Town Wonders 'Where's Helen?' after family slaying


ATHENS, Wis. -- The execution-style shooting deaths of four family members in their Wisconsin farm home and the disappearance of another member of the family has left investigators puzzled and residents wondering, 'Where's Helen?'

Helen Kunz, 70, has vanished. The bodies of her elderly brother, two sisters and younger son were found July 5 in the family's rickety farmhouse. All had been shot twice in the head.


Investigators say they will not know if Helen Kunz is a victim or a suspect until she is found. Ground and aerial searches of the thick woods surrounding the Kunz's 108-acre farm have revealed no trace of the woman.

Kenneth Kunz, 54, Helen's older son who lives alone in a trailer, found the bodies.

Helen Kunz, last seen at a fireworks display July 4 in Athens, a small farm community in north central Wisconsin, is now the subject of a nationwide search.


Speculation about where she is and who killed her relatives is the talk of the town.

'Where's Helen?' buttons have popped up, one on the lapel of Marathon County Sheriff LeRoy Schillinger.

He said the buttons remind people the case is still open and all efforts to find Helen are appreciated.

A waitress at the Athens Corner Cafe said the town appears to be divided on whether Helen was victim or the assailant.

'I don't see how that sweet old woman could do it,' said the waitress, who would not give her name.

'Helen used to come in here to eat. She always wore a (head) scarf and coat. Winter or summer,' the waitress said.

Many people think Helen might have done it, noting that she bought .22-caliber bullets at Hardware Hank's about a month earlier.

Store owner Gale Weiler said Helen indicated she was buying them for Randy, her younger son and one of the victims, so he could shoot blackbirds. Weiler also said Helen appeared angry that her family used the video cassette recorder, a gift from her, to watch pornographic movies.

'This (the mystery) is something you see in a movie, not something that happens in our community,' Weiler said.


Schillinger said the family may have been involved in incest. Court records show that after Kenneth's birth in 1932, a man named Frank Gumz was convicted of statutory rape of his mother. His defense included the claim that Helen and her brother, Clarence, had been having intercourse. Helen denied that at the time but Kenneth has told reporters he thought Clarence was his father.

Two women who say they are psychic consultants were lunching at the cafe, discussing the vibrations they received.

'I think Kenneth knows something,' said Rhi-Anna. She and another psychic, Sybil Watson, were in the area to 'get impressions.'

'When we went to Kenneth's garden, we got such bad vibes, we had to leave. It was real different than other places we went. I seldom get this fear,' she said.

Dan Rhoades, whose sister attended Athens High School with Randy, was sipping a beer at Schlais' Ballroom tavern a few miles from the Kunz home. He said the hot rumor was that Kenneth buried Helen in his garden the night before he alerted police about the slayings.

Kenneth told investigators he was at a party and went drinking in another town the night of July 4.

Schillinger would not comment on whether Kenneth was a suspect or whether his movements were being monitored or limited. Nor would he say if Kenneth's garden had been investigated.


The fear that gripped the area when the slayings were discovered is wearing off.

Thomas Albrecht, 17, who lives with his family on a farm a quarter mile down a dirt road from the Kunz house, said he is not nervous.

'Our theory is that it (the killings) was within the family,' Albrecht said.

But Donna Zettler, a clerk at Hartman's Variety store, locks her doors more often than before.

'I was real scared when it happened, but I'm getting better,' she said.

Zettler said Randy used to drive Helen into town and wait in the car as Helen shopped.

'Her billfold was so full. She never batted an eye about how much groceries cost,' Zettler said, suggesting the money was probably from Social Security.

Schillinger said he was trying to be optimistic about leads and has distributed a 2-year-old photograph of Helen and Randy to law enforcement agencies in hopes someone has seen her.

But the question remains, he said. 'Where's Helen?'

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