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40 years later: Remembering Johnny Gosch's disappearance

A mental health expert explains why cases like Johnny Gosch's captivate audiences for decades after.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Today marks 40 years since Johnny Gosch disappeared from West Des Moines.

The then 12-year-old boy was delivering papers when he vanished from his neighborhood on Sept. 5, 1982. 

In an interview with Local 5 in 2012, Johnny's mother, Noreen, said that she often thought of her son's disappearance.

"There's no continuation and finish of a grieving process because you can't," Noreen said. "It's still open."

His disappearance inspired her to fight to make changes, eventually bringing about the "Johnny Gosch Bill," which mandated immediate police response for reports of missing kids. 

"I vowed when Johnny was kidnapped, this kidnapping would not go down in the pages of history as just another tragedy that happened to a kid," she said. "Every missing child deserves an immediate investigation. They're gone. They're missing."

RELATED: From cold cases, to recent disappearances: How Iowa maintains their database of missing persons

And the case of Johnny hasn't remained local. 

It has garnered lots of attention on social media sites such as TikTok, with hundreds of videos and groups dedicated to the case in recent years.

Kenneth Cameron — a mental health therapist — says the reason so many are intrigued by this case is because many wonder how could this have happened.

"Social media and television, in general, has an influence and an impact on what individuals do they way individuals think and it forms an idea," Cameron said. "Can I do this? Should I do this? Is that even possible?"

In the decade-old interview with Local 5, Noreen said she'd never given up looking for her son and kidnappers and never will.

"Life was normal before Johnny was kidnapped. After, [it was] just the opposite of normal," she said.

The case of Johnny Gosch is still active. If you have any tips, contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation's Missing Person Information Clearinghouse at 515-725-6036.

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