Connecticut man arrested for wood-chipper murder

Connecticut man arrested for wood-chipper murder


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Richard Crafts, a Connecticut man accused and later found guilty of murdering his wife and disposing of her body in a wood-chipper, is arrested on January 13, 1987. Helle Crafts, a Pan Am flight attendant, had vanished on November 18, 1986. Although her body was never found, authorities did find enough evidence to convict her husband of murder.

Following her disappearance, friends immediately suspected Richard Crafts because his answers about his wife’s whereabouts had been so evasive. When police got involved, Crafts’ version of the events began to crumble. Although he claimed he had not left the house on November 19, credit card records showed he had purchased new bedding. Further inquiry showed that he had bought a chest freezer and rented a wood-chipper in the days right before Helle’s disappearance.

A witness then came forward, saying that he had seen a wood chipper near the Housatonic River. A search of the Craft house revealed a blood smear on the mattress that turned out to be consistent with Helle’s blood type. Detectives also found an envelope addressed to Helle near the river. Divers found a chain saw and serrated cutting bar, which had human hair and tissue embedded in the teeth. This led to a search for further evidence, which began on December 30, 1986.

Thawing the snow and sifting the soil, detectives found 2,660 hairs, one fingernail, one toe nail, two teeth, one tooth cap and five droplets of blood. From this microscopic evidence, doctors were able to prove that Richard Crafts had disposed of his wife’s body with a wood chipper near the river. The most important evidence was that the tooth cap matched Helle’s dental records.

Crafts’ first trial in 1988 ended with a deadlocked jury, but the following year he was convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Until recent advances in forensic science, a murder conviction without a dead body was nearly impossible. But as this case proved, it is more difficult than ever to get away with murder. Crafts was released from prison in 2019.


The Wood Chipper Murder

November 18th, 1986. Newtown, Connecticut. Helle Crafts had recently decided that she had finally had enough of her relationship the lies, the affairs, the unusual spending. The not knowing where her husband was. Sometimes he would occupy himself with a hobby, working part time for local law enforcement but other times he would spend time with one of his many girlfriends. Helle had recently hired a private investigator to help her build an ironclad case against her husband, Richard Crafts. She was fearful of how he would take the news of their marriage ending, she knew he had a temper and he could be abusive, but Helle knew she had to break free. It’s assumed some big news was shared with Richard that night.

The next morning, Richard woke the nanny and the kids bright and early and quickly drove them to his sister’s house because the power had gone out. It was 6 in the morning, and Helle was not in the car with them. When asked about her, Richard said she would meet them later. Richard dropped the family off and went back to the house. Helle never showed up. Her car would eventually be found in an airport parking lot.

A few more days go by and Helle’s friends and her private investigator began to worry about her. It was not common for Helle to just up and vanish like that without warning. One more thing, kept her friends vigilant of the situation. Helle mentioned to several individuals, “if something happens to me, don't think it was an accident.” Her friends knew he could be abusive and thought the fact Helle would stand firm this time on the divorce could lead Richard to do something drastic. However, Richard maintained he had not seen her.

Helle Crafts seen smiling.

However over the course of the next few weeks, Richard’s story would morph. He would tell one of her friends that Helle had gone to see her sick mother in Denmark, then tell the police he wasn’t sure where she was. He would tell another that she was visiting the Canary Islands. This was a huge red flag that prompted her private investigator to badger police constantly, to not let up the pressure on Richard. Two weeks later she would officially be considered to be a missing persons. Richard had failed to report her missing.

An investigation officially started and flags were raised immediately. One of the first people investigators interviewed was the housekeeper Dawn Marie Thomas. She recalled several strange events that occurred on the 19th and the days following. First she recounted being woken up suddenly and rushed to Richard’s sister. When Helle never arrived she pressed him on the topic and his response was a simple, “I don’t know.” Days would go by and Dawn continued to ask Richard until he finally told her she had gone back to Denmark.

In addition to the strange and changing explanations of Helle’s disappearance, Dawn also noticed, strange stains in the bedroom. Shortly after they appeared, they had been removed. Large chunks of carpet were cut out without explanation. Again when questioned Richard maintained that it was from kerosene. Helle’s Private Investigator felt the investigation was moving too slowly, so upon finding out about the removed carpet, he made his way to the landfill to find the evidence. Eventually he would locate the discarded carpet, however testing proved there was no blood on the carpet.

A few days later a local snow plower came forward with more unusual sightings of Richard Crafts. It was approximately 3 in the morning on November 20th on a road next to Lake Zoar. The truck driver saw what appeared to be a U-Haul with a wood chipper hitched to the back, parked on the side of the road. He saw a man who motioned for him to keep moving. The driver thought little of it and continued to plow the streets.

Once the driver reached the end of the road, he started to turn around. It was now closer to 5am and the truck was still parked but the man was nowhere to be seen. He did not see the wood chipper this time around but did see some fresh wood chips along the shoulder of the road. He found it odd but continued on, focussing on the task at hand.

Tip of finger found near Lake Zoar.

Now that Police had a place to start looking without a warrant, a massive search was undertaken at and around Lake Zoar. The first area they located was a patch of land with fresh wood chips scattered about. The search would be intense but a necessary hurdle to find answers in regards to Helle’s sudden disappearance. Over the next few days, investigators would find shards of metal, several pieces of torn up mail addressed to Helle, dozens of human bone shards, several pieces of human tissue, two human teeth, a fingernail, over 2,000 strands of blonde hair and several traces blood. It would later be concluded that the blood had the same type as Helle, the hair was the same color as Helle’s and perhaps the most damning, one of the teeth had a crown which belonged to Helle. Also found submerged in the waters of the lake was a Stihl chainsaw where someone had put forth effort to conceal it, as the serial numbers had been filed off.

With the evidence mounting it soon became clear to investigators that Helle would not be found. She was disposed of in Lake Zoar but her body could not be located. Only remnants of her. Even without a body authorities were able to theorize what the last moments of Helle were like.

Authorities suspected that the events all started with Richard bludgeoning Helle in their bedroom. Drops of blood would be found in throughout the bedroom. It was also theorized that the rug was removed to conceal something tied to the murder of Helle. Afterwards Richard took placed his wife into the large freezer he had purchased days earlier and later got his family out of the house. He would return later that day, dismember her body with his chainsaw and place the body back into the freezer. He would rent a wood chipper and wait for night once more. Under the cover of darkness and heavy snow, Richard told friends he was disposing of limbs that fell on his property, but what he was actually doing, was disposing of his wife of over a decade.

Dr. Henry Lee who helped solve the case.

To confirm a wood chipper was used, renowned forensics investigator, Dr. Henry Lee lead a group of investigators through a test, where using one of the best analogs for a human being, a pig. The pig carcass was put through the wood chipper and its remains were examined. It bore a striking similarity to the remains found earlier in the month, leading the team to further believe Richard attempted to get rid of Helle in a similar fashion.

Richard thought he had committed the perfect crime. If there was no body, there was no case. It was even alleged by a brother-in-law that Richard commented the following when the search initially started: "Let them dive. There's no body. It's gone." Pretty strange comment to make from a man who claims to know nothing.

On January 11th, an arrest warrant was granted based on the evidence gathered thus far. Law enforcement ordered Richard out of the house but he responded with, "I'm tired. I'll take care of it in the morning." It took some time, but Richard finally relented and he was taken into custody and held on a bail of $750,000.

Within the home, police confirmed that rug had been removed from the couples bedroom. A blood smear was also located within the bed room, just along the base of the bed. Proof of purchase of a large freezer and the Stihl chainsaw was also found within Richard Crafts’ records. Richard was a gun enthusiast and owned several weapons, all of which were seized during the search. Trace amounts of Helle’s blood were also found throughout the house by Dr. Henry Lee. The evidence was mounting and it was becoming clearer and clearer that Richard had disposed of his wife. The prosecution would move forward on attempting to convict Richard without a body.

The trial would first have to be moved from Newtown. The case had gathered momentum and was not talked about nationwide. The trial started in May of 1988 and was moved to New London, Connecticut. A number of witnesses were called to the stand. Helle’s mother spoke of how Richard claimed Helle left for Denmark, while Helle’s mother explained she had not seen her daughter in months. Medical examiners also went over the teeth and tissue found at Lake Zoar and how they had come from Helle.

A bewildered Richard during trial.

There was a mountain of evidence but one juror held out. The trial ended with a hung jury and the court was forced to hold a second trial. All evidence was brought forth once more in Norwalk, Connecticut and started on September 7th, 1989. On November 21st, 1989, after both sides had finished their arguments, the jury took 8 hours to find Richard guilty of the murder of Helle Crafts. This was the first murder conviction in the states history where a body was not present.

Richard still continues to deny any involvement in the murder of his wife despite all of the evidence pointing in his direction. He was able to argue in front of the supreme court but his conviction was upheld. He remains incarcerated in state prison.


Man Who Put Wife In Wood Chipper Released Early From Prison

Connecticut man who put wife in wood chipper released from prison 20 years early

Richard Crafts, 82, got out 20 years early due a law in place at the time of his 1987 sentencing that allowed for sentences to be reduced by years as a reward for good behavior and prison work. The law has since been changed.
Richard Crafts, center, is led into Superior Court in Danbury for a bond hearing Tuesday January 20, 1987. The court refused to reduce Crafts $750,000 bond. He has been charged with murder in the death of his wife, Helie Crafts. (AP Photo/Don Heiny) –(Don Heiny / AP Photo)
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man convicted of killing his wife and feeding her body parts through a wood chipper has been released from prison nearly 20 years early.

Richard Crafts was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1990 by a judge who commented on his lack of remorse. Crafts was recently released and is living in a halfway house, a state Department of Correction spokeswoman told The Hartford Courant Friday.

The 82-year-old is at a transitional housing program for veterans in Bridgeport, Karen Martucci said. He is due to finish his sentence in June, she added.

Crafts has been in prison since his 1987 arrest. A law in place at the time of his sentencing allowed for sentences to be reduced by years as a reward for good behavior and prison work. The law has since been changed.

A Norwalk Superior Court jury ruled that Crafts killed his wife, Helle, at their Newtown home in November 1986. Prosecutors said he cut the body with a chain saw and fed parts through a wood chipper on a bridge between Newtown and Southbury.

Police found tiny body parts, including a fingernail and human bone fragments, on the banks of the Housatonic River. Crafts’ first trial ended in a mistrial in July 1988 because one juror refused to continue deliberating. Crafts maintained his innocence during the trial.


Ep. 8 The Wood Chipper Murder

Hollywood has led us to believe that love is to accidentally spill coffee on an attractive stranger in a coffee shop and ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. But in real life, marriage is hard and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Even worse, what if your handsome stranger turns out to be a monster in disguise?

Keith McMurray, News Times 󈬇 years ago, Richard Crafts was more willing to part with his wife than his money”

Boston News “Connecticut man who put wife in wood chipper released from prison 20 years early”

Dorian Geiger, Oxygen Crime News “Connecticut Man Convicted Of Feeding Wife To Wood Chipper Released From Prison Early”

Rob Ryser, NT Insider “Veteran reporter recalls Newtown woodchipper murder”

Noor Malhotra, The Cinemaholic “Is Fargo (1996) a True Story?”

Wade Wainio, Vocal Media “Richard Crafts: The Infamous Wood Chipper Murderer”

Rob Polansky, Kaitlyn Naples and Kevin Hogan, Eyewitness News “Woodchipper murder case from 30 years ago was pivotal for forensic scientists”

Forensic Files – Series Premiere “The Disappearance of Helle Crafts”

Emily Thompson, Morbidology “The Wood Chipper Murder – Helle Crafts”

Unnamed, Stories of the Unsolved “The Murder of Helle Crafts”


23 years ago, Richard Crafts was more willing to part with his wife than his money

NEWTOWN -- It was a horrific crime that thrust the state of Connecticut into the national headlines.

The "wood chipper case" involved sex, money, and a gruesome murder -- the ingredients for a huge news story. It happened in 1986 in the affluent community of Newtown.

Richard Crafts was a commercial pilot who was living a comfortable life on a then-lucrative salary of $120,000 a year with his wife of 11 years, Helle, 39.

Helle, a flight attendant for Pan American, met her husband, who flew for Eastern Airlines, in the social circle of airline employees.

On the evening Nov. 19, 1986, the attractive Danish-born blonde had her life snuffed out by her scheming spouse.

Helle had found out Richard, then 49, was a serial philanderer. Apparently, she had confronted him with evidence of his infidelity and demanded a divorce. A breakup of their marriage would financially cost him dearly.

Upon her disappearance, Richard claimed his wife had gone back to her native Denmark to be with her mother.

Helle's friends and private investigator Keith Mayo did not buy his story. They approached the Newtown Police Department with their suspicions.

They told the police of Richard's mercurial temperament, his spendthrift habits, the physical abuse of his wife, and his wandering ways.

Helle had also told her friends, "If anything happens to me, don't assume it was an accident." The Newtown police opened a criminal investigation.

Tipped off by an eyewitness, state and local police scoured the shores of the Housatonic River just outside Southbury. A man had been seen operating a wood chipper in the Lake Zoar area in a snowstorm. In lieu of a body, police found strands of blond hair, skin and a fingernail.

In those days prior to DNA technology, the police were able to establish only the blood type of the body parts. Dr. Henry Lee, then a young forensics investigator for the state police, determined the `O' type positive blood was a match to Helle's.

There were other pieces of evidence that hinted of murder. Notably, a chain saw with its serial number filed off was recovered from the bottom of the Housatonic. There was also a sales receipt for a rental truck in Crafts' possession, which investigators believed was used in the disposal of the body.

In a solely circumstantial case, Richard Crafts' 1987 trial was declared a mistrial due to one intractable juror who would not convict. After a second trial, again prosecuted by State's Attorney Walter Flanagan, Crafts was convicted of murder on Nov. 21, 1989.

In an interview then with The News-Times, one juror said it was the "massive totality of the evidence" that convinced the jurors of Richard Crafts' treachery. They took just eight hours to find him guilty of murdering his wife.

The wood chipper case was the state's first murder conviction ever gotten without a body.

Walter Flanagan retired as State's Attorney for Danbury in 2007, after serving in the office for three decades. He vividly remembers the Crafts case, calling it the most memorable and momentous in his long career.

"I did a good job," Flanagan, 71, said with a touch of pride. "The two trials were very complex, using just about every forensic science known to criminalists. It involved serology, radiology, ballistics, hair and fiber experts, FBI experts.

"Even the manufacturer of the wood chipper testified. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind on the guilt of the defendant."

Newtown Chief of Police Michael Kehoe, 54, who was a patrolman for the department 20 years ago, vividly remembers the case.

"The manner in which Crafts went about to hide his crime was shocking and unnerving to the department and community, and being affluent did not make you immune to issues of domestic abuse."

Danbury's Deborah Grover was the state-appointed attorney designated to hold and disburse Richard Crafts' pension funds to the couple's three children.

"The money ran out some time ago," Grover said, "and I have long since lost touch with them once they reached adulthood."

Keith Mayo, Helle's private investigator, was instrumental in getting the murder investigation started. He died from injuries suffered in a car accident in 1999.

Today, Richard Crafts, 71, prisoner No. 152724, is an inmate at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, a high- and maximum-security facility for men in Suffield. With 2,131 inmates and 678 staffers, MacDougall is the largest prison in New England.

According to Assistant Warden Brian Garnett, while Crafts has been at MacDougall Crafts he has been issued just two "disciplinary tickets," both for possession of contraband. By law, the Department of Corrections can not divulge any other information on incarcerated inmates.

Crafts was sentenced to 50 years. The earliest he can be released is August 2021, when he'll be 84 years old.


Notorious Crafts Murder Shook Newtown Ten Years Ago

It was 10 years ago this week that police believe former Newtown resident Richard Crafts murdered his wife then disposed of her body along the banks of Lake Zoar using a chain saw and a wood chipper.

One of the most notorious and bizarre crimes to have ever taken place in Newtown, the "Wood Chipper Murder" is still fresh in people's minds a decade later.

On November 18, 1986, Pan Am flight attendant Helle Crafts, 39, who lived at 5 Newfield Lane, was last seen alive. She wasn't reported missing until December 1.

More than a month later, State Police arrested Eastern Airlines pilot Richard Crafts, 49, at his home, charging him with the murder of his wife. He was held on $750,000 bond. His children, ages 8, 10 and 12 at the time, were removed from the home and put in the custody of Mr Crafts' sister, Karen Rogers, in Westport.

Major crime investigators literally combed the woods looking for evidence near the river about one mile north of the Silver Bridge on River Road in Southbury. There, amid a pile of wood chips, they found a 1-inch piece of a finger, several hundred strands of hair, a finger nail, a tooth, a toenail, bone fragments, flesh, and letters addressed to Mrs Crafts. Divers were also in on the investigation, actually locating a chain that was said to belong to the chainsaw Mr Crafts used in the crime. That was found in the water below the Silver Bridge.

The horrifying accounts of the murder stunned and shocked the community, known more for its quality of life than for gruesome deaths. Newtown suddenly became the focus of widespread media coverage.

Many curiosity seekers drove by the crime scene to see the large tent set up next to the Major Crime Squad van along the edge of River Road in Southbury, where police were sifting for evidence.

Mrs Crafts was trying to serve her husband with divorce papers before she disappeared. Suspecting he was having an affair, she apparently told her attorney that if she disappeared not to assume it was an accident. Her car was later found parked at Kennedy International Airport.

Mr Crafts worked as an auxiliary police officer for the Newtown police and had been employed as a part-time cop in Southbury at the time of his arrest.

Assisting in the state police investigation was renowned forensics expert Dr Henry Lee, who later went on to testify for the defense in the trial of OJ Simpson.

It took two trials to convict Mr Crafts. The first, held at Danbury Superior Court, ended in a mistrial in 1987. The second trial was moved to New London where a guilty verdict was rendered in November 1989. Mr Crafts was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He was the first man ever convicted of murder in Connecticut without the discovery of the victim's body.

Mr Crafts, who in 1984 was diagnosed with colon cancer and given a two percent chance of survival. Today, Richard Crafts, now 59, remains in prison at the MacDougall Correctional Institution, a newly constructed high security prison in Suffield. His release eligibility date is listed as 2022.

Piecing Together Evidence

The guilty verdict was based on key physical evidence and testimony given by several witnesses called by the prosecution: Dr Lee the owner of Darien Rentals, where Mr Crafts rented the woodchipper the Crafts' babysitter and a Southbury snow plow driver, who claimed he saw a woodchipper parked along River Road on the snowy night the murder was believed to have taken place.

Dawn Marie Thomas, the Crafts' live-in babysitter, testified that she was at work at MacDonald's in Danbury on the stormy night of November 18 and did not return home until around 2 am the following morning. A few hours later, she said Mr Crafts acted strangely, waking her early and taking her and the children to his sister's house in Westport, saying the power was out and it would get too cold to stay. Mr Crafts reportedly returned to Newtown for the rest of the day. When he picked them up later in the day and returned home, the babysitter recalled Mr Crafts saying Helle had to go off to Denmark unexpectedly to visit her sick mother.

A few days later, she said, she saw a large black spot on the carpet in the couple's bedroom, which Mr Crafts said was left after he spilled kerosene. The carpeting was removed a couple days later, according to the babysitter.

Mr Crafts reportedly played down the mysterious disappearance of his wife whenever friends called to inquire. He even took a trip to Florida with his kids during the holidays.

Also testifying was Southbury highway worker, Joseph Hine, who in the early morning hours of November 19, spotted a woodchipper and U-Haul truck along the side of River Road. He said a man standing alongside motioned him by.

Investigators believed that Mr Crafts hit his wife over the head with a police flashlight and may have then strangled her. From there, he is believed to have stored her body overnight in a large freezer in his garage. Eventually, police said, he took her body to a plot of land he owned off Currituck Road and cut her body into pieces, later to be put through the wood chipper.

The freezer has never been found.

Mr Crafts's conviction was upheld in an appeal to the State Supreme Court in July, 1993.

Police Investigation Questioned

Around the time of the arrest, questions began arising about the job done by Newtown Police Chief Louis Marchese and Det Michael DeJoseph in the days after Mrs Crafts was reported missing. Private investigator Keith Mayo, who had been hired by Mrs Crafts prior to her disappearance, requested investigations be conducted by the town. After much discussion and delays, the town's Police Commission voted against conducting any investigations of the local police in February 1994.

Mr Mayo figured prominently in a book written about the case by author Arthur Herzog, which painted a negative picture of the Newtown police and emphasized Mr Mayo's work in the investigation. Many believe the private investigator's work in the days after Mrs Crafts disappearance was key in breaking the case.

Mr Mayo declined to talk with The Bee about the case this week.

The Craft children, now ages 22, 20 and 18, were put in the custody of Karen Rogers of Westport, Richard Crafts' sister.


The Wood Chipper Murder – Helle Crafts

It was a gruesome and shocking crime that thrust the state of Connecticut into the national headlines and ultimately became the inspiration of the award-winning 1997 movie, Fargo.

Morbidology Podcast

Morbidology is a weekly true crime podcast created and hosted by Emily G. Thompson. Using investigative research combined with primary audio, Morbidology takes an in-depth look at true crime cases from all across the world.

It was a gruesome and shocking crime that thrust the state of Connecticut into the national headlines and ultimately became the inspiration of the award-winning 1997 movie, Fargo.

Helle Crafts was a Danish air stewardess for Pan American. Richard Crafts was a pilot for Eastern Airlines. This was how the future couple met. They married in 1979 before settling down in Newtown, Connecticut, where they had three children. Richard took on a second part-time job as a police officer while Helle continued to see the world as an air stewardess.

The relationship was rocky from the beginning with Richard cheating on Helle even before they were married. When asked why he had married Helle, Richard unromantically replied: “Helle was pregnant at the time we were married. We knew she was pregnant. It was far too advanced for a doctor to perform an abortion and we decided to get married.” 1

Helle Crafts.

On the 18th of November, 1986, Helle Crafts landed in New York after attending a flight from Frankfurt in Germany. She and two other stewardesses drove to Newtown and pulled up outside Helle’s home. “Richard’s home,” she sighed. It was the last time anybody saw her alive.

As it turned out, Helle had recently discovered that her husband had once again been having an affair behind her back. After discovering phone calls to an unknown number, she decided to hire a private detective to watch her husband and to confirm her fears. As he handed Helle photographs that corroborated her fears of infidelity, she wept.

She filed for divorce shortly before her disappearance and expressed fear for her life to her friends. Helle’s divorce lawyer said she told them “that if anything happened to her, we should not believe that it was an accident.” She also divulged to her lawyer that Richard “had a lot of guns in the house,” and that he had physically abused her in the past. Despite the fact that Richard was cheating on Helle, she decided to obtain a no-fault divorce as opposed to charge her husband with adultery. She was concerned about the children as well as what the community would think. The write was dated November 11th but the papers were never served.

Following her disappearance, Richard gave varying reports as to where Helle was. First of all, he told Helle’s friends that she was on another flight. Helle’s co-workers were immediately suspicious due to the regulations that restricted her from flying again so soon without having a proper rest period. Then Richard changed his story and said that she was in Denmark visiting her sick mother. This lie soon crumbled when her mother said no such arrangement had been made and that she wasn’t sick. He then told concerned friends that she was in Florida or the Canary Islands visiting with a friend.

Just days after her disappearance, Richard dismantled and redecorated their bedroom and purchased a new freezer an odd thing to do when your wife is missing. One of Helle’s co-workers, Rita Buonanno, had become increasingly worried about her friend and ultimately reported her missing on the 1st of December – two weeks after she was went missing. The fact that her husband had not even reported her missing set off alarm bells.

As a matter of fact, Richard had been having numerous affairs behind his wife’s back. These affairs continued after Helle’s disappearance and never once did he mention to these women, who knew he was married, that his wife had vanished.

Investigators considered something sinister had happened to Helle and zoned in on Richard who had been acting very peculiarly. The following month, they discovered that he had rented a 2700-pound wood chipper and a U-Haul truck shortly before Helle disappeared. He told the rental service that he had cut down some trees at his property.

Highway worker, Joseph Heinz, soon came forward to inform police that he had seen Richard parked at the side of the road alongside the Southbury Shore of Lake Zoar with the wood chipper in tow at around 3AM a day or two after Helle disappeared. He said he recalled the day very clearly as it was the date that he was called to work to plow roads during the season’s first snow.

Police rushed to the scene where they uncovered clumps of scattered wood chips under layers of dead leaves. Among the wood chips, they found something much more sinister: a human thumb, a fingertip with the nail attached, strands of blonde hair, a big toe, bone fragments, lacy material from underwear, a mailing label with Helle Crafts name on it and a crowned tooth with a piece of jawbone attached. An anthropology expert determined that the bone fragments belonged to a human and a forensic odontologist was able to identify the tooth as belonging to Helle Crafts.

A close up of hairs, wood and tissue debris located along the river bank. Credit:Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Handbook.

In addition, they uncovered a submerged chainsaw in the Housatonic River. The chainsaw had blonde hairs intertwined in the chain. Investigators were also able to retrieve a bloodstained carpet from inside the home. Inside the rented U-Haul van, they also found a clump of tissue-like material that tested positive for human blood.

Based on this information, Helle Crefts was pronounced dead and the net was quickly closing in on Richard. He was arrested when he arrived home from a ski trip.

As the trial date loomed, the location had to be moved as it was impossible to find jurors that had not yet heard of the case. “Every juror in Danbury knew something about the case. They talked about it constantly and made jokes about it frequently,” said one local. 2 It was decided the trial would be moved to New London. After questioning 46 prospective jurors over the course of five days, 10 men and two women were selected.

The apprehension of Richard Crafts.

Prosecutors faced a double burden because not only did they have to convince the jury that Helle was actually dead, they also had to convince the jury that Richard was the one who killed her. There was no physical body, after all. The motive, they argued, was that Richard didn’t want to get a divorce. He killed Helle before dismembering her body with a chainsaw and feeding her through the wood chipper, they contended.

During his trial, the couple’s housekeeper, Dawn Marie Thomas, told the courtroom that on the day of Helle’s disappearance, Richard had allowed her to go home early. She also said how she had witnessed the couple have an argument just several days before the disappearance. Dawn also testified that Richard had removed a freezer and a carpet with a large black stain from their home just a couple of days after Helle disappeared. When Dawn asked about the peculiar stain, Richard told her that he had spilled kerosene on it and that he didn’t want her to clean it. Richard was clearly unaware that kerosene does not leave a stain. It would leave an odour, sure, but it would be like spilling water. The following day, the carpet was gone. She also told the court that the freezer was working just fine when Richard decided to get rid of it.

Was this where Richard had kept Helle’s body before disposing of it? The prosecution argued so, however, the freezer was never retrieved to be DNA tested.

The upper portion of a human finger which was found on the river bed. Credit: Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Handbook.

Also to take the stand was Helle’s mother, Elizabeth Nielson. When Helle disappeared, Richard had told people that she was visiting her mother. The last time she saw her daughter was in Denmark for her 80th birthday on the 26th of July, 1986. “She stayed for three days and I never saw her again,” she told the court room. A piece of evidence was a letter that Helle had written to her mother in which she says “I told Richard I want a divorce.” This letter also references that Richard was “seemingly unhappy about the idea.” 3

Southbury policeman, Richard Wildman, told the court room that he had seen Richard on the 21st of November. Wildman said that he had been leaving work at around 4AM when he saw Richard. He was parked in a school parking lot near the police station with a U-Haul truck and a wood chipper. Wildman knew Richard as they worked together in the police station. “I asked him ‘what the hell are you doing with the wood chipper’ and he said some limbs had come down around his house during the previous snow storm and he was cleaning them up,” Wildman said. 4

The chainsaw that was discovered submerged in the Housatonic River connecting Newtown and Soutbury was entered as evidence. The manger of Darien Rental Service, Peter Grosbeck, was the man who hired the wood chipper to Richard. When on the stand, he told the court that when Richard returned the wood chipper, he couldn’t help but notice a chainsaw inside the truck. “I can’t be sure it’s this chainsaw, but it looked like this one,” he said. 5

The wood chipper rented by Richard Crafts. Credit: Henry Lee’s Crime Scene Handbook.

The prosecution contended that Helle was terrified of her husband and that she feared for her life. Testimony from Helle’s friend, Susan Lausten, said that she had “expressed fear for her safety, from conversations and dealings she had with Richard, and was concerned that he may harm her.” Lausten also told the court that Richard had physically abused Helle before and that he lied about his colon cancer returning as a ploy to make her cancel the divorce. Helle, however, had called Richard’s doctor regarding the cancer and he told her that it was untrue and that Richard was very much well.

A silent fell as Richard Crafts took the stand in his own defence. Dressed in a blue shirt and a striped tie, 50-year-old Richard stared towards his attorney as he answered questions about his wife. When asked if he had used a chainsaw or a wood chipper to kill his wife, he calmly replied: “No, sir, I did not.”

The jury were sent away to make their decision but after 17 days of deliberation, the judge declared a mistrial. One of the 12 jurors refused to continue marathon deliberations. A second trial was scheduled for the following year.

This time, the prosecution was able to successfully argue that Helle had been murdered. From the hair intertwined in the chainsaw to the bloodstained carpet inside Richard’s home, the evidence against him was damning and ultimately, the jury found that Richard was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The infamous “Wood Chipper Murder Case” was the first case in which somebody was convicted of murder with no body in the state of Connecticut.


Conclusion

After Helle’s death, her friends continued to show their support for their dear friend. They took in her children so that they wouldn’t be uprooted from their school and organized fundraisers for their future care. The state also made sure that Richard’s pension went to his children.

Richard thought that he had committed the perfect murder. All he did was perfectly show his true colors: he is a depraved and evil narcissist who callously murdered the mother of his children and disposed of her body like a piece of garbage.


Unraveling Crimes, Henry Lee Transformed Art Of Forensic Science

Long before he became an internationally known forensic scientist sought out by the likes of the Kennedys and O.J. Simpson, Henry Lee began his career in a converted bathroom at the Bethany state police barracks.

Virtually a one-man operation with a microscope and some camera equipment to analyze black and white photographs, Lee set about to keep a promise he made to Gov. Ella Grasso the day she officially made him a state employee in 1979 — to build the best forensic laboratory in the country.

Now nearly 35 years later Lee is retired from state service but still working on examining evidence from criminal cases from around the country at the forensic institute at the University of New Haven that bears his name.

In Meriden the state police forensic laboratory that he begged and borrowed to get built with the help of four governors is 74,000 square feet of laboratories in multiple buildings with all the latest in technological advances in everything from DNA analysis to investigating computer crimes.

All started by a man who arrived in Connecticut from Hong Kong with $65 in his pocket to teach at a small university in New Haven.

"Connecticut has always had state-of-the-art forensic facilities, and that is a credit to the criminal justice system and state leaders for wanting to be on the forefront on this, but there is no doubt that none of it would have happened without Henry's tireless work and his vision,'' said former Appellate Court Justice Anne Dranginis.

Dranginis was the prosecutor on the losing end of the first Connecticut case on which Lee testified, not long after he took a job as professor of forensic science at the University of New Haven.

Lee was a witness for the defense.

"In 1975 when I come here, I volunteer my services to the state and to most prosecutors, but they turn me down," Lee said during a recent two-hour interview in his office at the Henry Lee Forensic Institute on the campus of the University of New Haven.

The walls of his office are adorned with plaques and awards he has picked up over the years. There are photos of him with famous attorneys he has worked with and one on his desk of his wife, Margaret, and their two children.

"Then a public defender, Charlie Gill, contacted me and ask for help with a sexual assault case in Litchfield," Lee said. "At that time whatever the police said you had to accept because there was no way to check."

The legend of Henry Lee was about to be born.

Panties In The Tree

"Somebody at UNH told me about this Chinese guy who was a Ph.D. who knew about forensics that was teaching there," Gill said. "I went to see him and I could barely understand a word he said the first time I met him."

Gill, who went on to become a Superior Court judge, wanted Lee to testify about the "panties in the tree" case, in which Gill was defending a man accused of sexually assaulting a woman he and a friend had met at a bar.

Gill said it became known as the panties in the tree case because the woman's underwear was found in a tree near where the two men had picked her up in their car.

"Henry told me to get the panties so he could examine them," Gill said. "I got them from the court and drove them down to UNH, and Henry was waiting for me. His wife and kids were sitting in the car because he was about to go to New York to be grand marshal of some parade, but he wanted to examine those panties first."

Gill said Lee showed up to testify and "of course he was dramatic" and tore apart the state's case. Gill said Lee found seminal evidence from at least four or five other people on the panties. Lee also criticized the initial examination that was done of the woman after she made the allegations, Gill recalled.

The two men were acquitted. The case led police to establish rape kits for all detectives and later hospital personnel to use when collecting evidence in potential sexual assault cases.

"Henry was well ahead of his time even then," Gill said.

Years later Gill's son James Gill interned with Lee at the forensic laboratory. He is now the state's chief medical examiner.

The losing attorney at that Litchfield trial — Dranginis, then an assistant state's attorney — took notice of the defense's star witness. A few months later she held a meeting with state's attorneys from each of the nine judicial districts and told them they needed to get Henry Lee on their side.

"I remember after the jury verdict, I turned to my assistant and [said], 'We will never try another case without him,' " Dranginis said in a recent interview.

Dranginis said she'd never heard of Lee and didn't know much about what he was doing. When he started testifying, she knew her case was in trouble.

"He was just a very effective testifier. He always knew who was deciding the case and he connected with those jurors," Dranginis said. "Suddenly he opened this whole new component of proof. There had been a lot of criticism of the state police at that time for their handling of the evidence in the Peter Reilly case, and Henry came in talking about how to collect and preserve evidence."

Lee, who was recruited by longtime New Haven State's Attorney Arnold Markle, says that his first lab was a converted bathroom at Troop I barracks in Bethany.

"The hole for the toilet was still there, so we just put a board over it, and that's where we started," Lee said.

The primitive lab had a microscope, a few cameras, and tables and chairs rummaged from the UNH campus and other state buildings. Initially the lab developed black and white crime scene photos, did document analysis and fingerprinting.

In 1979 Grasso appointed Lee as the state's first chief criminologist, officially making him a state employee. Lee said he took a big pay cut from his position as a professor to work for the state at that time — his starting salary was $19,000.

But he persuaded Grasso to agree to let him work on cases outside the state to earn either extra money for himself or to buy equipment for the laboratory.

It wasn't long before Lee's new office got its first big case in June 1980, when 29-year-old Elizabeth Hart disappeared from her Glastonbury home. When her husband came home he found their 14-month-old son dead in the driveway, run over by a car.

Her body was found a few days later in Andover, and she had been raped and shot several times. Police arrested a neighbor, 19-year-old Larry Gates, and used forensic evidence such as hair samples, blood samples and fingerprints found in Elizabeth Hart's car to tie him to the crime. He eventually pleaded guilty.

"After that case everybody in the state started sending cases to us," Lee said. "Eventually we got cases from more than 42 countries."

Building A World-Class Lab

Lee traveled all over New England assisting police departments with cases. In lieu of payment, he asked for equipment for the laboratory. In the early 1980s, with help from Markle, the state got federal grant money for arson investigations. The lab established one of the first arson dog programs in the country.

"Our arson unit became world famous," Lee said. "Normally the clearance rate in arsons at that time was 20 percent. In Connecticut it was 70 to 80 percent clearance."

Around the same time, Lee moved his operation out of the old bathroom in Bethany to a former reform school building in Meriden.

Using $50,000 in donations and the muscle of state troopers who volunteered their time, Lee converted it into the state's first forensic laboratory.

Lee hired his first three civilian employees for the laboratory. One was Elaine Pagliaro, one of his former students at UNH, who later took over running the lab the first time Lee retired and who now works with him at the institute.

Federal budget cuts in the mid-1980s nearly forced the state to close the forensic laboratory. Many newspapers, including The Courant wrote about the lab possibly closing.

Businesses started donating money, Lee said, and so did some individuals, including an unemployed man who sent Lee a check for $5, which he never cashed.

"The people of Connecticut are the ones that really saved the laboratory then. We got enough money to keep the lab open," Lee said. "When people ask me why you not leave Connecticut, I tell them it is because the people were loyal to me then, and I can never forget that."

At that time Gov. William O'Neill passed legislation to fund the laboratory annually and to make it a separate entity from the state police with its own policy board to oversee it. Lee started with 12 troopers assigned to the lab, a lieutenant, a sergeant and three civilians. He gradually replaced the troopers when they retired with civilians until the lab was staffed by nearly all civilians.

"I made it clear to Gov. O'Neill and state police that the lab was not only working for state police but also would work for the public defender's office, which made some police angry. But it was important that everyone know the lab is independent," Lee said.

By the late 1980s the lab had expanded to 16 units that analyzed everything from shoe prints to blood to crime scene photos and polygraph exams. Lee also started a trainee program to bring in more help one of the first trainees was Robert O'Brien, who is now director of the forensic laboratory.

Pagliaro said it was an exciting time to be part of a suddenly growing field.

"I thought nothing of it when the phone rang at 3 a.m. because I knew it would be Henry calling to drag me out to some crime scene," Pagliaro said. "Henry had a holistic approach to forensic science because he believed you needed to go out to the crime scene and see where the evidence came from to truly understand a case."

Police were keeping the laboratory busy.

"At that time we got called out to murders nearly every night, sometimes two or three times a night," Lee said.

By the late 1980s, Lee and his lab were well-known in Connecticut, but a case was about to land on his desk that would make him an international sensation.

A Wood Chipper And DNA

On Nov, 19, 1986, a friend dropped Helle Crafts off at the Newtown home she shared with her husband, Richard Crafts. It was the last time anyone would ever see the Danish flight attendant.

After a few weeks, when some of her friends reported her missing, her husband initially told police he assumed his wife was visiting her family in Denmark. Police were suspicious of Crafts from the beginning, but without a body it seemed an impossible case to solve.

Then a highway worker who had noticed something strange while plowing the highway during a freak November snowstorm came forward. The plow driver told police he had seen someone with a wood chipper down on the banks of Lake Zoar early in the morning as he was plowing on I-84.

State police divers discovered a chain saw on the bottom of the lake. Lee analyzed it and determined there were blood specks in between the teeth. He also was able to recover the serial number from the chain saw, which had been damaged by being underwater. Investigators traced the chain saw to Richard Crafts.

Investigators scoured the shore of the lake and found less than 3 ounces of human remains, including a tooth with an unusual crown, a toenail covered in pink nail polish, bone chips and more than 2,600 bleached, blond human hairs.

Lee decided to try an extremely new blood-typing technique called DNA testing to see whether he could determine if the remains were Helle Crafts'. The samples were too degraded to make a match, but the lab was able to ascertain that the blood was from a female with the same blood type as Helle Crafts.

Lee said that although people remember that the wood chipper case was likely the first criminal case where DNA was used, "the case broke ground on a lot of new techniques."

"We brought in a wood expert to analyze the striations on the wood chips, a rope expert to analyze the rope fibers. We did bone analysis and fabric analysis," he said. "It was a hard case."

The partial tooth with the dental crown intrigued Lee, who called in a dental expert to examine it. That turned out to be a key because it was determined the crown was likely installed by a dentist in Denmark, where Helle Crafts was from.

That was enough for the medical examiner's office to determine that Helle Crafts was dead, which paved the way for state police to arrest Richard Crafts on murder charges. It was the first time in the state's history a murder case would be tried without a body.

The first trial in New London ended in a mistrial when one juror refused to deliberate anymore and walked out of the courthouse. Crafts was convicted at a second trial and is still serving a 50-year prison sentence.

The salacious details of the wood chipper murder had garnered international media attention, and Connecticut's forensic science guru became a highly sought-out expert.

"That certainly was a very exciting time," Pagliaro said. "We were doing cutting-edge DNA technology and that opened up a lot of opportunities for examining evidence. People were now realizing that they had to rely on scientific analysis of evidence to help solve cases."

The State's $1 Man

Pagliaro said the Connecticut laboratory was one of only five in the country working with the next phase of DNA, called PCR testing.

"While we weren't able to determine whether a blood sample was 1 in 500 million like we can today we could say it was 1 in 500,000, which was a lot better than just saying it was a certain blood type," Pagliaro said.

In the 1990s, Gov. Lowell P. Weicker approved funding for phase two of the lab and Gov. John G. Rowland approved phase three, ultimately giving the state 240,000 square feet of forensic laboratory space. Lee also started one of the country's first computer crime sections and established a sex offender database using DNA testing.

Lee "retired" for the first time in 1996 and was ready to take a new job in Washington, D.C., when his mother called him to ask what he was doing and why would he leave Connecticut. She persuaded him to stay.

Two years later Rowland appointed him state police commissioner, the first Chinese man to hold that position. He stayed as commissioner for two years.

"I went home and told my wife, 'Good news, Margaret: I got a big promotion, Numero Uno cop in the whole state, and I am going to be taking a pay cut,' " Lee said.

A job offer in Florida tempted Lee to retire again, only to be convinced by Rowland to stay on as chief emeritus of the laboratory, which was now being run by his protégé Pagliaro.

When the state faced budget cuts in the late 1990s, Lee went to Rowland and brokered a deal: He would give up his $150,000 annual salary and take only $1 a year if the governor promised not to cut staff at the laboratory.

"That is how I became the state's most important $1 man," Lee said.

He stayed in that position for another eight years.

'Something Not Right'

As he turned responsibilities of the day-to-day operations of the lab over to others, Lee became a celebrity forensic scientist, working for both the prosecution and defense.

He was asked to consult on cases such as the William Kennedy Smith sexual assault case in Palm Beach, Fla., where he testified on the defendant's behalf, and the Jon Benet Ramsey murder case in Colorado, where stumped prosecutors sought his expertise in re-examining physical evidence.

But by far the biggest and most controversial case Lee testified at was the trial of O.J. Simpson, where he testified on behalf of Simpson and raised questions about how Los Angeles police collected evidence from the bloody crime scene.

His infamous statement — "Something not right" — when describing the police investigation was a key factor bolstering the defense's case that Simpson was either framed by police or the evidence couldn't be trusted because of the way it was collected.

As part of his testimony in the Simpson case Lee performed one of his standard routines perfected in courtrooms all over Connecticut through the years — explaining blood splatters by using red ink and paper.

Lee walks down in front of the jury and first uses an eye dropper to drop some "blood" onto the paper to demonstrate a low-velocity blood splatter. He then sprays ink against the paper to show what a high-velocity blood splatter would look like. In the Simpson case, Lee raised questions about how the blood evidence was collected at the scene and whether it was properly analyzed.

After Simpson was acquitted, Lee received some criticism for testifying on his behalf.

But Lee deflected it, saying that his fee in that case, allegedly $250,000, was used to buy equipment for the state laboratory, as were fees from other high-profile cases that he worked on. He also said that the Simpson case and others like it highlight his mantra that a forensic scientist just examines the evidence and doesn't pick sides.

"You cannot take sides, there's always pressure from families of victims, detectives, media," Lee said. "Some even try to offer you gifts or tamper with you. If you don't have that integrity, then you have a big problem."

Lee officially retired from the laboratory in 1998, although he continued to work on high-profile cases.

Goofs And Backlogs

The laboratory has faced some problems since Lee left. In 2009 The Courant reported that a key piece of evidence in the unsolved 1998 murder of Yale student Suzanne Jovin was contaminated at the laboratory.

For years investigators had hoped that DNA material found under one of Jovin's nails would lead to her killer. However, embarrassed lab officials had to acknowledge in 2009 that the DNA actually belonged to a forensic laboratory technician who initially handled the Jovin evidence.

Just before that revelation, Jovin's parents had written a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell criticizing the forensic laboratory for its "shortcomings."

"This facility once regarded as the leading forensic unit in the country, is suffering from under-staffing and inadequate funding. As a consequence, the unit is struggling to satisfy the needs of ongoing and emerging investigations, not to speak of 'cold cases' such as the murder of our daughter," Thomas and Donna Jovin wrote.

Then in 2010 The Courant reported that the lab had a serious backlog of DNA cases because it was short-staffed and underfunded. Police departments were told they could have to wait up to nine months to get DNA samples from a homicide scene processed unless they had a suspect in mind.

In addition, latent fingerprints found at crime scenes could take a year to analyze against a national database, and evidence from 110 rape kits had not been tested, some of which had been sitting on a shelf for a year.

The problems led the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors to allow the lab's accreditation to expire. It was restored last year, but not without tarnishing its reputation.

The bad publicity angered Lee, who said "what it took him 30 years to build was being destroyed."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that money would be provided to assist the laboratory in eliminating the backlog of DNA cases. More employees were hired and a new director, Guy Vallaro from Massachusetts, was brought on board.

"Dr. Vallaro is the perfect leader to restore our lab to what it once was: the envy of the nation," Malloy said.

Full Circle

Lee has gone back to where he started — the University of New Haven — where the forensics program he started in 1975 has more students applying to it than it can handle. He now chairs the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, housed at UNH.


The woodchipper murder: How the effort to cover up a killing both disgusts and impresses

Over the years, murderers have come up with some creative tricks to hide their trail, but at some point, an overlooked detail or ill-considered step in the process exposes their crime, bringing justice to the victim and their family 

Such is the case in the murder of Helle Crafts by her husband, Richard. Though he went to great lengths to hide his crime, his unusual methodology ended up pointing directly to him.

Helle Lorck Nielson and Richard Crafts may have been a doomed pair from the start. Helle was born July 7, 1947, in Denmark, where she was raised as a happy, outgoing child who had a knack for learning and picking up various languages. 

She attended college in England, worked as a nanny in France, and eventually found her calling as an airline flight attendant, first with Capital Airways of France, then with Pan Am Airways from Copenhagen. Her sunny disposition, knowledge of multiple languages, and flair for customer service made her a shoo-in over the other 200 candidates for the job.

Pan Am stationed its flight attendants in Miami, with many of them bunking at the same small hotel. At this hotel, Helle met Richard, an airline pilot, on May 24, 1969.

Their story, and the story of what happened next, is told through numerous news stories and media accounts. 

Richard was born Dec. 20, 1937, a native of New York City. While his father was a very successful businessman, Richard was less motivated by his scholastic endeavors and scraped by more on his father’s reputation than his own efforts. 

Richard joined the military and found a natural knack for flying. Starting with helicopters and eventually flying for the Air America branch of the CIA, he spent the late 1950s completing missions across Asia, including secret operations in Korea, Japan and Vietnam. 

At the time Helle and Richard met, he was engaged to another woman. Still, the two airline professionals continued to date on-and-off for several years. Those close to Helle were dismayed that the blonde beauty with a pleasant demeanor would continue to see someone who was often abusive. 

Helle frequently had bruises on her face and body, and she and Richard would fight in public and private with equal gusto.

In 1975, Helle got pregnant. She and Richard married in November, bought a home in Newtown, Connecticut, and settled down to raise a family of three children. Richard continued his role as a pilot, while Helle eventually returned to her flight attendant job, hiring Dawn Thomas as an au pair for their children.

Marriage was not Richard’s forte. He continued to see other women. He began stockpiling guns and other weapons, which some noted became a sort of obsession for him. He became an auxiliary police officer of the Newtown police force in 1982, a role which many say he took a bit too seriously.

Helle Crafts tolerated her husband’s behavior for a while, but the fighting and loathing for each other increased as years went by. In November 1986, she began the process of filing for divorce, going so far as to hire a private investigator to gather information on her husband Richard’s activities and whereabouts. She also told friends of her plans. 

She warned, "If something happens to me, don&apost think it was an accident."

On Nov. 19, 1986, Helle’s friend dropped her off at home after a friendly visit.

By Dec. 1, 1986, Helle’s private investigator contacted the Newtown Police Department to report Helle may have disappeared, launching the investigation into one of the most gruesome and memorable murders in local history.

Richard spent the past several weeks assuring friends and family that Helle was fine. She was visiting the Canary Islands with friends, staying with his mother, and eventually, she was allegedly taking care of her sick mother in Denmark, all according to Richard.

Helle’s friends and au pair saw through the lies, however, and on Nov. 29, a friend called Helle’s mother in Denmark to confirm that she was not sick or there. 

There were other marks of suspicious activity. On Nov. 17, Richard purchased a giant chest freezer. It was not found in the home by the time police started to investigate. Richard also purchased new bedsheets, a chainsaw, and on Nov. 20, he paid $900 for the rental of a truck and an industrial woodchipper.

Several residents of Newtown spotted Richard with his rented woodchipper on Nov. 20. Though most of his activity was centered between 3 and 4 a.m., during a winter storm, a snowplow driver and other residents spotted Richard by the steel bridge spanning Lake Zoar. 

He claimed to be mulching branches downed in an earlier snowstorm, though why he was doing so at such an hour, and during a winter storm, were very questionable. 

Police investigated the area where Richard and his woodchipper were spotted. They found the brand-new chainsaw and blade submerged in the water, along with blood, tissue and hair samples.

All told, police discovered less than three ounces of human remains, most of which were blonde hair strands matching Helle Crafts. They also found a tooth with tell-tale dental work, a pink-painted toenail, bone chips, fingernails and type-O blood. While noted forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee analyzed these findings, as reported by the New Hampshire Register, it was an envelope scrap bearing the victim’s name that provided the final clue that these remains were all that was left of Helle

Richard had killed Helle and put her in the woodchipper. Investigators believe that Richard killed his wife, froze her, chopped her up with the chain saw and then put her through the woodchipper. 

Richard received a 50-year sentence in 1990 for the murder of his wife. He was originally incarcerated at MacDougall Walker Correctional Institute, but moved to Osborn Correctional Institute. 

In January of 2020, the Newtown Bee noted Crafts took advantage of an antiquated Connecticut law while allowed for sentence reduction as a reward for work and behavior. A representative of the correction system reported to Boston.com the then-82 year-old convicted murder was transitioned to a veterans’ housing project in Bridgeport and later released.

While Richard may be free today, the tales of the horrifying murder and gruesome cover-up of his wife’s murder may go down in history as one of the most shocking and astounding crimes of passion. 


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William Coleman, also from Hartford, was arrested on similar charges in August. The men are accused of firing at and killing Victor Millan, 25, after an argument that involved sunglasses, according to the warrant for Coleman’s arrest.

Coleman told police that Millan began to argue with several people and that he saw Millan pull a gun. Coleman said he tried to grab the gun, struggled with Millan, then heard several gunshots, according to the warrant. Coleman told police he then pulled out his gun and fired three times over his shoulder as he ran away.


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