Image - Frances Pierce
Frances Pierce

The search for a missing Portola Valley woman concluded Sunday when her body was discovered floating in the ocean just off the coast near the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.

Frances Pierce, 75, left a note for her husband on the morning of Nov. 9 stating that she was going to stop in at a dry cleaner near their Portola Valley home, reported San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Rosemerry Blankswade. 

When Pierce didn’t return home after a couple hours he notified the Sheriff’s Office, which immediately began checking surveillance footage from Portola Valley businesses. 

Pierce had a medical condition and was supposed to take medication every evening, Blankswade noted, a factor that put additional urgency on the search. Pierce’s picture was posted on Sheriff’s Office Twitter page on Nov. 9 to alert others to her disappearance.

Later that evening, San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies in Half Moon Bay spotted Pierce’s red Toyota Prius in a beach parking lot just outside the Ritz, Blankswade said. There was clothing outside the vehicle, Blankswade said, but otherwise nothing that seemed overly suspicious or unusual. 

Nine days later, an off-duty harbor patrol employee was fishing in the ocean near the hotel when he spotted Pierce’s body in the water. She was fully dressed and wearing jewelry, authorities said. 

“She closely matched our missing person,” Blankswade said. 

However, that couldn’t be confirmed until the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office determined her identity, which it had by Monday afternoon. 

No explanation has been provided for why Pierce ended up in Half Moon Bay after leaving a note about running an errand in Portola Valley. Blankswade said that the couple didn’t have any obvious connections to the area as far as she was aware. 

Authorities say that Pierce’s husband has been fully cooperative in the search and is not considered a suspect in his wife’s death. 

Reached for comment separately, Frances Pierce’s husband, Bob Pierce, stated that his wife — an accomplished school teacher with multiple master’s degrees — suffered from depression and had chosen to end her life at Martin’s Beach. 

Bob said he and his wife had never been to Martin’s Beach before but the pair had spoken in public comment at a recent State Lands Commission meeting to testify that the beach should be left open. 

“She was supportive of the cause,” said Bob Pierce. 

Over the course of 45 years, Frances taught every grade from kindergarten through 12th her husband said, at various schools throughout the Bay Area. 

In addition to teaching, she was a fan of gardening and progressive politics. r

“She was quite a woman,” her husband said. 

Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Dec. 1 at the Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley and a reception will follow at 1 p.m. Bob Pierce says all who knew and want to memorialize his wife are welcome.


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