen that loaded question was the first signal that the police department gave that it would cover up the crime. Noreen had just explained that five witnesses had seen various parts of the kidnapping which included a car with suspicious characters circling the paper drop off who had asked questions of the boys there.
Frustrated with the unresponsiveness of the West Des Moines police department Noreen organized a party of about 23 friends and neighbors to go searching that afternoon for Johnny in likely places where kidnapped kids might be found either dead or alive. During the search of Walnut Woods a couple came back to her distraught when she and other members of the search teams were informed by the chief of police of the West Des Moines police department to stop their search.
It wasn’t just that the police chief stopped the search. He got on a picnic table with a bullhorn and told ordered everyone to go home because the kid was nothing but a “blankety blank” runaway. The people of West Des Moines did nothing about this episode from their police department.
One of the five witnesses we mentioned previously was another kid who saw Johnny attacked by a man with a taser gun and then thrown into a car. Noreen discovered some time later that the police chief went to that family and threatened them to be quiet – to say nothing whatever. This allowed the police chief to enter Johnny in the national missing persons database as a runaway.
The police department made extensive efforts to suppress the story and to cast Noreen as a fringe person. Two weeks after Johnny’s abduction Noreen found a small article in the Des Moines Register reporting two girls who had been abducted to Omaha but who were miraculously recovered. When she took this article to the police chief asking him to call the Omaha police to see if there were a connection to her case he absolutely refused to do so. Frustrated with the complete uselessness of the West Des Moines police department Noreen approached the FBI for help who also refused to assist.
With two refusals to help from two law enforcement agencies Noreen called a press conference to enlist public support only to be greeted with death threats afterward.
But the kidnapping of Johnny was not an isolated event in West Des Moines. Eugene Martin, another paper boy was kidnapped in August 1984 and Mark Allen was kidnapped in 1986, both boys also being 12-13 years old. With this kind of threat one would have thought that the city would demand action. Although FBI agents were compelled into action after the abduction of Eugene Martin virtually nothing happened after Mark’s disappearance. Their parents did and said nothing. Noreen reports that they were intimidated into silence by the West Des Moines police department who instructed them not to talk to Noreen or to make any public waves.
Two weeks prior Eugene’s kidnapping an informant told Noreen that another paper boy would be kidnapped the second week of August 1984 on the south side of West Des Moines which was exactly how the crime unfolded. Noreen taped the conversation which she then took the West Des Moines police department who curtly told her to go away telling her that she had gone over the edge.
At one point after a substantial amount of publicity over the case in 1996, Johnny escaped from his captors and managed to surreptitiously visit his mother for a very brief period one Sunday night. He had provided specific names of people involved in the human trafficking ring which she then took to the District Attorney in West Des Moines. After presenting details and leads in the case, she asked him if he would investigate. He told her that the names were too prominent to investigate.
We have seen that not only were the police obstructing justice but the FBI and District Attorney’s office were also suppressing investigations into the crime. But lest you think that it was specific to a limited period of time we need to fast forward to 2006 when an anonymous informant provided pictures of Johnny being tortured. Noreen again went to the police department to offer the pictures for analysis and as in 1982 the West Des Moines police department simply ignored her. They didn’t even return her phone calls. Instead they held a press conference claiming that the pictures were not of Johnny only to be later contradicted by the National Center For Missing Children.
The most extraordinary tale of this long nightmare came when a new police chief in the West Des Moines police department called a meeting as one of his first official acts to instruct his detectives and other department officials to spend no time on the case and to do nothing to help Mrs. Gosch who found out about this official order from a detective in the department. The police department confirmed the cover-up to New York police detective James Rothstein who called the West Des Moines police department for information after independently discovering the case. Rothstein was told by a senior police officer that the department had created a composite of Johnny as a token effort so that they could say that they had done something but beyond that they had done nothing.
We also learn that the West Des Moines police chief had been instructed to stand down before the kidnapping of Johnny had occurred. It is completely astounding that someone had the authority to order with malice afore thought a police department not to investigate or respond to a child kidnapping. What beasts live in West Des Moines, IA?
It turns out that the monsters of West Des Moines are only a piece of the puzzle of a much larger human trafficking ring which stretches to Omaha and to the highest circles of Washington. We strongly invite you to visit the Justice For Johnny Gosch website for more details of this sordid crime.
Copyright 2010 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.