Joan Carolyn Risch

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Above Images: Risch, circa 1961


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: October 24, 1961 from Lincoln, Massachusetts
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: August 4, 1931
  • Age: 30 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'7, 120 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, blue eyes. Risch's blood type is O. Her maiden name is Nattras. She has a filling in her left upper molar and her ears are pierced.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A gray cloth coat, a blouse, a sweater, a charcoal-colored wool skirt, a slim platinum wedding band with diamonds and possibly a scarf on her head. Her shoes have been variously described as blue high heels, flats, or sneakers with piping.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Risch was a homemaker in Lincoln, Massachusetts in 1961. She was married and had two children. The family had moved to Lincoln from Ridgefield, Connecticut about seven months before. Risch's husband was out of town on a business trip on the day of her disappearance, October 24, 1961. She went with her four-year-old daughter to the dentist that morning, cashed a check and did grocery shopping. She returned home for lunch at 11:00 a.m., put her two-year-old son in his crib for a nap, and sent her daughter to a neighbor's home to play. Risch was last seen by a neighbor at 2:15 p.m. She was standing next to her blue sedan outside the family's residence on Old Bedford Road. She appeared to be dazed.

    Risch's daughter came home from the neighbor's at 4:00 p.m., then immediately ran back to say that her mother was missing and "red paint" covered the kitchen walls. The "paint" turned out to be blood. The Risches' telephone had been ripped from the kitchen wall and thrown in a wastebasket, and a nearby telephone book was found opened at the emergency numbers section. There was a single bloody thumbprint on the phone mount, and two fingerprints and part of a palm print on the wall; they were not Risch's prints, and have never been identified. The only other sign of a struggle was an overturned chair in the kitchen. Risch's son was still in his crib upstairs.

    The blood trail led from the baby's room to the kitchen and then outside to the Risches' driveway, where it stopped near her parked car. Blood drops were found on the outside of the car itself, but there were no bloody footprints inside on the kitchen floor. There was no sign of Risch herself inside the residence. Investigators later determined that the blood had probably come from a superficial wound, as there wasn't very much of it. Someone had made efforts to clean up with paper towels and a pair or Risch's son's coveralls.

    Witnesses reported seeing an unidentified blue/gray 1954 or 1955 sedan parked behind Risch's car in the Risches' driveway at 3:20 p.m. the day of the disappearance. Drivers also reported observing a woman walking along the road where Route 128 was under construction later in the day. No one stopped to assist the unidentified female, who was reportedly bloody and appeared confused or dazed. After these initial reports, sightings of Risch ceased. She has never been heard from again.

    Risch's husband was in New York on October 24 for a business trip. He was questioned by investigators but was cleared of any involvement in her disappearance. Authorities did learn that Risch checked out over 25 library books during the previous summer, all of them related to murder or unexplained disappearances. Her husband said she was an avid reader who liked suspense stories. Some people theorized that Risch chose to stage her own disappearance because she was unhappy with her life. Risch had worked in the publishing field in New York prior to her marriage. She chose to end her career to raise her family. Although many described her as a devoted mother who was deeply attached to her husband and children, some friends claimed that Risch was very ambitious and was not fulfilled with her home life.

    Others speculated Risch was attacked and was suffering from amnesia as a result. Another hypothesis in the same vein is that Risch was not assaulted at all, but simply suffered an episode of some type and left her residence. Both of these theories could suggest the possibility that Risch wandered into a pit on the Route 128 construction site the night she disappeared and was unknowingly buried. She has no history of amnesiac experiences, however, and no history of mental illness in herself or her family.

    Newspaper reports from 1961 state that Risch may have been sexually abused as a child. Another account stated that her parents died in a strange fire in New Jersey in 1940, when Risch was nine years old; she was raised by an aunt and uncle after that. Both of these reports suggest that Risch may have had personal reasons for wanting to stage her disappearance. Risch was born in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated Wilson College in Pennsylvania in 1952, with a degree in English. Her case remains open and unsolved.


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Lincoln Police Department


    Source Information
    The Boston Globe
    The Doe Network
    The Lowell Sun
    The Fitchburg Sentinel
    The North Adams Transcript
    The Florence Morning News
    The Boston Herald


    Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated March 3, 2016; clothing/jewelry description updated.

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