Joan Carolyn Risch (formerly known as Bard) was born on the 12th of May, 1980, in Brooklyn, New York.
By April 1961, Joan was married to Martin Risch, and the couple had two children together, Lillian and David, and the family was living in Lincoln, Massachautestes.
On October 24th, 1961, Martin woke up early to make sure he got on his 8am flight to New York for a business trip that he had planned. Martin planned to stay in Manhattan overnight. Not long after Martin had left, Joan woke up the children and then gave them breakfast.
Joan then dropped David off with a neighbour, before taking Lillian to an appointment with a Bedford dentist. After the appointment, Joan took Lillian on a short shopping trip to a nearby department store, where they paid in cash.
At around 11:15am, Joan, Lillian and David returned home. A delivery dry cleaner came over shortly after they returned home to pick up some of Martin’s suits, and after he had left, Joan changed out of her formal clothes and into a blue housedress with some white sneakers.
Joan then made the children lunch, before putting David down for his afternoon nap that always lasted until 2pm. Barbara Barker came over at 1pm so that Lillian and her son, Douglas, could play together. Barbara said that during their visit Joan went in and out to prune some plants, and put the shears back in the garage.
Just before 2pm, Joan took the children across to Barbara’s house and told them that she would be back soon. At around 2:15pm, Barbara saw Joan, wearing what looked to be a trench coat over her clothing, moving quickly up her driveway, carrying something red with outstretched arms towards the garage. This is the last confirmed sighting of Joan.
At 3:40pm, Barbara took the children back to their home, as she was going out shopping with her own children. When she returned at 4:15pm, Lillian came over to Barbara’s house and said: “Mommy is gone and the kitchen is covered with red paint.” After confirming what Lillian said was true, Barbara called the police at 4:33pm.
When Sargeant Mike McHugh arrived at the Risch family home, he talked to Barbara for a few moments before going inside the house.
In the kitchen, he found bloody smears all over the walls, the table had been overturned, and the handset of the wall-mounted phone had been ripped loose and thrown in the wastebasket – the wastebasket had also been moved from its normal place under the sink to the middle of the room. The telephone directory was also found to be open on the page where emergency numbers could be written down – but no numbers had been written.
To add more to this mystery, blood was found in more places over the house. Large smears were found on the kitchen walls and floors, with some on the phone as well. Three unidentified bloody fingerprints were also found in the kitchen, and paper towels were all over the floor, one paper towel had been used to wipe the blood off somewhere – potentially a hand.
A coverall and pair of underpants that belonged to David were on the floor, both covered in blood. The coverall appeared to have been pressed into the floor, as if something heavy, such as a body, had been laying on it for some time.
Police believe that while the blood in the kitchen may seem as though it’s from a struggle, it seems more plausible that it was someone staggering around and trying to support themselves after sustaining an injury.
A 3.2mm wide drop of blood was found on the first step of the stairway leading upstairs, and two more spots of similar sizes were found at the top of the stairs. Eight drops of blood were found in the master bedroom, and one blood spot was found near a children’s window.
Another trail of blood was found coming out of the kitchen and into the driveway, ending at Joan’s car. Joan’s car had blood stains in three places; the right rear fender, the left side of the hood close to the windshield, and the very middle of the trunk.
Despite a large amount of blood found at the scene, the state police chemist discovered that the real amount of bloodshed was only half a pint (240 ml), and would not have caused a life-threatening injury. The blood type was Type O, which is the blood type Joan was known to have.
What’s also puzzling is that investigators can’t determine where the bleeding actually started; upstairs, in the kitchen, or in the driveway, as each possibility is supported by the evidence. It’s also important to note that no bloody footprints were found anywhere in the house – meaning the person who had been bleeding and walking around had either been very careful not to leave any footprints, or very lucky that they didn’t.
When police searched the house, they found four letters at the end of the driveway that had not been brought in yet. When questioned by police, the postman said that he saw nothing out of the ordinary at Joan’s home that morning. In the waste can in the kitchen, Martin (Joan’s husband) said he doesn’t know where the empty beer bottles that were found in there could have come from.
Joan had left behind the trench coat she had worn to the dentist that morning but appeared to have taken a plainer cloth coat with her. She had also left behind her pocketbook, and investigators found out that after cashing her cheque, Joan would have only had $10 to her name.
After her disappearance, police canvassed the neighbourhood with the hopes of finding new information about what happened to Joan. They discovered that several other residents had seen sightings of Joan.
One person saw a woman who was wearing clothes that was similar to what Joan had last been seen in with a handkerchief over her head and tied around her chin, walking along the North Side of Route 2A, heading towards Concord. The person said that this woman appeared to be hunched over, as if she was cold, and appeared to look untidy.
Another person saw a woman who was similarly dressed to Joan with blood running down her legs walking north on Route 128 median strip in Waltham between 3:15 and 3:30pm. This woman seemed confused and looked to be cradling something near her stomach area. At around 4:30pm, the same woman was sighted walking south along Route 128, close to Trapelo Road.
After Joan’s disappearance, Sareen Gerson, a reporter with The Fence Viewer, a local newspaper in Lincoln, went to the library to research similar cases to Joan’s. It was at the library that Sareen, along with a group of library volunteers, discovered that Joan had taken out over 25 books over the summer of 1961, and all of the books were related to true crime and missing persons cases.
Based on this new lead, Sareen and a few of her journalist friends believe that Joan was not happy in her life and instead faked her own death to start a new life somewhere else.
However, Morton, a close friend of Joan’s, does not believe this theory. “She would never have left her family on her own,” she said.
Joan’s husband, Martin, rarely talked about the case. On the one occasion that he did, he said that his wife may have had amnesia or psychological episode and forgotten how to return home to her family. There are no records of mental illness in Joan’s family.
Joan has never been declared legally dead, and to this day she is still considered missing.
What happened to Joan?
Unsolved, Missing, Missing Person, USA, True Crime, Investigation, Unknown