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Eighty-three-year-old Helen Kelly kept an active social life, but like most women, seldom left home without her purse — particularly if she was driving.
Yet on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 — just two weeks shy of her 58th wedding anniversary — the 5-foot-5, 115-pound wife and mother of two grown children and four grandchildren suddenly disappeared without a trace and has never been seen nor heard from since.
According to reports by Kelly’s husband, Arthur “Lennon” Kelly, 85, he awoke at approximately 8 a.m. that morning and discovered his wife wasn’t home. He estimated she must have left their 3646 Court Street home in Sioux City sometime between 7 and 8 a.m.
Lennon Kelly said he didn’t think much of her being gone, but when she didn’t return home for lunch, grew concerned. He reported her missing to Sioux City police at 3 p.m.
Also missing was Kelly’s gold 2000 Honda Accord with Iowa license plate number 953EDK.
Peculiar though, was the fact that Kelly would have left home without her purse, which police located at her residence. In addition, she’d made no comments to her husband about travel plans to go anywhere — that day or otherwise. Yet the active senior had apparently left the couple’s home with nothing more than the clothes on her back.
The Sioux City Police Department made a public appeal for anyone with information to contact them, and received a few tips that turned up nothing.
In mid July 2005, authorities were prompted to investigate a Missouri River boat ramp on the Iowa side in Sioux City. Despite a search by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, they found no signs of Kelly or her vehicle.
“This is unusual behavior on her part,” Sioux City Police Detective Greg Rose told the Sioux City Journal in a story published August 1, 2005. “We’re obviously hoping that someone in the public can help us out… point us in the right direction.”
Rose indicated that prior to her disappearance, Helen Kelly had been diagnosed with an undisclosed medical condition, but that the condition was not life-threatening.
Lennon Kelly was no stranger to the Sioux City Journal; his father, Eugene H. Kelly, was the publisher of the Sioux City Tribune, which merged with the Journal in the late 1930s. Lennon Kelly — who graduated with a law degree from the University of Iowa — had once worked as a reporter for the Journal prior to taking over as general manager for KTRI Radio.
Four years after his wife’s unsolved disappearance, Lennon Kelly, 89, died in his sleep the morning of July 21, 2009. Interestingly, his obituary — published in the Journal on August 2, 2009 — stated that his wife Helen “preceded him in death in May 2005,” even though her body had never been located.
The United States Social Security Death Index lists Helen Kelly’s date of death as May 17, 2005, the day before her husband reported her as missing.
NamUs notes that dental information and charting is available and will be entered later.
Strange occurrences began to surface after a young couple moved into the 3646 Court Street home in 2010. The couple’s young son began to insist an “old lady” was roaming about the house.
It got worse. The boy didn’t want family members going into the kitchen because he said the old woman lived beneath it in the crawl space area. It was where she stayed, he said.
The boy’s parents told Iowa Cold Cases there wasn’t any hidden door in the kitchen floor (as an anonymous tipster indicated), but that there was a door in the basement that provided access to crawl space beneath half the home.
Though no other family member other than the young son claimed to see the “old woman” in the Court Street home, the boy eventually learned to live with what he and his family now refer to as “Ghost Grandma.”
Helen Jean (Braunger) Kelly was born August 26, 1921, in Sioux City, Iowa, the last of 10 children born to Josephine “Jessie” Marie (Hensler) and Anton “Anthony” Braunger.
Helen’s father was a German butcher who came to the United States and built a large and lucrative meat market in Sioux City.
She married Arthur “Lennon” Kelly on June 3, 1947.
In addition to her husband, Helen’s survivors included a daughter, Anne Krause of Fish Creek, Wis.; a son, Anthony “Tone” Kelly and his wife, Beth, of Rochester, N.Y.; and four grandchildren, Chris, Kelly, Ryan and Ashley Krause.
Lennon Kelly passed away on July 21, 2009.
If you have any information about Helen Kelly’s unsolved disappearance and suspected homicide, please contact Lt. Pat McCann at the Sioux City Police Department at 712-279-6365.