Jury chosen for trial of man charged in 1975 murder of wife in Door County

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 10:12 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 11:33 AM CDT
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STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A jury has been selected to hear the trial of a man charged with murder in the 1975 disappearance his wife in Door County.

Richard Pierce, 85, appeared in Door County Court Thursday for jury selection. He’s charged with 1st-Degree Murder and Disinterment of Dead for the death of Carol Jean Pierce.

A jury of five women and 10 men will hear the case. Three of those jurors are alternates.

The trial starts April 19 and is scheduled to last 16 days. Jurors will not be sequestered.

For two and a half hours, the prosecution and defense asked questions in effort to determine who best can listen to the case fairly and without prejudice.

Several potential jurors were excused for reasons that include conflicts with schedules, religious reasons, past issues with law enforcement and having family who have been victims of crime.

Jurors were questioned about the case--one of those questions involves a piece of evidence prosecutors say they don’t have--the body of Carol Jean.

“Carol Jean Pierce’s body has never been found,” said Door County Assistant District Attorney Nick Grode. “You’ll hear that from me. So is there any one of you, who, on that basis alone, the fact that no body has been recovered, could not find that Mr. Pierce committed this crime if I present other evidence that she’s dead?”

Pierce’s trial has been delayed several times since he was charged in 2018.

Action 2 news first told you in April of 2021 that the trial was delayed a full year because of COVID. The trial was delayed again after the death of one of Pierce’s attorneys.

Police say Pierce moved to Cheboygan, Mich., and had a new girlfriend shortly after Carol Jean disappeared from Sturgeon Bay. A missing persons report for Carol Jean wasn’t filed for 82 days.

On Sept. 21, 2018, the Wisconsin Cold Case Review Team looked at the case and concluded there was enough to show Richard Pierce was set to gain from Carol Jean’s disappearance.

Her body was never found.

Investigators from Sturgeon Bay and Michigan spent weeks searching Richard Pierce’s property in Michigan, looking for possible evidence related to the Carol Jean Pierce disappearance.

A criminal complaint states Richard Pierce had “gained numerous things based on Carol Jean’s disappearance, which included a pension unencumbered by a wife; most of the important belongings of 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.”

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