Overview of JoAnn Benner
JoAnn Benner was a 21 year old mother to two young daughters with a life full of experiences ahead of her. JoAnn’s sister described her as strong-willed and a good person who loved her family endlessly.
JoAnn vanished in the middle of the night. JoAnn was last seen alive at her home on Titus Road in Bayou George, FL on the evening of May 13, 1976. The following morning, her husband, Gary, reported her missing to authorities after he woke up to find JoAnn wasn’t in their home. According to Gary, JoAnn had left a note with an explanation for why she left, and he told family members that she had simply packed up and left the home in the middle of the night.
Authorities begin their investigation. After learning that JoAnn was missing, investigators visit the Benner home and find suspicious red spots in various places around the home, including a phone. Investigators find a portion of the carpet from the bedroom had been removed. This piece of carpet is later found in a trash can; it had been set on fire.
When investigators confronted Gary about the red spots, he offered two answers; the red spots were fingernail polish stains, and that it was menstrual blood that JoAnn had allegedly thrown at him during an argument. Authorities looked at Gary as their primary suspect, not fully believing his explanations.
JoAnn’s three year old daughter, however, offered new information. She had told a relative that Mommy had to leave because she was bleeding from her stomach and it was running down her leg, suggesting that JoAnn may have been in great physical distress in the family’s home that evening.
“As old as the case is getting and as old as we’re getting,” said Susan Oost, JoAnn Benner’s youngest sister. “These people who may know something about it may be wiling to clear their conscience.”
JoAnn’s case is classified as a homicide. Within the first year of the investigation into JoAnn’s disappearance, authorities officially label her case as a homicide investigation. Though her body hadn’t been found, the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death led them to believe that she had been killed.
“The prayer was always before my mom and my dad and my grandmother died, we would have closure,” said Oost. “And they have closure now. They’re in heaven. They know. My problem now with it is, I still miss her tremendously, but her kids are having to deal with it.”
Where the case stands today. In 2008, DNA testing was conducted on the blood found in JoAnn’s home. Unfortunately, the sample was far too degraded for any conclusive results. Today, more than 46 years after JoAnn’s disappearance, she remains missing and her case remains cold. If you have any information, please contact Panhandle Crime Stoppers at (850) 785-TIPS (8477).