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Wood Chipper Murderer Sentenced to 50 Years in Death of Wife

January 9, 1990

NORWALK, Conn.′ (AP) _ A former airline pilot convicted of killing his wife and feeding her body parts through a wood chipper was sentenced to 50 years in prison Monday by a judge who commented on his lack of remorse.

Richard Crafts, cool and reserved through his 11-week trial, stood impassively when Norwalk Superior Court Judge Martin Nigro ordered 50 years of a possible 25- to 60-year sentence for the death of his Danish-born wife, Helle,m Before the sentencing, however, Crafts dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief when one of his sisters spoke on his behalf, and he defended his emotional response in his own statement to the judge.

″A great deal has been said about my apparent lack of emotion: ‘He has ice water in his veins.’ ... But I have feelings like everyone else,″ said Crafts, who has maintained his innocence.

″I accept that people are private people,″ the judge replied. ″People can have deep emotions and still not express them. What I do note is the lack of any remorse.″

Crafts was taken to Bridgeport Community Correctional Center but is expected to serve his term at the Connecticut Correctional Institution in Somers.

Crafts’ lawyers said they would appeal and ask a state board to review the sentence.

If those efforts fail, the 52-year-old Crafts, who has suffered from colon cancer, would not be eligible for release until his 85th birthday at the earliest, said public defender Gerard Smyth. The cancer is in remission.

Crafts is a former Eastern Airline pilot who says he faced bullets almost daily while flying for CIA-sponsored Air America in Southeast Asia 20 years ago.

Outside the courthouse, Crafts’ brother-in-law, David Rodgers, said the sentence was too short to assure Crafts stays in jail the rest of his life. Rodgers and his wife, Karen, who complained in court Monday that Crafts showed no remorse and asked Nigro to impose the maximum sentence, also said they fear for Crafts’ three children, who are in their custody.

″Andrew, who is now 13, has expressed a very real fear of his father,″ Mrs. Rodgers testified Monday. ″The children should have the security of knowing their father is (in prison) for the rest of their lives.″

A Norwalk Superior Court jury ruled on Nov. 21 that Crafts killed his wife, a flight attendant, at their Newtown home in November 1986. Prosecutors said he cut the body with a chain saw and fed parts through a wood chipper on a bridge between Newtown and Southbury.

Police found tiny body parts, including a fingernail and 67 human bone fragments, on the banks of the Housatonic River. Three witnesses said they saw a man with a wood chipper on the bridge Nov. 20.

Crafts’ first trial ended in a mistrial in July 1988 because one juror refused to continue deliberating.

Chief prosecutor Walter Flanagan asked for the maximum 60-year term because of the way Mrs. Crafts died and the effect her death has had on their children. Smyth, asking for the minimum 25-year sentence, called Crafts an unfortunate victim of misconceptions and bad publicity.

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