Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten

Burn This

Matlick waited two weeks from the date that he said he dropped Helen off for her trip to Florida before he reported her missing. He went to the Glenview Police Department to file a missing person's report, only to be told that such a report had to come from a family member. Jack contacted Helen's only living relative, her brother, Charles.

Charles Voorhees immediately flew from southern Ohio to Glenview to file the report. Before stopping at the police station to ask the authorities to search for his missing sister, Voorhees ran an errand. He and Matlick went to the Brach estate to look things over. Voorhees had long enjoyed the benefits of having a very rich sister, but he was not living the high life by any means. A retired railroad worker, Voorhees had accepted annual gifts from his sister, and expressed little interest in her money.

He followed Matlick's lead when they searched the house for clues and incredibly agreed with Matlick that they should follow his sister's wishes and destroy her journals and automatic writings. She had left explicit instructions to burn the journals and papers "if something should happen." Despite the fact that she had been gone just two weeks and there was no evidence to indicate anything had happened to her other than a significant deviation in her normal routine, and despite the fact that such documents might have provided important clues for the people who wanted to find her, Vorhees allowed Matlick — outside his presence — to burn the papers. Whatever evidence they might have contained was lost forever. Then, having undoubtedly destroyed valuable clues to his sister's whereabouts, he went to the police station to report her missing.

The Glenview police were puzzled by the disappearance of Helen Brach and frustrated by the actions of her brother and houseman. For good reason, they immediately focused their investigation on Jack Matlick. First of all, no ransom demand had been made for Helen Brach, and secondly, Matlick's claim of dropping her off at O'Hare Airport with no luggage and no itinerary was unbelievable. Under stiff questioning by authorities, Matlick stuck by his story.

He did admit that he and Helen had exchanged harsh words over the sale of an automobile, but beyond that, he claimed they got along fine. He refused to back down from his claim that Helen had signed the checks with an injured hand.

Eventually, Matlick agreed to take a series of lie detector tests, but the results were inconclusive. Matlick told police that he had nothing to do with Brach's disappearance and that he would not benefit from her death — after all, he told them, he wasn't mentioned in her will.

Later, Matlick claimed that he showed a copy of Helen's will to the Glenview police to prove he had nothing to gain by killing her. The Glenview authorities denied strenuously that Matlick had ever shown them a will.

The Glenview Police searched the Brach residence several times, went over the grounds with a fine-tooth comb and interviewed anyone with any knowledge of Helen Brach, but grew increasingly frustrated.

With no body, no evidence of a crime, no witnesses of a crime and no suspects, their hands were tied. The typical investigative powers of law enforcement were stymied. Over time, leads dried up and the clues withered. Eventually, the Glenview Police simply gave up. There was nothing else they could do.

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