The TV show "48 Hours" promises to reveal "new information" Saturday in the unsolved case of Iowa anchorwoman Jodi Huisentruit, who disappeared 23 years ago.
The 27-year-old Minnesota native vanished while heading to work one morning in June 1995, leaving behind evidence of a struggle in her apartment parking lot but few clues as to who assaulted her. In the two decades since, investigators in Mason City, an Iowa community of 30,000 people about 140 miles south of the Twin Cities, have chased hundreds of tips but have yet to make an arrest.
"It's been an awfully long time," said JoAnn Nathe, Jodi's oldest sister who lives in Sauk Centre, Minn., and was interviewed for the TV show. "I don't know if it's going to solve the case right away, but it will help. We're hoping somebody … will come forward."
In a news release, "48 Hours" said it will have new information and "never-before-seen footage of a man who remains on police radar." The man was a friend of Huisentruit's and said he was the last person to see her alive; he took a lie-detector exam after her disappearance and said he passed with "flying colors." He's now 72 and living in Arizona. In 2017, police obtained a search warrant for GPS information from two of his vehicles.
In a promotion for the show, which airs at 9 p.m. Saturday, Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley was also interviewed. He didn't return messages for comment. Former WCCO-TV reporter Caroline Lowe, who left the station in 2011 and is part of a team at FindJodi.com dedicated to finding Huisentruit, was also interviewed.
"That's how we could get a break," Lowe said Thursday from her California home about the national attention for a case she's followed from the start. "There's a lot of hope, but I'm trying to keep my hope measured because we've been down this road before."
Huisentruit, who grew up in Long Prairie, Minn., as the youngest of three sisters, graduated from St. Cloud State University. She was heading to her job as the morning and noon producer/anchor for the CBS-TV affiliate KIMT-TV when she disappeared at 4 a.m. that June day. Officers immediately deemed it an abduction after finding her car in the parking lot and a pair of women's shoes, a blow dryer, bottle of hair spray, car keys and earrings scattered around the car. A person later reported hearing a scream in the parking lot between 4 and 5 a.m.
Police looked into whether there was a connection to a man who had lived in Mason City and was charged in a series of rapes in the Twin Cities, but he later was ruled out as a suspect. Huisentruit's family hired private investigators who also were unable to turn up any answers, and by 2001, the family filed a legal petition to have her declared dead.
"We miss her," Nathe said Thursday. "She was just our sunshine. She had such a bright future."
While some have theories about what happened, she said she's keeping an open mind.
"It could have been a stalker," she said. "It could be somebody we least expect. It's frustrating. You want it solved."
Last June, when Huisentruit would have turned 50, new billboards with her photo were put up in Mason City, which Lowe said sparked the interest of "48 Hours." Another case that Lowe followed — the abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling of St. Joseph, Minn., in 1989 that remained unsolved until a 2016 confession from the killer — gives her hope that Huisentruit's case will now get some fresh attention and eventually, answers.
"We saw with Jacob it took another look" at the case to solve it, she said. "I think you'll see a big flood of [tips]."