Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Wood Chipper Murder Case

The Investigation

When detectives interviewed Dawn Marie Thomas, the Crafts' au pair, she told investigators several important details about the Crafts' household. On the morning of November 19, Crafts suddenly awakened her at 6:00 a.m. and said Helle was driving to his sister's house in Westport and they would meet her there later. Thomas thought that was strange, since Newtown had been hit with a severe winter storm during the night and visibility was very poor. Because of a power failure, Richard insisted on taking the children to his sister's house right away. He woke up his three children at 6:30 a.m., loaded them into the family car with Dawn Thomas and drove over to his sister's house. Richard dropped off the kids and Dawn and "left almost immediately." Helle was not at his sister's house, even though she supposedly left before Richard. Dawn told investigators that Richard did not return to pick them up until later that day at 7:00 p.m. Helle still did not appear at his sister's house.

Later that night, Dawn asked Richard where Helle was and Richard replied, "I don't know." The next day when she asked Richard the same question again, he told her that Helle was in Denmark with her sick mother. Dawn also told investigators she noticed for the first time that pieces of the carpet were cut out and missing from the master bedroom. Richard told her that he had spilled kerosene on the rug and they needed to be replaced.

Their suspicions aroused, Newtown police requested that Crafts submit to a lie detector test. He agreed and passed the test on December 4. Even though polygraph examinations are inadmissible as evidence in court, they can be a useful tool for investigators. But since Crafts passed the test, it had the opposite effect on the Newtown detectives. One investigator wrote in his report that "based on the polygraph examination and my numerous conversations with Mr. Crafts, he does not know where his wife is."

Despite the results of the test, however, some detectives believed otherwise. There was something odd about a professional airline pilot who liked to play cop part time, who rode around in a phony police car and took jobs as a security guard for a few dollars an hour. Detectives also listened to Helle's friends who called constantly demanding to know the progress of the investigation. Statements from Dawn Thomas, Johansen and others cast serious doubt on Crafts' story of his wife's disappearance. Crafts' behavior since November 19 had been, at the very least, questionable and unusual. But there was no direct evidence that anything criminal had happened to Helle. She had simply vanished.

Detectives decided to call Richard Crafts back for another interview.

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