The Unsolved Disappearance Of Joan Risch (1961) - Shreya Sachdev
DISCLAIMER: No disrespect is intended towards anyone that I talk about on this blog post. This blog post is for educational purposes and is being posted on this website in order to raise awareness about this case and to truly hope that the grieving families and friends of these victims find closure and finally find out what happened to their loved one(s). I have gathered all this information on the internet, but unfortunately I do not know how accurate or inaccurate it is. If I have made a mistake somewhere, then I apologize. It is not my intention to spread false information.
Joan Risch was born on the 12th of May in 1930 in Brooklyn, New York. Joan actually had quite a traumatic childhood. When Joan was nine years old, her family moved to New Jersey and unfortunately just a few months later of Joan and her family moving, Joan’s parents were killed in what could only be described as a suspicious house fire. Not long after, Joan told a friend that she had been sexually abused as a child. After the death of her parents, Joan ended up moving in with her uncle and her aunt. Despite this traumatic childhood, Joan was able to lead a normal life in which she went to school and had friends. In 1952, she graduated from Wilson College in Pennsylvania with a degree in English Literature, which she was extremely passionate about.
After Joan graduated, she was able to secure a job where she worked in a publishing company as a secretary. She later become the editorial assistant at Harcourt Brace and World and then later at Thomas Y.Crowell Co. This is where Joan met Martin Risch, and they both immediately fell in love with each other and got married in 1956. After they got married, they moved to Connecticut, and soon welcomed a baby girl named Lilian to the family. After Joan gave birth, she ended up quitting her job to be a housewife so she could look after her daughter and her home. In 1959, Joan gave birth to a baby boy named David. In After the birth of Joan’s second child, the family decided to move to Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1961 where they lived on Old Bedford Road. Joan continued to be a stay at home mother, but she did express to her husband how she wanted to be a teacher when her children were older and how she wanted to continue her passion for English Literature later on in life.
On October 24th in 1961, just a few months after the family had moved, Joan Risch disappeared from her home. The day started off like any other day: Martin woke up at 6:50am because he had to get to the Logan Airport as he was flying out to an 8:00am flight to New York for his business, which is around the same time that Joan went to wake her children up. After she woke up her children, she called up one of her friends just to chat with her and see what was going in her life. Later, she went to her friend Barbara’s house to drop David off so she could babysit him whilst Joan ran a few errands with her daughter Lilian. Before running errands, Joan went to the dentist to get a cavity filled and then went to run errands as well as buying her son a pair of pyjamas as well as a bra for herself. At the same time, both the newspaper man and the milkman came to Joan’s house to drop the newspaper and milk off, both who would later report that there was nothing out of the ordinary in or outside the house. Joan then went to pick up David from Barbara’s house and got home at around 11:15am. Many of the locals confirmed that they saw Joan and Lilian looking very cheery and that nothing was out of the ordinary that day. At around 11:30am, Martin’s dry cleaner came to pick up Martin’s suits, he also reported that there was nothing out of the ordinary. After this, Joan changed into a blue dress and white sneakers and made lunch for her children. At around 12:00pm, she put David inside his crib for his usual nap. After this, Barbara came over with her four year old son, Douglass, so that he could play with Lilian. Barbara went back to her house, and Douglass and Lilian were playing in the driveway of her house. Whilst David was sleeping, and whilst Douglass and Lilian were playing, Joan was looking after her house and cleaning up.
This is where things get strange: When Joan was done looking after her house, she took Lilian and Douglass back to Barbara’s house without even telling Barbara, Barbara had no idea that the two children were in her backyard as Joan dropped them off near the swing set which is where the two children did not have a view of Joan’s house. When Joan dropped Lilian off, she told her that she would be back in a few minutes. At around 2:15pm, Barbara looks out her kitchen window into Joan’s house and sees Joan wearing a trench coat with her arms stretched out with a red unidentified object in her hands, and is seen hurrying from where her car was to her garage. However, Barbara didn’t think much of it and just thought that she was playing with the children. This is the last confirmed sighting of Joan. At around 2:45pm, a witness said that she saw someone wearing the exact same clothes that Joan was said to be wearing walking along route 2A. Apparently, she was hunched over as if she was cold and confused. At around 3:00pm, a neighbor said that they spotted an unfamiliar car in the Risch garage. The same car had also been reported five days earlier by the milkman, when he was asked about it. Between 3:00pm and 4:00pm, another woman stated that she saw a woman who matched Joan’s description walking along route 128 and looked hunched over and very uncomfortable, with blood running down her legs. At 4:30pm, another witness says that they see a woman matching Joan’s description at a construction site.
4:30pm was when Barbara noticed that Douglass and Lilian were actually at her house, and so she picks up Lilian and drops her off at Joan’s house assuming that Joan had to quickly leave Douglass and Lilian and her house for some kind of emergency. Barbara drops Lilian off at the driveway to let Lilian go inside of her house herself, as Joan always left the front door open. When Barbara returns from her errands, she sees that Lilian is sitting in her yard. When Barbara asks Lilian what happened. Lilian responds by telling Barbara “Mommy is gone and the house is covered in red paint.” Barbara immediately goes inside of Joan’s house, and notices that the house is covered in blood. Blood was smeared all over the walls and floors of the house, and when Barbara walked in she actually heard David crying so as she is making her way upstairs to comfort him, she notices that the blood is not only in the kitchen but is also leading up to the master bedroom. Immediately, Barbara calls the police and police arrive within five minutes of the phone call. When police investigated the scene, they saw that there was a phone that had been ripped out of the wall and thrown into a trash can, and that there was a table turned upside down. There was also a phone book on the counter and the phone book was open to the emergency services page. The blood was tested and forensics scientists determined that the blood was a match to Joan’s blood, which was blood type O. It was also obvious that somebody had tried to clean up the blood with an old rag or a towel, but nobody could determine where the blood started and where it ended. They also found an unidentified thumb
After seeing how much blood was in the house, police realized that some sort of foul play was definitely involved. Police got helicopters, military, other policemen, and even locals to help find Joan in the woods and the surrounding areas. However, nobody found Joan. Martin, who got the news shortly after, immediately flew back home. The police complied a list of possible suspects, and the first being Martin as it is the police’s duty to always investigate the family’s victim first and foremost. However, Martin was cleared quickly as he had been away on a business trip and everyone said that they had a very happy marriage. The milkman, newspaper man, and dry cleaner were also questioned but they were cleared as suspects as well. Every single lead that the police pursued was dismissed.
Sareen Gerson, who was a local reporter for a newspaper went to the local library and found something extremely interesting: He found that a couple of months before Joan’s disappearance, Joan had checked out 25 books from the library, all books which were on the topics of unsolved cases and unsolved disappearances. All of these books also have something to do with people staging their own disappearances. There was one book in particular named “Into Thin Air” which Joan checked out in September and this book was very similar to Joan’s case. The book is about a woman who disappeared from her home and that the only evidence left in her home were blood smeared towels. Thus, some people began to believe that Joan staged her own disappearance.
Joan was kidnapped: Joan left her house unlocked all the time, and thus it is possible that someone went inside her house and abducted her.
She staged her own disappearance. As I said before, Joan did check out many books before her disappearance that were all related to missing people and unsolved disappearances, thus it is possible that Joan wanted to try disappearing on her own for the fun of it.
Joan was pregnant.
Which theory do I believe?
When I was first researching into this case, I was 100% sure that Joan Risch staged her own disappearance. However, as I’ve begun to research this case more in depth, I truly believe that Joan Risch was pregnant and was trying to get an abortion. My theory goes like this: I believe that the car that the milkman saw five days prior to Joan’s disappearance was the car that a doctor had driven to meet Joan in. In this meeting, Joan and the doctor were discussing the abortion procedure, and Joan told the doctor that in five days, her husband would be out of town and thus it would be a perfect time for Joan to have the abortion as her husband would never know that she had an abortion or that she was ever pregnant in the first place. Five days later, when Martin left for his business trip, Joan was meant to have the procedure. Joan didn’t want to tell Barbara about the abortion as it is a very personal thing and she must’ve known that Barbara would not approve of Joan’s decision. Anyways, Joan dropped Lilian and Douglass off in Barbara’s yard as she didn’t want the children to disturb her as the abortion was going on. As the abortion was going on, something went very bad and the doctor didn’t properly know how to conduct an abortion. This is why Joan went downstairs and as she went downstairs, there was blood smeared on the walls and on the staircase. She took the phone and opened the phone book, but the doctor grabbed the phone out of her hands and threw it in the trash can, because he didn’t want to get in trouble as this was an illegal abortion. He confronted her and then fled the scene, whilst Joan lost so much blood that she became very disoriented as she walked around the neighborhood. Ultimately, she fell in a construction site and was unfortunately killed. I do not believe that the doctor murdered Joan, as I think he ran away as quickly as he could as opposed to murdering her. Joan Risch tried to get an abortion, and the abortion didn’t go as planned.
Bibliography & Credit: Fiori, Bella, director. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JOAN RISCH. YouTube, YouTube, 7 Jan. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQGPWFXKbj4.