NE CHRISTI NICHOLS: Missing from Gothenburg, NE - 10 Dec 1987 - Age 22


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Nichols, mother of two small children, was last seen alive December 10, 1987, at her home in Gothenburg. Her husband reported her missing the next day, and she has never been seen since. The Nebraska State Patrol investigated the case and the family hired a private detective to no avail. Although authorities suspect Christi Jo Nichols is dead, her body never has been found. At first, police handled the disappearance as a missing persons case, but as time progressed it evolved into suspicion of murder. An investigation revealed traces of Christi's blood in the couple's house and in the husbands car. Recent DNA tests have proved that the blood found was indeed Christi's. Her suitcase, along with her purse was found at a rest stop near Maxwell in 1988. Christi was in an abusive relationship and had been treated in an emergency room for injuries weeks before she disappeared. She was planning to leave her husband at the time of her disappearance.

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Details of Disappearance
Christi and her husband of three years, Mark Nichols, left their two children with a babysitter and went to a bar in Gothenburg, Nebraska on the evening of December 10, 1987.

After midnight on December 11, Mark came home and paid the babysitter in cash. Usually, it was Christi who paid the sitter, and she did it with a check. The babysitter later stated she did not believe Christi came home with her husband, but Mark said Christi was there and the babysitter simply never saw her.

Mark reported Christi missing later that day. He said they argued until 2:00 a.m., when he went to sleep. At 7:00 a.m., the children woke up Mark and he realized Christi was missing. At 9:30 a.m., Christi's mother called and Mark lied, saying Christi was asleep in bed. He later said he did this so her mother would not worry about her.

Later that morning, he took his children to Christi's grandmother's home and asked her to babysit them while he searched for his wife. He said he spent two hours driving around in the area, looking for her, but never saw her. Nobody in town reported having seen him do this, however.

Mark moved out of the house the day after his wife's disappearance, and a few days after that, he packed up all their belongings and sold both the family's vehicles. Christi has never been heard from again.

Mark said she took a suitcase and her purse with her, and was able to describe the contents exactly: the suitcase contained jeans, a sweatshirt, a bra and jacket and the purse held a hairbrush, a pen, a lighter, a matchbook, lipstick, Neutrogena cream, a nail file, a mirror and one piece of gum.

Both the suitcase and the purse, with everything still inside, were found at an Interstate 80 rest stop near Maxwell, Nebraska in March 1988. Authorities stated it looked as if whoever placed them there had wanted them to be found. Christi left behind all her other belongings, including her diamond jewelry and driver's license, and she never picked up her last paycheck from the bar where she worked part time.

Mark and Christi were having marital problems in 1987, and Mark was allegedly physically abusing her and monitoring her phone calls. Christi once had to go to the hospital emergency room for injuries allegedly caused by Mark. She went to see an abuse counselor, and Mark was angry when he found out and made her promise not to go again, but she went again anyway.

Two days before she disappeared, Christi met with a divorce attorney. The attorney stated Christi was extremely stressed and appeared to have been beaten. She told him she wanted a divorce and custody of her children. The attorney advised her not to return to the home she shared with Mark, but she refused. She made another appointment to see him, but disappeared before she could keep it.

When interviewed about Christi's disappearance by reporters for the Unsolved Mysteries television show in 1989, Mark said the only time one of their arguments escalated into violence was when Christi had hit and kicked him and burned his neck with a cigarette after he asked her to stay home one night, and he tossed her on the waterbed in self-defense and accidentally injured her in the process.

In 1990, Mark filed for divorce from Christi on grounds of desertion. He said she had left of her own accord, abandoning him and their son and daughter. Authorities believe she was seeing another man at the time of her disappearance.

After she went missing, a note from Christi, addressed to the other man, was found in the Nicholses' car. Christi wrote she would be leaving after Christmas, but promised to contact the man within a few months. Investigators interviewed the man and he has been ruled out as a suspect in Christi's case.

Mark took a polygraph about her disappearance in 1987, but the results were inconclusive. He now lives in Arkansas with his third wife. Foul play is suspected in Christi's disappearance and it is classified as a homicide. Mark is the only suspect in her case.

Trace amounts of Christi's blood were found on the floor of her bedroom, and in the trunk of Mark's 1977 Mercury Cougar. Authorities stated there was not enough blood to indicate Christi was dead. Mark told investigators it was her menstrual blood, but analysis proved this statement was untrue.

Christi's case remains unsolved. She is described as a quiet, very shy woman and a dedicated mother. It is uncharacteristic of her to abandon her children.

Gothenburg woman’s disappearance a mystery
by David Hendee World-Herald News Service
Dec 11, 2012

The kids grew up.

The husband moved on.

But Joanne Kniss of Omaha hasn’t given up hope of learning what happened to her niece in Gothenburg, 25 years ago today (Tuesday).

Christi Jo Nichols, a 22-year-old mother of two and part-time bartender, vanished Dec. 11, 1987. She and her husband, Mark Nichols, ate supper at Pizza Hut with their infant daughter and son, took them to see Santa and then home to a baby sitter while the couple played pool at the bar where Christi Jo worked. The Nebraska State Patrol investigated. The family hired a private detective. Investigators said over the years they became convinced she was slain. Townspeople speculated that her body was buried in the local railroad overpass or entombed in some other construction project or rural area.

Mark Nichols, then 26, and his family contended she ran away from a deteriorating marriage. They had been married four years. Kniss said the family would like answers.

“It’s been extremely hard,’’ Kniss said Monday. “My heart goes out to people all over the country when I hear about somebody missing. The not knowing is very frustrating. You want the guilty to be brought to justice.’’

The case captured national attention and was featured on the “Unsolved Mysteries’’ TV program.

The State Patrol lists Nichols’ case as one of about 250 unsolved homicides. The patrol’s cold case unit includes her in a deck of playing cards featuring photographs of homicide victims. Decks were distributed to prisons and jails across the state — and are posted on the patrol’s website — in hopes of producing tips or leads that might be a missing link in solving a case.

Christi Jo Nichols is the queen of hearts.

Kniss has devoted her life to keeping the search for the killer alive. She moved to Omaha from North Platte to work for the late private investigator Dennis Whelan, hired by the family. Extensive ground searches were conducted, but nothing was found.

Kniss now works part time at a warehouse but maintains documents on the case to help researchers and investigators. She also keeps track of family members. Kniss said her niece’s husband lives and works in Hastings. Mark Nichols remarried years ago and won a custody battle with Christi Jo’s family for daughter Lindsey and son Preston. Kniss said Lindsey, now 27, lives in Georgia and Preston, now 26, works in Lexington.

Christi Jo’s parents, who were divorced when she disappeared, live in Nebraska. Ken Williams, her father, has returned to Gothenburg from Colorado. Connie Stanley, her mother, lives in western Nebraska.
The family wanted Dawson County and state law enforcement officials to open a grand jury investigation of the case but were turned down for lack of evidence.

Kniss said there was circumstantial evidence, including blood spots found in the couple’s bedroom and in a car trunk. Christi Jo’s suitcase was discovered along Interstate 80 near Maxwell three months after her disappearance.

Mark Nichols told authorities that his wife was gone from their bed when he awoke after the night at the bar. He has denied any wrongdoing.
In-depth and very well done article about Christi's disappearance.

So, on the night of December 10th, 1987, Mark and Christi take the ir children and go out. The townspeople that saw them seemed a bit surprised they were out together as it was known in the small town they weren’t getting along. It is thought that Christi agreed to go out with him that night to try to keep things calm until she could take the kids and leave. They took the kids to Pizza Hut and then hired a teenage babysitter, Diane Janssen, to watch the children at their house for the rest of the evening. Mark and Christi then went to the bar, Pete’s Place, where Christi worked and that Mark’s uncle owned. His uncle recalls it was evident how stressful things were between them that night. He said they spent a few hours playing pool and shuffleboard before the bar closed at midnight. After they left the bar, the couple apparently stopped at the Jack & Jill convenience store in town according to the clerk. He said Mark did some shopping while Christi seemed very nervous and wanted to get somewhere it seemed and she just stayed around by the clerk talking to him. He said Mark bought some milk and breakfast items and they left. That was the last time Christi Nichols was ever seen alive.

Then Mark and the babysitter’s stories differ greatly. When they arrived home, Mark claims that Christi came in the door a few steps ahead of him and marched right to the bathroom, where she stayed for 15 minutes, and didn’t go talk to the babysitter. Diane Janssen was adamant that only Mark arrived home that night. She only heard one car door, heard one set of shoes on the tile floor and of course didn’t see Christi. Mark paid her and she left. In one account Mark claims him and Christi went to bed and in another he says they stayed up until 2 am arguing and then went to sleep.

During this time frame, I do want to mention a pretty chilling sighting of Mark Nichols that appeared to be right around the time he returned to relieve the babysitter. This person wishes to remain anonymous. He was a teenager hanging out late at the park that night, as he often did, which was next door to the Nichol’s house. He spots Mark Nichols by the back of the house near his black pickup truck. Mark makes eye contact with him and starts angrily walking towards him. This person gets scared at how Mark is approaching him and yelling at him and walks away, not wanting any trouble. A few days later he hears about the disappearance and realizes it was the same night he had that angry encounter with Mark Nichols. It has haunted him ever since.

UPDATE: Christi Jo disappearance, 32 years later
The case may be cold, but the search for answers is heating up

December 10, 1987. A lot has changed in the world since then, but for one family time came to a standstill on that date. And 32 years later, they are still looking for answers.

Christi Jo Willliams (Nichols) was last seen alive Dec. 10, 1987, when she left her children at home with a babysitter for an evening out with her husband, Mark. To this day no trace of her has been found and no one has ever been charged in her disappearance. Christi’s children have grown up without their mom; her siblings are growing older without their sister; and her parents have been forced to move forward without knowing for sure what happened to their daughter. It is a case that continues to haunt this rural Nebraska community, but most agree - someone has to know something.

A lot of things deteriorate with time; memories can become distorted, people die. But the family of Christi Jo and the three law enforcement agencies working simultaneously on the case are hoping that increased attention may actually jog someone’s memory - or perhaps encourage someone to finally share information that could be critical to this case.

There are some things a town just can’t forget, and incidents that are nearly impossible to move on from. The mysterious disappearance of a vibrant young mother of two more than three decades ago sent a shockwave through the community of Gothenburg that is still felt today, as the quest for answers continues.

The Nebraska State Patrol, Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and Gothenburg Police Department consider this an open case, and have continued to investigate off and on over the years since Christi Jo Nichols’ disappearance. The local authorities have sparked a renewed interest in the case with a press release put out through social media on Jan. 3. The Gothenburg Police Department stated that “while leads in the case have dwindled to just a few each year, each one is important and followed up on exhaustedly.”

The letter continues, “Once again we ask the public to please come forward with any information, no matter how seemingly unimportant you might think it is, it might just be the piece of the puzzle that is needed to bring closure to Christi Jo’s family.” It is signed by Dawson County Sheriff Ken Moody and Gothenburg Police Chief Randy Olson.

The now cold case has received tons of media attention, including an episode of Unsolved Mysteries a few years ago. While all of the investigation and research has revealed lots of theories and speculations, fanned by the flames of the local rumor mill, it has failed to provide investigators with the evidence they need to finally solve the case. However, breakthroughs in technology and DNA testing since 1987 have been enormous, and authorities and family members are encouraging anyone who might know anything to come forward. The slightest bit of information, they say, might finally crack this case.


Christi Jo Williams was 19 years old when she married Mark Nichols. The couple made their home in Gothenburg. She was 22 when she disappeared, leaving behind her two children, Lindsey and Preston.

Diane Janssen was the babysitter for the Nichols’ the night of Dec. 10, 1987, and later told investigators that she did not see or hear Christi when Mark returned home later that night. She also said while Christi was the one who had always paid her in the past, with a check, this time Mark paid with cash.

The next morning Christi’s mom called the house for her daughter. Mark told her Christi was still in bed, which he later admitted was a lie. According to reports, later that morning Mark dropped the children off at Christi’s grandmother’s house telling her he was going out to look for his wife. Investigators were never able to locate anyone to corroborate the fact that Mark really did that. He did file a missing person report later that afternoon.

Mark contended that his wife had left of her own accord, telling authorities her suitcase was missing and giving them a detailed list of her clothing items that were also missing. Three months later that suitcase was discovered at a rest area 30 miles west of Gothenburg. The officer who found the suitcase, Terry Ahrens, told Unsolved Mysteries that he found it surprising that the contents of the suitcase exactly matched the list Mark had given them of the missing items.

Reports of spousal abuse surfaced almost immediately after she was reported missing. In fact, investigators learned that Christi had been treated at Gothenburg Memorial Hospital for injuries she received during a fight with her husband just 10 days prior to her disappearance. She also reportedly spoke with a divorce attorney just two days before the last time she was seen. Though she had set up another appointment before leaving his office that day, the attorney never saw Christi again.


Extensive searches were conducted in and around Gothenburg, and each time searchers came up empty handed.

However, Mark continued to maintain that Christi left of her own will, suggesting she may have run off with a man she was reportedly involved with. In fact, initial reports of Christi’s disappearance received very little local media attention and seemed to suggest that authorities suspected more of a runaway woman than a foul play incident. She was first reported missing to the public in the Dec. 16 issue of the local newspaper, which was the first edition of the weekly paper to be published after Christi was last seen. It was reported as a small blurb on page 2 of the paper, simply asking the public to be on the lookout for her.

There was no mention of the case again in the paper until Jan. 6, 1988, almost a full month after she had gone missing. In this article it was revealed by then Gothenburg Police Chief G.R. Shackleton, that a hand-written note, supposedly written by Christi, was found in her car and stated that Christi had considered leaving her husband and two children. Shackleton also included information in the article that three people in North Platte and Gothenburg had reported seeing Christi earlier in December, after she was reported missing. Shackleton told the newspaper that he had found nothing at that point to indicate foul play.

Christi’s parents spearheaded the search and distributed posters of their daughter, asking people to call the listed phone numbers with any information as to her whereabouts. Family members have spoken out over the years with criticism at the way the case was handled, stating their belief that had authorities taken her disappearance more seriously from the beginning there would have been a much better chance of solving it.

In the Jan. 6 news article, Chief Shackleton was quoted as follows, “If she is out there, a phone call would certainly help. Just to let people know she’s all right.”

No call ever came.

Mark moved out of the house he and Christi shared the day after she disappeared, and reportedly boxed up all of her belongings and sold both of the family cars just a few weeks later.


Attempts over the years to get authorities to open a grand jury investigation have been turned down due to a lack of evidence. The case remains open, and within the past couple of weeks the letter from local authorities has generated a lot of activity. It is the hope of everyone involved that the renewed attention might generate new leads which could finally potentially solve the question of what happened to Christi Jo.

“Just because it is considered a cold case doesn’t mean we’ve stopped working on it,” said Sgt. Clint Elwood, an investigator with the Nebraska State Patrol. “This remains a collaborative effort between the State Patrol, Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and Gothenburg Police Department. Any information that comes in we do follow up on it.”

Sgt. Elwood said authorities hope by keeping the story in front of the public it may jog memories and generate new leads. “There may have been someone who knew or heard something and was too afraid to come forward 32 years ago, that now may be willing to. Our goal is to work to find a resolution for the family and for the community,” said Sgt. Elwood.

“As technology advances we are able to do things now that we weren’t able to do 32 years ago, and that is exciting,” he continued. He said that continues to give authorities hope that one day the case will be solved. “Yes, we have other cases - but it is still very important to us that we find a resolution in this case and give the family closure.”

That need is apparent through social media postings by members of Christi’s family.

“I would give anything to know what happened to my mother. Or even to just find her! I need closure. My family needs closure,” wrote Christi’s daughter Lindsey on the DCSO Facebook post.

Christi’s sister, Cyndi, also commented on the post, “She is MISSED and LOVED. Please share her story.”

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