Mich. man ac­cused of killing wife in ’75

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY TODD RICH­MOND Associated Press

Madi­son, Wis. – Prose­cu­tors charged a Michi­gan man Thurs­day with killing his wife 43 years ago in Wis­con­sin based largely on wit­nesses say­ing he seemed un­happy in their mar­riage, her com­ments to neigh­bors that she thought he was go­ing to kill her and other dis­crep­an­cies in his story.

Law en­force­ment agents from Wis­con­sin and Michi­gan ar­rested Richard Gale Pierce, 82, Thurs­day in his home­town of Che­boy­gan. He faces one count of first-de­gree mur­der and one count of dis­in­ter­ment of the dead in con­nec­tion with the death of his wife Carol Jean Pierce.

He is be­ing held at Che­boy­gan County Jail pend­ing his re­turn to Wis­con­sin. It’s un­clear if Pierce has an at­tor­ney to speak on his be­half.

Carol Jean Pierce was 35 when she dis­ap­peared from the cou­ple’s trailer home in Stur­geon Bay in Septem­ber 1975. Her body has never been found.

Richard Pierce pre­vi­ously claimed that she walked out on him. But cold case de­tec­tives with the Wis­con­sin As­so­ci­a­tion of Homi­cide In­ves­ti­ga­tors al­lege in a crim­i­nal com­plaint that Pierce had the op­por­tu­nity and mo­ti­va­tion to kill her.

The 20-page com­plaint of­fers mostly cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence, re­count­ing wit­ness in­ter­views col­lected over four decades that paint a pic­ture of an abu­sive mar­riage.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, the cou­ple got mar­ried in Septem­ber 1966. Pierce was a sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard at the time, as­signed to the cut­ter Mesquite. The ship was based in Stur­geon Bay when Carol Jean dis­ap­peared.

Ac­quain­tances told de­tec­tives the cou­ple ar­gued of­ten. A woman who lived next door to the cou­ple when they were sta­tioned in New Jersey told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Carol Jean had told her Pierce had beat her the night be­fore and her face was badly bruised.

An­other neigh­bor re­ported that Carol Jean told her at least three times she thought Pierce was go­ing to kill her and she wanted to go some­where no one would find her.

Pierce’s for­mer ship­mates told author­i­ties that Carol Jean didn’t trust Pierce and she had a per­son­al­ity that would prob­a­bly “drive a guy like Pierce nuts.” One ship­mate re­called how the ship cap­tain’s wife had died from a fall down stairs and how Pierce had com­mented “that was a pretty good deal. (The cap­tain) got rid of his wife.”

Af­ter Carol Jean dis­ap­peared, a neigh­bor vis­ited the cou­ple’s trailer home to see how Pierce was do­ing. She no­ticed Carol Jean’s purse on the kitchen counter and her en­tire record col­lec­tion, as well as her cat and make-up, were still in the home.

The cold case de­tec­tives con­clude that Carol Jean’s death meant a num­ber of gains for Pierce, in­clud­ing a pen­sion unen­cum­bered by mar­riage, most of the cou­ple’s im­por­tant be­long­ings, sole pos­ses­sion of their Mich. re­tire­ment land.

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