Play takes up real life mystery of TV anchor's dissapearance

Gary Peterson, of Spring Valley, co-wrote a play on the 1995 disappearance of television news anchor Jodi Huisentruit in Mason City, Iowa. The play will be presented June 27-30 in Spring Valley.

Of all the stories Gary Peterson, of Spring Valley, worked on as news director at KAAL-TV, one has stuck with him.

Since 2002, he and then KAAL news anchor Josh Benson, have investigated the 1995 disappearance of KIMT-TV morning news anchor Jodi Huisentruit, of Mason City, Iowa.

"We can't let this one die," he said.

Huisentruit, 27, was on her way to work when she disappeared on June 27, 1995, from her apartment complex parking lot in Mason City. There are no suspects in her case.

Based on their investigation, Peterson and Benson produced a 14-part TV series that won an Eric Sevareid award for journalism excellence. They also went onto create the website

Peterson has since changed careers becoming a medicolegal death investigator traveling the country and helping law enforcement with missing persons cases. And now, for the first time, he helped write a play about the case with the help of Brave Community Theater founder Debi Neville,

"Fade to Black" looks at the last days before Huisentruit's disappearance, told using excerpts from her journal, letters and information from her family and friends.

While the disappearance is the core of the story, there are layers and layers to peel back, Neville said. "It's not a simple abduction. There are so many circumstances surrounding it."

Footage and interviews collected by Peterson will be integrated in the production, she said.

"It brings it to life that this a true story, and that it's ongoing and not solved," Neville said.

Yet the play isn't a news cast, she said, explaining that the goal is to reveal who Huisentruit was as a person, not just a statistic.

Opening night falls on the 17th anniversary of Huisentruit's adbuction and possible slaying.

"Somebody did this and that person has gotten away with it for 17 years," Neville said. "That's very disturbing."

Peterson, who will serve as the narrator of the play, also will answer questions about the case at the end of each production.

"The answer is out there," Peterson said.

What's your reaction?