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Helle Lorck Nielson from Denmark is a talented woman, able to speak French and English
and understand German, Norwegian and Swedish. Her language skills are of benefit in her
chosen profession as an Airline Stewardess. After a stint with Capital Airways, she signs
on at Pan Am.
Helle Neilson loves her job and she loves life. She falls in love with someone unworthy of
her love. Her life will spiral in a direction that eventually she isn't willing to continue to live
with. Her decision to take back control of her life results in her murder.
HELLE NIELSON CRAFTS
1969 24 May - Helle Neilson is waiting at the motel for a flight. Richard Crafts (31) is a
pilot who primarily dates airline stewardesses. He's also "engaged."
Photo: Helle Nielson Crafts
1969 -1974 - Helle Nielson and Richard Crafts date and have an on and off again
relationship. He's dating other women. Helle's friends dislike Crafts.
1975 - Helle is pregnant by Richard Crafts.
MARRIAGE, ABUSE & BETRAYAL
1976- November - Helle Nileson and Richard Crafts marry in New Hampshire.
Helle has their first child. Helle is deeply hurt by the way
Richard treats her during her first pregnancy. She tells
friends she'll never forgive Richard for what he put her
In the next few years Helle has two more children.
Helle appears in public several times with bruises on her face.
After the children are born, Richard disappears for days at a time.
He never tells Helle where he goes or when he'd return.
Throughout their marriage, Richard Crafts is unfaithful and has numerous affairs.
After the last child is born, Helle hires an au pair to care for the children.
Her name is Dawn Marie Thomas (19)
Photo: Dawn Thomas
Helle Crafts returns to her job as a stewardess.
1976 - 1982 - Richard Crafts controls both his paycheck, and Helle's. Helle's responsibility
is to pay for household expenses, but with his money, Craft purchases
whatever he wants, mainly weapons to add to his gun collection. Richard
owns a veritable arsenal; several shotguns, dozens of handguns, 9mm
automatics, .44 caliber revolvers, .357 magnums, high-powered rifles,
semiautomatic weapons, crossbows, hand grenades and thousands of
rounds of ammunition.
Crafts purchases landscaping equipment, tractors, mowers and a $25,000
backhoe. He leaves rusty, unused equipment littering their lawn.
1981 - 9 January - Richard Crafts purchases a chain saw for $644.95.
A WANNABE MARTINET
1982 - Richard Crafts is still working for Eastern Airlines. In addition, he signs up as an
auxiliary police officer in Newtown. It's an unpaid position. He hangs around the
police station (even off duty) and at times responds to police calls without authorization.
1986 - Richard Crafts is hired as a police officer in Southbury. The paid salary is miniscule.
He pays for (expensive) training seminars on police procedures. Crafts went so far as
to purchase a 1985 Ford Crown Victoria, the same type the Connecticut police use.
He pays for (out of his own money) multiple radios, antennas, police lights and a siren
and has them installed in the vehicle.
As in Newtown, Richard has a reputation of being a "somewhat rigid patrolman"
who takes his "limited responsibilities" as being more than important than they are.
1986 - Summer - Helle openly speaks with friends about divorce. Then Helle puts action to
words and hires first a divorce attorney, and then a private detective, Keith
Mayo (former Conn. policeman) to gather evidence for a divorce.
Photo: Keith Mayo
Helle discovers that Richard is having affairs, at least two, one of them is
with another flight attendant, Nancy Dodd, from New Jersey.
Photo: Nancy Dodd
Helle tells Richard she wants a divorce.
PREPARATIONS FOR MURDER
1986 - 13 - November - Richard Crafts purchases a large capacity Westinghouse freezer at an
appliance store. He pays for, and picks it up, at the store in Danbury.
17 - November - Richard Crafts pays $900 to an equipment rental store, Darien Rentals,
18 - November - Today is the last time anyone saw Helle Neilson Crafts (39)... except for Richard Crafts.
Helle is never seen alive again.
MURDER - A GRUESOME DISPOSAL & COVERUP
19- November - Early morning - Helle Craft is in the bedroom when she is bludgeoned
at the foot of the bed.
Richard Crafts carries Helle's body into the basement and places her inside the new freezer. He goes upstairs and wakes the au pair.
He tells Dawn Thomas (au pair) that they are all to go to his sister's
house in Westport because Newtown has suffered a power failure.
Dawn Thomas asks about Helle. Crafts tells her that Helle would meet them there. He drives Thomas and the children to Westport and leaves
them ith his sister. He leaves for home. Later he will tell police he didn't
go anywhere once he got home.
He removes Helle's frozen body from the freezer and transports her to a property in Newtown he owns. It's secluded. He uses the chainsaw on her body, cutting it into smaller pieces. He wraps them in plastic
garbage bags and return them to the freezer.
Richard Crafts purchases new bedding.
20 November - In the dark, Richard Crafts take the packages containing Helle's body parts to Lake Zoar. He throws them one by one into the powerful wood
When finished he drives the wood chipper in the u-haul to Houstatonic
River and parks on the side of the River Road. He gets rid of more evidence
and then runs fresh wood through to clean it.
Unbeknownst to Richard, mail which Helle had in her pocket falls to the
ground. Small fragments of her bones, broken teeth and strands of her hair
are spit out onto the ground.
Joseph Hine is driving along the Houstatonic River road when he sees a u-haul and
vehicle parked alongside the road.
Richard Crafts gets rid of the new freezer.
21 - November - Richard Crafts tells the au pair Dawn Thomas "Helle had to fly to
Denmark because her mother was ill. She would be back November
Richard Crafts tells a neighbor "Helle made a trip to Germany and
would be home "soon."
29 - November - Richard Crafts tells Helle's friend Leena Johanson "Helle's mother
is sick and Helle flew back to be with her."
Crafts tells another of Helle's friends "Helle is in the Canary Islands
with her best friend, Helen Dixon."
Leena Johanson isn't satisfied. She obtains the phone number for Helle's
mother and phones her in Denmark. She's in good health, not in the
hospital, and didn't expect to see Helle until April.
Leena notifies police and tells them "In early November Helle made a
disturbing statement. "If anything happens to me, don't assume it was an accident."
1986 - 1 December - Keith Mayo (Private Investigator) phones the Newtown Police Dept.
Helle Crafts, his client, is missing. Mayo fears she may have been
Helle's vehicle is found in the Pan Am Airlines parking lot at Kennedy Airport. Her friends and co-workers report that Helle said she wanted
to divorce Richard as soon as possible; that Helle is a devoted mother
to her children and would never leave them behind.
Investigators are also told that Richard Crafts' series of affairs have
gone on throughout the marriage, and were well known. He'd been
seeing his girlfriend in New Jersey for years.
2 December - Richard Crafts is interviewed by officers who are aware of his reputation.
Crafts tells them "on the night before Helle disappeared, she was happy
and showed no signs of being different or upset." "We slept at home
and when we awoke, the plan was for Helle "to go to my sister's house
in Westport because we had no power due to the storm... I have not seen
or heard from my wife since Wednesday November 19, 1986."
11 - December- Crafts is on duty, the night shift at the Southbury Police Dept.
Newtown Detectives ask for Crafts to be sent over for questioning.
9:20 P.M. - Crafts shows up in full uniform.Lt. Michael DeJoseph and Detective
Robert Tvardzik conduct the interview.
Richard Crafts has an answer for every question.
He claims he did not know Helle had hired a P.I. who documented his
relationship with a woman in New Jersey. He didn't know why Helle
would be afraid to give him the divorce papers.
The reason the bedroom rug has pieces cut out is that all the rugs are being
removed, and that kerosene had been spilled on the bedroom rug. It was cut
in pieces because it would be easier to remove. He dumped it in the landfill.
The reason he told different persons various versions - "I didn't want to say
my wife was gone and I did not know where she was."
The investigators thought Crafts was apathetic for a man who's wife was
missing. They thought he had something to do with Helle's disappearance.
A SEARCH FOR EVIDENCE
Keith Mayo obtains the help of the local trash pickup crew and a few helpers and for a few
days searches through the trash at the dump. A portion of rug is found, nearly identical to
that of the Craft home. It has stains appearing to be blood.
Dr. Henry Lee at the State Police Laboratory in Meriden examines it. None of the
stains tests positive for blood.
Mayo's and Helle's friends' campaign to find out what happened to Helle Crafts
results in the State Attorney's office stepping in. The investigation is turned over
to State Police Investigators.
A CHANGE IN INVESTIGATORS
Investigators from the Western District Major Crimes Unit pull Craft's credit card and telephone records.
1986 - 25 December - Newtown - Richard Crafts takes the children to Florida.
Investigators obtain a search warrant for the Crafts residence at 5
Newfield Lane. State Police Investigators, Dr. Henry Lee, and crime s
scene technicians enter the residence.
They find: furniture in disarray, dirty clothes everywhere, unwashed
dishs and utensils in the sink and on the countertops. The living room floor
floor is bare of carpeting and mattresses lay about along with boxes of toys
& other items.
A freezer is located and searched. Unbeknownst to investigators, it is
the old one belonging to the Crafts. The new one Richard Crafts bought
has been removed.
Investigators are astonished at the arsenal Richard Crafts owns.
Tagged as evidence are:
Several Smith and Wesson .357 revolvers, a few .38 caliber revolvers,
Colt Python .38 caliber pistols, Ruger carbine rifles, Finnish semi-automatic
weapons, 12-gauge pump shotguns, Winchester rifles, Beretta handguns
(with clips), .380 automatic handgun, two hand grenades, Beretta Crossbow,
Walther PPK handgun, two 9mm semiautomatic handguns, Heckler-Koch .45
caliber pistol, over and under style Universal shotgun, numerous clips and an
assortment of ammunition.
Hand towels, washcloths, a king size mattress with bedding and other fiber
samples are also seized.
In all, 108 pieces of evidence are removed.
FORENSICS & EVIDENCE RECOVERED
Dr. Lee performs a luminol test in various locations throughout the house, which test positive
for the presence of blood. Some of the towels also test positive for blood at the State Laboratory.
The blood is type O-positive, the same type as Helle Crafts. So is a blood smear on the mattress.
Joseph Hine informs police he saw a U-Haul and woodchipper along the Houstatonic River
Investigators discover that the equipment Richard Crafts had hired on November 17th
was a wood chipper.
1986 - 30 December - A chainsaw and serrated cutting bar is recovered from the bottom of the
Housatonic River during a search. It's serial number is filed away. The
Meriden forensic lab restores the serial number. Remnants of human
tissue, blonde hair and a number of blue fibers are found in the teeth of
the blade. The blue fibers match the rug from the Crafts home.
Helle Crafts had given Keith Mayo a box of Richard's personal papers. Inside is the receipt for the chainsaw. Mayo turns it over to police.
An envelope addressed to Helle is found near the river. Detectives thaw
snow and sift the soil. Recovered are 2,660 blonde hairs, one fingernail,
one toe nail, two teeth, one tooth cap and five droplets of blood.
1987- 11 January- An arrest warrant is issued.
9:00 p.m. - Connecticut State troopers and detectives surround Richard Craft's house
and telephone him, telling him to come out and surrender. The children are
in the house asleep.
Richard Crafts "Im tired. Ill take care of it in the morning."
The officers insist Crafts come out immediately.
Richard Crafts (angry shout) "Don't call me back!"
After more phone calls and promises from Crafts that he'll surrender,
(which do not happen) Crafts finally agrees to turn himself over to them.
Photo: Richard Crafts under arrest
12:30 P.M. - Richard Crafts "I'll be out in five minutes!"
Shortly afterwards Richard Crafts surrenders to police.
Richard Crafts is arraigned at Danbury court & bail is set at $750,000.
He is taken to Bridgeport jail.
INVESTIGATION & FORENSIC ANALYSIS
Investigators are still searching Lake Zoar's frigid waters.
Two tiny pieces of human teeth are found, one is a tiny fragment with
a piece of jawbone attached.
Constantine P. Karazulas, Forensic Odontology, performs an analysis.
"The tooth was removed from the mouth with traumatic force that sheared it off and took the bone with it. Further, he said that if a dentist had removed
the tooth, the base of the tooth would be clean and absent any jawbone residue.
In my opinion, this fracture occurred by a blunt force that fractured it to the
center line and took the jaw with it."
"The second tooth specimen was even more interesting. It was only part of a tooth
but it still had a metal crown attached. After the search, I took several hundred
X-rays of the recovered tooth from all possible angles. Using a series of five sets of X-rays that were taken of Helle Crafts teeth between 1980 and 1986, I
performed a painstaking comparison between the evidence and the images of
Helles teeth. The recovered tooth at Lake Zoar perfectly matched Helles lower
left bicuspid in the X- ray charts. I am medically absolutely certain of the positive
Dr. Lowell Levine (Forensic Scientist, New York State Police) "That tooth, lthe ower left second bicuspid, belonged to Helle Crafts when she was alive."
1987 - 23 June - The experts and investigators testify, as does Keith Mayo and friends of
Helle, and other witnesses. A 53 day trial, 100 witnesses & 650 pieces of
15 July - Juror Warren Maskell is the only juror for acquittal and refuses to deliberate
despite the other jurors efforts.
MIS-TRIAL IS DECLARED
CHANGE OF VENUE
The second trial is held in Norwalk, Connecticut.
1989 - 7 September - Experts and witnesses testify. The evidence is presented.
The Defense suggests Helle Crafts is having an affair and has run away from her family.
Dr. Lee "65 pieces of bone were cut with a heavy-type cutting edge that produced a
crushing and cutting force. The bone, human tissue fibers and hair were all mixed together with wood chips and vegetative debris, but most importantly,
the same machine cut it all."
The prosecution presents to the jury that a few bone fragments, the crown of a tooth,
part of a thumb, a fingernail, a toenail and several thousand strands of blond hair found
along Lake Zoar and fibers from the river, are Helle Crafts' remains. The tooth cap matches
Helle's dental records. They prove that Richard Crafts had disposed of Helle Crafts through
a wood chipper by the river.
Prosecutor David Rodgers "Crafts told me "police would find nothing because
"There's no body. It's gone."
1989 - 20 November - The jury is out 8 hours and reach a unanimous verdict.
21 November - The verdict: GUILTY of the murder of Helle Crafts.
Juror John J. Shanahan (Stamford) "Put down that she was a good mother. The character
assassination (by the defense) was uncalled for."
Jette Rompe (Helle's close friend) Thank God it's over. We all are very happy that justice was
1990 January - Richard Crafts is sentenced to 99 years in prison.
He is transported to the Community Correctional Center in Bridgeport
Photo: Richard Crafts
Prosecutor David Rodgers Rodgers "There's more that never came out at the trial, that I'm
holding back in case there's an appeal."
Helle Crafts children, Andrew, 13, Thomas, 9, and Kristina, 8, live with Crafts' sister and
brother-in-law, Karen and David Rodgers, in Westport.