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Chloe Lynch

on 1 March 2017

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Impressions Case Study: Helle Crafts (1986)
The Criminal: Richard Crafts
The Crime
A snowplow driver had seen Richard using a woodchipper near the shore of Lake Zoar, during a severe snowstorm late on the night Helle was last seen.
It is believed that Richard struck Helle twice in the head with something blunt, then kept her body in the freezer for some time. He later took the body to the river, where he cut it apart with the chainsaw, putting the pieces through the woodchipper.
Richard Crafts getting arrested in January 1987.
Victim: Helle Crafts
What are tool mark impressions?
A tool mark as any impression, cut, gouge, or abrasion caused by a tool coming into contact with another object.
Throughout the years many different materials have been utilized to try to accurately replicate the class and individual details inherent in a particular tool mark or tool.
List of Evidence
grapefruit sized bloodstain on their bedroom carpet
blood smear on bed frame (blood belonging to Helle)
chainsaw with serial numbers scratched off covered in blood and hair of Helle's
85 g of human tissue
a tooth with unique dental work
toenail covered in pink polish
bone chips
2660 bleached-blonde human hairs
Trial and Conviction
A prosecution requires an official determination of death, which is typically done by identification of a body; since a body was not available in this case they were able to positivity identify Helle through her dental records. Richard was arrested in January of 1987 and his trial began in May 1988, but ended in July with a hung jury. A second trial ended in a guilty verdict on November 21, 1989. Richard was then sentenced to serve 50 years in prison. In 2021 he will be eligible for parole.
How do impressions help solve a case?
Tool marks help forensic scientists link specific tools to a crime through analyzing the impression made. Finding the weapon used brings them one step closer to identifying the suspect. Tool mark Examiners evaluate tools to determine that they are capable of producing the questioned mark. They will then use the tool to make test tool marks, often in a soft lead material.
Helle Crafts was a 39 year old flight attendant who disappeared after she returned home after a trip from Germany. She married her husband, Richard Crafts, in 1979 and settled down in Newtown, Connecticut. In 1985 Helle had learned about Richard's several affairs and began divorce proceedings. On the night of November 19, 1986 a friend dropped Helle off at the couple's home. This was the last time anyone but her husband saw her.
When asked about the disappearance of his wife, Richard would say that she was just in Denmark visiting her mother. However, friends of the couple soon grew more suspicious because they remember Richards violent outbursts in the past and Helle once told them "If something happens to me, don't think it was an accident." Richard's credit card records showed several unusual purchases around the time Helle vanished, including a freezer that was not found in the house, bed sheets, a comforter, and rental of a woodchipper. Police also discovered a receipt for a chainsaw that was later found with the serial numbers filed off in Lake Zoar, covered in hair and blood that matched Helle's DNA.
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