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

Play takes up real life mystery of TV anchor's disappearance
Gary Peterson of Spring Valley has researched the abduction of Jodi Huisentruit for the 17 years since her disappearance from her apartment in Mason City Iowa. Huisentruit was a television news anchor for KIMT-TV, in Mason City, Iowa. Peterson, a medicolegal death investigator, co-wrote and will be playing a role in a play on the incident being produced by Debi Neville. Peterson holds a copy of a personal letter written by Huisentruit dated 2 days before the abduction.

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

Based on their extensive investigation, Peterson and Benson produced a 14-part series that won an Eric Sevareid Award for journalism excellence. They also went on to create the website about the case .


Peterson has since changed careers. He is now a medicolegal death investigator, traveling the country to help law enforcement with missing person cases. And now, he has 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 and is told using excerpts from Huisentruit's journal, letters and information from her family and friends.

"I'm a mystery reader, between more serious things, and I'm a writer of fiction," Neville said. "And I can't imagine this being made up in someone's mind."

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, Neville 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 newscast, 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 abduction.


"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, will also answer questions about the case at the end of each production.

"The answer is out there," Peterson said.

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