The skeletonized remains of a woman missing for nearly 30 years were found behind a false wall in the basement of the woman's former husband, who neighbors described as an intense hoarder.
Using dental records, the Dutchess County medical examiner in Poughkeepsie, New York identified the remains as those of JoAnn Nichols, who disappeared in December 1985. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, caused by blunt force trauma to the head.
After she was reported missing by a friend concerned that she'd missed a beauty salon appointment, Nichols's husband, James Nichols, told police that he found her car in the parking lot of a nearby shopping mall. Nichols also told police and reporters that his wife left him a typed note before she vanished and that he had a brief phone call with her three days after she was reported missing, on Christmas Eve morning. Police eventually determined there were no signs of foul play, a decision neighbors found hard to believe.
“Ultimately, we all said he did it,” neighbor Delores Casella told the Poughkeepsie Journal. “We automatically all said that, ‘He did something with her.’ He just had a creepy feeling about him.”
Neighbors reported seeing odd behavior from James Nichols after his wife's disappearance. They said he drove through the neighborhood with a dummy wearing a hat seated in his passenger seat. Another neighbor told reporters that Nichols kept his dead dog's body in his freezer, because he didn't want to part with it.
“The guy was a hoarder. He literally had seven or eight of those Dumpsters in his backyard, also filed with stuff,” said Al Delaney, 46, a neighbor.
Police also said Nichols's home was filled with debris. JoAnn Nichols's skeleton was discovered in the basement, behind a false wall, stuffed inside a sealed container.
While the investigation is ongoing, it seems unlikely any charges will be pressed; James Nichols died last year, at the age of 82, of natural causes.
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