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Missing Iowa Teen Phones Home From Santa Barbara

August 21, 1986|United Press International

DES MOINES, Iowa — Missing Knoxville youth Jason Rodgers, the subject of a nationwide search after he vanished from the Iowa State Fair last weekend, showed up in California on Wednesday night.

Authorities said the 16-year-old had planned the trip for some time and had purchased his airline ticket two weeks ago.

Gene Meyer, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said Jason, who ended a five-day search for his whereabouts by phoning his parents, purchased a $129 one-way ticket to Santa Barbara in early August. He apparently had planned to vanish from the crowded Iowa State Fair, Meyer said.

"He went to the fair with friends, talked to a teacher and made sure people saw him," Meyer said. "He seemed to have known it would be difficult to track a disappearance from the fair."

Counselor Suggested Call

Jason, who last was seen on the fairgrounds Saturday afternoon, telephoned his parents about 9 p.m. Wednesday after a halfway house counselor who picked him up on an Isla Vista, Calif., highway persuaded him to call, Meyer said.

Jason's disappearance sparked numerous rumors paralleling his case with that of missing Des Moines paperboys Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin. The paperboys disappeared two years apart about the time the fair was being held. Jason disappeared two years after Eugene.

A man who answered the phone at the Rodgers residence late Wednesday identified himself as a relative and said Jason's parents were leaving as soon as possible for California to pick up their son.

"Linda doesn't know why Jason ran away, but both she and Ron are very relieved, and they're going to bring Jason home," the relative said.

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