Pierce, circa 1975
Carol Jean Fillion Aungst Clark Pierce
Missing since September 8, 1975 from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
- Date Of Birth: December 4, 1939
- Age at Time of Disappearance: 35 years old
- Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'5"; 115 lbs.
- Distinguishing Characteristics: Blond hair; hazel eyes. Surgical pin in right femur. One tooth mising on lower jaw. Small scar on upper lip.
Circumstances of Disappearance
Pierce was reported missing by her husband on September 8, 1975.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Door County Sheriff's Office
Sheriff Terry Vogel
NCIC Number: M-081358844
Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.
Michigan land searched in old Door Co. missing person case
BY JOE KNAAPEN • Gannett Wisconsin Media • November 10, 2008
Sturgeon Bay police officers today executed a search warrant in Cheboygan, Mich., in an effort to put closure on a 33-year-old missing person case.
“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 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 today’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.
Joe Knaapen writes for the Door County Advocate
Cheboygan, Mich. -
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.
Cadaver Dog Picks Up Scent in Search After 1975 Disappearance
Updated: Nov 11, 2008 07:00 PM EST
Cadaver Dogs Pick up Scent in 1975 Disappearance
By Jenny Marland
Police are searching a property near the northern point of lower Michigan Monday looking for the remains of a woman who vanished from Door County more than 30 years ago.
Officers have a search warrant to search land in Cheboygan, Michigan, looking for the remains of Carol Jean Pierce.
Police are excavating a piece of her husband's property after a cadaver dog picked up a scent.
Investigators say Mrs. Pierce vanished from her Sturgeon Bay home in 1975 and hasn't been heard from since.
Richard Pierce reported her missing on September 15 -- exactly one week after she was last seen. Four days later he retired from his Coast Guard position and moved across Lake Michigan to Cheboygan, where he still resides.
Investigators believe Mrs. Pierce may have been killed in Sturgeon Bay then her remains were later transported and buried on her husband's property in Cheboygan.
"Everything was left behind and she just vanished off the face of the earth," Sturgeon Bay police Sergeant Daniel Brinkman said.
It's a fact that's been bothering Sturgeon Bay investigators since Carol Jean Pierce disappeared.
"I don't know what woman would leave a purse behind if they were going to travel somewhere."
It's just a piece of the circumstantial puzzle of evidence that makes her husband the authorities' main suspect.
"He had a pretty good retirement system or a pretty good pension with the military, if he didn't want to give that up -- like I said, that is speculation, but it certainly is a motive," Brinkman said.
When Mrs. Pierce vanished, technology wasn't advanced enough for the Sturgeon Bay Police Department to arrest Richard or even search his property.
After reopening the case once in the 1980s, police closed the case until 2004.
Thirty-three years later, police say they have enough evidence for two search warrants, and at 7:30 Monday morning eight different law enforcement agencies bringing ground-penetrating radar and a cadaver dog knocked on the door of 72-year-old Richard Pierce's home.
"From the surprised look on his face, from what we were told by the investigative team that called us, he was shocked that we were there," Brinkman said.
Police say Mr. Pierce remains silent about his wife's death.
"He has not denied anything this morning; he's simply not saying anything."
It's a silence others involved hope is eventually broken.
"The family of Carol Jean Pierce wants some closure," Brinkman said. "They believe as we do that the body of Carol Jean is buried on the property in Cheboygan, Michigan."
1975 Sturgeon Bay case
Home searched in disappearance
Cadaver dog used at husband's house
By Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Nov. 10, 2008
A cadaver-sniffing dog alerted investigators Monday to a crawl space at a Michigan home of a man whose wife disappeared from their Sturgeon Bay home more than three decades ago.
Investigators with a search warrant visited the Cheboygan County, Mich., property where Richard G. Pierce has lived since he moved from Sturgeon Bay less than two weeks after his wife, Carol Jean Pierce, was last seen, Sturgeon Bay Police Sgt. Investigator Dan Brinkman said.
Before she vanished, Carol Jean Pierce wrote to her mother about her marital difficulties, police said. The letters stopped shortly before Pierce was last seen in September 1975 and her husband moved their mobile home from Sturgeon Bay to property they owned in Michigan.
Her disappearance has remained an open case for more than three decades.
Investigators believe Carol Jean Pierce, who was 35 when she disappeared, was murdered in Sturgeon Bay and her remains were taken to Michigan and secretly buried on Richard Pierce's property.
Richard Pierce, 72, was a chief warrant officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and a crew member on the cutter Mesquite, a 180-foot buoy tender based in Sturgeon Bay in the 1970s. Carol Jean Pierce was last seen on or about Sept. 8, 1975. Her husband reported her missing Sept. 15. Four days later, he retired from the Coast Guard and moved to Michigan, Brinkman said.
Last week, a Cheboygan County, Mich., judge granted a search warrant, which was served Monday morning. Brinkman said the dog found something of interest and investigators were continuing to search Pierce's property. He would not elaborate on what led investigators to get the search warrant after so many years.
Three years ago, Sturgeon Bay police posted information about Carol Jean Pierce's disappearance on a Web site where former Coast Guard shipmates can try to find each other. Aside from details about Carol Jean Pierce, including that she left behind her purse, prized cat and other possessions, the posting from police requested anyone with tips to contact the department.
Richard Pierce was home when authorities arrived Monday and is not under arrest, Cheboygan County Undersheriff Michael Newman said. There was no answer at a phone listed to Pierce's address.
The couple's adult children live in Michigan and have cooperated with authorities, Brinkman said.
No evidence found in Door County cold case
By Tom Held of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Nov. 11, 2008
A cold case team digging into the decades-old death of Carol Jean Pierce headed back to Wisconsin Tuesday without finding her body or evidence that she was buried on the Cheboygan, Mich., property that was searched on Monday, authorities said.
Investigators suspecting that Pierce's husband, Richard, buried her body on the land in Michigan obtained a search warrant from a Cheboygan County judge last week and took a cadaver-sniffing dog and ground-penetrating radar to the property.
The dog signaled a potential find near a crawl space, but limited excavation uncovered no evidence of a body, said Sgt. Dan Brinkman of the Sturgeon Bay Police Department.
Brinkman said the cold case team would discuss the latest developments and the prospects of obtaining a warrant for further excavation. The lead investigator is Lt. Thomas Baudhuin, from Sturgeon Bay.
Carol Jean Pierce, then 35, disappeared from her home in Door County on Sept. 8, 1975, and reportedly was last seen by her husband that morning. Richard Pierce retired from his post with the U.S. Coast Guard 11 days later and moved their mobile home to the property the couple owned in Michigan.
The timing of the move raised suspicions that Carol Jean Pierce is buried on that property, Brinkman said.
Visitors to the Pierce home days after she vanished reported seeing her purse, personal belongings and prized cat still in the residence, adding to the suspicion of his involvement in her disappearance or death.
Article Launched: 11/10/2008 12:01:00 AM CST
STURGEON BAY, Wis. — Investigators from Wisconsin are searching property in Cheboygan, Michigan in the 1975 disappearance of a Door County woman.
Investigators believe the remains of Carol Jean Pierce could be located on the property, owned by her husband.
The 35-year-old woman disappeared in Sturgeon Bay Sept. 8, 1975. Her husband then moved from Sturgeon Bay to Cheboygan after retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The case went cold, but was reopened in 1981 with no results. A grand jury investigation in 1988 also yielded no indictments. The case was reopened in 2004 and has been active since.
Sturgeon Bay Police, the state Department of Justice's cold case unit, the Cheboygan County, Michigan Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police are investigating.