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Grisly Discovery In Poughkeepsie Basement Reheats Cold Case

JoAnn Nichols Was Reported Missing By Her Husband In December 1985
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Human Remains Found In Poughkeepsie Home (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

Human Remains Found In Poughkeepsie Home (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Human remains found in a Poughkeepsie home have been identified as a woman who was reported missing by her husband nearly 30 years ago.

JoAnn Nichols vanished in December 1985.

A contractor found her remains Friday inside a sealed container behind a false basement wall in the Poughkeepsie home Nichols shared with her husband.

The Dutchess County medical examiner’s office identified the remains based on dental records and said the 55-year-old woman died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The contractor was called in to clean the home after Nichols’ husband, James, died of natural causes last December at the age of 82.

JoAnn Nichols (image via CBS 2)

JoAnn Nichols (image via CBS 2)

Town of Poughkeepsie Police Captain Paul Lecomte said the missing teacher’s husband had invited detectives into the home over the years and for a while was open to police questions.

But Lecomte told WCBS 880 reporter Paul Murnane that the cooperation didn’t last.

“I believe he was reluctant to speak to the authorities. He was guarded in what he said,” Lecomte said Tuesday.

Many neighbors were not surprised by the discovery.

“It’s a shock that it actually did happen, but I think deep down we all knew that something like this would eventually happen,” one neighbor said. “I’ve lived here for 27 years so everybody kind of felt the same way.”

Some described James Nichols as a man of mystery and few words.

“He was always strange, he kept to himself, he really didn’t say much to anybody,” one neighbor said.

In 1985, following the death of Nichols’ son, there were reports of a suicide note, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

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