The 1982 Disappearance of Johnny Gosch

This post was originally published in 2012. 

Johnny Gosch
Johnny Gosch

On September 5, 1982, 12-year-old Johnny Gosch was kidnapped from Des Moines, IA while delivering the local Sunday newspaper. Normally, Johnny’s father, John Sr., would 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. Johnny left his home without his parents aware he was leaving.

At 7:00 a.m., John and Noreen Gosch began receiving telephone calls from people who had not yet received their morning paper. John then went looking for his son. He found Johnny’s wagon that was full of papers 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 maintains to this day that the police were slow in investigating her son’s case.

Photo credit:
“Emilio” – the man driving the Ford Fairmont. Photo credit:

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 reports state that after Johnny walked away, he was taken by two men and forced into the Ford Fairmont where he was held down in the backseat as the car sped away.

There were no other sightings of Johnny until a few months later.

In March 1983, a 12-year old boy, matching Johnny’s description, approached a woman leaving a store in Oklahoma. He said to her, “I’m John David Gosch. Please help me.” Before the woman could do anything, two men approached the boy and lead him away. She later reported this to police in October 1983 after seeing Johnny’s photo during the NBC Movie “Adam.” She immediately phoned authorities and the FBI later confirmed that they believe it was Johnny Gosch (

One month later, Noreen received a phone call. On the other end was a boy who said, “Please help me. Please help me. I can’t get away.” Noreen asked if the boy was okay, and he said that he was, although his speech was slurred.  “Where are you?” she asked, but the caller hung up. Noreen was convinced it was her son. Unfortunately, police were unable to trace the call and the lead slipped through their fingers. The West Des Moines Police did not believe the calls were legitimate, but Noreen insisted the caller was her son, but even her own husband doubted her.

In 1984, Johnny’s photograph appeared alongside that of Juanita Rafaela Estavez on milk cartons across America. They were the first two abducted children to have their cases publicized in this manner.

That same year, on August 12th, another boy was abducted while delivering the Des Moines Register, the same newspaper Johnny was delivering the day he vanished.  Eugene Martin, 13 years old at the time, has never been found. Like Johnny, Eugene normally did not go on the route alone, his stepbrother usually accompanied him. But on this day, it was just him. Noreen believes they are connected.

In 1989, Paul Bonacci, a young sex offender imprisoned in Nebraska, came forward and told attorney John DeCamp that he was in a sex ring with Gosch as a teenager and was coerced into participating in Gosch’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, and with the help of Paul Bonacci, several composites were drawn of the people involved in Johnny’s kidnapping. The FBI made several failed attempts to keep the show from being aired.

After AMW aired, Noreen received a 14-page letter from a guy named “Jimmy”. In this letter, Jimmy gave detailed information to Noreen about her son.

In March 1997, Noreen claimed she received a visit from Johnny who told her what had happened to him. However, he could never come home for good because he knew too much about this pedophile ring and feared for his life.

In 2000, Noreen published a book called, “Why Johnny Can’t Come Home”.

In 2006, Noreen began receiving several pictures of Johnny bound and gagged, proof to her that he had been kidnapped.

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

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

In 1975, Michael Aquino founded The Temple of Set, which according to, is an initiatory occult society claiming to be the world’s leading left-hand path religious organization. It professes Setian philosophy and magical practice.

In July 2008, Noreen released information about a second man, named Tony, who helped kidnap Johnny. Two composite sketches were made of how the abductor looked in 1982 and then 10 years later. It just so happens that this sketch is the same composite sketch of the abductor in the Michaela Garecht case.

For more detailed information about Johnny’s case, please visit The Johnny Gosch Foundation.

To read my thoughts on this case, please click here.

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Author: truecrimediva

True crime blogger

  • Applehillgirl

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

    • Oh ok, thank you!

      • 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.

  • 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

    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.

    • 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.