In 1985, JoAnn Nichols, a 55-year-old elementary school teacher in Poughkeepsie, New York went missing. Her husband, James Nichols, filed a missing persons report. Police searched and investigated for years. But there was no sign of JoAnn Nichols.
In December of last year, James Nichols died of natural causes at the age of 82. The home he had shared with JoAnn was now vacant, and a contractor was called in to clean out the house. What he discovered has blown the case back into the headlines and shocked the town of Poughkeepsie.
A local ABC News affiliate reports that James Nichols is described by neighbors as an "intense" man, a hoarder. The contents of the house he left behind bear that out. The contractor that was called in to haul things out had his hands full. Then he discovered, in the basement, behind loads of debris, a wall in the house that should not have been there - a false wall. Behind that wall he found a sealed container. And inside that container he found the long-dead remains of JoAnn Nichols.
Did James kill his wife, seal her up in that wall, hoard and pile loads of junk around her body for years, then die in that house? Did he get away with murder?
JoAnn Nichols' body was positively identified by the county medical examiner through dental records. He also determined that she had been killed by blunt force trauma. There is still no word on who killed her. But with James Nichols now dead, anything he knew about the case is likely going to the grave with him, unless there are any kinds of clues written in all those piles of debris that James piled around his dead wife's body.