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STEVEN THOMPSON THE PRESS-NEWS 

Huffman, kneeling, along with her mom, Ginger Meirick, on the left, and Huffman's daughter, Samantha, work together to decorate the tree with Santas.


Local
featured
North Iowa grandmother inspires woman’s Santa collection (with photos)

When children are young they sometimes start collecting things.

Collections may change as they grow older, but that wasn't the case for Angie (Meirick) Huffman, of Osage.

Huffman’s grandmother, Dolores Weinberger purchased a Santa as a birthday present for Huffman's third birthday. Today, that collection of Santas totals over 300.

“My grandma helped each of us grandkids start a collection, so she could buy us Christmas and birthday presents,” Huffman said. “Since my birthday is on Dec. 3, which is near Christmas, she started me a collection of Santa Clauses. I got lots of Santas for gifts and many of them were unique."

Her grandmother made clothing and added accessories for the Santa, Huffman said. 

Huffman’s personal Santa purchases increased after an article on her collection first appeared in the Mitchell County Press-News in 1987, when she was 13.

STEVEN THOMPSON THE PRESS-NEWS 

Angie Huffman with more of her over 300-plus Santa Claus collection. This set is displayed on her upright piano.

“After the article, I began buying lots of them myself, until high school then I quit buying them unless they were special,” Huffman said. “When I receive one from somebody it’s special, because of who gave it to me, I record the date received, who gave it to me, or where it was purchased.”

When she was growing up, Huffman would bring the collection out every year, but now she only brings the collection out about every five years.

“I like to do it with my parents on my birthday, which makes it special for me,” Huffman said. “This is only the second time we have had the collection out since we moved to town.”

This year, Huffman’s parents, Dick and Ginger Meirick, along with her daughter, Samantha, helped sort through numerous large tubs to discover what was next to be put out. Huffman’s Christmas tree is heavily decorated with Santa ornaments as well as several shelves, a piano and buffet tops.

Along with statues, Huffman also collects Santa toys, wall hangings, ornaments and an antique 5-foot wooden Santa.

“This is my favorite Santa,” said Huffman, holding a larger statue of Santa kneeling in worship before the Christ child laying in a manger. “I like it because it has Santa and the Baby Jesus.”

Photos: Angie Huffman's Santa Collection

Photos: Angie Huffman's Santa Collection

STEVEN THOMPSON THE PRESS-NEWS 

Angie Huffman with more of her over 300-plus Santa Claus collection. This set is displayed on her upright piano.


Crime-and-courts
top story
After '48 Hours', Jodi Huisentruit tips pick up at Mason City Police Department

Jodi Huisentruit—-former KIMT anchor

MASON CITY — Activity in the Jodi Huisentruit case has picked up since a CBS news documentary aired Dec. 15, officials said.

“We have received at least two dozen calls/emails,” Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley told the Globe Gazette. “We are still working to follow up on the information.”

Brinkley said he couldn't comment on the information that had been received since it involves an ongoing investigation, but added that there has been more information to sort through recently. 

“We hope that the exposure the case received through the ‘48 Hours’ feature will be useful in obtaining additional information about the case from people who may not yet have contacted law enforcement,” he said.

“48 Hours” and reporter Jim Axelrod hoped to reveal new information into the more than two-decade search for Huisentruit in the hour-long episode titled “FindJodi.”

"48 Hours" is an investigative news program focusing on crime and justice cases, including cold cases.

Brinkley hopes participation in the “48 Hours” episode “will prove to have been useful for our investigation because it helped us to get additional information about Jodi’s disappearance.”

The show boasted "never-before-seen footage" of John Vansice, a man police have said was a person of interest in the case.

A Mason City Police Department search warrant in March 2017 named Vansice and sought GPS data from two vehicles, 1999 Honda Civic and 2013 GMC 1500. The warrant remains sealed to the public through Sept. 28, 2019, meaning no other information is available. 

Caroline Lowe with FindJodi.com said she was intrigued by the search warrant because “it's the first thing we'd seen in years of any kind of official document.”

In the show, Brinkley spoke briefly about the search warrant but would not comment on whether Vansice or Tony Jackson, a convicted serial rapist who lived in Mason City at the time of Huisentruit's disappearance, are still persons of interest in the case.

“The search warrant was not as fruitful as we had hoped,” Brinkley told the Globe Gazette. 

Brinkley told "48 Hours" that the police didn't get any information from the search warrant that was useful.

“That piece didn't pan out like we'd hoped,” Brinkley said.

Brinkley said he would not talk about specifics in this case because he doesn't want to “let the cat outta the bag.” He told Axelrod that he thinks “we’re very close.”

“So, does that mean we're talkin' about weeks, months?” Axelrod asked.

“I don't think it's fast,” Brinkley said.

Brinkley would not tell the Globe Gazette whether the department is closer to solving the case.

“It is my responsibility to make sure that we use all of our resources and that we exhaust all reasonable approaches as we investigate the case,” he said. “We have to follow where the information takes us and that will determine whether or not we are able to put this case together one day.”

Since Brinkley arrived at MCPD, he said the department continues to get calls that are added to the investigation.

Reporters from "48 Hours" began reporting in Mason City days after Huisentruit disappeared on June 27, 1995. When the case stalled, CBS said its footage was shelved and never aired.

The footage has since been pulled and shows Vansice meeting with Huisentruit's sister, JoAnn Nathe, CBS said, noting Vansice also describes his friendship with Jodi in the recording.

In 1995, Vansice told CBS he and Huisentruit were so close, he'd give her the shirt off his back.

“I just loved watching her have fun.... I tried to watch over her. I tried to check on her once in a while. Not all the time. Just once in a while. See how’s she’s getting along,” Vansice said. “If you ever go in her apartment and you see men’s clothes, they’re mine. If I had a shirt she liked, you know I’d wear it for a while and then I’d give it to her.”

Vansice, who now lives in Arizona, is believed to be one of the last people to see the then-27-year-old KIMT anchor alive.

He videotaped a birthday party he threw for Huisentruit just days before her disappearance. Vansice said Huisentruit was at his house the night before her disappearance, watching that tape.

He claimed he passed a polygraph test shortly after she disappeared.

“In my mind, there's a good chance that he is linked to Jodi's case, some way or other,” Nathe said in the show. “It's just that he was so obsessed with her.”

In 2004, police checked the basement of a home formerly occupied by Vansice, but said the search yielded no new information.

It has been 23 years since Huisentruit was last seen. She was declared legally dead in 2001, and no one has been charged in her disappearance.

Axelrod knocked on Vanscie’s door. He answered but said he did not want to talk and closed the door.

The day she disappeared, Huisentruit told a colleague she was on her way to work early that morning but never arrived. Police found signs of a struggle outside her apartment in Mason City.

"48 Hours" producers approached people with FindJodi.com and began working on the episode after attending the dedication of three billboards June 5 in Mason City. That date would have been Huisentruit’s 50th birthday.

Four billboards featuring Huisentruit's photo and the message "Somebody knows something...is it YOU?" were installed in high-traffic areas around Mason City by FindJodi.com, a website devoted to solving the case.

Since FindJodi.com was launched in 2003, the website has received several hundred tips and leads.

Anyone with information about Huisentruit’s disappearance is asked to contact Mason City Police Lt. Rich Jensen at 641-421-3636.

Photos: Jodi Huisentruit disappearance

Photos: Jodi Huisentruit disappearance

Background: Who is John Vansice? 

Who is John Vansice? Arizona man remains a 'person of interest' in Jodi Huisentruit case, police say (with photos, video)

CHRIS ZOELLER The Globe Gazette 

A billboard on North Federal Avenue in Mason City featuring a picture of Jodi Huisentruit urges citizens with information on her disappearance to come forward.


Local
Mason City family grieving the deaths of 2 relatives turns to Christmas Cheer Fund

MASON CITY | A Mason City family is hoping the Christmas Cheer Fund can bring some light during a difficult time.

A woman with six children under 10 years old, including two with autism, said her family’s “world has changed drastically” within the past three years, according to her Cheer Fund application.

She said her fiance’s cousin was among five young Mason City residents who died in a crash in April 2017 and her fiance’s brother recently died in a drug-related accident.

“With many deaths, there has been light at the end,” she wrote. “Our family grew, we moved and other amazing things.”

The woman said the Cheer Fund assistance would “make my house smile” and put “smiles on our kids’ faces once again, something that is long overdue.”

Since the Cheer Fund began in 1927, more than $3 million has been raised to help about 2,700 North Iowa families.

This year’s goal is $125,000.

As of Friday, the Cheer Fund has received $107,944.60 in donations.

The annual drive has never failed to meet its fundraising goal, and only once was it met after the holiday season.

The Christmas Cheer Fund was established by Globe Gazette Publisher Lee Loomis in 1927 so every child could have a present on Christmas morning. In the years since it has come to mean a little help at Christmastime to people of all ages.

Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA 50402-0271.

Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. The Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account.

The deadline to apply for the Cheer Fund has passed. No new applications will be accepted.