What Happened To Helen Hennessy?


Special thanks to PixieCat for providing research and info. I could not have made this blog post without her.

Stop by Find A Grave and give Helen Hennessy some Love.

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I didn’t know Helen, but I know the time when she was growing up ….. people like to look back at time nostalgically or, as the opposite, forget what it was like to grow up during that period and make crass generalizations about a person’s life. I look at it from the point that we all have a story to share.

Helen’s story was repeated in every state throughout the country in the seventies. The anti-romanticizing of “Dazed and Confused”. Growing up during this era was bittersweet, when one thinks back to what it was really like. And two of the best examples in film are the movies “Foxes” with Jodie Foster and “Over The Edge” starring Matt Dillon. Some kids would die, and some would live to somehow move on with their lives.

Now, let’s get into the story of finding out the truth about Helen.

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Last year, I did a blog post on the death of Anissa Jones. She was a child star on the late 60s, early 70s show, A Family Affair. She died at 18 of a drug overdose in 1976. You can read that blog post here.

When Anissa died, nearly every news article published the name of 14 year-old Helen Hennessy, whose house Jones had overdosed at in Oceanside, CA. This type of thing would not happen today, where the news media publishes the name of a minor, and also includes her age and address. Helen even did an interview with National Enquirer.

The two girls hardly new each other and had only met a few weeks ago. The police report and the ensuing investigation was also a circus. There were a dozen kids at the house the next day, most of them showed up after Anissa’s body was found. Due to this frenzy of not knowing what to do, the cops were not called for some time, so whether they knew or did not know she was dead, that is because these were just kids, in over their heads, indulging in a lifestyle they should not even be close to.

Helen's old house at 2312 Littler Lane in Oceanside, CA. Four beds/3 baths, built in 1974. 2,500 sq ft. Last sold in 1994.

Helen’s old house at 2312 Littler Lane in Oceanside, CA. Four beds/3 baths, built in 1974. 2,500 sq ft. Last sold in 1994.

What happened to Helen Hennessy?

It is hard to track down and piece together exactly what happened to Helen later in her life. Internet rumors abound. Some say she worked in the restaurant industry, was a self-employed entrepreneur, while others say that she was a stripper, drug addict and porn star. Rubbish. From what I found, she led a normal life and even ran a few of her own businesses. However, I did hear that she was quite the party animal as an adult. Helen was into sports cars, nightlife and fast living.

People on message boards who are from Oceanside, CA offer their eyewitness testimony that Helen attended Ocean Shores High School. It’s not a regular high school like Oceanside, but more of a smaller continuation school for kids with academic, drug or other issues. There is zero tolerance there for absences, behavioral issues, etc. It just goes to show you how messed up that area was with drugs, teen discipline, single parent homes and stuff like that in the 1970s. Ocean Shores also does not have a yearbook, at least not in the 70s. I had to do some digging on my own to find a photo of this forgotten tragic figure from the Anissa Jones story.

Finding Helen.

In my research, I find that a Helen Hennessy attended Fallbrook High School as a freshman in 1976. Fallbrook is 17 miles from Helen’s house in Oceanside. I am told by a former classmate, Lisa, that Helen’s extended family had a home or ranch in Bonsall, just down the street from Fallbrook on Highway 76. Lisa was in Helen’s homeroom class. She says Helen was pretty and kind and just a regular girl.

16.8 miles. Helen's father was also a fireman at Camp Pendleton. He could have gotten a transfer to the north base, just west of Fallbrook High.

16.8 miles. Helen’s father was also a fireman at Camp Pendleton.

Anissa Jones died in August of ’76 and Helen was to be a freshman at Oceanside High the next month. However, one would think that her single-parent father transferred her up there to Fallbrook to avoid the scrutiny and treatment by the teachers and kids at school. And to get her away from some bad seeds that sprang up in her life. What else could he do? She was 14! I can imagine him being quite protective of his daughter, like most would, especially during the drug riddled teen culture boom of the 1970s. It was a big reality check. Her dad, Frank, also twice sued individuals in San Diego County for fender benders that occurred while Helen was driving her car in the late seventies.

Take a video tour of Fallbrook High School. It has a beautiful outdoor campus.

There are no known photos of Helen on the web. Until today. She was said to be pretty and blonde. It’s true. I found a photo of Helen Hennessy in the 1976 Fallbrook yearbook. Most school photos are taken shortly after the school year begins. Yes, this is her, and you can almost see the sadness in her eyes. None of the other kids have that forlorn look in their eye. What happened to Anissa was a traumatic experience for any kid to go through. She doesn’t look very happy here to me.

The reason I know it is her, is because Helen does not show up in subsequent yearbooks at Fallbrook, and how many Helens could there be in a 20-mile radius of Oceanside. One. And thus, after this school year, Helen pretty much drops off the face of the Earth until her marriage and death… 20 years later.

Her parents divorced in 1970 and her father died in 1985. He was 62 years old.

helen-hennessy-9thgrade

Helen Kathleen Hennessy. She was only at Fallbrook for freshman year. Then, did she go to Ocean Shores Continuation School? Post here if you know.

Post here if you know anything about her.

Post here if you know anything about her.

She was married in 1994 – Las Vegas:

Helen Kathleen Hennessy Marriage in Nevada

Helen Kathleen Hennessy Marriage in Nevada

Helen’s Last Years.

In about 1993, Helen and Kenneth Brown moved to the big island of Hawaii, where it is unknown exactly what the couple did there, but they used P.O. boxes and an LLC was filed using her name in 1993-94… the “Hennessy Sports Bar”. Calling around and asking local business owners in the town of Keaau, provided no leads. The Chamber of Commerce also could not help me. That’s not surprising, as it was a long ass time ago. In the 90s, there was an anticipated real estate “boom” on the big island of Hawaii, but it never materialized and many investors lost money.

Helen died three years later in a tragic auto accident, apparently while she and a girlfriend were T-boned at 55 mph while making a U-turn on the very dangerous Keaau-Pahoa Road, which leads south from the larger city, Hilo, into the semi-rural suburbs of Keaau and Pahoa. Google that road, it’s very treacherous and there are a lot of DUIs and fatalities there per capita. This wreck was alcohol related, as this particular accident is listed in Hawaii’s drunk driving statistics for that year (stating that alcohol was involved, and that these two women had been drinking). The 38 year-old woman with her, Cynthia Painter, is listed as Person #1 (driver) and she also died. In 1996, there was an increase in DUI fatalities in Hawaii. The DUI limit in Hawaii in 1996 was .08 BAC.

Hwy 130, or Keaau-Pahoa Road.

Hwy 130, or Keaau-Pahoa Road on the windward and less touristy side of Hawaii’s big island.

The two women crashed and died on a Saturday at about noon. Conditions were dry on that two-way blacktop highway. It looks like the 73 year-old man that hit them was with two other people, either friends or family, but none of them were seriously injured. Had the girls really been out bar hopping and drinking that early in the day? Blood-alcohol levels taken from the pair must have told the real truth. Lots of questions, few answers.

I attempted to track down Painter’s husband, Craig Painter, but the attorney I found who represented him in a separate case, did not return my inquiries. I cannot obtain the police accident report because Hawaii only releases info like that to next of kin, and you would be lucky to get it even then. There is a really antiquated civic infrastructure on the big island, even when I called agencies and businesses, it seemed like I was waking them from their slumber. Almost nothing is online. I read that this is because the state and local governments have little money to put things like this online for citizens. It’s not like here on the mainland, where every Sheriff’s Department or obscure state agency has a big fancy web site. It is the same way with the cemeteries in Hawaii, so I cannot even find out if these two women were buried there.

So then, why was Helen living there?

Did Helen have her own money? Did her husband’s family have money? There is a legacy family of “Browns” that live in Hawaii. Was Kenneth related? But again, I had trouble finding relatives connected to him. Ken is still alive, and I think that he lives in Florida these days, but I have not been able to make contact. Interestingly, there is a man with the same name from San Diego County, CA who had quite a long rap sheet in the 80s and 90s. The last arrest being before they appear on public record in Hawaii. The windward side of the big island of Hawaii is a good place to hide out, if you had to. Nobody would find you there.

If Helen was a stripper, as these foolish internet rumors persist, then there aren’t and never were many, if any strip joints in Hilo. I could find nothing. Hilo is also quite small. If Hilo was on the mainland, it would not be anything to get excited about. Further south where they lived, there really isn’t much in Keaau or Pahoa either, just rustic looking homes and a few stores and restaurants. There is no porn or adult industry there, so those porn star rumors about Helen make no sense. There are a lot of drugs in that area however, and that part of the island is known as the Wild West. Except for the resort area of Kona on the leeward side, the economy on the big island was never booming, and you can tell from Google Street View. It’s almost like you are in a small Louisiana town or any rural place in the southern United States. It’s very remote. There is a lot of petty crime there, drug use and unemployment. Crystal meth is very popular, just as it is in many parts of mainland USA. I read an article recently where kids growing up there say they feel trapped and they feel they are living in the middle of nowhere. It appears that Hawaii is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Please post a comment to this article if you know anything about Helen Kathleen Hennessy-Brown.

Thank you.

This is the same Helen Hennessy from the Anissa Jones story. RIP.

This is the same Helen Hennessy from the Anissa Jones story. RIP.

This is the same Helen Hennessy from the Anissa Jones story. RIP.

This is the same Helen Hennessy from the Anissa Jones story. RIP.