ABC7 I-Team Exclusive
CHICAGO (WLS) -- For more than 40-years, Helen Brach's disappearance has been Chicago's most enduring murder mystery.
What really happened to a woman known as "The Candy Lady," who vanished on February 17th, 1977?
Richard Bailey, the only person ever convicted in connection with Brach's case, is fresh out of prison and talking only with the ABC7 I-Team.
Even at age 90, Bailey still calls himself "The Golden Tongue" for his conversation skills or, as some just shorten it, his conning skills.
The I-Team met Bailey in a central Florida hotel room to discuss Brach, who was 65 years old when she disappeared without a trace.
"I met Helen Brach in Morton Grove at a little restaurant. I'm having lunch," Bailey recalled of their first meeting.
Four years later Helen Brach was gone. Literally. Her body never found.
She had been married to Frank Brach, patriarch of the Brach Candy Company, until his death in 1970. She remained in their Glenview mansion, the heir to a candy fortune.
During that era Bailey was a predator of widows and divorcées according to police, especially those with attractive bank accounts.
And Brach, a horse aficionado, was apparently bedazzled by Bailey's show horse business. But investigators said at first she didn't know he was swindling her.
"Let me tell you something, as far as horse fraud is concerned when you are selling show horses there is no limitation what you can sell them for," Bailey told the I-Team.
Investigators said Helen Brach was about to blow the whistle on Bailey's time-tested scheme in which he sold third-rate horses for top-dollar prices.
"The time Helen Brach disappeared she was threatening to file a lawsuit against you?" ABC7 Investigative Report Chuck Goudie asked Bailey.
"Oh no. No, hell no. No, no," Bailey replied.
"Well people heard her say that was what she was going to do," Goudie said.
"I know what they said-but no way shape or form, no," Bailey responded.
Numerous woman had taken him to court with similar claims, some calling him the "Galloping Gigolo."
But Bailey now says his relationship with Brach was different, that they were going to be married.
"We was (sic) madly in love with each other," he said.
In February 1977 Brach traveled by herself to Minnesota for a physical at the Mayo Clinic, the last place she was seen alive.
"Why didn't you go to the Mayo Clinic with her?" Goudie asked.
"I had no reason to," Bailey answered.
"Well if you loved her and you're going to marry her and she was going for a medical check-up, why wouldn't you have gone to be with her?" Goudie pressed.
"Well you know it's... Um... she didn't even think that direction. She want to go herself. Right," Bailey replied.
In the evidence room at Glenview police headquarters in Chicago's northwest suburbs, there remain box loads of Brach crime files, including transcripts of witness interviews and police investigative notes. The case is still open and unsolved. No one ever has faced state murder charges in her death.
In 1995 Bailey pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy that included horse sale frauds against Helen Brach and numerous other women. But at an unusual sentencing hearing federal prosecutors established that he was also responsible for Brach's disappearance and death. He served most of a 30-year sentence.
When Bailey was released from a Florida prison in late July he went to Orlando and since then he has been living in a Christian relief mission. That was where the I-Team found him.
"Why didn't you just want to put it behind you and enjoy the time you have?" Goudie asked him.
"I could never live like that. Going and dying, the whole world thinking I killed Helen Brach," Bailey answered.
Bailey said a half dozen people were involved in the planning of Brach's murder and her execution, including the widow's late butler Jack Matlick. In the years before his death, Matlick vehemently denied to the I-Team that he knew anything about his former employer's disappearance and death.
"I don't know who killed Helen Brach and I have no idea what happened to her," he said in a 1994 interview outside his Pennsylvania apartment.
Bailey also pointed to crooked horseman Joe Plemmons, who confessed to authorities that he shot and killed Brach in a plot he said once involved Bailey. Plemmons was never charged before his own death.
And Bailey said a pair of notorious Chicago mobsters disposed of Brach's body in a vat of molten steel.
He claimed that the 1986 gangland hit on Chicago Outfit brothers Michael and Anthony "Ant" Spilotro was due to their role in the Brach killing. The Spilotro brothers were found buried in an Indiana cornfield and federal investigators believe it was for their renegade role in running mob operations in Las Vegas.
Organized crime investigators have never said they were killed over the Helen Brach disappearance nearly a decade earlier.
Bailey's main contention, however, is that he had nothing to do with any of it.
"No involvement whatsoever with Helen Brach," he said. "Oh no, no. We were going to get married and the whole ball of wax.
"So did Helen Brach ever make it back from the Mayo Clinic? Or was she abducted in Minnesota?" Goudie asked.
"That's the $65 question. I don't know I don't think anybody knows," Bailey answered.
During his lengthy prison term, Bailey wrote a love song about Helen Brach, expressing the pain his soul and his wish to know "what really happened."
"How should you be remembered?" Goudie wondered.
"Just like I am," Bailey said. "Something...I...definitely didn't kill Helen Brach."
Authorities have always believed that multiple people were involved in the demise of Helen Brach, including Bailey.
He said he plans to file a lawsuit claiming wrongful prosecution and incarceration, although the Chicago attorney he claimed to be working with says she's not. And legal experts said such a suit after pleading guilty and serving time wouldn't go anywhere.