police were hoping Tuesday that the abduction of a 17-year-old girl in Nebraska may provide the elusive break in the case of television anchor woman Jodi Huisentruit, who disappeared in 1995.
Capt. Mike Halverson said “our interest has been piqued” by the disappearance Friday of Anne Sluti, who Nebraska investigators suspect was kidnapped by Anthony Zappa. He remained at large Tuesday, and Sluti also was missing.
Zappa’s name had not previously surfaced in the investigation of Huisentruit’s disappearance, which has included many suspects and scenarios, Halverson said.
Authorities believed he was in prison at the time of the disappearance, but a check Tuesday of Iowa Department of Corrections records showed that he had been released.
Zappa, 29, has two cousins who live in Charles City, which is about 30 miles east of Mason City. The Minnesota native often stayed with them, investigators said.
He pleaded guilty Jan. 23, 1995, to a string of burglaries, some only a few miles from Mason City. Floyd County Attorney Marilyn Dettmer said Zappa, who also is known as Anthony Steven Wright, used a handgun in the burglaries.
Zappa was sentenced to 15 years and taken to the Oakdale prison Jan. 24 for processing, state records show. On April 4, he was released while his case was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Huisentruit disappeared June 27.
The Supreme Court rejected Zappa’s appeal, and he was re-admitted to Oakdale on Sept. 1. He was paroled March 5, 1999.
Zappa is wanted in five states, including Iowa, for car thefts, assaults and illegal gun possessions. A search for him prodded police to close the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., one day in March after he was spotted there.
Investigators said they had no motive for last week’s abduction of Sluti, which they suspect was random.
Halverson said there appeared to be similarities between the Sluti and Huisentruit cases.
* Police found Sluti’s purse and other personal belongings scattered near her car in a Kearney, Neb., shopping center parking lot. Huisentruit’s possessions were found near her car in the parking lot of her apartment complex.
* Both incidents appeared to involve a hasty abduction.
* Kearney investigators said witnesses told them a man approached Sluti as she was walking toward her car. She was struck on the head and forced into a stolen minivan. The vehicle was recovered in Colorado on Sunday with no trace of Zappa or Sluti. Witnesses in Mason City said they saw a van in the early-morning hours near Huisentruit’s apartment complex when she vanished.