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Noreen Gosch: I saw Johnny

Mother of missing carrier didn't tell police because she feared for son's life

Register Staff Writer

Noreen Gosch said Saturday that her missing son, Johnny, visited her at her West Des Moines apartment in 1997. She said she never told authorities because Johnny said it would put their lives in danger.

"I had no warning," she said. "He just showed up."

She said she didn't call police right away because her son - who would have been 27 years old at the time - arrived with another man, and she thought others might be outside in the car.

She said Johnny told her not to disclose that he was alive "and I haven't done so because it was in his best interests."

Gosch said she immediately recognized the long-haired visitor who knocked at her door about 2:30 a.m. in March 1997. He opened his shirt to show a birthmark on his chest.

"We talked about an hour or an hour and a half. He was with another man, but I have no idea who the person was. Johnny would look over to the other person for approval to speak."

West Des Moines police said the case remains under investigation and would not comment further. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said he is happy for Noreen Gosch if her son is alive, but said he thinks Johnny Gosch would be safer coming to police than trying to hide.

The reported visit was yet another odd twist in the bizarre disappearance of newspaper carrier Johnny Gosch, who was 12 years old when he vanished without a trace Sept. 5, 1982, in West Des Moines. His wagon was found about two blocks from his home, filled with copies of The Des Moines Sunday Register he was to deliver.

On Aug. 12, 1984, Eugene Martin, 13, who was also delivering The Des Moines Sunday Register, vanished from a south Des Moines neighborhood, also without a trace.

Dozens of people, as far away as Africa and Canada, have claimed to have seen the boys, individually or together. Police have been skeptical and haven't established a motive. But Noreen Gosch has insisted her son was taken by a ring of international pornographers who abuse children.

Although investigators say they have been unable to link the abductions, there is a suspicion they are connected because of the boys' ages, the fact the incidents happened on an early Sunday morning and because both victims were carriers.

Noreen Gosch disclosed the early morning meeting with her son while under oath in federal court in Lincoln, Neb., during a hearing on a civil lawsuit. The suit was brought by Paul A. Bonacci against Larry King, a manager of the defunct Franklin Credit Union who Bonacci says sexually abused him. Bonacci has said he took part in Johnny Gosch's abduction, but Sarcone said investigators concluded any involvement by Bonacci was not credible.

Noreen Gosch said she doesn't know the whereabouts now of her son. "He didn't say where he is living or where he was going."

She said she did not tell her former husband, John Gosch, of the meeting. John Gosch could not be reached for comment Saturday.