COLUMBUS, GA — Today is a solemn anniversary — and one that reminds us of the importance of being extra cautious, especially for those of us who travel in the early morning and late evening hours. Twenty one years ago today, the people of Mason City, Iowa, woke up to a tragic story that would make national headlines. A popular young news anchor vanished on her way to work, and sadly, we still don’t know what happened to her.
The year was 1995. Jodi Huisentruit was at the height of popularity and had become a household name as weekday morning and noon anchor on CBS affiliate KIMT in Mason City, Iowa — a sister station to WRBL.
On June 27, some time after 4 a.m., Jodi was running a bit late for work and rushed out the door of her apartment building and into the darkness of the complex’s parking lot. Within a matter of seconds . . . It happened.
Jodi Huisentruit disappeared. Police say they found her hair dryer, jewelry, a bent key, and high heel shoes among the items left behind, scattered on the pavement around her car, indicating she fought hard to fend off the attack. These items are the only traces of Jodi that were ever found. Now, 21 years later, she remains a missing person — and her family and friends have no answers.
Jodi’s disappearance drove home the need for everyone—especially women— to be extra cautious in desolate areas such as parking lots. To honor Jodi’s memory, WRBL News 3 consulted some local experts about self-defense tactics.
Josh Bowlin is a martial arts instructor in Columbus. He says that studying martial arts not only helps in self-defense, but teaches how to control emotions in times of danger.
“That’s the whole thing is being able to react without panicking. Thinking clearly,” Bowlin says.
Captain Phyllis Pendleton of the Phenix City Police offers these safety tips.
“If you’re out with a friend, and the cars are not close, walk together to your car, get in the person’s car, and let them drive you to your car,” says Captain Pendleton. “A lot of times, women have to go somewhere at night that they’re not familiar with. What I’d suggest they’d do is that they go to that place during daylight hours so that they can see where it is, so they know where it is, and they can find a better place to park their car– or the safest place to park their car.”
Mason City Police and Jodi’s family say they are not giving up, even as this haunting, unsolved mystery heads toward a third decade.