WASHINGTON -- John and Noreen Gosch displayed the message written on a dollar bill -- 'I am alive' -- and said Wednesday they would be willing to trade $400,000 in reward money for the safe return of their kidnapped son, Johnny.
The 12-year-old boy disappeared Sept. 5, 1982, after he left the family's West Des Moines, Iowa, home to begin delivering Sunday papers. Gosch said $400,000 has been pledged for reward money.
The dollar bill surfaced as change given to a woman at a Sioux City, Iowa, grocery store during the past month. A Treasury Department currency specialist said the bill had been in circulation since July 25, 1974.
At a news conference attended by both Iowa senators, the Gosches offered to negotiate for their son's return, as well as to call off a private investigation and not to aid any legal action against a kidnapper.
'Please, we beg of you, contact us privately and allow us to have our son back,' John Gosch said. 'Our son has endured enough pain and suffering. Please return him to us alive and unharmed. If his life has been taken ... we ask that we may have information so that we at least know what has happened to him.'
Noreen Gosch showed to reporters a photocopy of the bill. To the side of the picture of George Washington, beneath 'United,' was written, 'I am alive. Johnny Gosch.' Three handwriting analysts have identified the signature as Johnny Gosch's.
John Gosch said the dollar bill 'means a lot to us. Our son may be alive.'
The Gosches said five witnesses indicate their son was kidnapped. They said one man seen in the area when their son disappeared has not been located yet.
On Aug 12, 1984, another paperboy, Eugene Martin, 13, disappeared while delivering papers in Des Moines. He still is missing.
Asked if they would pay ransom and how much, Noreen Gosch said, 'We in exchange will give them all the reward money offered for our son. All we want is our boy back.'
As they have in the past, the Gosches expressed some disappointment with the inability of law enforcement authorities to resolve the case.
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, appeared at the news conference with the Gosches and also appealed for the safe return of the boy.
'We plea with them to show some trace of human kindness and compassion,' Grassley said.