A young housewife mysteriously disappears from a small Nebraska town.

Christi Jo Nichols

Missing:

Gender: Female
DOB: 9/6/65
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 120 lbs.
Eyes: Green
Hair: Brown
Remarks: Last seen 12/11/87

CASE DETAILS

The town of Gothenberg is located in the heart of Nebraska’s farm belt. There’s a strong sense of community among its 3,500 inhabitants, and when a neighbor is in trouble, it becomes everybody’s business. On December 11, 1987, a housewife named Christi Nichols vanished. Almost immediately, suspicion centered on Christi’s husband, Mark Nichols. Mark denies any involvement in Christi’s disappearance:

“People in small towns, they talk a lot. And a lot of these rumors tend to get pretty vicious. There’s been a couple rumors that I chopped her up and put her in garbage bags and buried her at the dump. That’s one of the first ones I heard, and that one really got to me, because I guess they were actually up there digging around.”

Was Christi being abused?

It was in Gothenberg that Christi married Mark Nichols. She was 19 years-old and soon to be the mother of two toddlers. According to Christi’s mother, Connie Stanley, the children became the focus of her daughter’s life:

“Christi never felt she accomplished anything until she had her children and there was something she could look at and say, ‘Hey, I did this pretty well. Nobody can do this any better.’ She was just so proud of her children. I would’ve never thought that Christi   would run away. She would’ve never left her children.”

Ten days before she disappeared, Christi had gone to a local hospital after being injured in a fight with Mark. As Mark recalls:

“The only bad fight I can remember is when I was trying to get her to stay home from going out, and she was getting so upset at me that she started to try to hit and kick me. And that’s when she burned the side of my neck with a cigarette she was holding. I tossed her onto the waterbed and she landed wrong and it twisted her thumb up underneath her.”

The babysitter did not see Christi

Christi was treated by Dr. Carol Severeid Shackleton, who had seen her several times before:

“I saw Christi on the Friday after Thanksgiving. She came to the emergency room complaining of a sore thumb. She was acting like a scared rabbit, if you will. She’s never been one for great eye contact or been very verbal. She obviously wasn’t telling me everything, either.”

Christi told her cousin, Debra Fredrickson, that she had been abused by Mark:

“Christi showed me a bruise on her side and it really scared me. I told her she needed to go get help from somebody and I asked her how it had happened. She said she and Mark had gotten into an argument and he had thrown her around. She just acted like it wasn’t a big deal, like it was something that happened a lot.”

Mark Nichols:

“As far as a violent argument, there seemed to be a lot of rumors going around that I was always beatin’ up on her.   That’s just totally wrong.”

Mark filed a missing persons report

On December 9, 1987, two days before she disappeared, Christi went to a divorce attorney. She didn’t want Mark to find out, so she found an out-of-town lawyer named Claude Berreckman:

“We do a lot of divorce work. We’ve handled hundreds of divorces. But she had to rank up in the top five of being very distressed and upset and nervous and needing help. And when she explained certain abuses that she had been subjected to, we decided to make some telephone calls to call the authorities and report certain crimes that had taken place. I can say that the day that Christi was in my office on December 9th, she was not panic stricken to the point where she would run or leave, and in fact, she had made an appointment to come back to my office.”

The next day, Christi and Mark went Christmas shopping with their children. This was the last afternoon she spent with her family. Mark recalled the day:

“I felt real uncomfortable the day before she left because I felt a lot of anger coming from her.”

However, that evening they hired a babysitter and went out to the local bar where Christi worked. Diane Janssen was their babysitter:

“When I babysat the night that she disappeared, I was surprised that the both of them were going out, because I knew they weren’t getting along.”

Mark Nichols:

“When we were at the bar, things seemed to be going real well. I felt there was a good attitude and a lot of laughing and carrying on.”

Her suitcase was found by the road

Mark says he and Christi left the bar around midnight and stopped at an all-night convenience store. According to Diane Janssen, Mark arrived home between 12:30 and 1:00 in the morning. Diane was doing her homework in front of the television and didn’t remember seeing Christi. According to Mark Nichols:

“I was about five or six yards behind her when she reached the door. And she walked by the living room where the babysitter, was back towards the kids’ bedroom and went into the main bathroom.”

Diane Janssen:

“It seemed strange because Mark paid me with cash when Christi usually paid me with a check. It was unusual for Mark to pay me. I really can’t believe that I didn’t see her because I would’ve heard footsteps.   And I would’ve heard her go into the bathroom because I was there between 5 and 10 minutes, so I would’ve been able to hear Christi somehow. But I didn’t hear or see Christi.”

According to Mark, Christi went to bed immediately after the babysitter left. He claims the last time he saw her was at 2 A.M. when he went to sleep beside her:

“And that’s the last thing I remember ’til my kids woke me up the next morning and the first thing I noticed was she wasn’t in the bed.”

Mark says he searched the house and noticed Christi had taken a suitcase full of belongings with her. But both family cars were still sitting in the front yard. At 9:30 in the morning, Mark received a phone call from Christi’s mother, who lived 100 miles away. Even though he knew his wife was gone, Mark told her mother that Christi was still in bed asleep. Mark explains:

“I didn’t want to worry her at the time because I didn’t know where she was. So I told her that she was still in bed sleeping ’cause I didn’t think she felt real good.”

At 11:30 A.M., Mark took his children over to Christi’s grandmother’s house and asked if she could take care of them so he could search for his wife. Violet Williams is Christi’s grandmother:

“He never asked if Christi was at my house or if I’d seen Christi. He just said that Christi was missing and he acted like he was shook up.”

Mark Nichols:

“I spent approximately two hours just riding around town trying to spot her, maybe coming out of a store, or I drove some residential streets where we knew some people.”

Officer Terry Ahrens of the Nebraska State Patrol:

“When we checked out Mark’s story about driving around looking for Christi, and we could find nobody in the city of Gothenburg that had seen him driving around.”

At 1:37 P.M., Mark filed a missing persons report with the police department. During the investigation, it was discovered that Mark moved out of the house the day after Christi disappeared. A few weeks later, he boxed up all of her clothes and sold both of their cars.

In March of 1988, three months after she vanished, Christi’s suitcase was discovered in a roadside rest area 30 miles west of Gothenburg. Officer Terry Ahrens found it surprising that the contents exactly matched the detailed list of missing items Mark had given police when Christi first disappeared:

“It appeared to everybody present that the suitcase had been placed there, instead of just thrown out. The items were neatly lying around. It was like the person who put them there wanted them to be found. If my wife had left me, I wouldn’t be able to look through the closet and tell you what she had taken. I probably would be able to tell you, maybe, what suitcase she had taken. But he had listed items of clothing right down the line that he knew she had taken.”

The area surrounding Gothenburg was searched extensively. No other trace of Christi Nichols has ever been found. And no one has ever been charged in the case, though it still remains open. To this day, Mark Nichols claims no knowledge of what happened to his wife:

“I’d have never done anything to hurt my wife. That’s just the person I am.     A lot of people think I’m a violent person. I’m not a violent person. I want very much for Christi to come home. But if for some reason she doesn’t want to come home, you know, Christi, at least call somebody, you know, let us know where you are, whether you’re all right.”

Until Christi returns, Mark Nichols will remain under a cloud of suspicion.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season one with Robert Stack in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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32 Comments

  1. Joe

    This whole area is shady so much random stuff happens to people here

    Reply

  2. Wil

    There is no way on earth I would know what my wife would take out of her closet. She had so much stuff. This guy is lying.

    Reply

  3. jamie

    Why wasn’t there any investigation against the guy she was talking to on the side. They mention nothing of him not even his name just that she was seeing someone else. Very strange. You would think he would be suspect #2 at least. Very strange.

    Reply

  4. Nebraskan

    I have friends that live in gothenburg that have told me that mark and his dad laid a slab of concrete in the back yard of marks Dads house the night she went missing. Has anyone looked into that house to find her?

    Reply

  5. Christi Jo Nichols

    Boo! Boo! Boo! Look at Mark. He did it. look in the obvious places.

    Reply

  6. Anonymous

    If only the babysitter quickly looked behind her she would have seen Christi, but she didnt. I strongly believe that Marks pre planned her murder, packed her clothes secretly behind her back the evening before he took her to the bar, got her drunk and drove and killed his wife somewhere. Along the way back he placed her suit case out so someone could find it, hoping someone thinking she was abducted. He just makes me suspicious for some reason. I think he killed Christi Jo Nichols.

    Reply

  7. todd eidson

    He had to of done this if he had a spine or if he really loved her he would come forward doesn’t he realize he’s going to burn in hell for what he’s done the grim reapers coming for you Mark ..
    ..

    Reply

  8. Lauren Scharf

    I am a reporter and looking into this story for a series on Cold Cases in Nebraska. I am wondering if anyone knows a contact for the family? Also wondering if the administrators would allow me to use these photos? I will be talking with police and others about this story. If anyone has information about this case that they would like to share please email me at lscharf@nebraska.tv

    THANK YOU!

    Reply

  9. wow

    kudos to all the investigators on this comment board that didnt make it through third grade grammar……

    Reply

  10. Someone who lived there at the time

    My thoughts on this is that when Christi went “missing”, the overpass in Gothenburg and in Cozad were being built. Also, Mark’s parents were putting in a new concrete floor in their garage. Those were the the places I’ve always suspected as Christi’s final resting place. When all this happened, I was 14.

    Reply

    • Lauren Scharf

      Hey this is Lauren Scharf with NTV News. I am looking into this cold case for a series I am working on next month. Wondering if you knew her or her family so I could get in contact with them. Please let me know by email. lscharf@nebraska.tv

      Thanks!

      Reply

  11. anonymous

    Didnt mark lie about being a victim to a gas station robbery to? I remember him he was so creepy. I also remember people talking for years how they think her body is buried in cozad under the overpass they built around that time. He killed her everyone knows it. Theres no way a husband or boyfriend would know what she took and had in her purse. Leave it to 1987 investigation they need to investigate now with all the new technologies

    Reply

  12. Anonymous

    I used to live in the house they lived in during the disappearance from 1990 to 2002. The way the inside of the house was designed, she would have had to walk over a very creaky albeit shag carpeted floor in order to get to the master bedroom. The kids or babysitter would have heard her from anywhere in the house.

    Reply

  13. Erick

    For those who said they’ve seen her, did she age from the 28 year old photos? I think she’s dead and mark killed her, why would a whole town think you’re violent when you say you aren’t? And why would Christi lie about the fights?

    If she is in fact alive, it’s been 28 years and sending a letter to your family in secret won’t hurt as long as you tell them to keep quiet and even calling them would help.

    Reply

  14. Laura

    Yeah you might want to mention that somewhere besides an Internet blog, I’d say. Police maybe…idk. Just throwing it out there.

    Reply

  15. seth

    I’ve seen her somewhere before, she went missing in 1987 I saw her back in 2002 and again in 2006 she was walking with a man he had a blue leather jacket brown pants and dark hair she seemed scared.

    Reply

    • Lauren Scharf

      Hey this is Lauren Scharf with NTV News. I am looking into this cold case for a series I am working on next month. Wondering if you knew her or her family so I could get in contact with them. Please let me know by email. lscharf@nebraska.tv

      Thanks!

      Reply

  16. Hannah

    My gut absolutely tells me this punk murdered his wife. But guttural instincts does not an arrest make. And law enforcement (police/D.A.) know that. His behavior (both prior & after her disappearance) cry out ‘guilt’. But a court of law requires (and should) provide some concrete evidentiary proof rather than just supposition to charge, let alone, convict. Eyewitness(s), Weapon, DNA, or Victims body is unfortunately lacking. Curious, if this POS engaged in any criminal behavior within the 25 yrs. after this situation? Bet he has. Condolences to her family in not finding a conclusion! Heartbreaking!

    Reply

    • Lauren Scharf

      Hey this is Lauren Scharf with NTV News. I am looking into this cold case for a series I am working on next month. Wondering if you knew her or her family so I could get in contact with them. Please let me know by email. lscharf@nebraska.tv

      Thanks!

      Reply

  17. Anonymous

    The behavior husband is suspicious. He was abusive and she was taking steps to divorce him. He must have found out and then killed her. If they went out that night; where are the witnesses saying they saw them. Especially the all night convince store. She never came home with him. He sold her clothes and both cars? He wasn’t acting like a normal person would act if someone close went missing.

    Reply

  18. Rebecca

    That’s odd Christi went to bed without even checking in with the babysitter, when Christi is the one who usually pays her with a check. Why did he lie to Christi’s mother in the first place, was he truly concerned about not worrying her or just buying some time for himself so she won’t be alarmed and called the cops. Why did Mark moved out the next day after Christi disappeared, boxed up her clothes and sold both of their cars. It seemed he had it all planned, how did he know Christi would not be found or just show up later, sounds suspicious to me.

    Reply

    • Scott

      I really can’t believe that he killed her because he just doesn’t seem that bright at least not bright enough to get away with it. And that previous comment about a plastic barrel like how the hell would you think that is what happened?

      Reply

  19. Anonymous

    Who wrote this article

    Reply

  20. Marla Armstrong

    I don’t understand why Mark isn’t locked up yet.
    I know Christi hasn’t been found yet, but everyone knows he killed her. He packed her suitcase that’s how he knew what all was in it. And why would people think he was violent? Unless they seen it? And why lie to Connie and say Christi was sleeping, He didn’t want to worry her? But two hours later it was OK to worry her Grandmother. I know that
    people have been convicted of murder even though no body was found,so why not him?

    Reply

    • Becky

      I was just wondering about her… Maybe the young mother in the storage unit stirred up her memory. May she r.I.p. and guard over her babies and their babies and their babies……

      Reply

    • SixthSense

      Her body is in a plastic barrel and probably in one of the small ponds in the area owned by the Federal Government. The EPA will not allow divers to go in and look most likely because there is toxic waste in other barrels.

      Reply

    • Lauren Scharf

      Hey this is Lauren Scharf with NTV News. I am looking into this cold case for a series I am working on next month. Wondering if you knew her or her family so I could get in contact with them. Please let me know by email. lscharf@nebraska.tv

      Thanks!

      Reply