Carol Jean Pierce
Police are no longer searching a property in northern lower Michigan for a Sturgeon Bay woman missing for more than 30 years.
Carol Jean Pierce disappeared from her home in September, 1975.
Her husband, Richard Pierce, reported her missing one week later, and four days after that he retired from the Coast Guard and moved to Cheboygan, Michigan.
Police with a search warrant went to Pierce's home and dug up the property Monday but didn't find anything.
Pierce was there during the search but did not say anything to police.
Authorities say the case remains open but it's unknown what their next step will be.
Re: Carol Jean Pierce
A cadaver-sniffing dog sniffed up evidence in a crawl space Monday that could be tied to the disappearance of a Sturgeon Bay woman in 1975.
The dog joined local, state and federal agents in the search of Richard Pierce’s property in Cheboygan, Mich.
The 72-year-old Pierce moved there less than two weeks after his wife Carol Jean was last seen.
She was 35 when she vanished and the case has been open ever since.
Officials said the dog found something of interest, and officers will investigate further.
Before she disappeared, the Pierce woman wrote notes to her mother about the problems in her marriage. They stopped shortly before she vanished and Richard Pierce then moved the couple’s mobile home to his Michigan property.
He retired from the Coast Guard four days after he reported her missing.
Investigators believe her remains are buried on Pierce’s property.
For more than a dozen years, authorities could not solve Carol Jean Pierce’s disappearance.
Not even a federal grand jury could figure it out.
Four years ago, a Sturgeon Bay detective started taking a new crack at the case. And he got enough evidence to convince the judge to approve the search warrant in Michigan.
Re: Carol Jean Pierce
A cold case with Cheboygan and U.S. Coast Guard connections was re-opened early Monday when a police team began looking in Cordwood Point for the remains of Carol Jean Pierce.
The Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., Police Dept. executed a search warrant on a parcel of land located at 8856 Raspberry Ln. in the Cordwood Point area. The property is owned by Richard Gale Pierce of Cheboygan, who was stationed here on the original U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pierce later was a crew member on the cutter Mesquite, a 180-foot buoytender that was based in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., in the early to mid-1970s.
Pierce's wife, Carol Jean Pierce, vanished from her Sturgeon Bay home on or about Sept. 8, 1975 and has not been heard from since. She was reported missing by her husband on Sept. 15, 1975.
Personnel from the Sturgeon Bay Police Department arrived at the Pierce home at 7:30 a.m. Monday, assisted by the Cheboygan County Sheriff's Department; the Door County, Wisc., Sheriff's Department; the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation; the United States Coast Guard Intelligence Office from Chicago, Ill; and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
"An investigation conducted by the Sturgeon Bay Police Department, the Cold Case Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, the Cheboygan County Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police led investigators to believe that Carol Jean Pierce was a homicide victim in Sturgeon Bay and that her remains were later transported to Cheboygan for clandestine burial on the Pierce property on Raspberry Lane," stated Sturgeon Bay Police Chief Dan Trelka.
A poster has long been visible in the lobby of the Cheboygan County Sheriff's Department, asking for new information on the case.
Police say that Richard Pierce told investigators that on the date of her disappearance he had morning coffee with his wife at his home, but that she was gone when he returned late that afternoon. At the time of his wife's disappearance, Richard Pierce was within 11 days of retiring from the Coast Guard. The couple had plans to move back to Cheboygan where they owned property.
When Richard Pierce retired on Sept. 19, 1975 he moved their mobile home from Sturgeon Bay to Cheboygan.
There has been no trace of Carol Jean Pierce ever since, authorities say. There has been no use of her social security number since 1975. The day after her disappearance, a fellow crew member on the Mesquite visited Richard Pierce at his home to discuss Carol Jean's disappearance. During that visit, Carol Jean's purse, prized cat, personal belongings and makeup were seen in the Pierce home.
Police checks on Carol Jean Pierce's credit history, social security, possible passport use, Interpol, Canadian authorities and every state DOT Office in the U.S. have been made in the name of Carol Jean Pierce, but there has been no activity under her name since the date of her disappearance.
On Nov. 22, 1977 Richard Pierce received an uncontested divorce from Carol Jean. All of their marital property was placed in the sole name of Richard Gale Pierce. He married for the third time shortly after the divorce was granted, records indicate.
Carol Jean Pierce has two surviving siblings, a brother and a sister.
Re: Carol Jean Pierce
After a daylong search in Michigan for the remains of a woman missing for 33 years, the Sturgeon Bay Police Department and investigators from two states are no closer to solving the missing person’s case.
Authorities and experts searched in the Cordwood Point area of Cheboygan, Mich., to find the remains of Carol Jean Pierce.
The search, which involved law enforcement agencies from Wisconsin and Michigan plus the FBI and specialty equipment companies, was called off at about 8 p.m. Monday with no remains found.
No decision has been made yet on where, how or whether to continue the investigation, Sturgeon Bay Sgt. Dan Brinkman said.
The Cold Case Review Team affiliated with the Wisconsin Justice Department’s Division of Criminal Investigation is reviewing the information.
The search was based on evidence accumulated since Sept. 15, 1975, the last day Pierce was seen in Sturgeon Bay.
At the time, she lived in a mobile home on Sturgeon Bay’s west side with her husband, Richard Dale Pierce, who was in the U.S. Coast Guard and assigned to the cutter Mesquite.
Evidence convinced some officers that Pierce had been murdered, including Sturgeon Bay Chief Michael C. Nordin, who conducted extensive interviews in the case before his death in 1999.
Evidence and interviews conducted in 1975, 1982, 1992 and more extensively since 2004, provided the legal basis for conducting the search at Richard D. Pierce’s farm near Cheboygan. Affidavits on file in Door County Circuit Court quote him as saying he did not suspect foul play and did not have a role in his wife’s disappearance.
Pierce told investigators the couple was looking forward to his retirement from the Coast Guard and their upcoming move to his land in Michigan.
Other witnesses, however, described the Pierces’ relationship as volatile, and that the couple had obtained marriage counseling in Sturgeon Bay.
According to the affidavit, one witness said she saw Carol J. Pierce’s purse, cosmetics, cat and other favored items in the mobile home after her disappearance.
Investigator also learned that before her disappearance, Carol Pierce had signed over to her husband her interest in titles to their truck and the mobile home. Pierce told investigators he did not know why she had changed the paperwork.
When Pierce retired, he had the mobile home moved to his land in Cheboygan.
With evidence pointing to Cheboygan, Sturgeon Bay police obtained the paperwork necessary to conduct a search.
Original story: Sturgeon Bay cold case reopened
Editor's note: The following story appeared in the Press-Gazette newspaper Tuesday, Nov. 11.
STURGEON BAY — Sturgeon Bay police officers and other law enforcement agencies are looking in Michigan for the remains of a woman who has been missing for 33 years, authorities said.
"We're just going where the evidence leads us," Sturgeon Bay Police Chief Dan Trelka said.
The evidence involves the disappearance of Carol Jean Pierce on Sept. 15, 1975.
Police suspect she was murdered. But the efforts of two police chiefs — Howard Larson, who was chief at the time of the disappearance, and his successor, Michael C. Nordin, who died in office in 1999 — and a 1988 grand jury investigation failed to solve the mystery, Trelka said.
Police Lt. T.J. Baudhuin has "vigorously investigated" the Pierce case since 2004, Trelka said.
Evidence allowed the department to obtain a warrant to search the land at 8856 Raspberry Lane, Cordwood Point, in Cheboygan, Mich., Trelka said. The missing woman's husband, Richard Gale Pierce, owns the property.
At the time of Carol Jean Pierce's disappearance, her husband was a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and assigned to the cutter Mesquite, which was based in Sturgeon Bay until the mid-1970s.
Trelka did not call Richard Pierce a suspect or person of interest.
"We're playing it pretty close to the vest," Trelka said. "These are all the details we are releasing at this time. We're just trying to bring some closure to the case."
The case is being investigated by the Sturgeon Bay Police Department, the Cold Case Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, the Cheboygan County (Mich.) Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police.
A number of law enforcement agencies conducted Monday's search, including the Sturgeon Bay Police Department, the FBI, a cadaver dog team from New London, Conn., and NecroSearch Ground Penetrating Radar Services, a Denver-based team that helps investigate the location of graves and evidence recovery, including human remains.
Re: Carol Jean Pierce
At the Sturgeon Bay Police Department there is an officer who has spent years trying to piece together a 35-year-old missing person cold case
The case of 35-year-old Carol Jean Pierce, missing since Sept. 8, 1975, was reopened by the Sturgeon Bay Police Department in January 2004. Since then Lt. Investigator Thomas Baudhuin and the entire department have devoted more than 5,000 man-hours to her case.
They have combed through files, conducted Internet searches and interviews trying to piece together what happened to Carol Jean. Lining one wall of Baudhuin's office are filing cabinets, thick binders and file folders. A framed picture of the trailer park where the couple lived sits perched on the floor. All of these are pieces that could one day answer what happened to Carol Jean.
According to Baudhuin, Carol Jean was a homebody who liked to garden and was close to her family.
The records show that on Sept. 8, 1975, according to her husband, Richard Gale Pierce, the two had coffee together before he left for work as a crew member on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mesquite. Gale, as he is known, returned home between 4 and 4:30 p.m. to find his wife was missing. He did not report her disappearance to authorities until Sept. 15.
On Thursday, Sept. 11, Gale invited his mother-in-law, Pauline Fillion, and his mother to his Coast Guard retirement party in Sturgeon Bay, Baudhuin said. This was the first time that Fillion was told her daughter was missing. The next day Gale traveled with his truck to Cheboygan, Mich., where he owned land.
His retirement party was Sept. 19, and three days later he retired from the Coast Guard and moved the couple's mobile home to the Cheboygan property, Baudhuin said. The trailer was not searched at the time of his wife's disappearance.
Gale was granted an uncontested divorce in 1977 in which he received all the couple's assets. He married, for a third time, soon after.
Gale still lives in Cheboygan, Baudhuin said. A call to a number listed for Richard Gale Pierce in Cheboygan, Mich., went unanswered.
The original investigation tapered off after 1976, Baudhuin said.
"I think what happened is that Sturgeon Bay PD exhausted what leads that they had," he said.
In 1982, the police department brought in cadaver dogs from the Illinois State Patrol to search the Sturgeon Bay mobile home park on the corner of Elm Street and Duluth Avenue, where the couple had lived. The Door County Sheriff's Department took part in the search.
In October 1987, a grand jury was convened in Door County and testimony was gathered from family members, friends and co-workers.
Police reopened the cold case in January 2004 as the department planned its move to new offices at Sturgeon Bay City Hall.
"I was in our old records room searching for an old file and literally stumbled across the old Carol Jean Pierce file," he said. Baudhuin sat down and read the file. After that he took an interest in Carol Jean. He began using the Internet, a tool that was not available to early investigators, to help revive the case. The investigation was revived again in November 2008 when Sturgeon Bay and Cheboygan County Michigan authorities, the FBI, Coast Guard Intelligence, and a cadaver dog from the New London Police Department in Connecticut searched Gale's property and home in Cheboygan.
Baudhuin said evidence was collected, but because of the ongoing investigation he couldn't divulge what it is. No remains were found in either search.
Her ex-husband has never been charged in her disappearance, but remains a person of interest.
"In any situation where you have a husband or a wife," obviously authorities are going to take a pretty hard look at the surviving spouse, Baudhuin said. The police looked into a multitude of other possibilities, and it all seems to come back to her husband, he said.
Shortly before Carol Jean disappeared, she appears to have signed over her part of the truck and mobile home to her husband. Gale initially told police in summer 1975 that she threatened to leave him and that's why she signed everything over, Baudhuin said. Authorities believe otherwise.
"Based on the letters that she wrote to family and friends, there is nothing to indicate in any of those letters that she was planning to leave him" or that she was anything but happy in her marriage, Bauhuin said.
A few days after she went missing, a fellow shipmate of Gale's visited the trailer. He saw Carol Jean's cat, her purse and other personal items still present in the home. Baudhuin said that Carol Jean was fond of her cat and wrote to her mother about it on several occasions.
"The purse is the most baffling to us," he said. Women of that era just didn't leave the house without their purses, he said.
The problem with a case this old is that time is against authorities, as witnesses and her ex-husband grow older and evidence becomes harder to find. Baudhuin said he and the other officers press on because of Carol Jean's family.
"We owe it to them to get them some closure," Baudhuin said.
Carol Jean was close with her family and communicated often through letters to her mother. The two would write about things like Carol Jean's hobbies and the couple's plans for when Gale retired. "She didn't get into a lot of detail" about problems in her marriage. Her mother was very much a part of the search for her daughter until her death in 1989, he said.
During the course of its search, the department has run all her information, including driver's license and Social Security number, through governmental agencies on local, state, national and international levels. They have checked under all her previous married names and her maiden name to see whether she has surfaced at anytime since September 1975. Nothing has ever turned up.
Baudhuin hopes someone can fill in one piece of the puzzle. It appears that Carol Jean had earnings sometime in 1975 before her disappearance. This indicates that she worked during her time in Sturgeon Bay. Baudhuin asks anyone who may have employed her or worked with her to contact him at (920) 746-2459 or tbaudhuin@ sturgeonbaywi.org.
Carol Jean still has a brother, a sister, and a son from a previous marriage who are waiting for closure. Her son last heard from his mother in the early 1970s.
"That's got to leave a giant, gaping whole in your life to have something like that happen," Baudhuin said.
Carol Jean's family has been more than understanding with the police department as it continues its investigation, and the Sturgeon Bay police in turn would like to "give them the closure that they so woefully deserve," Baudhuin said.
|Thread||Thread Starter||Forum||Replies||Last Post|
|Carol Jean Pierce’s 1975||bettybrown1623||MISSING FEMALES||3||11-11-2008 04:29 PM|
|Carol Dowless, Remains Found||Starless||COLD CASE NEWS||1||09-25-2008 03:12 PM|
|William Junior Pierce||Starless||Serial Killers||1||09-29-2006 01:56 AM|