Johnny Gosch Foundation

Johnny Gosch Foundation

Johnny Gosch: 25 Years of Heart Break and Service

It's a story that catapulted Iowa into the national spotlight, changed state law and continues to draw awareness to human trafficking. It's a recurring nightmare for parents across the nation... and a living nightmare for Noreen Gosch that has unwillingly launched her into a life of public service.

On this day 25 years ago, Johnny Gosch left his home to work his Des Moines Register paper route. What happened after that has been the subject of speculation. According to Noreen Gosch, two men approached him, he was thrown into a vehicle and kidnapped.

"Last September I received a packet of photographs," Gosch said during an abuse prevention conference in Cedar Rapids. The image of a young boy, hog-tied and wearing only his underpants and socks illuminated the wall beside her. "This is my son Johnny near the time when he was kidnapped. His is still 12-years-old in this picture."

Gasps and sobs filled the hotel conference room on that day in May, but Gosch stood in quiet testimony to what she believed happened to her son 25 years ago.

"I knew immediately it was my son and it has also been confirmed by forensic specialists at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who have examined and compared [the photos] with existing pictures I had," she said.

West Des Moines police are no longer tracking the origin of the photos, reports the Register. They stopped after a Florida investigator said the photos stemmed from a case he investigated prior to Johnny's disappearance.

Early this morning, Gosch wrote a personal note to her son on the website she created in his honor.

"You are loved and missed by all of your family," she wrote. "It is important for you to know that we have tried everything possible to bring resolution to your case, to make it safe for you to live your life. All of the information which we have researched and collected has been given to the FBI, it is in their hands now... If nothing is done then we will all know that they did not go forward with it.

"My hope is that the latest report saying you are still alive is true and that one day we will be able to see each other again."

She also posted a list of the things she knows 25 years after her son was kidnapped. She begins the list with noting how it all feels "like it was yesterday."

Gosch believes her son was taken for the purpose of satisfying pedophiles, that he was sold into a human trafficking network. She's had reports that he is alive and living in fear his life will be ended by those who wish to silence his knowledge of the trafficking network. And, of course, that the photos sent to her last fall are of her son and were taken shortly after he was kidnapped.

A month after Johnny was taken, Noreen founded The Johnny Gosch Foundation and developed a program called "In Defense of Children." She has toured the nation, providing nearly 1,000 personal appearances on missing children, law enforcement, human trafficking and overall awareness. On July 1, 1984 a bill she authored -- the Johnny Gosch Bill -- was passed into Iowa law. It mandates immediate police involvement when a child is missing. It has since been adopted by eight additional states.

That same year, she traveled to Washington, D.C. and testified before Congress as a part of hearings on organized crime. Her testimony led to death threats and also, in part, the eventual establishment of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She was invited by Pres. Ronald Reagan to the opening and dedication of the center.

She has also worked on two documentaries, one for HBO and another for the State Department. Her story and Johnny's story was the focus of a book, "Why Johnny Can't Come Home" that originally published in 2000.


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