WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- On Sunday morning, September 5, 1982, 12 year-old Des Moines Register paperboy Johnny Gosch left his West Des Moines home at 1004 45th St. to begin his paper route, but he never came home. "He came down this street, came down this sidewalk, next thing they know, he`s gone. His wagon and his dog are like right here," said homeowner Neal Baedke, while standing in front of his house near 42nd St. and Marcourt Lane. Those who now live where Johnny Gosch was last seen 34 years ago have to learn about the case from documentaries, books, and movies. "I actually learned about it a couple days ago. Neal pulled up a video, it was called "Who Took Johnny," said Neal's wife, Deb Baedke.
But one man who knows the story inside and out is Ron Sampson. "I still feel like it just happened yesterday, but then I look in the mirror when I`m shaving and I realize 34 years have gone on in my life too. My kids have grown. They`ve got kids Johnny`s age now. I have grandkids Johnny`s age," said Sampson. Sampson had a column in the Ankeny Press Citizen Newspaper at the time Johnny went missing. "I was 28 years-old when that happened. I was 29 when we joined that organization. I`m 63 . I can`t believe it," said Sampson.
At the suggestion of one of his readers, Sampson contacted Johnny's parents, John and Noreen. He then joined the "Help Find Johnny Gosch Foundation," and even became its president. "Every Friday night I hoped we wouldn`t be meeting the next Friday night, except to write the finally chapter of this. I was always hoping that I would write a column saying 'found Johnny Gosch and here`s the story,' and instead I just kept running these little calendars that showed one month, two months, three months, nine months, 12 months. Then it was two years, three years. It’s 34 years, and imagine yourself being John Gosch or Noreen Gosch, waking up and trying to breath everyday, thinking what happened and not having the first clue," said Sampson.
34 years later, the emotion Sampson feels is as powerful as ever. “They were so gracious to my wife and myself about our kids, you know, can you imagine being social friends with them, and asking them to enjoy your children when they don’t know where theirs is. I had two very successful sons, I had a son that pitched in the major leagues and they were the first ones to call me," said Sampson.
Sampson does have hope and believes one day there will be answers to the mystery of what happened to Johnny Gosch.