Helen Kelly (Courtesy Sioux City Police Dept.)

Helen J. Kelly (Courtesy Sioux City Police Department)

Helen Jean (Braunger) Kelly

Missing, Presumed Deceased

Helen J. Kelly
83 YOA
DOB: 8/26/21
White female
Missing From:
3646 Court Street
Sioux City, IA
Woodbury County
Agency: Sioux City Police Department
Case Number: SCPD 14-18463
NamUs MP # 17050
Missing Since: May 18, 2005


Case Summary by Jody Ewing

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.

Helen Kelly home Courtesy photo trulia.com
The 3646 Court Street home in Sioux City, Iowa, where Helen Kelly was last seen alive.

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.

Arthur Lennon Kelly

Arthur “Lennon” Kelly (courtesy Sioux City Journal)

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.


Helen Kelly drove a 2000 Honda Accord, license plate number 953EDK, which also turned up missing.

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.”

Woodbury County in Iowa
Woodbury County in Iowa
Sioux City in Woodbury CountySioux City in Woodbury County

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.

‘Ghost Grandma’

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.

Kitchen at Court street homeCourtesy photo trulia.com
The kitchen of the Court Street Home. The 3-bedroom single-family home was built in 1959.

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.”

About Helen Kelly

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.

Information Needed

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.



Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


24 Responses to Helen Kelly

  1. Andrew says:

    Were there any water searches done at the time? Searching around the various Missouri River boat ramps in Sioux City for her Honda Accord would probably be a good start. Google Maps shows one less than 12 minutes away from the home, but there are others. She might have left earlier than her husband thinks. Considering she left without her purse, she might have planned to end her life by driving into the river. She may have driven down a boat ramp while it was still dark out, turned off the car lights, and drove into the water without being noticed. This would be a good one for the Adventures with Purpose guys to check out. I know they did some work in the Missouri River before.

    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      Andrew, it appears a search was done at the.boat ramp. However, there might be other ways a vehicle could have entered the river or another body of water. However, the fact that her SS Death Index, is the day before she disappeared is odd. It could be a typo by whoever’s entered it.

      The mention of an unknown medical condition also plays a part in her disappearance. We don’t know if she had any mental health issues.

      Also, we have the young man, who sees the ghost of a older woman in the kitchen, is weird. I guess the family has learned to love with her.

      • Andrew says:

        A friend of mine had a similar thing happen in her family. It turned out her grandma received a brain cancer diagnosis a couple of days prior to her disappearance. She was found in a lake near her childhood home and no notes were left. Maybe it’s possible that Helen had some sort of medical condition that worsened and she decided to not let it win.

        A lot of times these underwater searches that were done previously weren’t successful because the technology wasn’t as good. Very similar to how old DNA testing techniques weren’t as good. It would be good to check again.

      • Barb says:

        If her husband last saw her the day before she disappeared may be why they use that date. He was only assuming she left around 7 or 8 a.m. But if he last laid eyes on her when they went to bed. Would have been the day before she was discovered missing.

    • Laura Benson says:

      Andrew, Adventures with Purpose is planning to be in Sioux City mid January to look into this and two other cold cases!

  2. MikeD says:

    I can understand the family members commenting in defense of Lennon, but you can’t blame people for considering the possibility that he was involved or knew something.

    There have been a number of missing persons cases where the car is eventually found in a body of water. One that sticks out to me was in Byron Center, MI. A man’s body was inside a car in a small lake in the city for nearly 10 years before it was noticed. You could even see it in google maps. I’m curious to know the places she frequently drove to. With that information you could check the driving routes from her home to see how many bodies of water she passed. Maybe she had an accident and drove into water without anyone noticing.

    The fact she left without her purse could mean she left against her will, left with grim intentions, or quite simply forgot it.

    Maybe it’s possible that the date in the Social Security Death Index is just a mistake? I don’t think anything negative of Lennon’s obituary saying his wife preceded him in death in May 2005. What I’m curious of is how active in the investigation was he? Was he staying at home waiting and chilling or was he out and about looking on his own and making an effort?

  3. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    There are a number of cases of adults, who have disappeared along with vehicles. Also, their vehicles were never found. There are a few cases where they were found years later, by draining a pond. A woman a year ago or more disappeared from a veterans post. Her, vehicle with her remains were found after a farmer found part of a car sticking out of a pond on his property. She probably missed a turn in the dark and drove into the pond and drowned.

    However, Helen, appears to have a medical condition that bothered her emotionally, and it could have caused an onset of amnesia. I wonder if authorities ever checked with the National Insurance Crime Bureau, to see if their was any activity on the car’s VIN.

    The problem in bodies of water, is a search tool that is easier to use and gives an indcation that something is there. There are only a few agencies that will spend the money to bring in someone with a boat equipped with side scanning sonar.

  4. Stacie says:

    The investigation for this case appears like someone dropped the ball. The report has next to nothing for information. This is heartbreaking. I want to know udf they searched more than just the water for her? Was their a search group of people that looked for her? Could she have been traveling to another family member’s home in a different direction? This case seems like it was not looked into at all. Very, very sad. My mind is going into so many different direvtions. I would be absolutely furious at whomever was in charge of the case. Especially the family. I would have been all over the department wanting to know what their next move was to find my mom. ?

  5. Has anyone considered checking any and all bodies of water? The fact the car was also missing makes me wonder.

  6. Usually in water when that happens around here. Some people lose control of their car, or turn the car into a pond in the dark. It often isn’t found until the water is low or they drain it for some reason. So sad.

  7. Not a trace of her or her car? That’s just bizarre.

  8. This is very sad, and very heart breaking. I hope and pray, that some one comes forward.

  9. Thomas Phillip Braunger says:

    What an asinine idea that my uncle Leonard abused Helen Jean. He adored her.
    The fact that she had recently been sentenced to being on oxygen tanks may have been a factor on her leaving. And if the car had been sold, I doubt that that would have not been discovered by the police. They're a sharp bunch in Sioux City. Finally, if one were depressed, "forgetting" one's purse might well have been natural.
    Tom Braunger

  10. Did anyone search the crawl space?

  11. Diana Hilton says:

    No I don;t Sarah. Not at all.

  12. Sarah Lake says:

    Diana Hilton do you remember this?

  13. Jack Toomey says:

    Very strange case.

  14. Abbie says:

    So since there was a private service in Wisconsin, for Lennon, then does this also mean that Lennon was buried there? I also find it to be curious, that the obituary reads that he preceded her in death. Did the family have Helen, legally declared dead, beforehand? If Helen wasn’t legally pronounced dead beforehand, then I guess one can assume that the family knows where Helen is and in fact that she is dead. 36th of Court, is a quiet neighborhood. I am surprised that no one in the neighborhood had seen or heard anything! This astounds me. I lived two blocks down from Helen and Lennon.
    There are so many places to bury a body in Sioux City/area. There are a lot of wooded areas, where he or someone else could have dumped her body. Stone park, Bacon Creek, Adam’s Nature Preserve, and so on. Helen’s car could have been taken to a dealer ship and sold. Hell, Helen’s body could even be in Wisconsin, for all anyone knows.
    Anyway, with the hidden space beneath the floor, maybe Lennon would place Helen, in the hidden space as a form of punishment. He could have been abusive towards her and could have been seeing red and went too far, thus causing Helen’s demise.
    I know that the Missouri River, claims lives several lives each year. Not everyone who drowns in the river is always found. But I doubt that her body would be in the Missouri River.
    I want to get a look at the police missing person’s report and interrogation transcript. I want to know how Lennon worded everything.

    • Good ideas, surprised they didn’t check around in the crawl space of their home, I believe her husband may have known where she was.

    • mary says:

      Helen Jean was my aunt and there is no way Lennon Kelly killed his wife. Ridiculous. And if you had known these good and kind people you would feel the same way, Abbie.

      • Michelle says:

        So sorry for your loss.. and all the assumptions….

      • Kai says:

        Most people say that about a family member or neighbor, that they’d never hurt anyone and whatnot. Then it turns said person committed the crime. Believe it nor not, it’s a possibility and it’s has to be looked into.

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