ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Known as "The Candy Lady", Helen Brach was one of Chicago's richest widowers after inheriting the Brach Company fortune when her husband Frank died in 1970.
When Mrs. Brach went missing 38 years ago this week in a murder plot aimed at stealing her fortune, swindlers didn't know that her money was untouchable. It had been hidden away in a foundation bearing her name- an organization that continues to pay out decades after her death.
In an old South loop office building, up on the 13th floor, is a small office marked by a small sign: Helen Brach Foundation. But there is nothing small about the fortune behind the foundation.
According to the organization's most recent IRS filing, the total assets are nearly $123 million dollars, from which sizable grants are doled out each year.
The Candy Lady's philanthropy is living long beyond her days on earth, which ended this week in 1977. Brach had just undergone a physical at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, but she never made it back to her home in north suburban Glenview.
Her personal attendant, so-called houseman Jack Matlick, was the last person to see her alive and for decades was the focus of murder investigators who learned that Matlick had stolen gold coins and forged checks from Helen Brach at the time of her disappearance.
Until his death several years ago, Matlick always denied having a hand in trying to hijack her wealth.
"I don't know who killed Helen Brach. I have no idea. I have no idea what happened to her," Matlick said in 1994.
"I have nothing to say. Goodbye," Matlik maintained in 2004.
Matlick's friend and horse swindler Richard Bailey is still in federal prison after defrauding Mrs. Brach. Although the murder remains officially unsolved, most investigators suspect Bailey, Matlick and several organized crime figures had Brach killed to prevent her from exposing their horse insurance/arson scheme.
Fittingly, the Brach Foundation last year gave almost $268,000 to animal welfare groups, and among $6 million in grants to schools, help for the homeless, the arts and numerous Chicago area churches.
Even the Brach philanthropic foundation remains shrouded in mystery. The organization's director curtly declined to discuss any grants or good works, referring the I-Team to the paperwork that lays out who gets what.
Mrs. Brach's body was never found. Some investigators believe her remains were buried in a South Side forest preserve; others contend it was melted in a vat of molten steel at a South Side mill.