86-year-old given life sentence in nearly 50-year-old Door County murder case

  • In US
  • 2022-08-05 20:23:51Z
  • By Green Bay Press-Gazette

STURGEON BAY - An 86-year-old man convicted in April of murdering his wife, who disappeared without a trace almost 47 years ago, was sentenced to life in prison Friday.

Because Richard G. Pierce was convicted of first-degree murder (as well as disinterment of a corpse), the life sentence handed down by Door County Circuit Court Judge David Weber was mandatory.

Pierce was arrested in October 2018 at his trailer home in Cheboygan, Michigan, in the disappearance of his wife, Carol Jean Pierce, on or about Sept. 5, 1975. At the time, Richard Pierce was stationed with the U.S. Coast Guard in Sturgeon Bay and living with Carol Jean in a trailer in the city. He was due to retire about two weeks after Carol Jean's disappearance was reported, moving with his trailer to Michigan.

There has been no trace of Carol Jean since, nor has her body been found. During six days of testimony that began April 19, Assistant District Attorney Nick Grode presented a variety of evidence, including six places on Pierce's property in Cheboygan where dogs trained to detect even traces of human remains by scent indicated the presence of remains during a search in 2018.

"There are some things that we don't need to prove (to get a conviction)," Grode told the jury. "First is the precise way the defendant killed Carol Jean Pierce. What we need to prove is, he caused her death. We also don't need to prove the time, we also don't need to prove why."

Defense attorney Kate Zuidmulder said in her closing argument that without a body, a murder weapon or other physical evidence, the state never met its burden of proof. The defense called no witnesses during the trial.

The jury went into deliberations about 1 p.m. April 28 and came back with its guilty verdicts about the same time the next day. The disinterment charge was based on the accusation that he killed his wife in Sturgeon Bay and moved the body to Michigan without authority to do so.

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or cclough@doorcountyadvocate.com.

RELATED: Is there reasonable doubt without a body? Sturgeon Bay murder case from 1975 goes to jury

RELATED: First week of testimony in 1975 Door County murder trial concludes with focus on scent dogs, missing person's thoughts

FOR MORE DOOR COUNTY NEWS: Check out our website

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Richard Pierce given life sentence for murdering wife in Sturgeon Bay


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