Sturgeon Bay no-body homicide cleared following input from WAHI Cold Case Review Team

In September, 1975, Carol Jean Pierce was killed in her Sturgeon Bay home by her

husband, Richard Gale Pierce. To date, her remains have never been found. Within
days of the homicide Pierce moved to Cheboygan, Michigan taking his mobile home,
the location of the homicide with him. There was a substantial amount of interviews
conducted and documents and records collected concerning this investigation during
the 1980’s. The investigation went cold during the 1990’s, and remained so until it was
reopened in 2004. In 2007, after hearing about the WAHI Cold Case Review Team
(CCRT) I decided to ask for a review of the Pierce file and began the process of
developing my outline and presentation for that review. I went into that review confident
that our investigation was all but airtight, and that we had left no stone unturned in our
quest for justice. I came out of that review with the realization that we had developed a
serious case of tunnel vision within the investigation, and that the fresh set of eyes
provided by the review panel was exactly what we needed. The review panel provided
me with a total of 16 suggestions designed to advance the investigation further,
suggestions that I doubt I would have ever come up with had the review not taken
place. By 2018, 43 years after the homicide a second review was conducted by the
CCRT. Prior to this review Mr. Steve Daniels (CCRT Chairperson) put together a review
panel that was custom built for the Pierce investigation. This allowed for the maximum
focus on each and every aspect of the investigation and the discussion concerning the
possible arrest of Richard Gale Pierce for this homicide. The Door County District
Attorney attended this review and made the decision after the review that Richard Gale
Pierce was to be arrested and taken to trial for this homicide. That arrest occurred in
October, 2018. Following several unforeseen delays, the jury trial was held in April,
2022 and Richard Gale Pierce was found guilty of the homicide of his wife, Carol Jean
Pierce. When you consider the year of this homicide (1975) and the year of conviction
(2022) the 47 year span is nothing short of remarkable when you consider that this was
a no-body homicide, and DNA was not a factor in the arrest or conviction. The input
from the WAHI CCRT on this investigation was crucial as it brought together a team of
experts to take a very hard look at every aspect of this investigation, and to offer
recommendations to advance this from the investigative stage to the prosecution stage.
I am convinced that each of the 72 counties in the State of Wisconsin have an unsolved
homicide, you may not be aware of one in your county, but I am confident that at least
one exists. If you have a cold case homicide that seems to have lost traction I cannot
stress enough that you consider contacting Steve Daniels (920-499-4995) to discuss a
possible homicide review with the Cold Case Review Team, this was truly a game
changer for the Pierce investigation.

BY: Thomas J. Baudhuin
Lt. Investigator, Sturgeon Bay Police Department-Retired