Wife’s Body Found In Wall After Husband Dies

A contractor cleaning out a junk-filled
basement in upstate New York finds the
remains of a woman missing since 1985.
JoAnn Nichols went missing in 1985. Pic:
Poughkeepsie Police Dept
A skeleton found walled-up in a basement full
of junk has been identified as a first-grade
teacher reported missing by her husband more
than 27 years ago.
JoAnn Nichols disappeared in December 1985.
Her husband James Nichols died of natural
causes last December, aged 82.
Authorities say a contractor cleaning hoarded
items and debris out of the Nichols’ home in
upstate New York found the bones in a sealed
container behind a false basement wall.
The body was found in this Poughkeepsie
home. Pic: News 12 Westchester
The Dutchess County medical examiner’s office
identified the remains as those of JoAnn
Nichols, based on dental records.
Dr Kari Reiber said the 55-year-old woman
died from a blow to the head.
Poughkeepsie Police say the cold case has now
been reopened and new evidence is being
examined in the lab.
According to archives of the Poughkeepsie
Journal newspaper, JoAnn Nichols taught her
last day of school on December 20, 1985.
She did not show up for a hair appointment
the next day, and that afternoon, a minister
called police on James Nichols’ behalf to report
her missing.
James Nichols told detectives he last saw his
wife when he left for work at IBM that
morning, and that he found a typed note when
he got home.
There was speculation that JoAnn Nichols was
despondent over their only child’s drowning
death three years earlier, when he was 25.
A detective told the Journal a few months later
that the note indicated a “degree of
depression, but it’s not what I’d consider a
suicide letter”.
The home was full of junk, authorities said.
Pic: News 12 Westchester
Police searched nearby rivers but found no
trace of the missing woman.
Nichols told police he found his wife’s locked
car on December 22 at a nearby shopping
Then-Detective Lt Charles Mittelstaedt told the
Journal there was no evidence of foul play. He
said four detectives were working the case full
Nichols later told a reporter that his wife
called him early on Christmas Eve morning to
say she was OK and that he should say hello to
their two golden retrievers for her. He said he
asked where she was, and she hung up.
“There’s no reason to assume she’s dead or
alive, joined a group or run off with some
other man. There are a thousand possibilities.
The pain is not knowing,” the Journal quoted
Nichols as saying in an interview.
Jeannie Foster, 71, a longtime friend of the
couple, told the Journal she never suspected
James Nichols in his wife’s disappearance.
She described JoAnne as down-to-earth and a
delight to be with.
But she said James was odd and once showed
guests the frozen carcass of a pet cat he kept
in a basement freezer.

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