Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten

Life is Like...

The investigation into the disappearance of candy empire heiress Helen Brach was truly like opening a box of expensive chocolates — investigators had no idea what they were getting until they took a bite. When they did, a high-profile missing person's case grew into a complex plot involving top-flight show horses, con artists, arson, insurance fraud, 25-year-old murders and the possibility of an animal-loving victim who literally went to the dogs.

Helen Voorhees Brach
Helen Voorhees Brach

Brach disappeared in 1977 — her body has never been found although she was declared dead in 1984 — but indictments and trials stirred up by revelations unearthed in the investigation are still being filed. Though one man is in prison for life for soliciting her murder, authorities are no closer today to answering the question: What happened to Helen Brach?

Police, private investigators and journalists have all weighed in with theories, and filmmaker Oliver Stone has been talking about doing a movie about Brach for some time now. There is no shortage of suspects with motives that all center on the same thing. Greed. When she disappeared, Brach was worth more than $20 million and that much money can make murder look like a very sweet deal indeed.

Greed clearly has a place in the strange case of Helen Brach. Helen had money and everyone around her wanted some of it. She was generous to a fault, although some said she cared more for animals than people. Surrounded by people always with their hand out, who could blame her? All Helen wanted was to indulge her lifelong dream of owning horses. What she got was much more sinister.

With so many twists and subplots to explore, people will be talking about the disappearance of Helen Brach for a long, long time. It is likely, however that the tragic disappearance of the former hat-check girl who fell in love with the candy magnate will remain a classic unsolved crime.

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