Left and Center: John circa, 1982
Right: Age Progressed to age 49
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: September 5, 1982
Missing From: Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: November 12, 1969
Age: 12 years old
Height and Weight: 5’7″ and 140 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Male, Brown hair, Blue eyes, John has a gap in his upper front teeth at the time of his 1982 disappearance, he has a birthmark on his left cheek, a horseshoe shaped scar on his tongue, he has facial freckles, and he may use the nickname “Johnny”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white Sweatshirt with the phrase “Kim’s Academy” printed on the back, black sweatpants or cutoff jeans, and blue rubber thong sandals
NCMEC Number: 601763
Details of Disappearance
John or more commonly known as Johnny Gosch was last seen on the morning of September 5th 1982 in Des Moines, Iowa. He was delivering newspapers on his usual route by himself. Johnny was accompanied by his dachshund dog, Gretchen. He was using a red wagon to carry his stack of papers.
Johnny was usually accompanied by his father, John, but on the day he vanished, he woke up at 5:45 am and left his residence without waking up his father as he was told to do. At approximately 7:00 am, the Gosch’s received phone calls from neighbors who complained of undelivered newspapers.
They assumed that he had overslept but when they checked his bed, he wasn’t there. Gretchen returned to the family’s residence and when John went out to search for his son, he found Johnny’s wagon 2 blocks away. John has never been seen or heard from again.
They immediately phoned authorities to report Gosch missing. Authorities initially treated the case as that of a runaway but his parents were adamant that he was abducted or that foul play was involved. Witnesses told authorities that they viewed John talking to an unidentified male in a blue two-tone Ford Fairmunt. This sighting was placed on 42nd Street and Marcourt Lane. John was apparently giving this man directions.
John apparently told other paper boys that he was frightened by this man since he kept circling the block that John was working. He told another paper boy that he was going home. As he was walking, a man apparently walked out from in between two houses and started to follow John as he turned the corner.
Another neighbor revealed that he saw John being forced into a vehicle by two men and then the car sped away. Authorities now and have always suspected that foul play may have been involved in the case.
One of the male suspects is described as having a Latin appearance, weighing 175 pounds and standing at 5’9″, dark eyes, black eyebrows and hair. He was also described as having a mustache or an unshaven appearance. His name has been dubbed as “Emilio”. Composite sketches of this man will be posted in the case summary.
Johns mother, Noreen Gosch believes that John was sold into a prostitution ring after his abduction. When she was at a 1999 pedophile crime organization trial in Nebraska, she claimed that she had been visited by her son in March of 1997. She stated that he told her that he was kidnapped and sold into an elite prostitution ring and that he had escaped prior to him visiting her. He stated that he was keeping a low profile to avoid possible retaliation from his former captors.
He stated that he may never get to see her again. He was apparently accompanied by an unidentified male whom he would look at for approval to speak or reveal things. He left that night and hasn’t made contact with his mother since. Noreen fears for his well being which is why she feels he hasn’t made contact with her.
In 1999, a witness at an embezzlement trial claimed that he participated in the abduction of Gosch and was one of the first people to molest him when they kidnapped him. He also claimed that he himself was the victim of the pedophile ring that Johnny was victimized by. Investigators found that he was in Omaha, Nebraska at the time of Johns abduction so he is not believed to have been involved in the case.
In 2006, someone left a package on Noreen’s doorstep, inside were pictures of boys bound and tied up. She stated that she positively identified one as being John. Florida Law Enforcement officials claimed that the photos were not those of Gosch but rather a group of boys who had posed willingly for the photos. This account has not been confirmed.
It has been considered that Johns abduction could be connected to the 1984 disappearance of Eugene Martin. He vanished in the vicinity of Johns kidnapping. It should also be noted that Marc Allen disappeared from Des Moines in 1986 when he was 13. None of these cases have been linked.
Johns abduction remains unsolved and authorities as well as his family hope to locate him.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Des Moines Police Department 515-223-3211