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The Woodchipper Murder Hardcover – October, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Herzog ( Vesco ) is convinced that Connecticut-based airline pilot Richard Crafts bludgeoned his stewardess wife to death in November 1986; cut up her body with a chain saw; and fed its remains into an industrial-strength woodchipper. In this gripping re-creation of the alleged crime (the case ended in a mistrial; a second trial is pending), Herzog may have leapt into the fray prematurely, but he lays out a cogent scenario for a domestic atrocity. The case began not long after Helle Crafts returned home from a European flight, then vanished. Prior to her disappearance, Helle had commissioned private detective Keith Mayo to conduct an investigation of her husband's suspected infidelity. Newtown, Conn., police at first seemed uninterested in pursuing the disappearance, but pressure from Mayo forced action that led to the arrest of Crafts for murder, a charge based on body fragments purported to be Helle's. According to Herzog, there is less than a reasonable doubt about the husband's guilt--and the author stigmatizes the hung jury's lone dissenter as a misguided eccentric.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Shortly before divorce papers were to be served on her airline pilot husband, Helle Crafts, a flight attendant and mother of three, disappeared from her Connecticut home. Spurred on by her friends, investigators launched an inquiry after learning that Richard Crafts gave conflicting accounts about Helle's absence. He was tried for murder, but one jury member held out for "not guilty" and a retrial is slated this year. Despite the status of the case, Herzog unqualifiedly asserts Crafts's guilt: evidence strongly suggests that he shredded his wife's body in a woodchipping machine. Although Herzog wrote this book without waiting for the trial transcript, he has produced an informed, gripping true-crime drama. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/89.
- Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st edition (October 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805007539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805007534
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kay L. Eichner on November 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
To let this book go without a review would have been a "true crime" and possibly caused many people to pass up "one great read". It's the story of a beautiful woman, and mother of two who suddenly disappears. Not a speck of evidence to be found. No leads for the police to follow. And if not for her loving friends, no one would have ever looked beyond the surface. Mr. Herzog's easy reading, enjoyable writing style and attention to detail gives you a clear picture of exactly what is taking place. Each page holds intriguing information about an unbelievable crime committed by an unbelievably arrogant criminal, who almost got away with it. This is one of those "tattered" books on the shelf that is taken back down and re-read every couple of years. It will keep you just as fascinated with every read. A definite "must have" for a true crime buff.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beattie on February 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Tragic story of yet another husband who thought he could get away with murdering his wife. A strong tale of a police, forensic, and prosecution team who ultimately went to jury trial twice with a circumstantial evidence case. And a marvelous example of a well-written true crime book.

Robert Beattie
Wichita, Kansas
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Schultz VINE VOICE on October 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a true crime account of how yet another wife likely bit the dust (literally) at the hands of an erratic, cold-blooded husband when it looked as if she was finally going to carry out her threats to divorce him.

Herzog goes into a lot of detail in the early chapters of the book, outlining how different police officials from different departments and jurisdictions at first largely ignored the woman's disappearance, and then muddied the evidence by placing more importance on hierarchical rivalries than on discovering the truth. Herzog names a lot of names along the way, providing almost too much detail. However, you don't have to remember the names of all the law enforcement officials aligned in the various tug-of-war games that went on. You can read these chapters rapidly and get the gist of the overall failure to communicate that characterized this investigation and that is probably typical of many investigations.

This book is a little different from most other true crime accounts in that the author doesn't refrain from leveling measured criticism at some of the officials involved in ignoring and hoarding information. Many other writers in the field are in the habit of portraying all police and attorneys as near-superheroes whose one goal is to see that justice is done. This is probably because so many true crime writers pen many books and want to keep on the good side of all law enforcement officers in order to insure their continued cooperation as future sources of information. However Herzog didn't seem to plan this 1990 book as one of a series of true crime accounts, so he could afford to write frankly about any perceived failings on the part of officials.
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Format: Paperback
The Woodchipper Murder, Herzog

For centuries our laws required finding a body for proof of murder. Or an eyewitness who saw the body. So if a person disappeared without a trace no one could be convicted even if suspicion fell on someone. There are cases where a murderer almost succeeded. One case in Chicago involved a sausage maker whose wife disappeared - until her wedding ring was found in the grease pit! In November 1986 Helle Crafts, a flight attendant, returned to her home in Newtown Connecticut. She was never seen again (`Prologue'). Helle had complained to her coworkers about her husband's cheating. Her husband Richard said Helle went to visit her mother in Denmark. Helle's friend Rita was told of a dark stain on the bedroom rug (Chapter 1). Helle's friends became worried about this unexpected absence. Richard had a cancer operation in 1984, recovered, and was flying as a pilot for Eastern Airlines (Chapter 2).

Helle had seen a divorce lawyer, who contacted a private detective to shadow Richard. The right photographs could force the husband to settle out of court. After Helle disappeared her private detective contacted the police, who took some statements (Chapter 3). PI Mayo continued to work on Helle's disappearance (Chapter 4). Newtown Connecticut had few murders (p.43). Crafts passed a polygraph test (p.46). [Did he use a tranquilizer?] Mayo's investigation continued (Chapter 5). They found the rug that was dumped in the trash (Chapter 6). Chapter 7 has a brief biography of Richard Crafts and Helle Nielsen. There is a description of Newtown and its people (Chapter 8). There are details about the Crafts' family life. Does job stress cause family problems (p.98)? Crafts paid a high price to rent a big woodchipper machine for a few days (Chapter 9).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Woodchipper Murder, Herzog

For centuries our laws required finding a body for proof of murder. Or an eyewitness who saw the body. So if a person disappeared without a trace no one could be convicted even if suspicion fell on someone. There are cases where a murderer almost succeeded. One case in Chicago involved a sausage maker whose wife disappeared - until her wedding ring was found in the grease pit! In November 1986 Helle Crafts, a flight attendant, returned to her home in Newtown Connecticut. She was never seen again (`Prologue'). Helle had complained to her coworkers about her husband's cheating. Her husband Richard said Helle went to visit her mother in Denmark. Helle's friend Rita was told of a dark stain on the bedroom rug (Chapter 1). Helle's friends became worried about this unexpected absence. Richard had a cancer operation in 1984, recovered, and was flying as a pilot for Eastern Airlines (Chapter 2).

Helle had seen a divorce lawyer, who contacted a private detective to shadow Richard. The right photographs could force the husband to settle out of court. After Helle disappeared her private detective contacted the police, who took some statements (Chapter 3). PI Mayo continued to work on Helle's disappearance (Chapter 4). Newtown Connecticut had few murders (p.43). Crafts passed a polygraph test (p.46). [Did he use a tranquilizer?] Mayo's investigation continued (Chapter 5). They found the rug that was dumped in the trash (Chapter 6). Chapter 7 has a brief biography of Richard Crafts and Helle Nielsen. There is a description of Newtown and its people (Chapter 8). There are details about the Crafts' family life. Does job stress cause family problems (p.98)? Crafts paid a high price to rent a big woodchipper machine for a few days (Chapter 9).
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