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Nancy Grace

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28 years later, missing woman’s remains found

  • Joann Nichols, 55, reported missing in December 1985
  • Remains found behind 'false wall' in late husband's home
  • Cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head

The body of a former elementary school teacher who had been missing for 28 years was discovered Friday behind a false wall in the basement of her late husband’s Poughkeepsie, New York home, according to police.

Police say James Nichols reported his 55-year-old wife, Joann Nichols, missing on December 21, 1985, after she failed to show up for a hair appointment at a beauty parlor earlier that day.

Despite a massive police investigation, the woman was never located.

James Nichols was found dead inside his home in December. Police say the 82-year-old died from natural causes.

Following Nichols’ death, a contractor hired to clean out the vacant home discovered the missing woman’s remains behind the wall on Friday.

Joann Nichols’ body was found in a large plastic bin, inside a plastic bag, and wrapped in a sheet, Medical Examiner Dr. Kari Reiber said, according to CNN

The skeletonized remains showed that a large area of the right side of her skull was missing. Her hands were also tied with a rope. An autopsy showed the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, Reiber added

While the case remains open, Capt. Paul LeComte told CNN, “It’s now safe to say James Nichols is a suspect in the case.”

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