Details of Disappearance
Carol was last seen at her residence in the vicinity of west Elm Street and north Hudson Avenue Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin at 8:00 a.m. on September 8, 1975. Her husband, Richard Gale Pierce, stated he had had coffee with her that morning, then left for work. When he returned home between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m., she was gone, and so was their savings.
Carol left behind her purse, pet cat, makeup and other belongings at her home. She and Richard had only one vehicle between them, and he had it when she disappeared.
Carol was a housewife at the time of her disappearance and did not work outside the home. Her marriage to Richard was her third, and his second. Carol's loved ones described her as a homebody who enjoyed gardening in 1975. Richard was a crewman on the United States Coast Guard cutter Mesquite.
Prior to Carol's going missing, the Pierces had had plans to move to Cheboygan, Michigan, where they owned some property, on Richard's upcoming retirement. It wasn't until his retirement party weeks later that Carol's mother realize she was missing; she made Richard file a missing persons report. The report was filed on September 15, 82 days after Carol was last seen.
Richard did retire and move to Michigan. He obtained a divorce from Carol in 1977 and remarried a short time later.
Carol and Richard's relationship was troubled and they'd been in marriage counseling. Just prior to her disappearance, Carol signed over to Richard her interest in titles to their truck and the mobile home. He said she did this after she threatened to leave him, but Carol's friends and family stated she was happy in her marriage and had no plans to leave Richard. She was saving money to buy him a Coast Guard ring as a surprise gift for his retirement.
Police didn't begin to thoroughly investigate her disappearance until the 1980s. A grand jury investigated Carol's case in 1988, but didn't issue any indictments. In 2008, police searched Richard's farm near Cheboygan, looking for Carol's body, but the search didn't uncover any evidence.
In October 2018, Richard, now 82 years old, was charged with Carol's murder. Authorities noted he had "motive and opportunity to end her life, and benefitted from her demise in numerous ways" and also that he had given inconsistent statements about her disappearance for decades.
A photo of Richard is posted with this case summary. He had been the prime suspect in her disappearance for years. He is awaiting trial.
Carol's passport and Social Security number have not been used since 1975. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.