Former Mason City police officer says police may have taken Jodi Huisentruit

2011-09-01T21:53:00Z 2011-09-17T05:44:11Z Former Mason City police officer says police may have taken Jodi HuisentruitBy JOHN SKIPPER, Courier Lee News Service Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
September 01, 2011 9:53 pm  • 

MASON CITY, Iowa --- A former Mason City police officer said Thursday two Mason City police officers and a retired state DCI agent may have been involved in the abduction and possible murder of Jodi Huisentruit.

Further, she alleges police officials may be covering up what really happened by their failure to follow up on leads she has provided.

Maria Ohl, who was terminated from the police department last month, made the accusations while speaking to the media after a Civil Service Commission meeting at City Hall Thursday.

The commission set 9 a.m. Sept. 13 as a date for a hearing she requested concerning her termination.

Huisentruit, a KIMT-TV morning anchor, disappeared in June 1995.

Ohl said she received credible information from an informant implicating Lt. Frank Stearns, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd and Bill Basler of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, who is now retired.

Ohl said she first received information in 2007 that police officers might have been involved in some way in the abduction. In 2009, she said, she received further information.

To her knowledge, nothing has been done with the information she supplied.

Ohl was put on paid administrative leave from the police department last year and was terminated Aug. 4. Ohl said the reason given for her termination was her handling of the Huisentruit information.

"All I want is for the truth to come out. I'm trying to get it out in the open so it won't be a secret any more," she said.

"Never in a million years would I believe people would commit crimes they prosecute others on.

"It's horrifically disturbing. They're still working on the taxpayers' dollar - the whistleblower was put on administrative leave and terminated."

Police Chief Mike Lashbrook said, "With the pending civil service hearing and pending litigation, there a lot of things at play here that prohibit me from commenting at this time."

City Administrator Brent Trout said, "The civil service hearing is public and will give both sides an opportunity to tell their sides.

"There will be a time when we may be able to discuss in detail the procedures the city took, but there's a process in place and it's best now to allow it to play itself out before we comment."

Stearns declined to comment, saying Lashbrook should be the Police Department's spokesman.

Neither Vande Weerd nor Basler could be reached for comment.

Ohl, 36, grew up in Coulter. She joined the Mason City Police Department in 2001.

Last year she filed claims of sex discrimination, religion discrimination and retaliation against the department with the Mason City Human Rights Commission and filed a lawsuit in federal district court.

In a deposition filed with the court, Ohl claims she was subject to ongoing harassment and discriminatory treatment because of her sex and denied training and promotion opportunities.

She said she has repeatedly been subjected to inappropriate behavior, including a male officer pointing an unloaded gun at her head and pulling the trigger; and several instances of lewd language and gestures.

Ohl said Thursday the officer who pointed the gun at her was Sgt. Steve Klemas. She said the harassment began long before the Huisentruit case and has continued since then without any appropriate response to her complaints.

Regarding the religion discrimination, Ohl said in her deposition her church affiliation may have played a part in her being denied promotional opportunities. She said Thursday it also may have been a factor in the harassment she allegedly received.

Ohl is a member of Christian Fellowship Church which earlier this year was awarded nearly $85,000 in a settlement of a suit against the city, Lashbrook and Lt. Logan Wernet. It was filed by The Rev. Shane Philpott, church pastor.

The suit claimed both Lashbrook and Wernet made damaging remarks about the church.

The remarks allegedly led to an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the church's financial records. The IRS cleared Philpott and the church of any wrongdoing.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(31) Comments

  1. jakenichols
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    jakenichols - September 13, 2011 5:20 pm
    time for your coffee, time to wake up. corruption is real, ignoring it and "going along" with it doesn't mean it doesn't happen and happen often.
  2. Steady
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    Steady - September 12, 2011 8:30 am
    jakenichols said: "This is totally believable, the best place for criminals to be is on the police force, think about it. That is why you cannot trust the police. Because they can get away with things like this, you know, murder, kidnapping, assault. Who you gonna call to report them? the police? LOL, they look after their own. I am not saying all cops are bad, but it is a breeding ground for criminal activity. Thats why the constitution gave us the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms, not to hunt squirrels, but as a last line of defense in case those in places of power abuse it. like this. "

    Hello, earth? Time for your medication I think.
  3. jakenichols
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    jakenichols - September 09, 2011 6:54 pm
    This is totally believable, the best place for criminals to be is on the police force, think about it. That is why you cannot trust the police. Because they can get away with things like this, you know, murder, kidnapping, assault. Who you gonna call to report them? the police? LOL, they look after their own. I am not saying all cops are bad, but it is a breeding ground for criminal activity. Thats why the constitution gave us the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms, not to hunt squirrels, but as a last line of defense in case those in places of power abuse it. like this.
  4. Think
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    Think - September 08, 2011 6:13 pm
    OK, this is some serious stuff. Due to the nature I think it has to be looked into. If it is determined that she is making false statements I think she needs to pick up the bill. If her accusations are true, then a whole bunch of people need to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
  5. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - September 07, 2011 1:22 pm
    Justfortoday said: "simple fix...polygraph ALL of them. That should about cover it."

    Polygraphs are unreliable, and are not nearly as cut-and-dried as Hollywood pretends. Furthermore, it is not an easy thing to compel someone to take one -- and if someone is compelled, it could be thrown out as unconstitutional to compel someone to testify against themselves. Finally, they are not allowed as evidence, last I heard, for those very reasons.
  6. Justfortoday
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    Justfortoday - September 07, 2011 8:57 am
    simple fix...polygraph ALL of them. That should about cover it.
  7. Phantom50
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    Phantom50 - September 07, 2011 8:36 am
    Some of the posters here believe Ohl is telling the truth and all others are lying. If her story is true his would have to be a huge conspiracy. Almost all of the MCPD and a number of DCI agents would have to be part of this.

    According to information in another Courier article Ohl's story has a number of holes in it, large gaping holes that should cause any reasonable person to question her veracity.

    The more information comes out the more it appears this seems to be about vengeance by Ohl against her former employer not about seeking justice for Jodi Huisentruit.

  8. UNIGrad01
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    UNIGrad01 - September 06, 2011 4:40 pm
    So it was only important for her to report up this credible, super important information AFTER she was fired. If she felt so strongly, one would think she could have called a compliance hotline, or use another program to report her concerns.

    Amazing all the harrassment she put up with, which was again all ok and no complaints filed until she was fired.

    Sorry, but seems more likely from the information given that she has a history and agenda.
  9. Steady
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    Steady - September 06, 2011 1:54 pm
    Justfortoday said: "If this woman coming forward urges an outside agency to come in and take over this investigation or that of the supposedly dirty cops, then that's good all the way around. She should be glad that her voice made this happen. "

    The problem is that Mason City PD had already called in an outside agency to assist with the investigation, the State of Iowa DCI. Where do you place your bet? The State of Iowa assigned a dirty DCI agent or Ohl is off base with her "credible" information?
  10. Justfortoday
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    Justfortoday - September 06, 2011 8:12 am
    If this woman coming forward urges an outside agency to come in and take over this investigation or that of the supposedly dirty cops, then that's good all the way around. She should be glad that her voice made this happen.
  11. northiowan
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    northiowan - September 05, 2011 7:10 pm
    *hear - apologies for the typo.
  12. northiowan
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    northiowan - September 05, 2011 7:10 pm
    mother3 and bigblklady: Don't believe everything you here. I was physically in the presence of the deputy that is supposed to have killed Rhonda Knutson on the night of her death, up to the moment that he received the call about it. I understand that people want answers, but rumors like this that spread like wildfire and persist for years are not going to accomplish that.

    As far as this case...I'm skeptical because of the behavior of this officer, but I do think that the information needs to be vetted to make sure. Sounds like an outside agency needs to come in to do it, too, because this involves a lot of people inside that very same department. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
  13. cfguy
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    cfguy - September 05, 2011 11:07 am
    Way ahead of you... took several graduate courses in Science and Reigion while working on my masters.
  14. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - September 05, 2011 9:57 am
    cfguy said: ""The way you see her church is how atheists see your church. Just saying." "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being." (Albert Einstein) Most of the atheist I know would do well do adapt Einstein's attitude of humility in matters of religion. I have to laugh whenever I see an atheist type sporting The "Darwin" symbol on the back of their car. While Darwin rejected many of the ideas associated with Christianity, he was never an atheist and frequently (like Einstein) expressed a certain distain for atheist. It is ironic that one of the people atheist love to use to support their ideas, didn't like or respect most atheists.Just Saying..."

    You might want to look into the idea of Spinoza's God -- which is that Darwin and Einstein both expressed belief in. In essence, they believed that the universe is tightly related through natural laws, and that this unity, in effect created a 'natural' god, as opposed to a supernatural one.
  15. balboabombast
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    balboabombast - September 05, 2011 6:28 am
    UNI Alum said: "Man-Oh-Man. I did not even *think* of the angle of the "Reporter with dirt on PD gets killed" angle......scares me. I really hope resources are allocated and a different bureau comes in to clean this mess up. If you can't trust those who Protect & Serve...you've got no hope. I hope Jodi's family gets closure, and soon."

    It seems to me that without any substantive leads in the case and 16 years having already past; that it would be a fairly consistent and reasonable assumption that the real reason no new leads have developed is because good information has been truncated from the investigation teams leadership! Cold-case in Mason to resolve and no one knows anything? Oh, by-the-way the FBI is just as possible interested in the same dynamics as the police. No help there!
  16. cfguy
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    cfguy - September 04, 2011 9:38 am

    "The way you see her church is how atheists see your church. Just saying."

    "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being." (Albert Einstein)

    Most of the atheist I know would do well do adapt Einstein's attitude of humility in matters of religion.

    I have to laugh whenever I see an atheist type sporting The "Darwin" symbol on the back of their car. While Darwin rejected many of the ideas associated with Christianity, he was never an atheist and frequently (like Einstein) expressed a certain distain for atheist. It is ironic that one of the people atheist love to use to support their ideas, didn't like or respect most atheists.

    Just Saying...
  17. Miles Rocks
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    Miles Rocks - September 04, 2011 6:39 am
    Her relationship is that of sister-in-law to Rev. Philpott. Philpott had a parishoner that brought this information to him back in '07. When he took it to Ohl, she said proper proceedure was for him to talk to investigators. He did. THAT'S when the harrassment of his church stated, and the IRS investigation started.

    The man that brought the info forward was murdered. His case is still open, but cold. No leads, nothing

    I lived in Mason City, worked at one of the radio stations there and did various fund raising/charity events with Jodi. She was the "On Your Side" reporter for the station. At the time, and it appears now as well, MCPD was as corrupt and dirty as it comes. Behind the scenes, the media called it Hazard County. A lot of people I knew wondered about police involvment/cover up then.

    Now that this info has come out, it appears there was a reason to wonder. It stinks to high Heaven.
  18. I Scream In The Sun
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    I Scream In The Sun - September 04, 2011 2:11 am
    You really think if there were dirty cops trying to shut up this female police officer, their solution would be to fire her? Well that's just asking to get attention drawn to whatever they're hiding. If the cops actually were trying to hide stuff, you'd think they would have just set this officer up to respond to a call in a bad neighborhood, and have an ambush waiting for her to get killed in what would look like nothing more than a criminal shooting. They have all the means and opportunity to do something like that to shut up somebody who supposedly has information about alleged police crimes, and yet simply firing her, THAT appears to be evidence they're trying to shut her up? If anything, it almost works to the contrary, by drawing attention and fueling her motivation to protest. If they're as dangerous and dirty as she claims, then how have they even allowed her to make those claims? That makes as much sense as a firsthand account of a shipwreck with no survivors, or what Medusa looks like, etc. "If it is as you say, then how are you to say?"

    Maybe the cops are dirty, maybe not. But I can only hope that her claims are able to be routed through the proper impartial channels higher up / independent of her department (FBI or state police, I'm not sure who would investigate) and given their fair day in court, and thereafter, this is put to rest. If crimes are being covered up, hopefully justice is delivered for them. If she is a nutjob who is making up stories or really bending and twisting circumstantial evidence to create these accusations, then hopefully she is duly punished for these false claims and for the time, manpower, and costs associated with investigating them.
  19. Phantom50
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    Phantom50 - September 03, 2011 9:31 pm
    This former officer's accusations are very serious. However publicly accusing somebody of being complicit in the disappearance of a person based solely on uncorroborated information from an unnamed informant smacks of reprisal and does not seem to be about seeking justice.

    However, now that the accusation is out there the Mason City Mayor and City Council would do well to call in an outside agency to investigate these allegations.

    Accusations like this can be very damaging to the reputation of a Police Department. The citizens of Mason City deserve to know what role, if any, some their officers may have had in the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. The accused officers also have the right to have this fully investigated so their names can be cleared if the accusations are found to be false. Without an impartial investigation this thing will likely hang over their heads for the remainder of their careers, if not the rest of their lives.
  20. bigblklady
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    bigblklady - September 03, 2011 10:54 am
    I just wish they would get to the bottom of it and if there is any information people come forward and get this case closed. This case has caused me much headache. I will be soooooooo happy for the family if this is true. They can finally have peace. They will know they killer/s are locked up.

    Everyone has a closet, you just never know what is in it until they leave the door cracked.

    Mother3- I grew up in Chickasaw county and heard these rumors growing up as well. But I am sure if it is true we will never know. Which is very sad.
  21. atrmods
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    atrmods - September 03, 2011 9:58 am
    Time for the F.B.I to make a trip to MCPD, #1 DIRTY COPS!
  22. UNI Alum
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    UNI Alum - September 03, 2011 9:49 am
    Man-Oh-Man. I did not even *think* of the angle of the "Reporter with dirt on PD gets killed" angle......scares me. I really hope resources are allocated and a different bureau comes in to clean this mess up. If you can't trust those who Protect & Serve...you've got no hope. I hope Jodi's family gets closure, and soon.
  23. Scoot
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    Scoot - September 02, 2011 2:22 pm
    Freedom, the City wouldn't have paid the $85,000 if there wasn't an element of truth. What we know is that the MCPD has a lot of issues. As far as this girl, we don't know yet.
  24. IowanAtheist
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    IowanAtheist - September 02, 2011 10:29 am
    Freedom of Speech said: "She may be a crack pot because she belongs to a crack pot CULT church. This church twits the minds of its members and I can only bet that Rev. Shane Philpott has some involvement in her accusations. She is claiming freedom of religion rights about the same time the law suit happened. Hmmmm A story should be done on the Church. Let’s see how freedom of speech gets squashed when the Rev. Shane Philpott is involved. Freedom of speech made Shane $85,000 from a gutless city."

    The way you see her church is how atheists see your church. Just saying.
  25. Freedom of Speech
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    Freedom of Speech - September 02, 2011 9:23 am
    She may be a crack pot because she belongs to a crack pot CULT church. This church twits the minds of its members and I can only bet that Rev. Shane Philpott has some involvement in her accusations. She is claiming freedom of religion rights about the same time the law suit happened. Hmmmm A story should be done on the Church. Let’s see how freedom of speech gets squashed when the Rev. Shane Philpott is involved. Freedom of speech made Shane $85,000 from a gutless city.
  26. areu4real
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    areu4real - September 02, 2011 9:16 am
    Although I hope this is not true, I would not be too quick to discredit this story. This could be settled easy with a polygraph being given to the alleged whistleblower and retired officers. Of course it would have to be administered by a privite entity. Let's get it scheduled and settle this!!!!

  27. Steady
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    Steady - September 02, 2011 9:07 am
    In another article Ohl suggested she was discriminated against when men on her department left her out of communications about suspects or cases. Was she left out because of her gender or because she couldn't be trusted with the information?

    If she couldn't be trusted with the information I would be very hesitant to believe any information from one of her confidential informants. We have no idea who the CI is, if the CI was made available to investigators, what information the CI even offered (if any). I would also be interested to know if the CI had any dealings with the officers that the CI accusses.

    Has anyone seen information on why Ohl was terminated? I wonder if that would reveal some of what is going on as well. This is one of those cases that a lot of information cannot be shared because the disapperanace is an ongoing investigation and Ohl's termination is still in the process.
  28. donnysqwer
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    donnysqwer - September 02, 2011 8:37 am
    Hope this resolves things. Sometimes cops gotta do what they gotta do!
  29. Justfortoday
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    Justfortoday - September 02, 2011 7:09 am
    Sounds to me like she's had enough of the harassment and they didn't like the fact that she was bringing up issues that they are trying to cover up. I will be curious to see how this all plays out. Wonder what Jodi had on these police officers to make them want to do away with her? It all sounds legit to me and I pray this woman stays safe and they don't try to retaliate further against her.
  30. nobodyspecial
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    nobodyspecial - September 02, 2011 6:21 am
    Sounds more like a disgruntled former employee attempting to stir the pot and grab some headlines, more so than it does whistleblowing. She has a grudge to bare against her former co-workers and she's out for revenge. Her list of complaints against the city and co-workers is almost endless. Mike Lashbrook is a former captain with the Cedar Falls P.D. and is an honorable guy. If this woman expressed her concerns to this chief, I believe they would be invesigated and resolved, if they were legit.
  31. mother3
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    mother3 - September 02, 2011 1:28 am
    Word on the street is that law enforcement is likely to blame in another woman's mysteriously unsolved death in Chickasaw County at Williamstown about as many years ago as Jodi's case.
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