Details of Disappearance
Joyce was last seen on April 16, 1978. She left her parents' summer cottage on Indian Lake shortly before 3:00 p.m., leaving her one-year-old daughter in her mother's care, and drove six miles to an antique store called Bell's Corner in Sister Lakes, Michigan to meet her estranged husband of two years, Jerry Wayne Fisher, who lived in Keeler Township, Michigan. She never came back and has never been heard from again.
Photographs of Jerry are posted with this case summary. Joyce was going to sign a car title over to him so he could sell it, and they went to get the document notarized
Joyce told the owner of Bell's Corner that she would return in about half an hour. Jerry stated they had driven only a short distance when Joyce realized they had the wrong title. He said he dropped Joyce off Bell's Corner between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m., about forty-five minutes after they'd left.
Other witnesses, however, said Jerry was alone when he came back. Joyce has never been heard from again. The 1969 Buick she was driving was later found parked in front of the store. There was no sign of a struggle and no indication of her whereabouts.
Joyce left behind $600 in her bank account. She is described as a reliable and responsible woman and a dedicated mother who was close to her family.
She told family and friends she was afraid of Jerry and that he had beaten her several times, and she feared he would try to take their daughter from her. They had separated in December and were in the process of a divorce.
Joyce had worked as a special education teacher for the Dowagiac Union School District, but she resigned in January 1978 and moved in with her father and mother in the Chicago, Illinois metropolitan area. She took their daughter to Michigan every two weeks so Jerry could visit with her, and it was during one of these trips that she disappeared.
Although she was stressed over her pending divorce, her loved ones don't believe she would have left without warning or taken her own life.
Following Joyce's disappearance, Jerry refused to cooperate with the investigation and hired an attorney. He was later accused of beating his and Joyce's daughter, and in January 1979, he lost custody to Joyce's parents. He was ordered to have no contact with the child until he underwent a psychiatric evaluation.
He moved to Florida shortly after Joyce went missing, and remarried eight years later. He told his friends and his new wife that Joyce suffered from mental illness and had been "put away" as a long-term patient in a psychiatric hospital.
In 1987, he was charged with Joyce's murder. He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 1988 and sentenced to 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison, but four years later the case was overturned on appeal and he was released.
Joyce's body has never been found, but foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.