Husband convicted in 1975 murder of Door Co. woman

Richard Pierce in Court
Richard Pierce in Court
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 1:39 PM CDT
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DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A jury has found an 86-year-old man guilty of the 1975 murder of his wife in Door County.

Richard Pierce was convicted Friday of killing Carol Jean Pierce and disposing of her body. Carol Jean Pierce hasn’t been seen since September 5, 1975. Richard Pierce was the last person to see her when they lived in Sturgeon Bay. He moved to Michigan shortly after her disappearance.

After about 10 hours of deliberation Thursday and Friday, a jury returned a verdict of guilty on counts of 1st Degree Murder and Disinterment of Dead. Pierce was remanded into custody awaiting sentencing.

Pierce has maintained his innocence. Testimony wrapped up Wednesday after a week of the prosecution calling witnesses to the stand. The defense declined to call any witnesses. Pierce did not take the stand.

(Our sister-station in Green Bay, WBAY, has provided extensive coverage of the trial, which can be found here.)

Carol Jean Pierce disappeared from Door County in 1975
Carol Jean Pierce disappeared from Door County in 1975


On Sept. 21, 2018, the Wisconsin Cold Case Review Team looked at the cold case and concluded there was enough to show Richard Pierce was set to gain from Carol Jean’s disappearance.

Investigators from Sturgeon Bay and Michigan spent weeks searching Richard Pierce’s property in Michigan, looking for possible evidence related to Carol Jean’s disappearance. Her remains were not located.

A criminal complaint states Richard Pierce had “gained numerous things based on Carol Jean’s disappearance, which included a pension unencumbered by a wife; most of the important belongings of their marriage; land and a home in Michigan; a new girlfriend weeks after Carol Jean’s disappearance, as well as the benefit of Carol Jean’s silence.”

Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Jay Yerges took the stand last Wednesday. He testified about searches of records that show no trace of Carol Jean.

“In checking all of those records, Carol Jean Pierce does not exist in society,” Yerges said. “Carol Jean Pierce does not exist in society. She’s dead. She’s gone. She does not exist.”

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