Richard Gale Pierce said he arrived home on Sept. 8, 1975, to the trailer he shared with his wife in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and found that she had left him. Eighty-two days passed before he reported Carol Jean Pierce, 35, missing, telling police that she had left before and returned after a few days. Long a suspect in his wife's disappearance, Gale, now 82, was arrested Thursday and charged with murdering her, the Journal Sentinel reports. According to a criminal complaint, Richard Pierce "had motive and opportunity to end her life, and benefitted from her demise in numerous ways," including "a pension unencumbered by a wife, most of the important belongings from their marriage, land and a home in Michigan, a new girlfriend weeks after Carol Jean's disappearance, as well as the benefit of Carol Jean's silence."
"This is a day I've wanted to see for a long time," Carol Jean Pierce's brother, Brian Fillion, tells the Green Bay Press Gazette. Richard Pierce was being held in jail in Cheboygan, Mich., his hometown, pending extradition to Wisconsin, CBS reports. The criminal complaint contains mainly circumstantial evidence against him, such as a statement from a neighbor who says Carol Jean Pierce was worried that her husband would kill her, statements from acquaintances that the couple argued a lot, and alleged instances of physical abuse. A cold case review team in Wisconsin took a look at the case last month and decided to pursue it, according to reports. On Thursday, police in Sturgeon Bay were searching the property where the Pierces lived when Carol Jean Pierce disappeared, per the Green Bay Press Gazette. (Read more cold cases stories.)