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Reward boosted in disappearance of newsboy

By GREG SMITH

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Police issued a bulletin late Monday for a man suspected in the alleged abduction of a 13-year-old paperboy while friends and relatives diligantly searched the missing boy's neighborhood for clues.

Authorities said the man -- described as between 30-40 years of age, 5-foot-9 inches tall, clean shaven with a medium build -- reportedly was seen talking to Eugene Martin as the newspaper carrier was preparing to begin his route at 5:30 a.m.

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Martin was reported missing after he failed to return home from his Sunday morning paper route, becoming the second Des Moines Register carrier to disappear since 1982.

The suspect was wearing light blue clothing at the time he was spotted by a neighbor near the corner where the boy's paper bundle had been dropped, said Police Officer Terry Camp -- one of several officers manning a special 24-hour police hotline set up for the case. Authorities said the informant could not supply a description of a vehicle.

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Earlier Monday, a reward fund for information in the boy's disappearance grew to $30,000.

Eugene Martin, 13, was reported missing after he failed to return from the site where he was to begin his newspaper route early Sunday, becoming the second Des Moines Register carrier to disappear since 1982.

A reward fund for information in the boy's disappearance grew to $30,000 Monday.

In putting up $25,000 of the reward, Register Editor James Gannon said he was 'shocked and outraged' by Martin's disappearance, which mirrors that of Johnny Gosch, who vanished from West Des Moines Sept. 5, 1982 and is still missing.

Police, who are treating the Martin case as a kidnapping, have not discounted the possibility that the disappearances might be connected.

Martin was last seen at about 5 a.m. Sunday. His stack of newspapers was never delivered. Gosch, who was 12 when he disappeared, also had been heading out to deliver the Sunday newspaper.

Assistant Des Moines Police Chief Donald Knox said the boy had apparently started 'banding' his papers for delivery when he was abducted. Police found some of the papers and Martin's yellow carrier bag at the paper drop site slightly less than a mile from the boy's home.

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However, what might have been a minor development in the case did not materialize when police were unable to trace any fingerprints on the carrier bag or papers.

Knox said the papers dropped at the site had been delivered by by other newspaper employees.

A grief-stricken Don Martin, the boy's father, Monday blamed himself for allowing his son to take the newspaper job in the first place.

'My wife and I were just married April 1,' Martin said. 'She was telling me about how Donny, her oldest boy, had his route for four years and never had any problems.

'She more or less convinced me about letting him have one. I finally broke down about three months ago and let him have the route. Now I kind of wish I hadn't, because he'd still be here if I hadn't.'

Detectives Monday discounted one of their best leads in the case after interviewing the driver of a 'beat up' green car seen near the area Martin disappeared. The man, who had been sought for questioning, voluntarily contacted police when he heard news reports describing his car.

Following the interview, Knox said the man is not considered a suspect in the case. He said police have turned their investigation to a 'full-sized brown car' that was seen parked in the area Sunday morning.

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'Right now, we don't have much more,' Knox said.

Knox said police have set up a secial 24-hour hotline to handle any information pertaining to the Martin case. Anyone with information is urged to call 515-246-9988.

'If they do not find evidence he is alive or dead in the next few days, then the parents are facing probably a long thing such as we have. And that's very hard to come to grips with. It's one of the hardest things to deal with,' she said.

Mrs. Gosch said the two cases prove 'the streets are not safe for children.'

'It's remotely possible they're connected. I can't say for sure, but it's very plausible,' she said. John Gosch, Johnny's father, said the Martin family 'must stay extremely strong and they must stay on top of the case to make sure the law enforcement is doing their job and they must insist hourly that something is being done.'

The WHO Broadcasting Co. also put up a $5,000 reward Monday, with company Vice President and General Manager George Carpenter calling Martin's disappearance 'a tragic and senseless act.'

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