Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten

Matlick's Story

Jack Matlick
Jack Matlick

If Jack Matlick is to be believed — and there are many who don't trust his story — he picked Helen Brach up at O'Hare International Airport and brought her back to her home in Glenview. She was peeved when he arrived, because he was driving a Jeep and not her pink Lincoln Continental. He had been out running errands and didn't have time to change cars, he told her.

Matlick lived in a home Helen owned in Schaumburg and stayed at the estate only when she wasn't home, but for some reason he called his wife and said he was staying in Glenview that weekend. He had work to do, he said. Matlick later told authorities that Helen stayed in that weekend and prepared for her upcoming trip to Florida. Friends who dropped by to say hello were told by the "houseman" that she was not available, however.

The story Matlick told police strains the imagination. She arrived home on Thursday evening and left for Florida on Monday morning. During that time, Brach, who enjoyed talking to friends on the phone, never picked up the telephone or took a call.

On Monday morning, Matlick said he drove Helen to the airport without any luggage and without a flight reservation. Brach typically traveled with trunk loads of clothing and was meticulous about planning her itinerary. Furthermore, she was not an early riser and frequently ran late for events but on this morning she was at the airport before 7 a.m. — three hours before the first plane to Florida.

Over the weekend, Matlick told investigators Brach had signed a number of checks, including several made out to him or benefiting him in one some way. The checks totaled more than $15,000. When the signatures on the checks were later determined to be forgeries, Matlick told police that Helen had injured her hand while packing and had been forced to sign with her left hand.

In his defense, handwriting experts determined that the forged signatures were not signed by Matlick. The handwriting was never tested against any other samples.

The story Matlick told police was not the only version he related. His estranged wife would say years later that Jack had phoned her in Schaumburg on Thursday, February 17, 1977 to tell her Helen Brach had not returned from Mayo Clinic and that he was going to stay at the estate to wait for her. During the weekend, Matlick purchased a small attachment for a blender. It was a meat grinder.

He also made arrangements to have carpeting replaced in one of the rooms of the house and to have the room repainted. The contractors who carried out the work later testified that nothing was out of the ordinary in the room. The meat grinder attachment, which led to speculation that Brach had been murdered, ground up and fed to her beloved pets, was later found to be much too small to accomplish such a grisly task.

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