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Jody is an author, cold case journalist and private investigator based in west-central Iowa. She began writing at age eight, both penning and illustrating her dog-napping short story, “The Mystery of Kalo’s Disappearance.” She has worked for The Sioux City Journal and Weekender, and has more than 500 published feature stories and articles (unrelated to cold cases).
She launched the Iowa Cold Cases website (originally at iowacoldcases.com) in 2005 after working on a Sioux City cold case series. A website that began as a handful of cases from the Siouxland area now includes nearly 600 unsolved cases across the state. Iowa Cold Cases incorporated as a nonprofit agency in April 2010. Two years after launching the site, Jody’s stepfather of 25 years—Earl Thelander of Onawa, IA—died from burns sustained in an explosion caused by copper thieves. Jody added her stepdad’s name to the ICC site in 2008 after officials announced his case had gone cold. It remains unsolved today.
Jody is the author of One Way: Bumps and Detours on the Road to Adulthood, a collection of humorous and inspirational essays about childhood and growing up. When not researching/writing about cold cases or sharing leads with law enforcement, Jody focuses on chapter revisions to send her agent for an upcoming memoir. Her work with cold cases is also featured in Silvia Pettem’s 2017 book, The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families.
Jody graduated magna cum laude from Iowa State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies (Communications and Social Science) and Criminal Justice Studies. In early 2015, she partnered with the Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) in a year-long “Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa’s Unsolved Murders” series, and in September 2015 was named a “Friend of Iowa Newspapers,” an honor conferred by INA board members to those who’ve made significant contributions to the newspaper industry in Iowa. In November 2015, international grand reporter Karen Lajon of Paris profiled Jody’s work in a special series featuring women from around the globe who chose unconventional career fields and succeeded by inspiring others to get involved and make a difference.
In March 2017, Siouxland News presented Jody with a Jefferson Award Foundation medal, an award given in recognition of outstanding public service. Also in March 2017, Jody obtained her private investigator’s license from the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
Jody has three grown children, Bill, Jennifer, and Rhett, a stepdaughter, Vicky, two grandsons, two granddaughters, and lives/works out of a century-old home with longtime companion, Dennis, rescue dog Jack, and Clyde, an African Grey parrot who thinks he’s a World War II bombardier pilot.