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Carl BRANDT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Charlie"
 
Classification: Homicide - Murderer
Characteristics: Juvenile (13) - Parricide
Number of victims: 3 - 6 +
Date of murders: January 3, 1971 / September 15, 2004
Date of birth: 1957
Victims profile: His pregnant mother / His wife, Teresa "Teri" Brandt, 46, and his niece Michelle Jones, 37
Method of murder: Shooting / Stabbing with knife
Location: Indiana/Florida, USA
Status: Spent a year in an Indiana mental institution. Released 1972. Committed suicide by hanging himself on September 15, 2004
 
 
 
 
 
 
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On January 3, 1971, Carl “Charlie” Brandt – at age 13 – killed his pregnant mother and wounded his father in Fort Wayne.

On September 15, 2004, Brandt, 47, hanged himself after stabbing his wife, Teri, and dismembering the body of niece Michelle Jones. He also is suspected of killing at least two other women in Florida.

 
 

Deadly Obsession

A Family Tragedy Unmasks A Killer's Secret Past

By Daniel Schorn - CBSNews.com

Michelle Jones was a successful TV executive, living the good life in Orlando, Fla. When a hurricane threatened the Florida Keys, Michelle invited her aunt and uncle to take shelter with her in Orlando.

Days later, Michelle and the aunt were discovered savagely murdered; the uncle committed suicide.

As correspondent Susan Spencer reports, the investigation would unravel a dark family secret and lead detectives to the possibility they were dealing with a serial killer.

*****

It has been more than a year since the shocking murder of Michelle Jones, but her best friends, Lisa Emmons and Debbie Knight, still feel the loss.

"She wanted so much more out of life, but she was robbed," says Debbie.

Michelle was 37, single, and a successful executive at The Golf Channel in Orlando, Fla.

The three women had been friends since they were teenagers, but the events that would tear them apart began Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2004. A violent storm, Hurricane Ivan, gathered in the Atlantic, prompting an evacuation of the Florida Keys.

"Michelle kept an extra-close watch on it because her aunt and uncle lived there," recalls Lisa.

"She said, 'Of course … Come stay with me,' " Debbie adds.

To Michelle's delight, the aunt and uncle, Teri and Charlie Brandt, did come for the weekend; Michelle was close to both, but especially to Teri, her mother's sister.

"Twenty minutes after they got there I got the phone call from Michelle. 'Teri and Charlie are here, where are you? Why aren't you over here?' " remembers Lisa. "They were hanging out."

"She had a Jacuzzi and a pool. She had a lovely home," Debbie adds.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, Michelle's mother, Mary Lou, wondered how the weekend was going. "We were very close, very close. We talked almost every day," she remembers.

So Mary Lou was puzzled when Michelle didn't pick up the phone. "We placed a call to Michelle Monday night and Tuesday night. We got her voice mail," Mary Lou recalls. By Wednesday night, there was still no answer and Mary Lou was beginning to get very worried.

She called Debbie, asking her to go check on Michelle and stayed on the phone as Debbie walked up the drive to Michelle's home.

Debbie says she thought something was wrong and was worried about what she would find. When her key wouldn't open the front door, she headed to the back, with Mary Lou still on the phone.

"There was a garage door with almost all glass. So you could see in," Debbie recalls. "I was in shock."

Inside the garage, she could see Charlie hanging from a rafter.

Even Rob Hemmert, the lead investigator, had to steel himself for the gruesome scene in the sweltering garage. "I could see Charlie Brandt hanging from the rafters in the garage. He was hanging from a bedsheet, which was around his neck, and there was a ladder close by to his body," he explains.

Brandt had apparently committed suicide.

Little could Hemmert imagine what else awaited him inside Michelle's meticulous house.

"It was just a nice home. It had that feminine kind of feel to it. All of those nice decorations and the aroma of her home was masked by death. The smell of death," Hemmert says.

Teri's sat slumped on the living room couch. She had been stabbed seven times in the chest. Michelle's mutilated body — decapitated, with her heart removed — was in her room.

All three bodies were locked inside the house, and Hemmert says there was no indication of any type of struggle or fight. That led the investigator to one inescapable conclusion: that Brandt had committed the murders and then hung himself.

As Hemmert pieced events together, the evening seemed to have started innocently enough. "I know they had dinner together. Charlie cooked some type of fish. It looks like they may have had some drinks, some wine and so forth," he explains.

But after dinner, Michelle spoke with Lisa and told her not to come over. "She said Teri and Charlie had been arguing and they weren't in the best of company. They had a little too much to drink. She was tired and she wanted to go to sleep," Lisa recalls.

Hemmert learned that although the Brandts had planned to leave that day, their bags sat in the front hall, because Charlie insisted on staying the extra night.

"There was no reason for them to stay behind," Hemmert says. "The hurricane had passed so he chose to stay for a reason. I think that was because he knew what he was going to do."

Brandt used Michelle's own kitchen knives to kill both her and his wife. "Teri was killed in a quick, repeated stabbing-type attack to her chest. In comparison, Michelle had one stab wound to the chest," Hemmert explains.

Hemmert says he then carefully put her blood-soaked clothes in the bathroom sink, before dismembering Michelle's body. "It all took time. And it took thought," he says.

Mary Lou just couldn't accept that this monstrous crime was the work of the mild-mannered brother-in-law she had known for 17 years. "When they described what had happened to Michelle, it was even beyond description," says Mary Lou.

The crime was just as incomprehensible to Michelle's horrified friends, who considered Charlie a bit of an oddball, but certainly no threat.

"He was just very quiet and reserved," Lisa remembers. "He would just sit back and observe. Michelle and I used to call him eccentric."

But Charlie was well suited to Teri's carefree personality, says Debbie. "Teri was gypsy-like. Just happy-go-lucky. Nothing bothered her. She was a wonderful person. Very kind, very sweet," she says.

Teri's closest friend, Melanie Fecher, said Teri and Charlie were inseparable. "If my husband could love me one-third the amount that Charlie loved Teri, I'd be the luckiest woman in the whole world," she says.

Melanie says she never detected any problems in Teri's marriage, saying they never argued, that she never saw him get angry and that, to her knowledge, Charlie didn't have a temper.

Everyone agreed that it had seemed a perfect match. "They often did things for each other that would make each other feel good," says Hemmert. "One of those things was that they would make their lunches for each other. Because the lunch tasted better when it was made by the one who loved you."

Yet Charlie stabbed his wife seven times. He left no note or an explanation. But the first hints came a few days later from an unexpected source: Charlie's older sister, Angela.

Angela was supposed to join other relatives for a briefing by police, but she didn't show. "She was in a car in the parking lot. She basically came to us and said there's something I need to tell you people," explains Hemmert.

Angela shared with investigators an explosive secret — a secret her distraught family had kept hidden for more than three decades.

She haltingly told her story on tape to a stunned Hemmert, telling him exactly what happened on a hellish night in January 1971.

At the time, Angela was 15 and Charlie was 13. They lived with their parents and two younger sisters in Fort Wayne, Ind.

It was just after 9 p.m., and Angela was reading in her room. "My mom was in a bath and my dad was shaving. And I heard my father yell, 'Charlie don't' or 'Charlie stop!' " Angela tells Hemmert.

"Charlie walked into a bathroom while his father was shaving. Shot him in the back. He went down. He stood over her mother, she was in a bathtub, bathing and fired several rounds into her body and killed her. She was eight months pregnant," says Hemmert.

"The last thing I remember hearing my mom say was 'Angela, call the police,' " she tells Hemmert in the taped interview.

But Angela had no time. She told Hemmert that after shooting their mother, Charlie had turned the gun on her but that it wouldn't fire. "The next thing she knew they were physically fighting," Hemmert says.

She said she tried desperately to calm her brother down by telling him how much she loved him. "I saw the madness, the glazed over look. I saw it disappear," Angela tells Hemmert.

With her brother calmed down, Angela ran out of the house screaming in her bloody, torn nightgown. She ran through the snow to her neighbor's home and pounded on the front door, startling then-16-year-old Sandi Radcliffe.

But by the time Sandi got to the door, Angela had already headed to another house; instead, it was Charlie waiting outside. "There was just a 'knock, knock' and I opened up the door and he goes, 'Sandi, I just shot my mom and dad,' " she recalls.

Newspaper reports of the murder were sketchy; it was portrayed as a freakish crime by a quiet kid — the last kid on earth, friends said, who would shoot anyone, much less kill his mother.

"That's why this whole incident was such a shock because they were very close, incredibly so. He was a momma's boy," says Sandi.

Only a few crime scene photos survive in the Fort Wayne police archives. Dan Figel, then a young detective, was in charge of the investigation. When the call came, he remembers hurrying to the hospital, hoping that Charlie's critically wounded father would survive and be able to explain what had happened.

"He just kept saying, 'I don't know why my son did this. I have no idea as to why my son did this,'" Figel remembers.

But he did confirm that his son had done it, and Figel proceeded to take the boy into custody. "He was in shock. His eyes were dilated and he couldn't understand why he had done this," says Figel.

Police didn't know what to make of their 13-year-old killer. The Indiana courts ordered that Charlie undergo three separate psychological evaluations.

One was with psychiatrist Ronald Pancner, who agreed with his two colleagues that Charlie was something of a mystery.

"Basically, I was looking for mental illness. And he wasn't showing the signs and symptoms of serious mental illness, which I thought was what the court wanted to know," says Pancner.

Pancner talked with Charlie about his friends, his family, his interests, trying to uncover some underlying problem. "This kid did well in school. He didn't get into any trouble. He loved his family, he said. And the family said that he was a loving kid, you know. So, there wasn't anything to diagnose," the psychiatrist explains.

But there was something wrong with him.

"To the layperson, this doesn't make sense. The guy killed his mother. She's pregnant. Shot his father. Why doesn't he have a mental illness? But he doesn't have a diagnosable mental illness," Pancner says. "We found no psychosis, no distorted thinking that would basically be a reason for this crime to be done."

Asked why Charlie turned violent, Pancner says, "We don't know."

Whatever his demons in Indiana, 13-year-old Charlie was still too young to be held criminally responsible for his crimes. So he never was charged with murder, and he was never brought to trial. Instead, a grand jury investigated and issued an ominous warning, writing that such anti-social conduct could repeat itself in the future.

Charlie was sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he stayed just over a year — only until his forgiving father could win his release. Herbert Brandt then pulled up stakes and moved the entire family, including Charlie, to Florida.

"He never spoke to Charlie about what took place," says Hemmert. "Never said, 'Hey Charlie, why did you shoot me? Why did you kill your mother?' You know? 'What were you thinking? How about an apology?' None of those things. He just accepted him back into the home as if nothing happened."

Even Charlie's two baby sisters, too young to remember, were never told the truth about their mother's death, all of which infuriates Michelle's parents, Bill and Mary Lou.

"There's something wrong here. There's something wrong with a system that allows a 13-year-old boy to kill his mother, to try to kill his father and an older sister and nothing was done," says Mary Lou.

Both Mary Lou and Bill are sure that, years later, Charlie never told his wife, Teri.

"I don't think she would have married him, period, at all had she known," explains Bill.

The Joneses say that, to this day, Herbert and Angela Brandt never have acknowledged that telling Teri might have saved lives.

Mary Lou says Herbert and Angela should have known that Charlie had the potential and capacity to kill. She added that Herbert has never made any effort "to say how sorry he was that this happened to us."

For Michelle's best friend, Debbie, the anger goes even deeper. "Charlie's father should be exposed. He knew what his son did. He knew the crimes he did. I would love to see him sitting right next to me 'cause I find him guilty," she says.

Herbert, now 75, lives in Florida, as does Angela, now 51. Both have declined 48 Hours' requests for interviews.

But talking with them didn't much help Hemmert understand the twisted psyche of Charlie Brandt. He would find those clues in the Florida Keys, right where Charlie left them.

Four hundred miles from Orlando, the Brandts' house on Big Pine Key sat frozen in time, boarded up meticulously in preparation for the storm.

"I'd never seen anything like it. Charlie took it to the extreme. Every piece of wooden panel that was cut for each window looked like it had been custom-fit. The holes for the doorknobs on the French doors were meticulously cut. Perfectly round circles," explains Hemmert.

It was something one might expect from an engineer — Charlie worked as a radar technician.

Inside the house, things were just as precise. The first shock came when Hemmert stepped into the Brandts' bedroom and spotted a graphic poster of the female anatomy on the back of the bedroom door.

"Her hair's put up in a bun. Which I had never seen before. And it's showing the skeletal system and the muscular system," Hemmert explains, describing the doctor's office-style poster.

Teri would have seen the poster every day and Hemmert wonders whether she hadn't considered it a big deal. "Charlie and Teri were not in the medical profession. We saw no reason for that chart to be there. What is this doing in someone's home?" he wonders.

The investigator had an unsettling answer to his own question. "I'm looking at a chart that's got these portions of the body exposed. And he's virtually duplicated or exposed some of those areas of the body in what he did with Michelle," Hemmert explains.

And there were other eerie reminders, including medical books, journals, and an anatomy book. "And in that book there was a newspaper clipping that showed a human heart," says Hemmert. "Knowing what he did to Michelle and then finding those things, it all started to make sense."

As did the Victoria's Secret catalogues found in the house, addressed to Charlie. "He always referred to Michelle as 'Victoria Secret.' He gave her that name. And he never referred to her as Michelle," says Hemmert.

Far from being just a friendly uncle, to the horror of the Jones family, Charlie had been secretly infatuated with his own niece.

Bill Jones says his daughter would have been livid had she known about the infatuation.

Hemmert thinks Charlie was obsessed with Michelle. "He was fascinated by her, and I think ultimately he intended on killing her. I think that's evident in the way he spoke about her and the things that he looked at on the Internet," he says.

When investigators examined Brandt's computer, they found he had been on ghastly Web sites that featured death fantasies, necrophilia and violence against women.

"You saw where he may have gotten some of his ideas and thoughts and fantasies from," says Hemmert. "The thing that we noted immediately was that the things he did with her body did not appear to be someone who had done this for the fist time — there had to be more."

Hemmert was quite sure, if he looked hard enough, he would find evidence that Charlie was a serial killer. The only real question was how many other victims had there been over some 30 years. To answer that, police first tried to match their unsolved murders with Brandt's travels in the United States and abroad.

Potential cases poured in and investigators weeded through them by focusing on those with specific similarities to Charlie's murder of Michelle.

Criminal profiler Leslie D'Ambrosia has been asked to analyze dozens of these cold cases. "There's no boilerplate profile for a — quote — serial killer. It doesn't exist. It's all individual; it's based on a person's life experiences and everyone has a different life experience."

Charlie's trademark was precision and a methodical technique. "How a person normally behaves is translated into how they carry their crimes out," says D'Ambrosia. "He's quite organized and planned in what he does. He's intelligent, very reliable, very responsible."

And to the outside world, he was just an ordinary guy. Teri's diaries, found in the house, reflected that very ordinary life.

"They weren't detailed writings, they were just something very simple from, went fishing, caught a good bull dolphin, to nice dinner with Charlie. Boat ran out of gas. Buy steaks for dinner," explains Hemmert.

There were few hints of anything wrong. "We only found a couple of interesting notations and those were 'weird day.' But there's nothing more specific, and we have no idea what occurred to cause her to write that," says Hemmert.

Teri also noted times when Charlie was out late, even out all night, but never added explanations in her diary entries.

Musician Jim Graves spent time with Charlie in the 1980s, when he was married to Angela. He'll never forget the day she confided in him that, decades before, Charlie had shot their parents, killing their pregnant mother.

"I came home one day and she was crying rather uncontrollably, and said she had something that she absolutely had to talk to me about," Jim recalls. But he says that, after getting to know him, it seemed clear that whatever had happened years before, Charlie was OK now.

"He was so gentle that when there was a bug in the house he would refuse to step on it and carried it outside," Jim remembers.

Today, Jim regrets that he didn't pay more attention — especially during one instance after he and Angela split up and the two men got to talking.

"We were havin' a few beers after fishing all day and everything. I was just really despondent. Somehow we started talking about revenge. Well you know you get your feelings hurt and wanna lash out. I believe he looked at me and said, 'Well, if you really wanna get revenge, you should kill somebody and cut their heart out,' " Jim recalls. "And it creeped me out at the time."

But at the time, Jim dismissed it and, years later, when a new girlfriend wanted to fix up her friend Teri, Jim called Charlie.

"No way in the world would I know that they would fall in love and get married!" says Jim.

Charlie and Teri married on Aug. 29, 1986; Jim was their best man.

"I did have a conversation with Charlie. And I insisted that he inform her of his past," Jim says.

He says Charlie did tell Teri about the 1971 shooting. "After they got married and I went down to visit them I asked them when they were gonna have kids. And she told me, considering everything, that she didn't think it was a good idea."

Jim took her response to mean that she knew.

"Here's the thing about Charlie Brandt that's disturbing — beyond what we already know is disturbing in how he commits his crimes," says D'Ambrosia. "He's very well traveled. For many years, he has traveled all over the United States and even outside the United States."

More than 30 years had elapsed from the time he shot his mother until he killed his wife and niece, and what investigators desperately want to know is how many other crimes Charlie Brandt committed.

D'Ambrosia doesn't think we'll ever know how many murders Charlie is responsible for. But she is working with Hemmert and a task force from around the state to at least try to narrow it down.

In the search for unsolved murders that fit Brandt's peculiar profile, one case immediately jumped out.

It was the 1995 murder of Darlene Toler, a prostitute in Miami's Little Havana section.

Det. Pat Diaz handled the investigation and remembers that it was an unusual case. Like Michelle Jones, Toler had been decapitated and had her heart removed.

Toler's body was found along a highway. Apart from the manner of her death, two bits of evidence convince Diaz that Brandt was the killer. "The body was wrapped up in a blanket, then wrapped up in plastic and tied, almost like a package," he explains.

In that blanket, dog hairs were found; police also found dog hairs in the back of Charlie Brandt's truck. Brandt's truck also yielded another clue.

"Every time he put gas in the truck, he kept the mileage," Diaz says.

In those mileage records, Diaz says, a spike occurs right around the time Toler was killed, 100 miles away from Brandt's home.

Asked whether he thinks Brandt drove from the Keys to Miami just looking for somebody, Diaz says, "He had come to Miami. Him and his wife worked opposite shifts. And he did what he had to do."

DNA analysis of animal hair is difficult and costly, but police say that — if they get it — a match would close the Toler case.

"That'll get me to 100 percent. It wouldn't be 99, it'd be 100 percent," says Diaz.

But a second murder, much closer to home fits the pattern even more convincingly. It dates back 17 years to a summer night in July 1989. It happened just four blocks from Charlie Brandt's house.

Under a bridge off Big Pine Key, local fishermen had made a frightening find. Initially thinking they were reeling in a mannequin, the fishermen actually discovered the body of a woman.

Monroe County Homicide Det. Trish Dally was the lead investigator in the murder of 38-year-old Sherry Perisho, a local woman who lived on a small rowboat.

"She had her bicycle that she would put on the bow of the boat and then she would take the boat out approximately 100 yards off shore and that's where she lived," Dally explains.

Investigators believe it was also where she died. "What we believe happened is that she was placed on the bottom of the boat, possibly with her feet off the stern," Dally says.

For years the boat has been locked away in the evidence yard. In the wood, one can see cutting marks, leading Dally to believe the bottom of the boat was used as a cutting table.

As with the other victims, Perisho was decapitated, her heart cut out. For years, all police had to go on was a sketch of a man spotted running across the highway near the scene — that is until Charlie's former brother-in-law, Jim Graves, revealed something Teri had told him just after the Perisho murder.

"She goes, 'Well you know, somebody was killed not too far from our house. I'm thinkin' about, you know, callin' the sheriff.' And I said, 'Well, why?' And she goes, 'Well, because of Charlie's past,' " Graves recalls.

Stunned, Graves says he later confronted Charlie. "I look at him and I said, 'You know your wife thinks you might've committed this heinous act.' And he was like, 'I didn't do it,' " he says.

"You didn't think, 'My God, you know, could he have done this?' " Spencer asks.

"You know, I couldn't tell you what I was thinking at the time," Graves replies.

But recently, when investigators were looking again at the Perisho murder, they talked with Graves, who, under oath, was much more specific about Teri's story.

"She apparently found Charlie downstairs and he had blood on him. And she asked him what had happened and he gave an excuse that he was filleting fish, although it was a workday, it was in the evening, she went ahead and believed him," Det. Dally recalls.

Graves' bombshell statement was enough to close the Perisho case, officially.

Still, questions persist why there is nothing about the incident in Teri's diaries, or whether she really believed her husband's explanation. If not, why did she stay with him?

Dally has her own theory. "You're talking about somebody that you're in a relationship with, you don't want to believe somebody that you have you committed your life with would commit a crime, especially that heinous," she explains.

But in the end, Charlie fooled everyone.

"And that's the sad part about this — these people were completely misled," says Hemmert. "They knew Charlie Brandt to be this guy that they could rely on, that was a friend and was there when they needed him. 'We knew Charlie.' They knew the 'work' Charlie. The 'go out on the boat fishing' Charlie. They didn't know the true Charlie. We do."

In the months since the murders of Michelle Jones and Teri Brandt, family and friends have struggled to accept their deaths.

"We have to face every day without our daughter and that is horrible," says Michelle's mother, Mary Lou.

"We lost two people who were very dear to us," says Bill, her father.

They have struggled in part because of the way they died, say Michelle's parents.

"Michelle was totally destroyed and that is devastating," Mary Lou explains.

Time only has increased the Joneses' fury toward Herbert and Angela Brandt for protecting Charlie.

"This man may have been able to have been stopped," says Bill. "He may never have been cured, but he could have been stopped."

Asked if he holds Herbert and Angela responsible for the murders, Bill says, "Well, I do, because they should have gotten the man help. And they knew he needed help."

Mary Lou says Angela told her right after the murder that she had been terrified of Charlie for years.

"Angela said that she was glad that Charlie had committed suicide because now she could sleep at night," says Mary Lou. "For 20-some years, she would not allow the air conditioner to run, the windows to be open and unlocked in her home because she was afraid. She was afraid Charlie would come back to kill her."

Despite what Jim Graves says, the Joneses still find it hard to believe that Teri knew anything about her husband's past.

"It's just very hard for me to conceptualize my sister could know something about a person who could do what Charlie did," says Mary Lou. "If she knew that, could she have stayed with him? I don't know. I don't think so. In my heart I don't believe so."

Records from Charlie's brief stay in the psychiatric hospital might shed more light on his past, but the Brandt family refuses to allow the state to release them.

"They had a family secret," says Mary Lou. "The tragedy is that they're going to try and preserve the family secret."

"I'd love to see the medical records and find out what type of treatment he had. If any. And how they handled him," says Hemmert, who is left with a host of unresolved questions as well. "What triggered him back in '71 to kill his mother? What actually was the breaking point for him? I don't know."

Asked what he would want to ask Charlie if he had the opportunity, Hemmert says, "Why? What was going through your mind at that specific point in time that caused you to do what you did? And why was it so different than how you took the life of Michelle Jones versus your wife Teri?"

Mary Lou has her own theory of why Charlie did what he did. "I believe he had a covert, evil nature, and I believe he was able to control it and cover it," she says. "He was an invisible criminal walking around."

An invisible criminal whose total number of victims is unlikely ever to be known, despite law enforcement's best efforts.

"A lot of these cases are cold cases. They're old. They may not have the physical evidence," Hemmert explains. "They require an enormous amount of time and legwork. And the resources are limited everywhere. But we're not going to give up."

Nor will the Joneses, who want new laws to ensure that the outrage of Charlie Brandt never be repeated. They are pushing for a public database, much like that for sex offenders, including anyone of any age who ever has killed another person, regardless of the circumstances.

"If we can do something to help somebody else to prevent them from facing what we did, then Michelle's life will have meaning. Teri's life will have more meaning. There should not be Charlies on the street," says Mary Lou.

Charlie Brandt is gone, but for Hemmert this case is, in many ways, not closed.

"I still think about it every day what happened here," he says. "Michelle and Teri and how evil Charlie was."

 
 

Fort Wayne killer focus of ‘48 Hours’

May 30, 2006

The story of Carl “Charlie” Brandt, the suspected serial killer who – at age 13 – killed his pregnant mother and wounded his father in Fort Wayne, will be featured tonight on the CBS program “48 Hours Mystery.”

Brandt, 47, hanged himself after stabbing his wife, Teri, and dismembering the body of niece Michelle Jones. He also is suspected of killing at least two other women in Florida.

“48 Hours Mystery: Deadly Obsession,” at 10 p.m. on WANE-TV, Channel 15 is expected to provide more evidence that Brandt was responsible for one of those deaths and that Teri Brandt suspected her husband was the killer.

The story is not only one of tragedy but also one of a long-held family secret: Brandt’s two younger sisters grew up not knowing their brother killed their mother.

A “48 Hours” production crew of four was in Fort Wayne in December, said Edward Cochrane, a former Brandt classmate at Jefferson Junior High School and one of the local people interviewed for the program.

Cochrane described Brandt as quiet and unassuming at school.

“He never got in trouble, as far as I’m aware of.” He said he had little else to say to the producers other than that the Fort Wayne killing “was the last thing you’d expect from someone like him.”

The shootings 35 years ago and the horrific 2004 slayings of Brandt’s wife and her niece in Florida were the subject of a two-part Journal Gazette series in January, “The Darkness in Charlie.”

The slayings occurred Jan. 3, 1971, in the Old Brook addition east of Shoaff Park. Brandt, a Jefferson Junior High School ninth-grader, retrieved a handgun from his parents’ bedroom and later shot them as they prepared for bed. Brandt’s oldest sister, Angela, ran screaming from the house, alerting neighbors, while their two younger sisters slept.

Carl Brandt told Allen County Sheriff’s Department investigators, “It was like I was sort of programmed to do it.”

A grand jury determined that Brandt was not criminally responsible for his actions but cautioned that he might repeat them if he did not receive psychiatric treatment. He spent a year in a state mental health hospital in Indianapolis.

After Brandt’s release, his father, who had spent several weeks in the hospital, moved the family to Ormond Beach, Fla. Carl became an electronics technician. He met his wife, Teri, in 1985.

The two settled in the Florida Keys. When Hurricane Ivan threatened the islands in September 2004, they evacuated to Jones’ house near Orlando.

On Sept. 15, 2004, police found Teri Brandt stabbed to death. Jones had been decapitated and her breasts and heart removed. Carl Brandt had hanged himself in Jones’ garage.

Brandt had been obsessed with the 37-year-old Jones, said Rob Hemmert, lead investigator for Florida’s Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators also found that Brandt visited Web sites featuring female autopsies and necrophilia.

Hemmert retrieved information on 26 murders similar to the Brandt killings from an FBI database. He found no connection in all but two: the 1995 slaying of Darlene Toler in Miami-Dade County and the 1989 death of Sherry Perisho, 1,000 feet from Brandt’s Big Pine Key home.

A law enforcement task force concluded in March that Brandt killed Perisho, after an old witness recently identified Brandt as the person running from the scene, Hemmert said last week.

A former husband of Angela Brandt told “48 Hours Mystery,” and later investigators, that Teri Brandt suspected her husband killed Perisho, Hemmert said. Teri Brandt confided to her former brother-in-law that Carl came home that night bloody and wet, claiming he had been fishing.

As a result, Hemmert said, investigators have closed the Perisho case.

Hemmert, who is trying to get Brandt’s medical records from Indiana, said he still gets a call a week from other police agencies wondering whether Brandt could be a suspect in cases they are investigating.

“I’m just hoping when the story runs on ‘48 Hours’ I’ll get some additional calls,” he said.

 
 

Killer tied to '89 death -- wife suspected him all along

May 6, 2006

A long-unsolved murder in Monroe County was blamed Friday on suspected serial killer Carl "Charlie" Brandt amid new information that also revealed Brandt's wife suspected all along that he was a killer.

Brandt, 47, hanged himself in September 2004 after killing his wife, Teresa, 46, by repeatedly stabbing her in the chest and then stabbing and dismembering the body of his wife's niece. The Brandts were staying with the niece, 37-year-old Michelle Jones, at her home in south Seminole County after fleeing the Florida Keys as Hurricane Ivan threatened.

Brandt's ties to the additional murder were uncovered not by investigators but by producers of the CBS show 48 Hours, who passed along the information to authorities, Seminole sheriff's Investigator Rob Hemmert said Friday.

Jim Graves, who was once married to Carl Brandt's oldest sister, said Teresa Brandt told him her husband came home wet and covered with blood about the time Sherry Perisho was killed less than 1,000 feet from their home in July 1989.

Teresa "Teri" Brandt confided in her then-brother-in-law, who lives in Volusia County, a short time after Perisho's body was found, Hemmert said. Graves could not be reached for comment Friday.

Monroe County investigators also found a witness who identified Brandt as the man she saw in the area right after the murder.

"We are satisfied that Carl Brandt was the murderer of Sherry Perisho," Monroe County Sheriff Rick Roth said.

Perisho's throat was slashed and she was nearly decapitated. Her heart also was cut out of her chest, authorities said. Those became key details soon after deputy sheriffs uncovered the grisly double murder-suicide in Seminole.

Michelle Jones also was mutilated and dismembered by Brandt. He used a kitchen knife to cut off her head and breasts and removed her left leg with the precision of a surgeon. He removed organs before hanging himself.

That Teresa Brandt suspected her husband was a murderer surprised investigators. She had kept detailed diaries, and investigators had spent hours poring over them.

Investigators from several counties met with Florida Department of Law Enforcement profilers and behavioral profilers from Canada in March. Even without the new information from the former brother-in-law, they were confident that Brandt was responsible for Perisho's death and they strongly suspect him in the 1995 mutilation killing of a prostitute in Miami, Seminole sheriff's investigator Bob Jaynes said.

Seminole investigators have looked into at least 24 unsolved murders but have been unable to tie them to Brandt.

They hope the 48 Hours episode, expected to air later this month or in early June, will generate new leads.

Brandt was just 13 when he killed the first time. He fatally shot his mother and tried to kill his father in their Indiana home.

 
 

Murder-suicide probe points to 26 slayings

October 01, 2005

For a year, investigators have traced the footsteps of Carl Brandt, poring over journals his wife kept, sorting through restaurant and gas receipts and interviewing friends and family.

They've detailed his life in a 35-page timeline to understand the man who came to Central Florida last September seeking refuge from Hurricane Ivan but then killed his wife and her niece before hanging himself.

He didn't only kill Michelle Jones -- who had opened her south Seminole County home to her aunt and uncle. He systematically dismembered Jones' body, removing her head and then using kitchen knives to cut on her body with the skill of a surgeon.

What they saw in her bedroom convinced investigators that Brandt had killed before. Thousands of hours have gone into trying to determine how many times and where.

Their search has so far led to 26 unsolved slayings in Florida, each occurring since Brandt moved to the state in 1973 and each with at least some similarity to crimes investigators are certain Brandt did commit. Add to that almost 400 cases of missing women also being scrutinized, and veteran Seminole County sheriff's investigators Rob Hemmert and Bob Jaynes still have much work to do.

"We're trying to get inside this guy's head," Jaynes said, "and figure out how he progressed to this."

After remaining tight-lipped about their investigation for a year, the investigators recently revealed additional details of the slayings to the Orlando Sentinel. They are certain Brandt killed at least two other times, in South Florida, and they hope their investigation will ultimately resolve other murder cases.

The focus is on Florida, but investigators discovered that Brandt made trips across the country as well as abroad.

An FBI computer program selected the 26 slayings that are the focus of the investigation, some simply because the victims were young women, but many because there were unusual aspects to the slaying, such as mutilation.

Even with a growing knowledge of Brandt's whereabouts, it is difficult to eliminate any of the 26 cases. The investigators point to a 14-year-old girl slain in 1990 in Deerfield Beach. The timeline doesn't put Brandt in Deerfield, but it puts him in the general area, Jaynes said. "But, . . . Deerfield Beach puts him in the general area of everything."

The two investigators know they will be working this case at least another few months. How much longer than that depends largely on what they learn when they sit down with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement profiler this month.

Not a typical case

Murder-suicides are typically open-and-shut cases, and, technically, the murder case of Michelle Jones and Teri Brandt is closed. But from the minute the two veteran investigators walked into Jones' house just south of Altamonte Springs the night of Sept. 15, 2004, they knew there was nothing typical about the case.

Neither had ever seen anything like the gruesome scene.

"We had deputies getting sick," Jaynes said.

Teresa "Teri" Brandt's body was on a couch in the living room. The 46-year-old woman had been stabbed seven or eight times. Investigators think she was killed first.

"I don't think he would have risked being caught [killing Jones] by his wife," Hemmert said.

From there, the investigators walked into Jones' bedroom. They sensed immediately they were dealing with someone who had dismembered a body before.

"You had to know what you were doing," Jaynes said.

Though Brandt had violently and repeatedly stabbed his wife, he killed Jones, 37, with a single stab to the chest. Both were killed with kitchen knives.

They think he then cut off Jones' head, positioning it on the bed so it faced her body. He even took the time to brush the hair away from her face.

He then cut off her breasts, her left leg and removed her heart and other organs.

Hemmert and Jaynes think Brandt spent hours with Jones' body.

"It took him some time," Hemmert said. "It wasn't something he did quickly."

When he was finished, he changed his clothes, leaving his bloody ones on the floor by the bed. He left behind something else, which at the time didn't make sense to the investigators: Victoria's Secret bras and underwear, cut in half, that were scattered around the room.

Brandt, 47, walked into the garage and climbed a stepladder. He tied a bedsheet around his neck and hanged himself.

13-year-old killed mother

News of the crime shocked Brandt's friends, neighbors and family. Everyone told of a compassionate, friendly man nicknamed Charlie who would do anything for anyone.

The first bombshell came when investigators learned Brandt, when he was 13, fatally shot his mother and tried to kill his father. It was a secret kept even from Brandt's two younger sisters, who thought their mother died in a car crash.

Brandt spent a year in an Indiana mental institution and was taken back by his father when he was released.

"I think that's when Charlie was born," Jaynes said.

Moving to Florida with his father, Charlie prospered, eventually getting a job, marrying and settling in the Florida Keys.

Carl was never far away, however, fantasizing about mutilating women, investigators said. He regularly visited Web sites that dealt with autopsies, torture and the mutilation of women, according to an analysis of his computer.

Teri Brandt's sister and brother-in-law, Mary Lou and Bill Jones of Durham, N.C., are certain Teri never knew her husband's dark side. Neither did the Joneses' daughter, Michelle.

They described the two women as more like sisters than aunt and niece. Teri was 8 when Michelle was born.

"She was the proudest aunt," Mary Lou Jones recalled.

Michelle was a sales manager for the Golf Channel and loved the outdoors. She lived alone, and Bill Jones said he talked to her often about safety issues, except one: "I never, ever warned her to keep an eye out for her uncle."

But after visiting the Brandts' home in Big Pine Key, investigators found Michelle may have been Carl Brandt's ultimate fantasy victim. Killing and cutting apart her body were things he may have dreamed about for years, Hemmert said.

The investigator recalls walking into the Brandts' bedroom and closing the door so he could look into a closet. There, on the back of the door, was a female anatomy poster. The left side of the body exposed the skeletal system.

"This was bizarre," Hemmert said. He remembered that Jones' left leg had been cut off.

Elsewhere in the bedroom, they found an assortment of books, with topics ranging from health and medicine to massage. They also found a Victoria's Secret catalog addressed to Brandt.

A co-worker of Brandt's helped investigators make an important connection. He told them Brandt often talked about his niece and how beautiful the woman was. The man said he didn't know the woman's name. Brandt referred to her only as "Victoria's Secret."

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office showed great interest in Brandt once it learned details of the Central Florida slayings. In 1989, the body of a former beauty queen, Sherry Perisho, was found in a canal less than 1,000 feet from Brandt's home. Her throat had been slashed and her heart removed.

There also was a similar slaying of a prostitute in 1995 in Miami. Darlene Toler's head and heart were never found.

Hemmert and Jaynes are convinced that both of those women were slain by Brandt.

'No way out'

Investigators aren't sure Brandt intended to kill Michelle Jones when he left Big Pine Key as the hurricane approached or just found the opportunity too great to pass up.

Although he may have killed before without detection, this time Carl Brandt could not hide behind the image of Charlie Brandt.

"He had no way out," Hemmert said. "He couldn't just walk away from it and go home."

Carl Brandt visited his father, Herbert, in Ormond Beach two days before the bodies of the Brandts and Jones were found. Brandt's father told investigators that, as his son was leaving, " 'Charlie hugged me like he's never hugged me before,' " Hemmert said.

 
 

Brandt looked at for 1989 killing

By Alyson Matley

A Lower Keys man who killed his wife and niece before hanging himself in his niece's Seminole County home might be responsible for at least two unsolved murders in South Florida, law enforcement officials says.

And this week, it came to light the man also killed his pregnant mother 31 years ago and tried to kill his father at the same time.

On Sept. 22, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office discovered the bodies of Carl "Charlie" Brandt, 47, his wife Teresa "Teri" Brandt, 46, and Michelle Lynn Jones, 37, in Jones' home in Maitland. Indications are that the women were murdered and that Carl Brandt hanged himself, according to authorities.

"The case in Seminole County has some real similarities to an unsolved homicide in Monroe County," Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin said.

She said Sherry Perisho's body was found in Pine Channel in 1989.

"She was a homeless woman who slept on her dinghy," said Herrin. "Someone cut her abdomen open, cut her throat, and cut her heart out."

The Brandts lived on Big Pine Key since 1988. They evacuated the Keys during a hurricane evacuation that was issued by Monroe County officials on Sept 16. Friends in the Keys became concerned when the couple did not show up for work the following Tuesday and called their family members.

Carl Brandt worked for Lockheed Martin and Teresa Brandt worked for Independent Paperboard Marketing.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Roth said Carl Brandt is looking like "a good suspect" in the Perisho killing.

"The degree of comparison seems to be that there is a strong indication that he could be a good suspect in this case," said Roth. "It will be difficult to get any hard evidence to prove that he did kill sherry Perisho, though. If there are no souvenirs that he took or hard evidence at the scene, it's difficult."

Roth said Miami-Dade County officials are also looking at a 1995 homicide that may show some similarities to the murders in Maitland.

Donald Eslinger, sheriff for Seminole County, said his department is not yet ready to release details of the Maitland killings.

A story in the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week reported that Carl Brandt shot his father and his pregnant mother in 1971. According to the report, Brandt's mother died, but his father survived the bullet wounds he received. Brandt was 13 at the time.

According to friends of Teresa Brandt, the couple had driven out to the west coast of Florida to visit Carl Brandt's father the day before the murder/suicide occurred.

  


 

Gruesome Seminole Killings May Be Linked To Decapitations

Authorities In Holland, Germany Seek Details About Fla. Crime

October 9, 2004

Investigators believe a man accused of killing two women and then himself in Seminole County, Fla., last month may have been a serial killer responsible for several decapitations, according to Local 6 News.

Detectives said Carl Brandt stabbed his wife, Teresa, and his niece, Michelle Jones before hanging himself inside a home on Hickory Drive. Jones was reportedly mutilated and decapitated at the home.

Now, Brandt is the prime suspect in the death of a woman in Big Pine Key who was beheaded and dismembered in the late 1980s.

Local 6 News has learned that authorities are also investigating Brandt in connection with the disappearance of a 12-year-old Volusia County girl whose head was found in 1978.

Law enforcement agencies from Germany and Holland have reportedly contacted the Seminole County Sheriff's Office since information about Brandt and the crime were posted in a FBI database. Specifics on the inquiries from Europe were not available.

Police said an investigation of Brandt's computer found that he searched Web sites depicting dead women and mutilation.

Local 6 News reported that Brandt shot and killed his pregnant mother when he was 13 years old.

 
 

Girl's 1978 Murder Now Of Interest To Investigators

October 8, 2004

OSTEEN, Fla. -- A Volusia County family wants to know if their loved one was a victim of Carl Brandt's. Carol Lynn Sullivan disappeared on an Osteen road 26 years ago, and the way she was murdered has once again peaked the interest of not only investigators, but her family, as well.

"Our family has waited for 20 years for an answer of some kind," says the victim's father, Herbert Sullivan II.

Sullivan's 12-year-old daughter disappeared from her Osteen school bus stop along a rural road 26 years ago. Only her skull was recovered, found along a wooded Deltona roadside inside a rusted paint can. Her murderer, still unknown, was never caught.

But now, she is just one of many cases getting attention by the task force looking into Brandt's murderous past. They want to know if there's a link.

"I think it's good, because we haven't had anything in all these years. I mean, everything's been a deep silence for years. Nobody's ever given us anything substantial to go on, until now," says Sullivan.

The murdered girl's file has been cold for nearly three decades, but the nature of her murder, and the fact that Brandt, 21 years old at that time, lived in the area, has the Seminole County Sheriff's Office asking for Carol Lynn's files.

Sullivan's family is mixed, not sure what to think all these years later except that this may be the start of the end of a painful 26 years.

"It never goes away. The fact is always there that it didn't turn out well. It caused a rift in the family and it's been hard on everybody," says Sullivan.

These latest inquiries have reportedly been hard on Carl Brandt's family, as well. Our calls to Brandt's father on Friday, who now lives in Volusia County, went unanswered.

 
 

Killings spark more inquiries

Investigators in Germany and Holland seek details about the gruesome slayings in Seminole County.

Deadly rage brewed in 'quiet kid'

By Gary Taylor - Orlando Sentinel

October 8, 2004

When homicide investigators entered the grisly crime scene last month in south Seminole County, they suspected immediately that 37-year-old Michelle Lynn Jones had died at the hands of someone who had killed before.

Now, some of the unique circumstances of that crime -- the same things that have led local investigators to possibly tie Jones' killer to two South Florida slayings -- are drawing interest from homicide investigators from across the country as well as in Europe.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office released details Thursday about the slayings of Jones and her aunt, Teresa Brandt, 46. The two women were stabbed to death by Teresa's husband, Carl Brandt, 47. He then mutilated and decapitated Jones, leaving behind a scene that one investigator said appeared posed, before killing himself.

Several agencies have contacted the Seminole County Sheriff's Office since details of the slayings were posted in an FBI database, Sheriff Don Eslinger said. Those inquiries have come from as far away as Germany and Holland. Details were not disclosed.

The key to figuring out whom Brandt might have killed before will be to figure out all the places he has been for the past three decades, Eslinger said.

"The most important element of this is establishing a timeline," he said. Investigators plan to examine everything from credit-card and phone records to bank accounts and Brandt's passport to determine when and where he lived, worked and vacationed.

That work will begin in earnest today, when a task force meets for the first time in Sanford. Eslinger has assigned two of his investigators to work full time on the probe. Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as investigators from Miami-Dade and Monroe counties will participate on the task force.

"As a result of the crime scene, there was the immediate assumption that this was not his first time," Eslinger said.

He pointed to the "surgical nature" of how Jones' body was mutilated and dismembered after she was killed.

That is similar to the 1989 slaying of Sherry Perisho, whose body was found floating just blocks from Brandt's house at Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys.

The 39-year-old woman's throat had been cut and, investigators think, the killer tried to decapitate her, but the knife did not sever her vertebra. Also telling, Perisho's heart had been cut out. It was never found.

Another reopened case is the slaying of Darlene Toler, a 35-year-old prostitute and mother of three. When her body was found the day after Thanksgiving in 1995 in Miami-Dade County, her head and heart were missing. They, too, were never found.

Yet another case that has been getting a fresh look is the slaying 26 years ago of 12-year-old Carol Lynn Sullivan in Volusia County. Although Brandt lived in the area at the time, Volusia County investigators said Thursday they have found nothing to link him to the crime.

Carol Lynn had disappeared from a bus stop in Osteen. Her skull was found in a rusted paint can, but her body was never recovered.

"I have nothing," said her father, Herbert Sullivan. "She disappeared off the face of the Earth -- just vanished -- and that was it.

"There is going to be no way to tell whether he was involved unless he left something behind to indicate he had something to do with it," said Sullivan, 60, of Clermont. "I always hoped something would come up, and I thought maybe this [Brandt] was it."

In addition to releasing crime-scene reports and autopsy results Thursday, the Sheriff's Office disclosed details of an analysis of Brandt's personal computer. It showed he visited several Internet sites with topics such as "erotic horror and death fetish erotica" and "drop dead gorgeous."

"It's like peering into his mind and seeing what he was thinking," Eslinger said. "You see disembowelment, you see decapitation and dead women." A computer expert recovered information that investigators think Brandt erased, probably to conceal from his wife, Eslinger said.

Investigators don't know in what order Brandt killed his wife and her niece. Teresa Brandt's bloody body was found slumped on a living room couch. Found wearing only a T-shirt, she had suffered multiple stab wounds, including to her chest. Defensive wounds on her left hand indicated she tried to fight off her husband's attack, according to the sheriff's report.

The scene in the master bedroom was more gruesome. Brandt mutilated Jones' decapitated body.

After killing the two women, Brandt changed into clean clothes before hanging himself. He left his bloody clothes at the foot of Jones' bed. Several knives thought used in the murders were found in the home.

Because he did not leave a suicide note, investigators speculate Brandt hanged himself because this time, unlike in the other cases that are being examined, he killed someone he knew.

"Maybe he realized there was no way out," Eslinger said. "Only he knows why."

But it was not the first time Brandt killed a family member. In 1971, when he was 13 years old, Brandt went on a shooting rampage inside his Fort Wayne, Ind., home, killing his pregnant mother, Ilse, and seriously injuring his father, Herbert.

A grand jury decided he was not criminally responsible for his mother's death and Indiana law at the time presumed children younger than 14 could not understand the consequences of their decisions. Brandt spent a year in a mental-health facility, however, before being released to his father.

 
 

Police Describe Gruesome Scene Of Murder-Suicide

Police Say Brandt May Have Been Serial Killer

October 7, 2004

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. -- A woman killed last month in a Seminole County double murder-suicide was mutilated after her death, according to the county's sheriff.

He said it was the final violent act from a man who may be responsible for several murders in the past 33 years, WESH NewsChannel 2 reported.

The scene on Hickory Drive in Altamonte Springs was gruesome. Michelle Jones and her aunt Teresa Brandt were both stabbed to death. The suspect, Carl Brandt, was found hanging in the garage.

Investigators now say Brandt surgically dismantled his niece. Her body was decapitated and the head was posed on the bed with other body parts, including her heart and breasts.

"What struck us immediately is that he's done this before. This is repetitive," said Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger.

Brandt first killed as a 13-year-old in Fort Wayne, Ind. He shot his mother to death and shot his father, too, but his father recovered. After a year of mental health treatment, Carl moved with his family to Florida.

Carl Brandt moved to Big Pine Key in the late 80s. A woman living near his home was killed, beheaded and dismembered. Brandt is now a prime suspect.

"There are a lot of missing persons and unsolved homicides in this country and in Europe with a similar M.O," Eslinger said.

In 1978, a 12-year-old Volusia County girl disappeared and only her head was found. Brandt had graduated from Daytona Beach Community College and was working in Flagler County at the time. Eslinger said Brandt's possible ties to that case are thin at best.

He said it's important to make comparisons but only to close cases where Brandt can be tied to the case with strong evidence. He believes the case in the Keys seems likely to involve him.

It's a tough case for everyone, Brandt's family included.

"You find out your brother's a possible serial killer," Eslinger said.

NewsChannel 2 reporter Dave McDaniel asked, "That's what you believe, isn't it?"

"Yes, I do. There's little doubt," Eslinger said.

A check of Brandt's computer found he searched Web sites depicting dead women and mutilation.

"His obsession with dismemberment and death, clearly he was heavily involved in deviant fantasies," Eslinger said. "He lived two lives, this guy. He was friendly, shy, timid. He doted on his wife."

 
 

Seminole killer was living out brutal fantasies

Carl Brandt's computer reveals morbid tastes

By Gary Taylor - Orlando Sentinel

October 7, 2004

Carl Brandt apparently fantasized about mutilated and dismembered bodies and, in a final act before killing himself, lived out his fantasies on his wife's niece, including cutting out her heart, according to records released today by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.

Brandt, 47, hanged himself after stabbing to death his wife, Teresa Brandt, and her niece, Michelle Lynn Jones. All three bodies were found Sept. 15 in Jones' Altamonte Springs-area home, where the Brandts, who lived in the Florida Keys, had sought refuge from Hurricane Ivan.

An analysis of Brandt's computer, seized from his home in Big Pine Key, revealed that he visited several Internet sites with topics such as "erotic horror and death fetish erotica" and "drop dead gorgeous."

Jones' mutilated body was found on her bed. She had died of a stab wound that penetrated her heart, aorta and vertebra, according to an autopsy report. After she was dead, Brandt cut out several organs, including her heart and liver, and cut off several body parts, including her head and a leg.

Teresa Brandt's bloody body was found slumped on a living room couch. She had suffered multiple stab wounds, including to the chest, and defensive wounds on her left hand indicated she tried to fight off her husband's attack.

That Jones' heart was removed has led investigators to suspect Brandt may be responsible for other killings, including at least two in South Florida in which the victims' hearts also were cut out. One of those occurred a short distance from Brandt's home. The other was in Miami.

Investigators are establishing a timeline of Brandt's life, including where he lived, worked and visited, to see if he may be linked to other unsolved killings, Seminole Sheriff Don Eslinger said.

As a 13-year-old, Brandt shot to death his pregnant mother and seriously injured his father in their Fort Wayne, Ind., home. The father, Herbert Brandt, now lives in Volusia County, where Carl Brandt also lived for several years and graduated from Seabreze High School and Daytona Beach Community College.

 
 

Man may have been serial killer

By Robert Perez and Melissa Harris - The Orlando Sentinel

October 3, 2004

Carl Brandt learned to kill early in life.

At 13, he shot his mother to death with a Luger pistol as she soaked in the bathtub. He tried to kill his father and older sister that day, too.

It was Jan. 3, 1971, during an ice storm in Fort Wayne, Ind., when young Carl Brandt went berserk.

The family -- mom, dad, three girls and the boy -- had returned home early that morning from a trip to Florida, where they would travel every year to hunt quail and other game.

Only this time, something was wrong. At some point during the trip, Carl Brandt's father, Herbert, shot and killed the family's ailing dog.

It's not clear if that one act sparked Carl Brandt's rage. Today, detectives across the country are asking a lot of questions about the boy killer who, three decades later, would stab his wife and her niece to death before hanging himself in a home near Altamonte Springs.

The similarities between those slayings last month and several unsolved killings in Florida are driving an expanding investigation into Brandt's life in the years after he killed his mother.

The boy, police now fear, may have grown up to become a serial killer.

Detectives are combing through Carl Brandt's work history, passport records, credit-card receipts -- anything that will help them unravel details of his life in Florida after spending only one year at Central State Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Indianapolis.

Wherever the investigation leads, however, it all goes back to that awful day in January 1971.

Shocked neighborhood

Most people in the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood in north Fort Wayne know about the day 33 years ago when the home at 6208 Stony Brook Drive erupted in violence. For some who were there, the memories are vivid.

Sandi Radcliffe, then 16, was stepping out of the shower when she heard Carl Brandt banging on her family's front door.

"He said, `I just killed my mother and father,' and I didn't believe him," Radcliffe, 49, said from her home in Chandler, Ariz. "And so he said it again, and I began to realize that he was serious."

Radcliffe raced across the street but couldn't open the locked bedroom door in the Brandt house until Officer James Quinn arrived and kicked it down. The two found Carl Brandt's mother, Ilse, dead in the tub.

Herbert Brandt faintly pleaded for help from the adjacent bedroom. He sat on the floor near the nightstand, shaving cream still on his face, blood seeping from the gunshot wound in his abdomen.

Others learned details of that harrowing night from 15-year-old Angela Brandt, Carl Brandt's older sister. Angela survived because her brother ran out of bullets. Undeterred, he tried to strangle her.

Police investigators at the time put considerable stock in the theory that Carl Brandt flew into a rage because of the dog's death.

Richard Dunne, who led the police investigation in Fort Wayne, said the dog's death was the only motive investigators could find.

Young Carl Brandt couldn't offer an explanation to the court.

"I didn't really want to," he told a judge one day after the shootings. "It was like I was sort of programmed. I hesitated, but the next thing I knew I had shot them."

A six-person grand jury that reviewed the shooting in May 1971 determined that the boy was not criminally responsible.

Indiana law at the time presumed that children under 14 could not understand the consequences of their decisions. The grand jury recommended that he receive psychiatric treatment. But it issued an ominous warning, suggesting that without proper psychiatric treatment, Carl Brandt could act out again.

Three decades later, the warning would prove right.

Carl and Teresa Brandt fled their Big Pine Key home as Hurricane Ivan approached, arriving at the house of Teresa's 36-year-old niece, Michelle Lynn Jones, on Sept. 11.

They also found the time to visit Carl Brandt's father, who now lives in Ormond Beach, the following day. Friends who spoke with Teresa Brandt that evening said everything seemed fine. But sometime in the next 72 hours, something went terribly wrong.

When Jones failed to show up for a dinner date on Sept. 15, a friend went to her house on Hickory Drive near Altamonte Springs. That's when Jones' friend and one of her neighbors spotted Carl Brandt's body hanging in the garage.

Detectives found the women's bodies inside the home. Investigators say the women were repeatedly stabbed and the crime scene sparked memories of other brutal slayings in South Florida.

News of the deaths shocked longtime friends. The Brandts, known to friends as Carl and Teri, were longtime residents of the tight-knit community on Big Pine Key. Melanie Fecher, one of the Brandts' closest friends, envied the couple for their marriage. Their laid-back attitude and lifestyle were a perfect fit in the Keys.

That is why Fecher and others found it hard to believe that Carl Brandt could have killed anyone. Even after learning that Brandt killed his mother, neighbors remained skeptical.

Before Carl Brandt shot his mother, neighbors were equally impressed with his quiet, well-mannered demeanor.

Move to Florida

A little more than one year after shooting his mother and father and nearly strangling his sister, Carl Brandt moved back with his family.

But the reunion would be short-lived.

The Brandts moved to Ormond Beach in the fall of 1972. But records in Fort Wayne show that Herbert Brandt, his two youngest daughters and his new wife returned to Indiana by 1974.

Carl Brandt, then 17, remained in Ormond Beach.

Herbert Brandt and other members of the family declined to comment for this story. In a written statement, the Brandts expressed shock and sorrow at the Seminole County killings.

Now the brutality of that crime scene has led investigators to consider Carl Brandt's possible involvement in at least three other unsolved killings spanning 17 years.

The top priority for investigators now is tracking Carl Brandt in Florida. Knowing his past here will be crucial in determining whether his deadly outbursts in 1971 and 2004 were isolated or whether they mark the beginning and end of a lifetime of murder.

Unsolved cases

On Sept. 20, 1978, Carol Lynn Sullivan, 12, disappeared from a rural bus stop in Osteen. Two weeks later, her head was found stuffed in a paint can in a remote spot near Deltona. Her body was never recovered.

By then, Carl Brandt had graduated from Seabreeze High School and had earned an associate's degree from Daytona Beach Community College. He was working in nearby Flagler County. Seminole County investigators are seeking information about the abduction and slaying.

On July 19, 1989, Sherry Perisho's mutilated body was found under the North Pine Channel bridge on Big Pine Key.

By that time, Carl Brandt had met Teresa Helfrich and married her. Just months before Perisho's body was found, Carl and Teresa Brandt had moved to Big Pine Key into a house just four blocks from the bridge.

Perisho, a 38-year-old drifter, had her throat slashed with such force the blade cut through her spine, Sgt. Darrell Hull of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said.

Her killer then cut open her torso and removed her heart.

The day after Thanksgiving in 1995, the mutilated body of Darlene Toler, a 35-year-old prostitute and mother of three, was found stuffed in a plastic bag along a road in Miami-Dade's west side. Like Sullivan, Toler was decapitated. Like Perisho, her heart had been cut out.

By that time, Carl Brandt had begun working for Lockheed Martin as a radar technician on Cudjoe Key. The job required him to travel through Miami from time to time.

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger would not give specifics about the slayings of Teresa Brandt and Michelle Jones until a crime scene report is completed. But he said Carl Brandt's treatment of the bodies was similar to what investigators found in the slayings of Perisho and Toler.

"His behavior and activities are very similar post mortem to the two other cases," he said.

The gruesome signature -- mutilation, decapitation, missing hearts -- has investigators at several agencies combing through their unsolved murders for cases that match the grotesque details.

A search of the Brandts' Big Pine Key home uncovered evidence that bolsters the theory that Carl Brandt was involved in other slayings, Eslinger said.

 
 

Evidence boosts murder theories

Items of the man who killed himself and 2 women in Seminole may link him to other deaths.

By Robert Perez - Orlando Sentinel

September 25, 2004

BIG PINE KEY -- A search of Carl "Charlie" Brandt's home has uncovered evidence that bolsters investigators' theory that the mild-mannered radar technician, who killed his wife and her niece before taking his own life last week in Seminole County, may have been involved in at least two other slayings and possibly more.

Monroe County investigators who searched Brandt's truck, safe-deposit box and home removed a diary belonging to his wife, Teresa, a computer and other items.

While investigators said they found nothing incriminating in the diary, they would not disclose what was on the computer, which was sent with the other evidence for analysis in Central Florida.

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger would not discuss the nature of what was found, but he insisted there were "items of value" to the investigation.

Authorities in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties are reviewing at least two slayings to see whether Carl Brandt may have been involved in those unresolved cases.

On Friday, Eslinger said there could be even more killings possibly linked to Brandt.

"There is a strong potential for others," he said. He would not elaborate.

Brandt, 47, was found Sept. 15 hanging in the garage of a home owned by his wife's niece near Altamonte Springs. The bodies of Teresa Brandt, 46, and her niece, Michelle Lynn Jones, 36, were found inside the house. They had been stabbed to death.

The Brandts had traveled to Central Florida a few days earlier after evacuating the Florida Keys ahead of Hurricane Ivan.

Friends of the Brandts' initially were skeptical that Carl Brandt had killed the two women. But it was later revealed that, 33 years ago in Fort Wayne, Ind., 13-year-old Carl had gone on a shooting rampage, killing his pregnant mother, Ilse, and seriously injuring his father, Herbert. A grand jury did not indict Brandt, but the boy spent a year in a state mental-health facility before being returned to his father.

Findings at the crime scene in Seminole County -- which authorities called "extensive" -- prompted the review of the South Florida killings. Eslinger said there are several similarities in the crimes, though he would not provide details.

The first involved the 1989 killing of a former beauty queen about a quarter-mile from Brandt's home on Big Pine Key. The second is a 1995 slaying of a Miami prostitute.

In both cases, the victim's heart was cut out, authorities said.

The 1989 slaying of Sherry Perisho was the third violent death in and around Big Pine Key in a year, said Becky Herrin, a Monroe County sheriff's spokeswoman. Fishermen found Perisho's partially clad body in 10 to 12 feet of water near the Pine Channel Bridge. She had been slashed across her throat and down the length of her torso. Her heart had been cut out and her spine severed.

"It was surgical," said sheriff's Sgt. Darrell Hull, one of the divers who retrieved the body.

Monroe County investigators found nothing obvious in their search of Brandt's house that would immediately resolve the Perisho case, Herrin said. Teresa Brandt's diary had entries about marital problems, but there was nothing to suggest her husband was violent, Monroe County Sheriff Richard Roth said.

Still, the 39-year Sheriff's Office veteran said he thinks the investigation is on the right track.

"My gut feeling is that we will close Perisho when all this is said and done," he said.

In Miami-Dade County, authorities are taking another look at the 1995 killing of Darlene Toler, 35, a prostitute and mother of three whose body was found stuffed into a plastic bag along a road on the west side of the county.

Toler's body was discovered the day after Thanksgiving. The heart and head were missing, and neither has been found. Toler had been last seen the night before in the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana.

 
 

2 slayings spur look at grisly case files

Similarities found to unsolved crimes

By Gary Taylor - The Orlando Sentinel

September 24, 2004

Investigators are re-examining at least two brutal slayings in South Florida to see if the killer of two women in Seminole County may have been involved.

There are several similarities in the crimes, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger confirmed Thursday, though he would not provide any details. "The M.O. [modus operandi] and type of behavior at this scene was very similar to those in Monroe and Dade," Eslinger said.

Carl "Charlie" Brandt, 47, stabbed to death his wife and her niece and then took his own life last week after evacuating the Florida Keys ahead of an approaching Hurricane Ivan. The Sheriff's Office has said little about the murder-suicide, except that the crime scene was "extensive."

On Wednesday, authorities confirmed that Brandt also had shot his mother to death and seriously injured his father more than 33 years ago, when he was 13.

Now, authorities are looking at Brandt as a possible suspect in the 1989 murder of a former beauty queen not far from his home in Big Pine Key, as well as the 1995 slaying of a prostitute in Miami.

In both of those cases, the victim's heart was cut out after she was killed, authorities in the two counties said. Eslinger would not say whether that was the case in the Seminole killings.

In the 1989 slaying, someone slit 39-year-old Sherry Perisho's throat, cut open her chest and removed her heart, which was never found, Monroe County Deputy Becky Herrin said. Perisho's body was hooked by a fisherman in the area of the Pine Channel Bridge, the "same general area" where Brandt lived, Herrin said.

The slaying was one of three still-unsolved killings during a one-year period in the Big Pine Key area, authorities said.

The heart also was missing from the body of 20-year-old Lisa Saunders, who was beaten and stabbed in December 1988 and then apparently dragged behind a vehicle. While there is no doubt that Perisho's heart was cut from her body, investigators think animals -- possibly vultures -- removed Saunders' heart, Herrin said.

The other unsolved killing was of a 4-year-old girl, who also was raped.

"We're looking at any unsolved murders we may have here," Herrin said.

In Miami-Dade County, authorities are taking a fresh look at the 1995 killing of Darlene Toler, a 35-year-old prostitute and mother of three whose body was found stuffed into a plastic bag along a road on the west side of the county.

Toler's body was missing its head and heart when it was discovered the day after Thanksgiving. Neither was ever found. She was last seen the night before in Little Havana.

Sgt. Dennis Morales, spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department, confirmed that Seminole County deputies had talked to detectives with his agency about the Toler homicide. However, he would not release any details.

He described Toler's slaying as "a cold case" that had not yet been solved.

Seminole County investigators won't stop with South Florida as they examine Brandt's past, Eslinger said. They are working with friends and family members to prepare a timeline of his life, looking not only at where he lived but where he vacationed and where his job as a radar technician for Lockheed Martin Corp. may have taken him.

Some of his work carried him to Melbourne, but a spokeswoman for the Brevard County Sheriff's Office said she was not aware of any unsolved killings that might be tied to Brandt.

Law-enforcement agencies across the nation have been sent details of the Seminole County killings and asked to compare them with all unsolved murders, Eslinger said.

Investigators probing last week's stabbing deaths of Brandt's wife Teresa, 46, and her niece Michelle Lynn Jones, 37, as well as Brandt's suicide by hanging, are being helped by an FBI-trained profiler from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to try to figure out why he did it, Eslinger said.

Jones, an advertising executive with The Golf Channel in Orlando, opened her home to the Brandts after they evacuated the Keys as Hurricane Ivan threatened.

They arrived Sept. 11, visited Brandt's father in Ormond Beach and told friends they planned to return home Sept. 13.

Two days later, a friend and neighbor went to Jones' home after she did not show up for a dinner engagement. They saw the silhouette of what turned out to be Brandt's body hanging in the garage. Deputies were called, and they found Jones and Teresa Brandt dead inside the house.

Friends and neighbors of the Brandts were shocked by the slayings and by the following revelation that that a 13-year-old Carl Brandt had gone on a shooting rampage in 1971, killing his pregnant mother, Ilse, and seriously injuring his father, Herbert. Carl Brandt spent a year in a state mental-health facility before being returned to his father.

Within two years after he was shot, Herbert Brandt was remarried in Volusia County, where he still lives. He could not be reached for comment. Family members have declined to talk to reporters.

 
 

Killer's secret shocks friends

As a boy, the culprit in a Seminole County murder-suicide killed his pregnant mother.

By Gary Taylor, Sandra Pedicini and Robert Perez - Orlando Sentinel

September 23, 2004

The home page summary of this story on Thursday morning incorrectly stated who had died in the incident in 1971. Brandt killed his mother. His father was wounded, but recovered.

A man who stabbed his wife and niece to death before hanging himself last week in Seminole County had, as a teenager, killed his pregnant mother and shot his father more than 30 years ago, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

Carl "Charlie" Brandt, 47, was found Sept. 15 hanging in the garage of his niece's home near Altamonte Springs. The bodies of his wife Teresa and niece Michelle Lynn Jones were discovered inside the house. The Brandts had sought refuge with her when Hurricane Ivan threatened their home in the Keys.

The murder-suicide stunned friends of the Brandts', who described the couple as loving. Revelations that he had killed before left them in shock Wednesday. Even Teresa Brandt's family knew nothing about his deadly past, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said.

It's unknown whether Teresa Brandt, 46, or Jones, 37, knew about his earlier rampage.

Both families refused to comment. Carl Brandt's family issued a statement through the Sheriff's Office saying, "Like everyone, we struggle to understand why."

Brandt was 13 when, on Jan. 3, 1971, he killed his mother, Ilse, by shooting her four times as she bathed at home in Fort Wayne, Ind. He also tried to kill his father, Herbert, who was hit by three bullets but survived after escaping to a bedroom and locking himself inside, according to newspaper reports.

A grand jury did not indict Brandt because of his age, but it recommended that the teen get psychiatric treatment, stating that "it is possible that such antisocial conduct could repeat itself in the future." Brandt spent a year in a state mental-health facility.

Dr. Robert F. Green was one of the two court-appointed psychiatrists to examine Brandt in 1971. Reached at his south Indiana home Wednesday, Green, 80, said he remembers him "completely," but "it would not be right" to comment.

For the past 20 years, Brandt and his wife had lived in Florida. He was a radar technician with Lockheed Martin Corp., working on Fat Albert, a landmark-surveillance blimp stationed at Cudjoe Key.

Michelle Jones, an advertising executive with The Golf Channel in Orlando, had opened her home at 390 Hickory Lane to her aunt and uncle about two weeks ago.

According to friends, the Brandts arrived Sept. 11 and visited his father in Ormond Beach the next day. They said they planned to return home to Big Pine Key on Sept. 13.

Brandt's father could not be reached for comment.

Jones spoke with a friend about noon that day. They were supposed to get together for dinner two days later. When Jones failed to show up, the friend went to her home and she and a neighbor saw the silhouette of a body in the garage. That's where investigators found Carl Brandt.

After autopsies determined the women had been stabbed to death, Seminole County sheriff's investigators ruled that Carl Brandt killed them and then hanged himself.

Melanie Fecher, who described Teresa Brandt as her best friend, said she was shocked by news of the 1971 slaying. If Teresa Brandt knew about it, she never confided in her, Fecher said.

Hans Kemmler of Melbourne, who worked with Carl Brandt at Lockheed Martin, said nothing in his behavior hinted of past problems.

"We didn't ever notice anything that would suggest he was having problems," Kemmler said. "No depression. No withdrawal."

A neighbor of the Brandts', Alice Francis, was in disbelief.

"I've never heard anything like that. I really can't believe that," said Francis, whose husband used to fish and dive with Brandt. All Brandt ever said about his mother, she said, was "that she had passed away when he was young."

Local news accounts at the time reported that Carl Brandt told authorities he "just felt the urge and something must have snapped."

From the start, prosecutors felt making a case against someone so young would be difficult. Indiana state law presumed children younger than 14 are not capable of understanding the consequences of their actions.

Prosecutors in Allen County, Ind., on Wednesday would disclose little about the case, because Brandt was a juvenile at the time.

But Eleanore Kriz remembers that night in 1971. Like last week's killings in Seminole County, there had been no indication of trouble before the shootings in Fort Wayne. "They were decent people," she said. "It's not like they were weird or anything."

Herbert Brandt had been sitting on a stool in the bathroom, reading Shakespeare to his wife, when Carl Brandt went up and shot them both, recalled Kriz, who lived across the street. Carl Brandt's sister, Angela, fled to Kriz's home after the shooting, she said.

"She flew in the door. She almost fell in," said Kriz, now 77 and living in the same house. "And she told me what her brother had done. . . . She said, 'My brother shot my mother.' . . . She ran to get out of the house because she thought he'd kill her. . . . She was unglued."

Kriz said police asked her and a neighbor to go into the Brandts' house and pick up two younger daughters who had slept through the shooting. Authorities wanted the children removed so they could conduct their investigation.

Kriz described Carl Brandt as "a very quiet boy" whom she often saw taking care of his younger sisters. "He used to baby-sit constantly with those two younger daughters," said Kriz, recalling how he would ride them around on his bike, "just doing what he was supposed to do."

Kriz didn't talk to Brandt's father, but heard that he was at first reluctant to take the boy back after his release from a state hospital in Indianapolis. When Carl Brandt returned home, she said, he was confined to the house and "kept away from view."

About a year after the incident, she said, Brandt's father remarried. The family moved out of town shortly thereafter.

 
 

Friends baffled by 3 deaths

They say they find it hard to believe that authorities describe what happened as a possible murder-suicide.

By Robert Perez and Sandra Pedicini - The Orlando Sentinel

September 17, 2004

Friends of three family members found dead Wednesday evening said they are baffled that investigators are describing the deaths as a possible murder-suicide.

The bodies of Carl "Charlie" Brandt, 47, his wife, Teresa Helfrich Brandt, 46, and their niece, Michelle Lynn Jones, 37, were discovered inside Jones' home at 390 Hickory Drive, in southern Seminole County.

Friends on Thursday described the Brandts as a gentle, loving couple who still held hands after 19 years of marriage. Jones was a dedicated, generous and compassionate woman, said Debbie Knight, one of her closest friends.

Jones, who was sales manager for infomercials and direct sales at The Golf Channel network in Orlando, opened her home to the Brandts when they fled Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys because of Hurricane Ivan.

While the cause of death has not been released, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger quickly doused speculation that the killer was not among the dead.

"As our investigation continues, we have not developed any additional suspects or any outside parties," he said.

Jones was ambitious and "embraced life with a passion," said Knight, who graduated with Jones from Lake Brantley High School in 1984. Jones later graduated from the University of Florida.

"This is an incomprehensible tragedy, and she will be missed by all of her friends and family," said Knight, who spoke with Jones about noon Monday. "She gave more than she was given; she loved more than she was loved; and sadly these virtues are ultimately what ended her life."

Jones' mother, Mary Jones of Durham, N.C., would not comment. But some of those closest to the Brandts said they could not imagine either of them taking a life.

"Charlie [Carl Brandt] had trouble killing a fish," said Fred Troxel, a Big Pine Key dentist and longtime friend.

Knight went to the home Wednesday evening and saw a silhouette of a body in the garage. That's where investigators found Carl Brandt's body. The women's bodies were inside the house.

Seminole County sheriff's spokesman Steve Olson would not confirm reports that Brandt was found hanging.

"That's what some people in the neighborhood are saying, but we are not prepared at this time to comment on how the bodies were found," he said.

The Brandts had arrived at Jones' home on Saturday, said Melanie Fecher, a close friend of Teresa Brandt's. On Sunday, the couple went to Daytona Beach to visit Carl Brandt's father.

Fecher said she last spoke with Teresa Brandt on Sunday, as the couple drove back from Daytona Beach. They planned to leave the following day to return to the Keys, she said. Friends in Big Pine Key began trying to track them down when they failed to show up for work Tuesday morning.

The couple, who had a 15-year-old cat, lived in a canal-front home on Big Pine Key, a community of about 5,000 people. Their loving relationship was something to envy, Fecher said.

Others agreed.

"He not only loved that woman, he worshipped her," said Alice Francis, who lived across the street from the Brandts.

"Anything she wanted done, it was done," said Francis' husband, Nelson.

The Francises said they never knew the Brandts to have problems. They said the couple visited Jones once or twice a year.

Fecher also recalled visits to the Keys by Jones.

"She was a great kid," she said, adding that Teresa Brandt often mentioned her niece in conversation.

"We spoke every day," said Fecher, who recently moved to Bradenton from Big Pine Key. "They were a very close family. This is just a nightmare. I can't believe what they're saying happened. I'd bet my life that it wasn't Charlie."

People "find it hard to believe they would be involved in anything like this," said Bill Becker, news director at a radio station on Big Pine Key. "They're a fairly well-liked couple, have been around here a long time. Everybody's just in shock."

Monroe County sheriff's officials said there had not been any recent calls for service to either of the couple's homes, one on Big Pine Key and another on Summerland Key.

Forensic investigators are expected to return to Jones' house today, which would have been her 38th birthday.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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