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. 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.

Early life[edit]

Helen Brach was born on November 10, 1910 on a small farm in Unionport, Ohio. Helen married her high school sweetheart in 1928; the couple had divorced by the time she was 21. Brach found work at a country club in Palm Beach, where she met and married millionaire, Frank Brach. The couple built a home in Fisher Island, Florida, shortly afterwards. The couple had two children, and purchased another home in Glenview, Illinois closer to their Chicago factories. Helen spent most of her time in south Florida, along with Frank and the children.

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.. Her houseman/chauffeur, Jack Matlick, said that he collected her at O'Hare Airport, further asserting that Brach, spent four days without making a call before she was dropped off at O’Hare for a flight to Florida.

Matlick was the focus of police attention during the investigation. 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] 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. 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. Early in 1977, Bailey arranged an extensive showing for Brach, hoping to persuade her to invest $150,000 in more horses. 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.

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] 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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