A woman found in the wall of an upstate New York home has been identified as school teacher JoAnn Nichols, missing since December 1985, according to SkyNews.
The website reported on Tuesday that a contractor cleaning out hoarded items and debris from the upstate New York home of 82-year-old James Nichols made the discovery. The elder Nichols died of natural causes in December 2012, almost 27 years to the day that he’d reported his wife missing.
The contractor stumbled across JoAnn Nichols’ remains, which were sitting in a sealed container behind a decoy basement wall. The Dutchess County medical examiner used dental records to confirm the skeleton’s identity. Dr. Kari Reiber added that the 55-year-old died from a blow to the head.
Poughkeepsie Police stopped short of naming James Nichols as the suspect in his wife’s death but did say the woman found in the wall had caused them to reopen their investigation.
Nichols taught her last day of school on December 20, 1985. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, she had a hair appointment the following day but never arrived. Later in the afternoon, a minister calling for James Nichols reported the woman missing.
James Nichols worked for IBM at the time and told police the last he’d seen of his wife was on the morning of December 21. When he returned home, he said she’d left a typed note, which police examined. A detective, speaking to the Journal at the time, said the note had a “degree of depression, but it’s not what I’d consider a suicide letter.”
Nichols later told police that JoAnn had called him on Christmas Eve morning and requested that he say hello to the couple’s golden retrievers for her. When he inquired where she was, Nichols said, she hung up.
The Nichols had one child, a son, who drowned three years prior to JoAnn’s disappearance.
A friend of the couple described JoAnn as “a delight to be with” and added that she never suspected James Nichols in his wife’s disappearance.
However, she recalled one occasion when James had shown guests the carcass of a pet cat he was keeping in the couple’s basement freezer and described him as “odd.”
The Poughkeepsie woman found in the wall is just the latest cold case to heat up in recent months. In June, there was more movement on the search for missing Teamster Jimmy Hoffa and New York-based actress Joselyn Martinez solved her father’s murder after 26 years.
As for JoAnn Nichols, do you think Poughkeepsie Police could have done more?
[Image via Poughkeepsie Police File]