(WFRV) – Attorney General Josh Kaul is honoring members of the Wisconsin Department of Justice for their work with unresolved cases, including the investigators who closed Door County’s longest cold case, the murder of Carol Pierce.

It’s been almost one year since Richard Pierce from Sturgeon Bay was convicted of murdering his wife Carol nearly 50 years after her disappearance.

Investigators experienced a variety of challenges, including Richard moving to Michigan and never finding Carol’s body. It was not until they discovered letters she had written detailing problems with her husband that detectives were able to convict Richard.

Jay Yerges, the Wisconsin DOJ Special Agent who worked on the case for nearly a decade, says, “What it’s really about at the end of the day is receiving tight, prolonged hugs from victim family members. When you know that you’ve impacted their life in a meaningful, positive way and you’ve provided them the answers that they’ve sought for so long, that’s the biggest payback that you can really receive.”

Former Door County Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Gorde also says while he faced many obstacles trying the case, the end result was worth it.

“Once this was all over and Mr. Pierce was convicted, the feeling I got was after all those years, [the family] can finally start to heal from all those years of trauma and not knowing,” Gorde says.

In talking about what the future holds for investigators solving the unresolved, Yerges says, “The proliferation of online services and DNA forensic science is extraordinary. Those kids of forensic sciences have really helped catapult a lot of these cases. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I’m very optimistic that there will be continued advancements that we’ll be able to use in an investigative way.”

At 86 years old, Richard Pierce is currently in prison on a life sentence.