Helen Brach

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Helen Brach
Born Helen Voorhees Brach
(1911-11-10)November 10, 1911
Unionport, Ohio
Disappeared February 17, 1977(1977-02-17) (aged 65)
Rochester, Minnesota
Nationality American

Helen Voorhees Brach (born November 10, 1911 – disappeared February 17, 1977) was an American multimillionaire widow whose wealth had come from marrying into the E. J. Brach & Sons Candy Company fortune; she endowed the Helen V. Brach Foundation to promote animal welfare in 1974.[1] Brach disappeared on February 17, 1977 and was declared legally dead in May 1984. An investigation into the case uncovered serious criminal activity associated with Chicago stable owners including Silas Jayne and Richard Bailey (with whom Brach was romantically involved). More than a decade later Bailey was charged with, but not convicted of, conspiring to murder Brach; he eventually received a long sentence after being convicted of defrauding her. In 2015, an unidentified informant told police that he witnessed Brach's houseman/chauffeur unload Brach from the trunk of his car, beat her with a monkey wrench, shoot her in the face, and dispose of her body in a steel furnace. Although no information can be verified at this time, police suspect this is what happened to Helen Brach.

Early Life[edit]

Helen Brach was born on November 10, 1910 on a small farm in Unionport, Ohio. She grew up under modest circumstances for the era, but, according to her account, there were times when the family did not have any food in the house. Her parents were described as very loving, and supportive. Helen married her high school sweetheart in 1928; the couple had divorced by the time she was 21. Blaming herself, Brach packed up her things, and found work at a country club in Palm Beach, where she met and married millionaire, Frank Brach. The couple quickly built a lavish tropical home in Fisher Island, Florida, shortly afterwards. The couple had two children, and purchased another home in Glenview, Illinois closer to their Chicago factories. Despite this, Helen spent most of her time in south Florida, along with frank and the children. Helen never forgot where she came from, and dedicated her life to philanthropy, and helping her family.

Circumstances of disappearance[edit]

After a routine medical check-up at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Brach left for the return journey by air to her north suburban Chicago mansion on February 17, 1977. A gift shop assistant near the clinic insisted that Brach had said, “I’m in a hurry, my houseman is waiting.” This is the last sighting of Brach by an independent witness.

The crew on the commercial airliner on which she was supposed to return did not report seeing her on the flight; because of her stature and carriage Brach was not easily overlooked. Her houseman/chauffeur, Jack Matlick, said that he collected her at O'Hare Airport, further asserting that Brach, known as a "telephone addict", spent four days without making a call before she was dropped off at O’Hare for a flight to Florida, three hours early and without luggage.

Matlick, an ex-con, soon came under suspicion by the authorities for a number of reasons: he later cashed checks he claimed had been written by Brach; he had a room repainted and re-carpeted at the mansion during this four-day period; he waited two weeks before reporting his employer missing; and he failed a lie detector test. Later, Matlick relinquished a share in her estate under threat of legal action for allegedly stealing $100,000 in gold coins from the mansion.

Matlick was the focus of police attention during the investigation, but without solid evidence, police and prosecutors shied away from a case they saw as unwinnable. Matlick always claimed to be innocent and angrily denied to reporters that he knew what happened to Brach, but a former federal agent who worked on the case said after Matlick's death that he was indeed responsible.[2][3] Brach's brother was of the opinion that Matlick had been responsible for the murder of his sister without any involvement from Bailey or horse racing racketeers.[4][5][6][7] On February 14, 2011 Matlick died in a Pennsylvania nursing home at the age of 79.[8]

Richard Bailey and the horse racket connection[edit]

Brach was declared dead in 1984.[9] One theory about Brach's disappearance is that she was killed on the orders of a confidence trickster who was involved with horse murders and an insurance fraud conspiracy. No one was ever convicted in Brach's disappearance, although Bailey was sentenced to 30 years in prison for defrauding her.[10][11]

According to a case[12] filed in the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit, Bailey, the owner of Bailey Stables and Country Club Stables targeted wealthy middle-aged or older women with little knowledge of the horse business who had recently been widowed or divorced. After meeting them at the stables or through personal advertisements, he began to romance them, escorting them to expensive Chicago restaurants and sending them flowers and gifts. If he discovered the woman was not wealthy, he declined to see her again. If she was wealthy, he proceeded to secure her affection, engaging in sexual relations and in some cases proposing marriage, despite the fact that he was already married.

Bailey had several ploys; in one, he claimed that his money was temporarily tied up, but that he had found a horse that was a wonderful investment opportunity. Using the horse as collateral to make the purchase he secured a temporary loan from the victim which he never repaid. Once he defaulted on the loan, the victim became responsible for the horse's boarding bills (allowing the conspirators additional income as well as the opportunity to take the horse back in satisfaction of unpaid bills). A second scenario saw Bailey persuading the victim to enter into an investment partnership. Bailey and his conspirator (who posed as the seller) agreed beforehand on a price for an overvalued horse. Bailey then bargained with the seller in the presence of the victim. He and the victim each wrote a check for one-half the selling price, but after the victim left he and the seller tore up his check and split the proceeds from the victim's check. A third scheme involved selling a client an overvalued horse which did not suit her needs, then persuading her to trade the horse and additional monies for more expensive horses. While executing his schemes, Bailey was not averse to taking advantage of his victims' weaknesses: he plied an alcoholic with champagne and cocktails while she and her daughter visited the stables, and he schemed to defraud gravely ill women by obtaining their powers of attorney when he visited them in the hospital. When Bailey had gained as much money as he could from the woman, he ended the relationship, though occasionally he passed the woman on for his conspirators to further defraud. His victims were often left broken-hearted and destitute.

Brach met Bailey in 1973 and they entered into a relationship. In 1975, Bailey's brother, Paul, sold her three horses for $98,000; unknown to Brach, Bailey also participated in the sale, and the horses were worth less than $20,000. Brach also bought a group of expensive brood mares.

On New Year's Eve 1976, Brach and Bailey "danced the night away" at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but their relationship soon began to deteriorate. Early in 1977, Bailey and a conspirator arranged an extensive showing for Brach, hoping to persuade her to invest $150,000 in more horses. Brach left in less than an hour. Further, an appraiser Brach hired recommended she invest nothing in training one of her original three purchases, contrary to the $50,000 estimate of the trainer recommended by Bailey. Around this time Brach also visited her breeding stock. Subsequently, she told a close friend that she was disturbed about her purchase of horses from a younger man whom she had been seeing (Bailey), after hearing that her friend knew state prosecutors, she agreed to visit the State's Attorney's office after she returned from her upcoming visit to the Mayo Clinic. In 1989 the investigation was reopened and turned up evidence of criminal activity by associates of Bailey such as Silas Jayne, Bailey was charged with conspiring with several others (named but not charged) to kill Brach, however some (including her brother) questioned if Bailey had in fact been guilty of this[13] and when he was eventually convicted it was not on that charge.

Bailey was not convicted of Brach's murder but sentenced to life imprisonment for defrauding the candy empire heiress; the judge made it clear that the sentence reflected evidence that Bailey was involved in a conspiracy to murder her.[14] On March 21, 2005, in a tersely worded two-paragraph opinion, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Bailey's request for a new sentencing hearing for the fraud charges to take into account new evidence suggesting his innocence of the murder conspiracy, saying that the "new evidence does not establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is actually innocent of conspiring to murder Helen Brach and soliciting her murder."[15]

Brach's parents and husband are interred in Unionport, Ohio, near her birthplace of Hopedale. The marble monument includes an empty tomb with her name on it. In addition, two of Helen's dogs, Candy and Sugar, are buried there as well.

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