Helen Brach was born in 1911 on a farm in Unionport, Ohio. She grew up there and married her high school sweetheart; however, the pair was divorced by the time she was 21. She met her future husband, Frank Brach, at a country club she was working in. Frank Brach was known for the Brach’s candy company, which earned Helen Brach the title Candy Lady (Wikipedia). The candy company was sold by Frank Brach for $136 million, which is roughly $1.1 billion today. After Frank’s death in 1970, Helen took to taking drives in her cars, pink and lavender Cadillacs and Rolls-Royces. socializing with friends and regularly gave generous donations to animal welfare groups (Jett 2020).
It was February 17, 1977, when Helen Brach seemingly disappeared. She visited the local Mayo Clinic for a regular checkup before heading to the air port to travel to her mansion in Chicago. The last confirmed sighting of Helen Brach was at a nearby gift shop, where an assistant insisted that she heard her say her houseman was waiting for her before leaving. The crew who worked the flight she was supposed to be on reported that they didn’t see her on the flight, but her houseman, Jack Matlick, said he picked her up from the O’Hare Airport. If this is true, then she went four days without talking with anyone before she was reportedly dropped off again at O’Hare Airport for a trip to Florida (Wikipedia). Jack Matlick had been in prison on previous occasions for aggravated robbery and was known to be abusive to his wife (Jett 2020).
Four years before her disappearance, Helen was introduced to Richard Bailey, now known to have been a conman and gigolo. She got along quite well with him and they were frequently seen together at social gatherings, reportedly as paramours. Bailey showered the widow with flowers and gifts. Despite the relationship the two seemed to have, a swindler like Bailey would eventually swindle the Candy Lady – a moniker he and his friends had given her. He sold her three racehorses for $98,000, after buying them from his brother for $18,000, two years before her disappearance. When, a year later, Bailey again tried to sell her more horses, Helen had grown suspicious and decided to have the horses appraised. According to the appraiser the horses were essentially worthless. Helen told a friend who suggested that she take the case to the district attorney that she would do so, after going to the Mayo Clinic she was last seen at in Rochester, Minnesota (Jett 2020).
For some reason, Matlick waited two weeks to report that Helen Brach was missing. He reported to police that he had picked her up on the 17th and dropped her off after the weekend for a flight to Florida, where she was expected by Bailey. Bailey reported to police that he was staying in a hotel in Palm Beach with a young woman, awaiting Helen’s arrival. He prepared for her to arrive, but she never came. He claimed he tried to call her estate, but Matlick was the one who answered and continually told him that she was out. He reportedly assumed she had dropped him for another man and gave up on her showing up. At the time, this is as far as the investigation into her disappearance went. No further investigation continued, her friends and relatives continued life presumably somewhat richer, and she was declared dead in 1984 (Jett 2020).
There were two main suspects in her disappearance: Jack Matlick and Richard Bailey. Matlick, who claimed to have picked Helen up at the O’Hare airport, came into question when the people at the Mayo Clinic Helen had gone at remembered her saying he was waiting for her outside. While Matlick claimed that Helen had been home for the weekend after he picked her up, workers at the airport and on the plane she was supposed to be on don’t remember seeing her, and friends didn’t hear from her the entire four days she would have been home. Friends even tried to call her, but Matlick would answer them, much like when Bailey called, and tell them that she was out of the house. There were also painters working in the house at the time she was supposedly there, and none of them remembered seeing her the entire weekend. It was also well known that Helen hated mornings, and according to Matlick he dropped her off at the airport as 6 AM, even though the first flight wasn’t until 9 AM. Just as with the flight back home, no one remembers seeing Helen at the airport or on the flight to Florida. Along with this, there was no ticket in her name for the flight in question and friends who would normally be involved with picking her up from the airport both in Chicago and Florida had not heard about her trip at all. According to Helen’s gardener, he saw Matlick with in Helen’s house with two strangers during the weekend, one of which was dressed in a baggy dress and wearing a wig that looked like Helen’s hairstyle. It was also found that Matlick had a receipt for a toll exit near a farm Helen owned, dated the Monday he supposedly dropped her off at the airport, February 21st. It was later found that Matlick had forged Helen’s signature on checks that totaled approximately $13, 000 and stole roughly $75,000 worth of times, now worth about $375,000 today; in exchange for charges not being pressed, he signed off the $50,000 that would have been given to him in Helen’s will (Jett 2020). He claimed that Helen had arthritis that bothered her so much, she requested that he sign the checks in her name (Orangebeanindiana 2020). Matlick was never charged with her disappearance and died in 2011 (Jett 2020). It was noted by Matlick’s wife that the weekend that Helen went missing, Matlick told her he had too much to do and would be spending the weekend at the house despite having never done so before. During the time that he was staying there, several friends attempted to visit Helen, but he claimed she wasn’t feeling well and sent them all away. Supposedly, the painters working in the house at the time had actually been hired to repaint two specific rooms, one of which also had its carpet replaced, and had one of her pink Cadillacs cleaned and shampooed inside. Up until his death, Jack Matlick was hounded by the press about her disappearance (Orangebeanindiana 2020).
It was 1989 when the Brach case was reopened and Bailey was looked at more closely. In the time since her death, he had continued to scam wealthy women much the way he had scammed Helen during their tryst, but had not been truly looked at. While he was never charged in Helen’s disappearance and possible murder, Bailey was charged with counts of mail and wire fraud, racketeering, and money launder in a manner often used in drug trafficking, for a total of 29 charges. Police also charged Bailey was conspiring to kill Helen Brach, as they believed he hired someone to kill her so she wouldn’t have him charged for the horses he fraudulently sold her. Bailey waved his right to a jury trial and plead guilty toe racketeering and fraud, but maintained his innocence in the disappearance of Helen Brach. Another known conman, Joel Plemmons, testified that Bailey had afford him $5,000 to kill Helen the week she disappeared. The judge, taking into account all evidence of conduct even outside the guilty pleas, sentenced Bailey to 30 years in prison, though it is worth noting that Bailey was not found guilty of Helen’s murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Last year, at 89-years old, Bailey was released from prison and still maintains his innocence in her disappearance (Jett 2020).
Another theory that has been proposed named 11 people, including Matlick, but not Bailey, as responsible for Helen’s disappearance. In 2004, Plemmons, who had testified against Bailey, claimed to police that a Silas Jayne, notorious in the Chicago horse world, had ordered Helen’s death. At the time, Jayne was in prison for conspiring to have his own brother murdered. According to Plemmons, Jayne was the one selling the bad horses to Bailey to swindle wealthier people, and he didn’t want Helen outing his operation. Plemmons claimed that Jayne had cronies who beat her in her home and Plemmons himself shot her twice, before disposing of the body in a furnace. Despite this admittance, no arrests were made and Plemmons died in 2016 (Jett 2020).
What truly happened to Helen Brach? We may never know. It seems she never made it inside the airport at Chicago when she was set to head home, despite what her houseman insisted. Did she go somewhere when she was supposed to go into the airport? Was she lured away by someone? 43 years later, chances are we will never find out the true fate of the Candy Lady.
“Helen Brach.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Mar. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Brach.
Jett, Philip. “Unwrapping the Disappearance of Helen Brach.” Criminal Element, 31 Jan. 2020, www.criminalelement.com/unwrapping-the-disappearance-of-helen-brach/.
Orangebeanindiana. “The Empty Grave of Candy Queen Helen Brach.” OrangeBean Indiana, 31 Mar. 2020, orangebeanindiana.com/2020/03/31/the-empty-grave-of-candy-queen-helen-brach/.