Man pleads not guilty to murder of wife in 1975

DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - An 83-year-old man says he's not guilty of murdering his wife in 1975.

Richard G. Pierce appeared in Door County Court April 19 for an arraignment hearing. He pleaded not guilty to charges of 1st Degree Murder and Disinterment of Dead.

Pierce was arrested Oct. 11 for the murder of Carol Jean Pierce. Richard and Carol Jean were living in Sturgeon Bay when she disappeared in 1975.

Richard Pierce moved to Cheboygan, Mich. after Carol Jean's disappearance.

A criminal complaint filed in Door County 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."

Carol Jean Pierce's remains were never found.

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.

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. They have not released the details of their findings.

During Richard Pierce's arraignment, the court questioned when the case would be ready for trial. Pierce's attorney, Kate Zuidmulder, says there is "voluminous discovery" and asked for a status conference.

The state says there will be 43-45 witnesses and that number is expected to go up as motions are heard.

The court set a status conference for May 31.