The Woodchipper: Powerful Tool — Occupational Hazard — Murder Weapon
A few years back, McDonald's was sued successfully by a woman who'd
sustained second-degree burns by spilling hot coffee on herself. There was
nothing written upon the coffee cup, the plaintiff argued, to alert her that
the contents inside were scalding hot and capable of causing harmful burns to
those drinking the coffee. It is out of the scope of this writeup to offer any
more details about the McDonald's case. The fact that the plaintiff prevailed in
this case begins this story merely to demonstrate that case law and legislation seem
more and more dedicated to protecting the people of the United States from themselves
and actions committed due to ignorance.
However, there are myriad things which could potentially be much more harmful to
a thoughtless person which are in little or no way regulated to protect against
injury or death therefrom. A prime
example of this is the woodchipper.
How are we going to protect the ignorant from the hazards of the woodchipper?
On another related topic, I'm not saying that Ralph Nader and his efforts
to promote safe products for the use of the American public are bad. But here's
where I'm going. I can get into my car in the State of Connecticut, and should a
State Trooper or local Constable spot that I've failed to utilize my
seat belt, I can be stopped and given a citation which could potentially cost
me a fine of $500 (after repeated offenses). Convoluted logic made it occur to
me that there
ought to be a law that forbids people who burn themselves with hot coffee
from driving automobiles.
Now, without a license nor test of any sort, any person who can shell out $5,000-$7,000
buy and use a woodchipper. We're talking a humongous tow-behind-a-truck kind of 16-or-more-horsepower machine with four heavy blades that
spin at 1,200 revolutions per minute which can reduce an oak tree of about 8" in
diameter into tiny 1" x 1" x .5" pellets in a matter of sixty seconds
or so. There's a
big sticker on the machine which recommends that eye protection (safety
goggles) be worn while using the machine, however, there's no law on the
books requiring the operator to use the recommended eye protection, hard hat, nor work
Because I enjoy a roaring fire in the fireplace, (and power tools of all sorts, too) I
like big, powerful chain saws (which have, thankfully, become a lot lighter as I've become
older). I like power wood-splitters. And I really dig woodchippers.
Woodchippers digest all the extra fluff, mess, deadwood and branches that are a
by-product of felling a large tree. To me, a woodchipper represents revenge
visited upon substantial specimens of vegetation which are surrogates for the trees I was forced to chop down,
by hand, with a hatchet as a youth in the Boy Scouts.
How does a woodchipper work?
A woodchipper is to a woodsman what a trash compactor is to a garbage man. The
intent is to take small trees, brush and other wooden debris and reduce its
volume to a manageable size.
A woodchipper is operated by a powerful
small engine (can be 2-cycle, 4-cycle; 2 cylinder or a single cylinder,
depending upon the size). The engine spins a transmission attached to a
flywheel and anywhere from two to six chopping wheels. Typically, the chopping
wheels double as a flywheel — the flywheel provides the weighty,
consistent velocity to keep the chopping wheels,
armed with myriad sharp blades, spinning quickly and therefore not choking on
larger tree branches and debris. Some safety-oriented models isolate a separate
flywheel from the chopping wheels with a clutch that prevents damage to the
chopping wheels should they encounter a stone embedded in the tree trunk. Often there are fan blades on the exit side of
the chopping wheels, which propel the woodchips up a chute and out, either onto
the ground or into one's pickup truck or other capacious vehicle. What propels
the tree branches into the woodchipper in most cases is merely the angle
at which the chopping blades are set on their wheels. Really big woodchippers
are equipped with rollers that are covered with tines, which means that all a
lone user need do is get the first part of a particularly large object into the
machine, and it guides and pushes the object toward the chopping blades, like a
power assist. Better woodchippers have a control lever which, when engaged, will
disconnect the transmission and put a brake on the flywheel/chopping blade
assembly, so as to stop the blades before an errant (human) limb gets devoured
by the equipment.
Start the engine, wait just a moment (for the flywheel/chipper assembly to
achieve 1,000 - 1,400 r.p.m.) and a whine that can only be compared to the
wailing of the Hounds of Hades issues forth from the machine. The cutting wheels and fans revolve
so fast that they actually generate noise on their own; similar but not nearly
on the scale of a turbo whistle. Go forth into the woods and find
yourself a big, fat branch, one that would take you a good 5 minutes to cut
through just one time with a good old sweat-and-muscle-operated pruning saw.
Drop the large end of the branch into the hopper, and a sinister groan emits
from the machine. The engine will usually make a wee bit of extra noise, but in
no time what was your tree branch is now flying out of the exit chute in
tiny bits. When done with its job, the groaning speeds up to the evil whining
noise; as if to chide the user on, "go ahead, try me again — bigger this time!"
Okay, so either you've bought one too small for the job, or a wily piece
of wood gets the best of your chipper despite its size - or so it seems.
Jeremiah Sanders, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, the owner of J's Quality Tree
Service, was killed in August of last year in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin when
he used his foot to try to clear a stuck branch from the intake hopper of the
machine; while it was running. What on earth would cause a rational human
being to attempt such a stunt? The newspaper story about the incident failed to
mention if the victim had alcohol in his blood. Perhaps it was merely for the
sake of expedience (the incident occurred at 5:20 in the afternoon; 20 minutes
after overtime pay becomes necessary). Finally, the tragedy might merely be the
fault of a Devil-may-care stunt involving bravado and machismo; an attempt to
prove to his subordinates (who were the horror-stricken witnesses to the
incident) that "yeah, a woodchipper's a tough thing; but doggone it, I'm
Even the finest of wood chippers can be foiled, albeit temporarily, by one
thing. A cut branch, or forked branch, can possibly work itself into the hopper
so as to position itself horizontally across the hopper entrance. This is
usually the result of over-zealous loading of the hopper by woodchipper users.
Because the hopper opening is large and is engineered gradually smaller as it nears the chopper's intake, it
is conceivable that by positioning itself just so; a branch can get pretty-well
jammed between the walls of the hopper. This is particularly the case when a
long piece of branch is located at a 90-degree angle from a thicker, cut piece
from a tree; the branch is pulled through, but the cut part of the tree is
merely tucked firmly into the hopper.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the man's co-workers tried
to rescue him from the intake, but the device was apparently of such size and
power that "he was pulled into and through the wood chipper." One must ponder
why he left the machine running when endeavoring such a potentially lethal
maneuver. The local police as well as members of the Occupational Safety &
Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the incident. Had the machine been
modified so as to compromise some sort of safety cut-off device or other safety
equipment, the man, as owner of the business, would be liable for fines from
OSHA, on behalf of the rest of his employees, had he survived. However, where he
is now I'd hazard a guess that he has no need to worry about OSHA fines nor
Woodchipper accidents happen, but not very often. Colorado OSHA officials
could not recall any previous woodchipper fatalities in that state when
commenting upon the death of Brian Morse, 51, of Loveland, CO, owner of Brian's
Tree Service. Mr. Morse was sucked into one of the machines hand-first. A
website specializing in chronicling heavy-equipment casualties names only six
more incidents in the past few years; five in the U.S. and one in Australia.
A popular culture blog reported that the case of Mr. Sanders, hereinabove,
was reported by the local NBC affiliate on its website in print; but located
above the headline and a photo of the victim was placed a browser "button"
marked "Watch Video." As ghoulish as this seems, I'd hazard a guess that the
video in question was merely that of a talking head delivering the story on the
evening news. Nonetheless, a comment by a blog-reader was interesting enough to
publish here: "He'll still be useful around the garden." The scene of the
incident was filmed by the Denver ABC affiliate, and a photo of a tarp-draped
woodchipper and dump truck posted on the ABC7 website. Well, as Andy Warhol
put it, "everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame" albeit in this case
posthumously. Humous. Soil. Mulch. Say, that's funny.
A Different Kind of Woodchipper Owner
On December 1, 1986, the Newtown, Connecticut police department received a
call from a local private investigator. One of his clients, Helle Crafts, had
been missing and had not been heard from since November 19th, weeks before.
Worse, the private investigator stated that he had reason to believe that
Helle's husband, Richard Crafts, had murdered her. Worse, after the
investigation commenced and stories of it made their way around the town rumor
mill, one of Helle Crafts's friends informed police that Helle had told her
something particularly disturbing. "If anything happens to me," Helle had said,
"don't assume it was an accident."
Richard and Helle Crafts met because they worked together in the airlines
industry, she a stewardess and he a pilot. Although Richard Crafts wasn't
particularly handsome, he seemed nonetheless to be able to charm the ladies.
Helle began dating him in 1969 even though he admitted to being engaged to marry
another woman. Helle was a stunningly beautiful woman who'd been born in
Denmark. Her friends at the time hadn't the slightest idea what a stunning,
charming woman was doing with the homely and flirtatious Richard. Nonetheless,
their relationship lasted, and by 1975, Helle was pregnant with their first
child. Helle married Richard in New Hampshire in November of 1975. Shortly after
the marriage, they moved to a lovely ranch-style home in the bedroom community
of Newtown. Over the years, Helle had two more children. Life seemed to be good
for the Crafts family.
Helle decided to return to her job as a stewardess. So she hired a nanny and
went back to work. The Crafts were enjoying the American dream; their combined
annual income exceeded $125,000. Although it might not seem much today, in 1980s
dollars $125,000 was within the top 5% of the scale of earnings for U.S.
workers. Under the veneer of prosperity, however, there was trouble afoot. Helle
had appeared at gatherings and in public with scratches and bruises on her face.
She'd told friends of Richard simply packing his bags and leaving for days at a
time, without giving a hint as to where he was going, despite her insistence
that he tell her. Richard also managed the entirety of the family's finances,
and squandered a lot of their money on his peculiar hobbies, leaving Helle with
little or nothing to do when he was out of the house (which was frequently).
Your archetypal macho guy with macho toys.
Now Richard Crafts was just a strange sort of guy. He had a fascination with
guns; and owned a collection of handguns, shotguns, grenades and other assorted
firearms numbering in the hundreds. He spent time daily cleaning, toying with
and otherwise amusing himself with his firearms hobby. He regularly attended gun
shows in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, always adding to his
He also managed in 1983 to become a volunteer constable in his home town, and by 1986
had been a full-fledged police officer in the neighboring town of Brookfield,
Connecticut. He paid for his police training himself, and only earned $7 per
hour while on duty; far less than his salary piloting airplanes. He purchased a
Ford LTD Crown Victoria car, the same model used by Brookfield police and most
of the police forces in the state, and outfitted it with radios, red and blue lights,
and alternate-blinking headlamps ("wig-wags"); all at his own expense. He was
authorized to so equip his vehicle because he was a sworn officer of the law.
Regular citizens cannot apply for the special permit required to so equip a
vehicle, and the state imposes serious penalties on those who do equip
their vehicles with such police-only apparatus.
Neighbors were not in the dark about the fact that something was just "wrong"
with the Crafts' household. Beside Helle's tepid relationship with her husband,
ostensibly there was something wrong with the Crafts home. The place
seemed to be constantly under renovation, and the yard was littered with the
debris therefrom, and other of Richard's peculiar acquisitions, including a
large, industrial-sized backhoe. Rusting mowers, tractors and other of Richard's
purchases made the front yard an eyesore for all the neighborhood to see. The
exterior of the house was in a state of disrepair. Richard paid for all of his
strange hobbies and acquisitions with family money; leaving Helle to purchase
food and household supplies from the small portion of her paycheck she kept each
time she deposited the rest in the bank.
By Early 1986 Helle had made it clear not only to her friends but to Richard
that she wanted a divorce. She hired a private detective to monitor Richard's
comings and goings, and was, by the winter of 1986, ready to leave him.
Chipping Wood in a Blizzard
In the evening of November 18, 1986 a fierce snowstorm covered central
Connecticut with a blanket of snow and ice. Winds and the burden of ice wreaked
havoc on power lines and trees. Local public works trucks and Department of
Transportation plows and sanders could do little to make the area driveable. The
storm lasted well into November 21st. The night of November 20th, Southbury,
Connecticut Public Works employee Joseph Hine punched in for the graveyard
shift, sanding roads and plowing snow. By 3:30 in the morning, he'd finished
work on main roads and was plowing side roads (the best he could, given the
numerous downed tree branches that littered the roads). His headlights suddenly
shone on a peculiar sight. A medium-sized U-Haul rental truck was parked on the
side of River Road. Hitched behind the U-Haul truck was a very large
commercial-grade wood chipper. Now, River Road passes the vast body of water
called Lake Zoar, created when a river was dammed up in order to build a
hydroelectric plant. Hine didn't really give the scene a second thought, not
having been flagged down by the driver; but indeed having been motioned to drive
on. Two hours later, Hine was plowing back up the other lane of River Road. The
U-Haul truck was still there, this time with the rear gate open, and wood chips
scattered inside the truck and on the road nearby. Again, the man inside the
truck motioned him to pass by, but this time Hine took notice and thought it an
extremely peculiar thing to be out at 5:30 in the morning chipping wood in the
middle of a teeming blizzard.
What happened to Helle Crafts? And mixed messages.
Due to the lack of power in Newtown, Helle Crafts was to have driven to
Richard Crafts's sister's home in Westport, Connecticut on November 19th. She
never showed up at the Westport house, nor was she heard from. The children
remained with the nanny, and Richard told his sister that he'd drive them down
to Westport in his car. By December 2, the Newtown police, acting on the
information given them from Helle's private detective, decided as a matter of
course to get Richard's side of the story. Having been a constable in Newtown,
and now being a Brookfield officer, the police had made up their minds even
before the interview that this was a simple missing persons case, and the fact
of the matter is that most missing persons end up safe after a matter of time;
typically disappearing just to get away from their lives for awhile, or due to
an extramarital affair.
When questioned, Richard's statement, in a nutshell, was that Helle was fine
and not acting at all suspiciously the night before she left for his sister's
house, and that he had not seen nor heard from Helle since the afternoon of
November 19th. And that was that. Until police decided that an investigation
should take place (initially to aid Crafts in determining the whereabouts of his
Friends, relatives and neighbors all were of the same opinion; that Helle
Crafts was the kind of mother who'd never desert her children for this long,
nanny or not. Her children were her whole life. Worse, stories popped up about
Helle frankly discussing Richard's affairs, including one with a New Jersey
woman that had been taking place for years. Her close friends all volunteered
the fact that she'd confided in them that she planned to divorce Richard as soon
as she could.
Richard also couldn't get his stories straight. He told the family nanny that
Helle had flown to Denmark to see her mother, who was ill. The same friend who'd
mentioned to the private investigator Helle's chilling statement about potential
foul play in case of her disappearance went to the trouble of finding Helle's
mother's telephone number in Denmark. Upon calling, she found that the mother
was fine, and didn't expect a visit from Helle until springtime.
When police interviewed Dawn Marie Thomas, the Crafts's nanny, she told them
that at 6:30 in the morning on November 19th, Richard had awakened her and the
children, gotten them dressed and packed them into the car to drive to his
sister's house in Westport. Dawn thought it odd that he'd want to drive during a
blizzard when visibility was limited and roads were unsafe. Upon reaching the
Westport house, Richard dropped Dawn and the children off and left nearly
immediately. He didn't show up until 7:00 that evening. Helle never showed up at
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The police called Crafts in to take a lie detector test. He passed. A note
was made by an officer that yes, indeed, Richard had no idea of his whereabouts.
Surely the egotistical Crafts thought that the lie detector test would be the
end of it. The Newtown police officially concluded in their report that Crafts
"had no idea of the whereabouts of his wife."
What can one say about a man who gives different answers to different people
and despite his intimate knowledge of law enforcement procedures believes that
the investigation will not reveal such. Isn't the idea of a highly-paid airline
pilot essentially "playing cop" for peanuts a little weird? Did he not think
that the friends of the loving and delightful Helle wouldn't at least call to
ask about the progress of the investigation into her disappearance? (They did,
on a nearly daily basis.) How could he explain the fact that Helle's car had
been found in an airline's employee parking lot in New York? Finally, how could
he explain the cut-outs in the bedroom carpeting that Dawn, the nanny,
discovered and that he dismissed as "kerosene stains."
Although the police had no shred of tangible evidence whatsoever that any harm had befallen Helle Crafts, the
circumstantial evidence putting Richard in the spotlight of
responsibility for her disappearance caused them to decide to bring him in for
another interview. When confronted with the evidence, he either denied things,
or provided weak but plausible answers of explanation. The results of the
questioning, and Crafts's own vague one-page statement given to police still
left them with plenty of questions, but nothing remotely resembling a slip-up on
Crafts's part. If anything, he shook off doubts about why he told different
stories to different people by telling investigators that, frankly, he was
embarrassed to simply tell people that he just didn't know where his wife was.
Keith Mayo, Helle Crafts's private investigator, was given the results of the
questioning. He was frustrated with the police's lackluster attitude toward the
case, so he took matters into his own hands. One of the lines of questioning by
police regarded the missing carpet in the bedroom. Crafts had explained the
removal in one-foot squares as being an easier way of getting the carpet up. And
he said that he'd disposed of the carpet at the Newtown dump. Mayo found out
that Newtown dumped its refuse at a landfill in another town. So for days Mayo
and a group of helpers searched through piles of stinking garbage, certainly
disgusted by the task, until they hit pay-dirt. They found a square of blue
carpet, nearly exactly the color and style of that in Crafts's master bedroom.
And on it it had stains which resembled human blood.
While Mayo continued his endeavors, the Newtown police repeatedly refused
help offered from the Connecticut State Police investigating the case. That was
a stupid move because the media (a local newspaper, the News-Times of
Danbury, Connecticut, as well as the New York Times were now covering the
case and raised serious questions as to why the Newtown force seemed,
ostensibly, to have dropped the case, or at the very least were dragging their
heels getting to the bottom of things.
The State takes over the case.
The sample of carpeting was taken to the Meriden State Police Laboratory,
then under the direction of Dr. Henry Lee, a scientist and investigator noted
for his involvement in other high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson
murder case. Sadly, Dr. Lee reported that the stains on the piece of carpeting
were not human blood.
However, publicity from the media and the persistence of
Helle Crafts's friends resulted in the regional State's Attorney handing the
case over to the State Police Major Crimes Squad. Now the pace picked up.
The first thing the State Police did was an exhaustive investigation of
Richard Crafts's activities immediately prior to the crime. What stood out like
a sore thumb were credit card bills indicating that he'd purchased a very large
freezer the month before Helle's disappearance, and just before she went
missing, he rented a very expensive piece of equipment from a heavy machinery
rental store in Darien, Connecticut. The next step was to get a good look at the
State police managed to get a search warrant for the Crafts' home. Richard
had taken his children on a vacation to Florida over the Christmas holiday, so
on December 25th, 1986, Police officers and Dr. Lee broke into the residence at
5 Newfield Lane through a back window. What they found was a big mess. The
carpets had been torn up and removed. Dirty clothes, mattresses and rubbish
littered the household. In the kitchen, dirty dishes were strewn about. The
police found a freezer, but no body (they didn't know at the time that the
freezer they found was Crafts's original freezer, he'd disposed of the newly
purchased one prior to the execution of the search warrant). Finally, the police
were amazed at the extent of the munitions collection belonging to Richard
Beside a near truckload of weapons, the police also took a mattress and
bedding and some towels. Dr. Lee used the then-brand-new substance Luminol to
check rooms and the towels for blood. Luminol glows under ultra-violet light
when it comes into contact with even the most thoroughly washed-out blood
stains. Later on, the blood remains on the bedclothes and towels matched Helle
Crafts's blood type. But her body had yet to be found.
After the evidence had been processed, the State police investigators
determined that the piece of equipment rented from the Darien store by Crafts
was an industrial-sized woodchipper, called a "Brush Bandit." They began to think the unthinkable. The horrible reality set in after
they checked Public Works department records and went to question Mr. Hines, the
man plowing snow who'd witnessed the peculiar sight of the U-Haul and
Woodchipper on the side of Lake Zoar in the middle of the blizzard. Hines led
detectives to the exact spot where the truck and chipper had been located. Upon
arrival, they spotted woodchips, along with shreds of some sort of plastic
material. But most importantly, they found, unshredded, an envelope addressed to
Mrs. Helle Crafts, 5 Newfield Lane, Newtown, CT. The police immediately set up a
perimeter and documented and photographed hundreds of minute items taken from
the site. The items included bits of cloth, unidentifiable material, and, worst
of all, bone fragments and myriad strands of blonde hair.
Every bit of material would have to be scrutinized by Dr. Lee and his workers
at the state lab. The onus was on Lee to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that
what they'd found were the remains of Helle Craft, or else a murder conviction
would not be possible. Divers entered Lake Zoar at the scene, and beside finding
a relatively new Stihl chain saw, they began making far more grisly discoveries.
As horrible as their discoveries were, Dr. Henry Lee was calm and collected
as he matter-of-factly informed the press later on that "Our team's efforts at
Lake Zoar eventually led to the discovery of 2,660 strands of blond hair, 69
slivers of human bone, 5 droplets of human blood, 2 teeth, a truncated piece of
human skull, 3 ounces of human tissue, a portion of human finger, 1 fingernail,
and 1 portion of toe nail." Dental records and blood comparison determined that
this was all that remained of Helle Crafts, but it was enough to charge Richard
with her murder.
Perhaps the country's most peculiar murder trial ever.
Television trucks and news agency representatives armed with cameras flooded
the tiny town of Newtown, as hell-bent on getting a good look at the shoreline
of Lake Zoar purported to be the site of the woodchipper murder as vultures
honing in on a freshly-killed carcass. The New York Daily News ran a
gigantic headline on the day of Crafts's arrest; it read, "CHOPPED TO BITS!"
The trial was moved to New London, Connecticut Superior Court after the
defense moved that Crafts could not get a fair trial in a court nearer to his
residence. After 53 days, 650 pieces of evidence and 100 witnesses had been
presented to the jury. The most damning evidence came from a forensic
odontologist who compared a tooth fragment with crown intact to X-rays taken by
Helle Crafts's dentist in the years preceding the murder. Also useful was the
fact that fibers matching the carpet in the Crafts family home were found in the
teeth of the Stihl chainsaw that lay on the bottom of Lake Zoar. Between Dr. Lee
and a veritable army of forensic scientists, it appeared that there was no doubt
that Richard Crafts had clubbed his wife on the head with a blunt object,
perhaps hard enough to kill her. He then placed her body in the newly purchased
freezer. After getting rid of the nanny and children, he took the freezer to a
parcel of land he owned elsewhere in Newtown, cut the frozen body into less
bulky, more manageable parts, and placed it back in the freezer. That night,
after returning the nanny and the children to his home, he'd just completed the
job of passing the frozen pieces of his wife's body through the wood chipper,
along with some branches (by way of cleaning the chipper), by the second time
the Southbury plow operator had spotted him by the side of the road.
Nine men and three women deliberated for an incredible two weeks to
deliberate. It turned out that eleven of the jurors unanimously and without a
doubt agreed that Crafts was guilty. One man held out for a not guilty verdict.
The other jurors described trying to rationalize their points to him as like
"arguing with a child," and described him as "stubborn and irrational." A female
juror described the two-week ordeal, day in and day out, as being "hellish."
Due to the lone holdout, a mistrial was declared and Richard Crafts was, for all intents and
purposes, a free man. Thousands of man-hours of forensic and trial preparation
work had been expended on what seemed to be an open-and-shut case, not to
mention the cost to the taxpayers of the prosecution. It was all wrecked by a
single, stubborn, irrational man. Richard Crafts had indeed been tried by, in at
least the case of one, a "jury of his peers."
It was September of 1989 that the second trial of Richard Crafts began. The
same exhibits and the same witnesses were paraded before a different jury.
Crafts seemed not to be paying much attention to the goings-on around him. He
seemed bored with it all. Could this man be so narcissistic or sociopathic as to
think that he'd prevail yet another time?
This time around, it took a mere eight hours for the twelve jurors to agree
that Crafts was guilty. It was three years after Helle had gone missing. At
sentencing, Richard Crafts seemed defiant and aloof. His sentence was 99 years in
A morning drive-time radio show host took to the airwaves around the time of
the trial with a chilling joke: "Q: Why did the guy from Newtown put his wife
through a woodchipper? A: Because he loved her very mulch."
Dr. Henry Lee included myriad details of the case in his book "Cracking More
Cases, " co-written with Thomas O'Neill (Prometheus Books). Lee also was
featured on a short-lived Court TV network real-crime show which detailed some
of his cases.
In 1989, a young actor and independent filmmaker known for his production of
low-budget horror films with a cult following produced a movie entitled "Woodchipper
Massacre." He readily admits that he got the idea for using a woodchipper as a
horror device from the Crafts murder case.
There is a lovely park at the end of Lake Zoar in Newtown, overlooking the
dam and the hydroelectric plant. A covered structure is provided for Bald Eagle
watching; on the opposite side of the river there is a cliff where many of the
majestic birds nest, roost, and raise their young. They can often be seen flying
about. Just up the road from the park where families enjoy summer cookouts and
bird-watchers snap photos of prized sightings, is the notorious spot by the side
of the road; desolate and unmarked, where all that remained of Helle Crafts was
so painstakingly removed during the chilly late-winter days of 1987.
UPDATE: 10/21/2021: It's years later, and it's still happening: https://nypost.com/2021/10/20/worker-killed-after-being-sucked-into-wood-chipper-at-michigan-home/
"Man Killed in Wood Chipper Accident" by Bob Purvis, The Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel Tuesday, August 15, 2006: http://www.jsonline.com/watch/?watch=1&date=8/15/2006&id=10039
"Man Killed by Wood Chipper Owned Company" by T.M. Fasano, The Windsor
(Colorado) Tribune December 30 (year unspecified):
Wood Chipper Accidents:
"Man Killed in Woodchipper: (click to) WATCH VIDEO"
"Firefighters Attempt to Aid California Man Caught in Woodchipper":
CourtTV's website: "The Woodchipper Murder" by Mark Gado:
"Pilot Charged in Slaying of Wife" by Richard L. Madden, The New York
Times, January 14, 1987
"Campaign Seeks to Help Slain Woman's Children" by Michael Freitag, The
New York Times, February 8, 1987
"Plea of Not Guilty Filed in Wife's Death" The New York Times "Metro
Datelines" March 27, 1987
"Everything but a Body in Murder Trial" by Nick Ravo, The New York Times
May 15, 1988
"Pilot Denies Disposing of His Wife in Chipper" The New York Times
"New York and Region" June 17, 1988
"Pilot Conicted of Killing Wife in Wood-Chipper Murder Trial" The New York
Times "New York and Region" November 22, 1989
"The Woodchipper Murder" by Arthur Herzog. New York: Henry Holt &
"Grain of Truth" by John Yemma The Boston Globe
Southern Connecticut State University website: "Murder He Wrote" by Linda
Simoes Cocciola: http://www.southernct.edu/alumni/southernmag/05fall/features/p18.html
Website of actor/filmmaker Jon McBride: http://members.aol.com/zaack/