Even though the Newtown, Connecticut police listed Helle Crafts’ disappearance as a routine missing person case, Keith Mayo, a private investigator, knew the Danish-born mother of three hadn’t skipped town nine days before Thanksgiving.
Helle Crafts was last seen on November 18, 1986.
In the style of a brilliant detective novel, Author Arthur Herzog skillfully re-creates the hour-by-hour circumstantial details that inform this grisly true-crime narrative.
We observe dispassionate Richard Crafts as he buys a truck with a hook for towing heavy equipment, promised for delivery before November 18.
A day later he reserves a Badger Brush Bandit wood-chipper.
The Story Goes Kinda Like This:
Helle Crafts was a Danish flight attendant who was murdered by her husband, Richard Crafts, an airline pilot and special constable. Her murder is sometimes called the “Wood-Chipper Murder” because of the method by which Richard Crafts disposed of her body. Her death brought about the first murder conviction in the state of Connecticut in which a body was never found.
Helle Crafts had known about her husband Richard’s affairs with other women and had begun divorce proceedings against him. On the night of Wednesday, November 19, 1986, a friend of Helle’s dropped her off at home in Newtown, Connecticut. This was the last time anyone but her husband saw her.
During the next few weeks, friends of Helle tried to contact her, but were told different stories by her husband. Friends grew suspicious and concerned about Helle’s safety because they already knew about Richard’s aggression and fiery temper. They pressured the law to look into the disappearance. After all, Helle herself had once said, “If something happens to me, don’t think it was an accident.” Her friends took it seriously.
The Investigation Begins
By December 25, police had obtained a warrant to search the Crafts’ premises. They uncovered a few clues. Several pieces of carpet from Richard and Helle’s bedroom were removed from the floor. The family’s nanny also came forward and told police of a dark, grapefruit-sized stain she had seen on the carpet of the bedroom, but that patch of carpet had apparently been removed. A blood smear was also uncovered on the side of the Crafts’ bed.
Police found among Richard’s credit card records evidence that he had made several purchases before and after his wife’s disappearance, including a new freezer that was not found in the home, new bed sheets, a comforter, and $900 for the rental of a wood-chipper.
Police theorized that in their bedroom, Richard Crafts first struck Helle unconscious with something blunt, which would explain the blood stains found, then carried her body to the freezer where he left it for some time. Police further postulated that Crafts had taken Helle’s body out of the freezer on the night he was seen at the river by the witness, chopped it into several large portions with the chainsaw, and then put them through the wood chipper. The police believed the dismembered pieces of Helle Crafts’ body were then scattered into the river and the area around it.
Richard Crafts was arrested for Helle’s murder, without a body, in January of 1987.
Read the entire, horrifying account in the Wood-Chipper Murder.