Johnny Gosch missing 34 years

At the request of Brittany K., I am writing about John David Gosch on the 34th anniversary of his disappearance.

The facts are these: Johnny was a twelve-year-old paperboy in West Des Moines, Iowa and on the morning of his disappearance, he slipped out of the house before 6:00 a.m. to do this route alone — something he wasn’t allowed to do; he was supposed to bring his dad with him. A witness reported seeing Johnny talking to guy in a car.

After that, no one really knows. Johnny kind of walked into a void. He was missed at seven o’clock when customers began to complain that they hadn’t gotten their papers. Johnny’s wagon and newspapers turned up on the sidewalk just two blocks from his house.

The internet is rife with theories and speculation as to what happened — the more so because Johnny’s mother, Noreen Gosch, claims her son secretly visited her in 1997 and told her he had been abducted by a pedophile ring.

Eugene Wade Martin, a 13-year-old paperboy from Des Moines, also disappeared while on his route, less than two years after Johnny did, and there are a lot of theories that the two cases are connected somehow. And I should note that Marc James-Warren Allen disappeared from Des Moines, less than two years after Eugene Martin, but I don’t know much about his case. He wasn’t a paperboy.

With the latest news about Jacob Wetterling’s remains being found, some people have suggested Danny Heinrich (the prime suspect in Jacob’s case) should be looked at in the Des Moines disappearances as well. I have no idea whether the police have looked into this or not. But I do want to point out that Des Moines is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from St. Joseph, Minnesota, the town where Jacob was taken.

(If you guys are wondering why I haven’t resolved his case yet, it’s because according to my user stats, everyone is looking at right now. I’ll give it another day or so before I pull him.)

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11 thoughts on “Johnny Gosch missing 34 years

  1. Kim September 5, 2016 / 10:35 pm

    I just watched ” Where is Johnny” on Netflix. I also read Noreen’s book about 10 years ago. What a convoluted mess. I call total incompetence on the DSM police dept too. They have actually refused to link the Gosch and Martin disappearances. Both boys paper it’s and both were seen taking to men before they disappeared. I think all 3 may be related. Seems like Paul Bonacci wasn’t believe either due to his MPD. How I wish we could have answers here.

    • Erin F September 7, 2016 / 1:51 pm

      I too just watched “Where is Johnny’ – I can’t believe no on in the police department is working this the way that it should be. You’d hope that by now there would be a set of new eyes on this. So many leads that no one is checking….ridiculous.

      Two paperboys go missing, around the same age – how can they NOT be related???

  2. michael w. September 6, 2016 / 1:56 am

    I have the Maximum Drama episode on this. I believe Marc Allen used to be a paperboy, but wasn’t at the time of his disappearance.

    While I do believe all Gosch, Martin and Allen are all connected, I don’t believe there are ties to the Wetterling case (and I had thought about a possible connection before). With Heinrich, he had molested boys in Paynesville, MN in the mid-late 80’s, which is where he lived. By 1989, he was getting more aggressive, using a gun in his two known attacks that year. Jacob was the first and only known victim he didn’t let go. It’s possible Heinrich didn’t plan to murder him, but did so because either Heinrich snapped or he felt Jacob was putting up to much resistance, or whatever. There aren’t any known assaults after Jacob, so maybe he “retired” after he murdered Wetterling.
    In any event, not only did the Iowa cases happen a considerable distance from Wetterling, the m.o’s are also entirely different.

    I’ve also considered the possibility of Matthew Ferris being another victim tied to this. He was a little older at 18, but also disappeared from Des Moines (in 1991). I could also see suicide there, given his mental state, but dang, that’s a confusing case. Seriously, check it out and let me know what you all think.

  3. Melinda September 6, 2016 / 8:45 am

    I’m still broken up about Jacob Wetterling’s remains finally being discovered. 😦

    On the subject of Johnny Gosch, I believe that he has been dead for a long time, like Jacob. I have NEVER believed that the person who claims to be Johnny actually is him.
    It is cruel of that individual to give Noreen Gosch false hope.

    Some people feel that there is a chance that this guy could be Johnny, and I know that Noreen believes that he is her son.
    Sadly I believe that as a grieving mother, she has convinced herself of this like some other parents of missing children who don’t want to accept the possibility that their loved ones may be deceased.
    I really hope that we will find the answers to this puzzle someday.

    • michael w. September 6, 2016 / 12:59 pm

      You are right Melinda. Family members of Nicholas Barclay believed for months that Frederic Bourdain was Nicholas, despite different eye color and so forth. One sure way they could have checked was by looking at his teeth. Bourdain’s front teeth are quite spaced apart, all of them. Nicholas has/had one gap in the middle, and that was it.

      While we’re on this subject, I am dying to hear what people think about the Nicholas Barclay case. Having just rewatched parts of The Imposter yesterday, I am still torn on the family. On one hand, they are all pretty dense if Bourdain had them fooled for so long, but one thing nags me: Nick’s case was cold by 1997. Some suggest the family wanted to parade Bourdain around as Nick to steer suspicions away from them if they killed him, but why? Being that Nick’s case was cold, and given the investigators started looking harder at the family after Frederick’s identity was revealed, they actually hurt themselves, not helped.

      The sister at least does a decent job of saying things you think an innocent person would say, such as going through the various emotions one would under the circumstances (sadness, confusion, humiliation, etc). and so forth. And she does come across as generally pissed at Bourdain, and really, who wouldn’t be? The guy has caused so much grief to families of victims it’s unbelievable. When he said he didn’t care about anyone but himself, I wanted to bash his face in. He couldn’t stop lying to save his life.

      But what motive would his family have for killing Nicky? The only thing I can think of is that he pushed his rebellious streak too far and one of them lashed out, but would all of them keep silent for 20+ years? Baffling case.

      Not trying to derail the thread here. I think of Johnny, Eugene, Marc and Matthew often.

      • Melinda September 6, 2016 / 9:37 pm

        The Barclay case IS bizarre, Michael…I hope Nick’s family had nothing to do with his disappearance, but you never know sometimes.

        As to Jacob Wetterling, the part that hurts me the most is that Jacob asked his abductor, prior to being raped and murdered, “what did I do wrong?”
        That poor little boy. I can’t understand the evil in this world. Look at the sweet innocence in his eyes, in his smile…why do these things happen? One minute he was just a kid playing with his friends, the next minute he was being brutalized by a monster.

        I hope that the same fate didn’t befall Johnny Gosch. But sadly, I believe something similar did happen to Johnny, as it does to many children (and adults!) who are abducted.
        Only a few seem to escape alive even if they are traumatized after.

        Similar to the Nick Barclay case, there was a fellow who showed up at Noreen Gosch’s home claiming to be Johnny but I think that’s a load of crap.
        His name is Jeff Gannon (or James Guckert, he goes by different names) and he convinced her that he was her long-lost son.
        A lot of things point to him NOT being Johnny, in my opinion. If it turns out that I’m wrong and he is Johnny, then I’ll eat my words.
        But until then I don’t believe he is.

  4. michael w. September 7, 2016 / 12:53 am

    Oh God Melinda, I just heard that as well as other details. Apparently the monster handcuffed Jacob, and the boys offered the creep the videotape if he would just go away. That breaks my heart. It was difficult to take in. I personally feel prison is too good of a punishment for Heinrich. He deserves to be beaten up daily for what he did, and that’s just for starters.

  5. forthelost September 7, 2016 / 2:53 pm

    My unpopular opinion is that Gosch and Allen’s cases are more likely to be related than Gosch and Martin. Gosch and Allen both have similar coloring and features.

  6. Jabarn September 27, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    A case like his would make any mom go insanel Johnny’s mom did great and how hard she fought. That being said, I do wonder if there is any connection to the same perpetrator in Jacob’s case, a likely serial killer. The locations are within driving distance, and a car was clearly involved. On the one hand, great job by the investigators in the modern Jacob case working out a plea deal to lead to the location of Jacob’s body many years later. On the other hand, some more incentives could be offered to provide the location of anyone else he may not have become a suspect. Just look at the mugshot for out paperboys and tell me there isn’t a resemblance.

  7. Mark Grinshpun October 17, 2016 / 11:52 am

    The only and biggest fault of the WDPD is that they never conducted a full and complete investigation. And that would include investigating Noreen and John Gosch sr. Whom in my opinion are guilty as the day is long. ANYONE who has seen ” who took Johnny” on netflix can see the duping Delight pouring out of BOTH Noreen and John sr. And also their appearance, gestures and body language do not match that of those of two parents who are frantically trying to find their missing son. Also all you have to do is listen to Noreen tell her story 3 different times and you will find differences in ALL of them! These inconsistencies in a person’s story are a tell-tale sign of guilt. These are all things that police and investigators look for while examining the parents, In missing child cases you always start with the parents because that’s the natural order of Investigation. Noreen knows where and what happened to her son, but shes not telling because there’s a lot of money in “Johnny the missing paperboy ” not “Johnny the murdered paperboy by his patents” or even in “Johnny the sold by his parents paperboy ” I suggest ANYONE looking for some truth in this mess go to DAVIDSHURTER.COM use the navigation box and search ‘gosch’.

  8. dpotochny@yahoo.com December 19, 2016 / 12:18 am

    Discrepancies abound in the Gosch case. Watch “Who Took Johnny” and see one of the biggest discrepancies of all. During an interview with Leonard Gosch, he states that he found Johnny’s wagon empty two blocks from home. Yet, in several other accounts. Leonard found the wagon full of Sunday Des Moines Registers.

    The best part is Leonard claims he delivered the wagon full of newspapers. Pleas let me know if you know any parents that would finish a paper route knowing his or her son has disappeared.

    Just the tip of the iceberg. How many paper boys took dogs on them during their paper delivery routes. And Johnny’s dog was a dachshund.

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