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Charlie Brandt

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Template:Infobox serial killer Carl "Charlie" Brandt (February 23, 1957 – September 13, 2004) was an American serial killer. A former resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana and longtime resident of the Florida Keys, Brandt shot his parents on January 3, 1971 when he was 13, killing his pregnant mother. His father survived. He spent one year at a psychiatric hospital before being released, and was never criminally charged. Then 33 years later on September 13, 2004, Brandt stabbed his wife and niece to death and then hanged himself in his niece's garage. This incident, Brandt's efficiency in killing his wife and niece, and his hidden obsession with human anatomy led investigators to look into the possibility that he had committed other murders since moving to Florida in 1973. The police have linked at least two homicides to Brandt.

Early life[edit source | edit]

Charlie Brandt was the second child of Herbert and Ilse Brandt, two German immigrants who originally settled in Texas before moving to Connecticut. Brandt's father worked as a laborer for a division of International Harvester, eventually working his way up to draftsman and project engineer. The family moved frequently and as a result Brandt and his older sister Angela attended several different schools.[1]

Brandt was regarded as a good student, but was shy and had difficulty adjusting to new surroundings. In September 1968, Herbert was transferred to International Harvester's plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The family frequently vacationed in Florida, where Brandt hunted small game with his father.[1]

1971 murders[edit source | edit]

On the evening of January 3, 1971, after their family had turned in for the night, Herbert Brandt was shaving in the parents' bathroom while Ilse, eight months pregnant, was taking a bath. Brandt, then aged 13, walked into the bathroom and shot both parents at point blank range with his father's handgun (which he stole from a dresser). His father survived, but his mother and the unborn child were killed instantly. Brandt then entered his sister Angela's room and attempted to shoot her, but his gun wouldn't fire.[2]

After a physical struggle, Angela managed to calm her brother down by promising him that she would help him figure out what to do. Angela eventually convinced Brandt to go upstairs to retrieve blankets for their infant sisters, who were unharmed, before bolting from the house and seeking help from neighbors. After pursuing his terrified sister outside, Brandt knocked on a neighbor's door, telling her, "I just shot my mom and dad." Herbert later identified his son as his attacker.[3]

After the shooting, Brandt told Angela that he couldn't remember what he had done. Angela described her brother as being in a trance-like state, which broke during their struggle. Upon being interviewed by the police, Brandt attributed the shooting to "a combination of things" related to school, stating that, "Everything sort of snapped in my mind. I felt like I never felt before." Brandt also alluded to an incident that took place a few days before the shooting, near the end of his family's annual Christmas vacation in Florida, in which Herbert shot and killed their dog while the two were hunting.

Three separate psychiatric evaluations failed to determine what triggered the shooting. One of Brandt's psychiatrists, Ronald Pancner, later recounted, "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."

Because he was too young to be tried for murder under Indiana law, Brandt spent one year at a psychiatric hospital before being released back into the custody of his family in June 1972.[4] The family never spoke of the incident again. Until 2004, Brandt's two younger sisters lived under the impression that their mother had been killed in a car accident.

Relocation to Florida[edit source | edit]

Shortly after Brandt's release, his family relocated to Ormond Beach, Florida. One year later, Brandt's father (who had remarried) and younger sisters moved back to Indiana, while Brandt and Angela stayed behind in the care of their grandparents. In 1984, Brandt received a degree in electronics and became a radar specialist for Ford Aerospace in Astor.

In 1986, he married his girlfriend Theresa "Teri" Helfrich. No relatives were invited to their wedding. His sister Angela and her husband Jim had advised Brandt to tell Teri about the murder of his mother, but it is unclear whether or not he ever did. The couple settled in a beach house on Big Pine Key, the southernmost portion of the Florida Keys, in 1989.

2004 murders[edit source | edit]

On September 2, 2004, Brandt and Teri evacuated from their home ahead of Hurricane Ivan. Their niece, Michelle Lynn Jones, invited them to stay at her residence near Orlando. Throughout the visit, Jones kept in regular contact with her mother, Mary Lou, as well as several friends. On the evening of September 13, one of Jones' friends, Lisa Emmons, was scheduled to visit her house. However, Jones discouraged her from coming, saying that the Brandts had had an argument after drinking.[5] After that night, Jones stopped answering telephone calls, which alarmed her acquaintances.[6][third-party source needed]

On September 15, another one of Jones' friends, Debbie Knight, went to her house to check on her while on the phone with Jones' mother. After finding the front door locked, Knight tried to enter the house through the garage, where she found Brandt's decomposing body hanging from the rafters. He had hanged himself using bedsheets.[7] Knight contacted the police, who entered the house and found the bodies of Brandt's wife and niece. Teri had been stabbed seven times in the chest while lying on a couch. Jones had been decapitated and disemboweled, with her heart and organs removed. Jones' head was also placed next to her body.[8] The weapons used in the crimes had been knives from Jones' kitchen.

Investigation[edit source | edit]

A search of Brandt's residence on Big Pine Key revealed that he was a monthly subscriber to Victoria's Secret catalogs, had an extensive collection of surgery-themed books, posters, and clippings, and regularly searched online for autopsy photos and snuff film websites depicting violence against women.

Because Brandt's murder of Jones indicated past experience, and because he traveled often due to his job, police checked cold cases in Florida that matched his apparent modus operandi. They also launched requests for similar inquiries in the United States and abroad. Ultimately, the search linked Brandt to twenty-six unsolved murders in Florida dating back to 1973. Among those were:

  • 1978, Carol Sullivan, 12. Sullivan was abducted from a school bus stop in Volusia County on September 20, 1978. Her skull was found in a bucket, leading authorities to presume she was murdered and decapitated. Brandt was 20 years old and lived in Volusia County at the time, but could not be tied to the crime in any other way.
  • 1988, Lisa Saunders, 20. Saunders was beaten, stabbed, and dragged from her car in Big Pine Key in December 1988. Her heart was missing when she was found, but it is unclear if it was extracted by an attacker or eaten by vultures.
  • 1989, Sherry Perisho, 38. Perisho's partially-clothed body was found on July 16, 1989, near the North Pine Channel Bridge at Big Pine Key, where Perisho, who was homeless, lived on a dinghy. Her throat had been slashed and her head had been nearly severed; like Jones, her body was extensively mutilated and her heart was removed. Perisho was found less than 1,000 feet from where Brandt lived, and Brandt matched a composite sketch of a man seen crossing U.S. Route 1 near where Perisho was discovered on the night she was murdered. Based on this evidence, Monroe County investigators determined that Brandt killed Perisho and officially closed the case on May 6, 2006. Teri further confided in her brother-in-law that she suspected Brandt in the Perisho killing.[9]
  • 1995, Darlene Toler, 38. Toler was a sex worker from Miami whose body, missing her head and heart, was wrapped in plastic and discovered near a highway. Brandt used the same highway regularly and he kept a mileage record of his travels, which shows an entry for 100 miles – the driving distance between Big Pine Key and Miami – on the day of her murder.

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Shawgo, Ron (29 January 2006). "The Darkness in Charlie". Journal Gazette. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  2. Deadly Obsession Page 3, CBS News, 25 May 2006
  3. Deadly Obsession Page 3, CBS News, 25 May 2006
  4. Deadly Obsession Page 4, CBS News, 25 May 2006
  5. Deadly Obsession Page 2, CBS News, 25 May 2006
  6. History Archived 2013-10-21 at the Wayback Machine, Michelle Lynn Jones Foundation. Retrieved 2 June 2013
  7. DeLong, William (June 19, 2018). "Charlie Brandt Killed His Mom At 13 — Then Walked Free To Butcher His Wife As An Adult". All That is Interesting.
  8. 7 News Investigations: Killer Connection Archived January 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, WSVN-TV, 15 May 2006.
  9. Taylor, Gary (May 6, 2006). "Killer tied to '89 death -- wife suspected him all along". The Orlando Sentinel.