Joanne Benner

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Above Images: Joanne, circa 1976

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: May 1, 1976 from Bayou George, Florida
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth: July 19, 1954
  • Age: 21 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'7, 200 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, green eyes. Joanne fractured her femur in a car accident months before her disappearance.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Joanne was last seen at her residence on Titus Road in Bayou George, Florida on May 1, 1976. Her husband, Gary Benner, said she left in the middle of the night and never returned. She has never been heard from again. Her three-year-old daughter allegedly told a relative that "Mommy had to go away because she was bleeding from the stomach."

    Gary always insisted his wife left him of her own accord, but he is the prime suspect in Joanne's disappearance. Authorities stated he behaved suspiciously after she went missing, and the couple argued constantly in their marriage. When investigators searched the Benner residence, they saw what appeared to be blood in several places of the house. Gary told police the stains were nail polish and that Joanne had flung menstrual blood at him during an argument. Some carpeting was missing from the bedroom and was later found burned in a trash can. After Joanne's disappearance, Gary asked friends to mail letters and toys to his children pretending to be Joanne.

    Investigators obtained blood evidence from the Benner home, as well as the burned carpet and some of Gary's guns. DNA testing was not available in 1976, so they were unable to match the blood to Joanne at that time. In 2008, authorities tried to have some of the evidence analyzed, but it was too old and degraded. The investigation has been stalled since then.

    Gary has never been charged in connection with Joanne's case, but police stated they believed he murdered Joanne and buried her body somewhere in the area. He now lives in Tennessee. He gave his youngest daughter up for adoption, but kept the older one. Joanne's disappearance remains unsolved.

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Bay County Sheriff's Office
    850-747-4700

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    Source Information
    WMBB TV
    The Doe Network
    The News Herald
    Bay County Sheriff's Office
    Unsolved in the News

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    Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated August 10, 2010; date of birth, height and weight added, distinguishing characteristics updated.

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