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Cheboygan man arrested for murder more than 4 decades after his wife went missing

Carol Jean Pierce went missing in 1975.

CHEBOYGAN COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- 43 years after his wife went missing, a Cheboygan man has been charged with her murder.

Carol Jean Pierce, 35, was last seen in September 1975, and prosecutors say Richard G. Pierce, now 82, had motive to kill her.

The couple was planning to move from Sturgeon Bay to Cheboygan, Michigan, around the time Carol Jean Pierce disappeared, investigators say. Richard Pierce claims his wife left him, but prosecutors say he told different versions of the story to various people.

“At some point in cold cases, investigators along with prosecutors hand-in-hand need to make a decision," said Sturgeon Bay Police Chief Arleigh Porter. "Is it ever going to get any better than what we’ve got today? And that was answered quite a while ago, and that answer is no. So, let’s evaluate our evidence very carefully, slowly, methodically.”

Evidence also shows Pierce took out a loan to buy a trencher-bulldozer and trailer in December 1975. A search of Pierce's property in 2008 turned up no evidence of the missing woman, however.

“All of the factors that are contained in the criminal complaint tend to lead us back to this property," Chief Porter said.

Prosecutors say Richard Pierce benefited from Carol Jean Pierce's death with "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."

Richard Pierce was arrested Thursday and is being held at the Cheboygan County Jail in Michigan. He is charged with first-degree murder and disinterment of dead.

If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Read the full criminal complaint here.

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