The 1982 Disappearance of Johnny Gosch

Published: Updated: 8 comments

This post was originally published in 2012. 

DES MOINES, Iowa — On Sept. 5, 1982, Johnny Gosch, 12, was kidnapped while delivering the local Sunday newspaper. Johnny’s father, John Gosch, Sr., would generally accompany him on his route. However, on this day, only Johnny’s dachshund, Gretchen, was with him. The night before, Johnny asked his parents if he could go on the route alone. They told him no. However, the following day, Johnny left home alone without his father.

At 7:00 a.m., John and Noreen Gosch began receiving telephone calls from people who had yet to receive their morning papers. Gosch then went looking for his son. He found Johnny’s wagon full of newspapers two blocks from their home, but no sign of Johnny.

The worried parents immediately called the police. They were forced to wait 72 hours before they could file a missing person’s report. Noreen Gosch maintains to this day that the police were slow in investigating her son’s disappearance.

Johnny Gosch: composite sketch of suspect
“Emilio” – the man driving the Ford Fairmont/

Witnesses reportedly saw Johnny talking to a man at 42nd Street and Marcourt Lane. The man was driving a blue two-tone Ford Fairmont with Nebraska license plates, and Johnny appeared to be giving the man directions.

Some sources state that after Johnny walked away, two men forced him into the Ford Fairmont, where he was held down in the backseat as the car sped away.

There were only other sightings of Johnny a few months later.

In March 1983, a 12-year-old boy matching Johnny’s description approached a woman leaving a store in Oklahoma. The boy said to her, “I’m John David Gosch. Please help me.” Two men came to the boy and led him away. The woman later reported the incident to police in October 1983 after seeing Johnny’s picture during the NBC Movie “Adam” about the disappearance of Adam Walsh. She immediately called the authorities. According to “America’s Most Wanted, “the FBI later confirmed that they believe it was Johnny Gosch.” 

One month later, Noreen Gosch received a phone call. The caller was a boy who said, “Please help me. Please help me. I can’t get away.” Noreen Gosch asked if the boy was okay, and he said he was, although his speech was slurred. 

“Where are you?” she asked, but the caller hung up. 

Johnny’s mother believed it was her son. Unfortunately, police could not trace the call, and the lead slipped through their fingers. West Des Moines Police did not believe the calls were legitimate. However, Noreen Gosch insisted the caller was her son, but even her husband doubted her.

In 1984, Johnny’s photograph appeared alongside Juanita Estevez, 16, on milk cartons across America. Estevez disappeared while going to school. They were the first two abducted children to have their cases publicized in this manner. Estevez escaped from her captors in 1986.

On Aug. 12, 1984, another boy was abducted while delivering the Des Moines Register, the same newspaper Johnny delivered the day he vanished. Eugene Martin, 13, has never been found. Like Johnny, Eugene usually did not go on the route alone; his stepbrother accompanied him. But on this day, it was just him. Noreen Gosch believes the two disappearances are connected.

Two years later, Marc Allen, also 13, vanished on March 29, 1986, from the same general area as Johnny and Eugene, but police do not believe the three cases are related.

In 1989, Paul Bonacci, a young sex offender imprisoned in Nebraska, came forward and told attorney John DeCamp that he was in a pedophile ring with Johnny as a teenager and coerced to participate in Johnny’s abduction. Bonacci mentioned several people involved, including law enforcement officials, politicians, and business owners.

In 1992, “America’s Most Wanted” aired a segment featuring Johnny’s case. With Paul Bonacci’s help, an artist drew several composites of the people involved in Johnny’s kidnapping. The FBI made several failed attempts to keep the show from being aired.

After AMW aired the episode, Noreen Gosch allegedly received a 14-page letter from a guy named “Jimmy,” who gave detailed information about Johnny.

In March 1997, Johnny’s mother claimed she received a visit from her son, and he allegedly told her what had happened to him. He had been abducted into a pedophile ring and forced out when considered too old. However, Johnny could never come home because he knew too much about this ring and feared for his life. Police have never confirmed Noreen Gosch’s story, and Gosch has always been skeptical of his wife’s version of events.

Noreen published a book in 2000 titled “Why Johnny Can’t Come Home.”

In 2006, she began receiving several pictures allegedly of Johnny bound and gagged, evidence that he had been kidnapped. She posted them on her website dedicated to finding Johnny.

Noreen Gosch has endured many threats against her life through the years, yet she remains strong and convinced that this ring abducted Johnny.

She also believes that former CIA agent Michael Aquino purchased Johnny for $35,000 from a South Dakota farm and took him to Colorado. There, Johnny began a torture, mind control, and prostitution program.

Around 2005, there was speculation that former escort and White House reporter, Jeff Gannon, was Johnny. However, sources say Gannon was older than Johnny.

In July 2008, Noreen released information about a second man named Tony, who helped kidnap Johnny. Two composite sketches were made of the abductor’s appearance in 1982 and 10 years later. The suspect is the same man in the composite sketch in the Michaela Garecht case.

Noreen Gosch established the Johnny Gosch Foundation in 1982, shortly after her son went missing. Eventually, it had a website where Noreen Gosh posted information regarding her son’s case, including all the pictures she received. However, it appears to no longer be in operation. The website URL now leads to a different website altogether. 


Applehillgirl September 3, 2016 - 3:29 AM

Both of those websites are no longer attached to John Gosch. Just letting you know. So sad.

truecrimediva September 3, 2016 - 9:33 AM

Oh ok, thank you!

Phil September 7, 2016 - 10:37 PM

I would be curious to know if the police ever interviewed Sam Soda. I was around Des Moines then and was familiar with Soda. Eccentric cat to say the very least.

Trish August 17, 2016 - 1:39 AM

I have read a ton on Johnny. I also know a kid who was involved in something like the pedophile ring. The information rings true. Besides the man who kidnapped that day did not just talk to Johnny, he tried to talk to others, in fact one kid said he was creeped and out he went home. Johnny happened to be a sweet boy with a loving family, so he trusted easily.

Josette February 24, 2015 - 11:50 PM

Great post. I have always found myself intrigued by this case. I think there’s a chance that he was taken in a sex ring. I mean back in the day no one really would’ve considered it. Now days, yeah it’s very possible.

However after so many years, if he’s not totally mental from all the torture, he’s a man now, why not come forward?

As for the CIA I doubt that much, although they have been known to torture and do mind controls, many times when people come forward blasting the CIA something always happens to them, like accidents. I don’t really put a lot of thought in the CIA part of the story. I don’t see them going to a sex ring and buying some kid to do these things.

I seem to think she’s a mother who doesn’t want to let go of the idea that her son might not come back. I do think if there’s witnesses that has came forward about seeing him that morning. Chances are then that person is involved.

truecrimediva February 25, 2015 - 9:22 AM

Hi Josette! I’ve always been intrigued with this case, too. I am Johnny’s age and I can’t even imagine being abducted at 12. In my small town, kids roamed all over and we never gave it a thought of being taken. But those days were different.

I’ve always felt that there was more to this case than we will ever know.

I agree with you on the CIA thing. I know mind control and torture was something they did but I don’t think it is a part of this case. But you never know, I guess.

I feel for Noreen. I can’t imagine what she’s gone through. Hope is probably all she has left.

Terry December 14, 2016 - 5:17 PM

His mother has a website…do you know what it is please? Thank you for all of your work.

truecrimediva December 16, 2016 - 8:06 AM Reply

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