JoAnn, circa 1976
- Missing Since 05/14/1976
- Missing From Bayou George, Florida
- Classification Endangered Missing
- Sex Female
- Race White
- Date of Birth 07/19/1954 (68)
- Age 21 years old
- Height and Weight 5'7, 190 - 200 pounds
- Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, green eyes. JoAnn fractured her femur in a car accident months before her disappearance. Her name may be spelled "Joanne."
Details of Disappearance
JoAnn was last seen at her residence on Titus Road in Bayou George, Florida on May 14, 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 JoAnn'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 JoAnn 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 JoAnn's disappearance, Gary asked friends to mail letters and toys to his children pretending to be JoAnn.
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 JoAnn 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 JoAnn's case, but police stated they believed he murdered Joanne and buried her body somewhere in the area. He now lives in Tennessee. He placed his youngest daughter for adoption, but kept the older one. JoAnn's disappearance remains unsolved.
- Bay County Sheriff's Office 850-747-4700
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated August 10, 2010; date of birth, height and weight added, distinguishing characteristics updated.