Carl "Charlie" Brandt

My research on this case is far from over as I start this but this has been an unusual case for me for many reasons.  Not only is it one of those cases that has a lot of twists and turns but it is also one that seemingly has tried to make an investigator out of me.  I am not talking the type of investigator where I am trying to do what other investigators are doing, trying to see if Charlie Brandt can be tied to more murders, but the type of investigator that digs a little deeper when something does not sound right.  Does this mean that I am becoming an investigative journalist in some way?  Lord knows I need an editor some days, that's for sure!  :)

On January 3, 1971, 13 year old Carl Brandt who everyone called Charlie was apparently sitting down in his room doing his homework at his home in Fort Wayne Indiana.  His older sister, Angela was in her room.  His two younger sisters were already in bed for the night.  Charlies parents, Herbert and Ilse (who was 8 months pregnant) were both in the bathroom.  Herbert was standing at the sink shaving while Ilse was soaking in the tub.  At some point Charlie came out of his room and retrieved a gun that his father kept in his bedroom and went to the bathroom where his parents were.  He proceeded to shoot his father in the back.  As Herbert crumbled to the floor Charlie turned the gun towards his mother.  As she screamed in fear Charlie proceeded to empty the gun into her body.  He then left the room and went to Angela's room.  She had heard her mother screaming, even heard her yell to call 911 but before Angela could get out Charlie was in front of her aiming the gun at her.  In the midst of it all it seems neither Charlie or Angela realized the bullets were gone so when it did not go off as he pulled the trigger Charlie decided his only recourse was to attempt to beat Angela with the gun.  Amid her struggle with her brother Angela proceeded to attempt to calm him down.  She would say years later that when he entered her room he had a very strange look in his eye but that as she talked to him they seemed to return to normal and he too began to seem fine.  Angela was able to get away and run to a neighbors house.  She pounded on a door and when an answer was not coming fast enough she moved on to another house.  In the mean time by the time the neighbor did get to the door it was opened to Charlie who was standing there and told the neighbor he had just shot his parents.

Police officers arrived at the home and found Ilse dead in the tub. Herbert was seemingly clinging to life but was at least alive.  Charlie was taken into custody. Upon waking up in the hospital Herbert confirmed Angela's story as to the events. Charlie was escorted into his father's hospital room where he apologized to his father and his father seemed to accept his apology.  

Here is where things get sketchy for me. Charlie of course was evaluated and it seems that all of the doctors were stunned and confused.  Charlie had never shown any signs of a temper or behavior issues and even after the shooting had no real reason as to why he did what he did.  Friends and relatives would all say that they never would have expected this from him, especially against his mother because he was what many called a "Mama's Boy."  Doctors would say they could not find any sort of mental disorder with him that they could pinpoint or diagnose, yet they still felt his behavior to be odd surrounding the shooting. In all the research I did on this case I repeatedly found references that stated that Charlie was not charged with anything criminally because the state of Indiana did not have laws which provided for this for someone of his age.  I found this to be extremely odd, not to mention untrue.  

In 1965 in Indianapolis Indiana 16 year old Sylvia Likens was tortured and murdered not only by the woman her parents had left her to board with but also by the woman's children, as well as neighborhood children.  John Baniszewski (later changed to Blake) Jr. was 12 years old when he committed his crimes against Sylvia.  He was the youngest person ever sent to prison in Indiana at the time but he served two years.  The Likens case was huge in Indiana and had occurred six years before Charlie Brandt murdered his mother.  Of course in those six years laws could have changed but I would find it extremely odd that they would have become more lenient in the years since the Likens case.  In fact, it was not like the Likens case was even out of the news in 1971. John's mother, Gertrude and sister Paula were both granted new trials that year.  So in 1965 a 12 year old was criminally charged and sent to prison for two years and yet we're to believe that 6 years later when a 13 year old deliberately shoots both of his parents, killing one, there is nothing that can be done criminally in Indiana?  I believe there was way more to this story, but that will likely never be discovered because the Brandt family has refused to allow the state to release Charlie's juvenile record... but more on that later.

So, supposedly since he could not be criminally charged and even though doctors supposedly could find nothing wrong with him Charlie was sent to a mental facility in Indianapolis.  Now, again the records are sealed and so I am speculating on this but, I am going to assume that he was sent there since they say they could not send him to jail.  I cannot much see a family member taking him in knowing what he did, even if there was one available since I do not know where the other children went. Nor do I see people working within the foster care system willing to take in a kid who had shot both of his parents.  His father had apparently forgiven him but he was in the hospital for quite some time recovering from his wounds and so he could not care for him.  A mental facility was probably the only place he could go.  Charlie spent about a year at the facility but by all accounts it sounds as if his father tried to get him home even sooner.  No one knows if Charlie received any kind of care or therapy at the facility.  What they do know is that in 1972 Charlie was released and pretty quickly Herbert, Charlie and his three siblings packed up, leaving Indiana for Florida and the shooting was never ever discussed again.  In fact it was not until 2004 it seems that the two youngest siblings, who had been too young to remember things in 1971 learned that their brother had killed their mother. They had spent their lives believing she was killed in an automobile crash.  

Apparently in Florida things continued on in life as they would in any other normal family... or so it would appear. Charlie grew up, became an electronic technician and in 1986 he married a woman named Theresa, known by everyone as Teri.  Charlie and Teri lived in the Florida Keys and everything seemed to be fine.  They appeared to be a perfect fit for each other and everyone in her family seemed to like Charlie.  A few said there were a few strange things but they just thought it made Charlie a bit "eccentric." Then came September of 2004.

Hurricane Ivan was headed straight for the Florida Keys and it had been decided that the area needed to be evacuated.  Teri had a niece, Michelle Jones that lived in Orlando.  Michelle was an television executive and worked at The Golf Channel. Michelle invited Charlie and Teri to come to her house to wait out the storm and they accepted.  Michelle was very close with her family and talked to her mother, Mary Lou (Teri's sister), nearly every day.  On Wednesday September 15th, after trying to reach her daughter since that Monday Mary Lou and her husband, Bill were very worried.  Finally they called Michelle's friend, Debbie Knight and asked her to check on Michelle.  Debbie had a key to the house and she was a bit worried herself since she knew Michelle and Mary Lou's relationship. Debbie still had Mary Lou on the phone as she drove up to the house. She later said she just felt something was not right when she got there. Presumably she attempted to knock on the door when she got to the house but then pulled out her key to the house. For whatever reason, she could not get it to work, which was odd.  Some say it was divine intervention that prevented her from going in since later when officers arrived the key seemed to work.  So since she could not get the key to work Debbie decided to walk over to the garage that had several windows in it and look in.  To her horror she saw Charlie Brandt hanging from the rafters!  She immediately called the police.

Officers arrived and began in the obvious spot, the garage.  They quickly determined that Charlie's death was likely a suicide.  There was a bed sheet around his neck and a ladder on the ground by his feet.  Investigators moved on to the house.  Inside in the living room, on the couch, they found the body of Teri Brandt.  She had been stabbed several times in the chest.  This did not prepare them for the horror they were to find in Michelle's room.  This is where they found her.... she had been decapitated (among other things it seems) and there was a gaping hole in her chest and her heart had been removed! Looking around more and knowing they were pretty certain that Charlie's death was a suicide and finding no signs of forced entry or a struggle they could only conclude that Charlie had killed his wife and her niece and had then killed himself.  There was no note left.

Just because they knew what happened does not mean they did not need or want more information.  They may have actually closed the case however if just before a press conference was to be made Angela Brandt ha not given them information that shed light on a whole different Charlie than everyone knew. It was then that Angela took investigators aside and told them about the death of her mother.  Investigators did not know; Michelle's parents did not know; most friends and family did not know... the one point of contention over the years is whether Teri knew.  Some say absolutely while some say there is no way.  But before they would get that far, investigators wanted to look at the Brandt home in the Florida Keys and see if there was any signs of things gone awry there. Even without hearing from Angela about Charlie's teenage past investigators were struggling a bit.  Most officials involved in the case did not believe that the mutilation of Michelle's body was the first time Charlie had done it.  There seemed to be too much precision there.  They needed to look into some unsolved cases too.

Now, I do not claim to know a whole lot about what it takes to prepare your home for a hurricane since I have never lived in the region but according to reports immediate when officers arrived at the Brandt home they were struck at just how the boards had fit across windows and doors.  One officer reported that it seemed as if each board was meticulously cut to fit as if it was a custom design.  It was something he had never seen before.  Once inside several things had jumped out at them.  The strangest thing they found was on the back of Charlie and Teri's bedroom door.  It was a poster of the female anatomy, you know, like the kind you see in a doctors office.  There were also several medical and anatomy books which was strange since neither Charlie or Teri were in the medical field. But, what was even odder was that there appeared to be sections marked and those sections just so happened to have been things done to Michelle's body.  Also during the search they found a stack of Victoria Secret magazines addressed to Charlie.  That may not have been so striking except that he had nicknamed Michelle Victoria Secret and never seemed to call her anything else.  That was one of those strange things the family saw but thought little of.  Then investigators checked the computer in the home.  They found searches for sites about death fantasies, necrophilia and violence against women.  Investigators probably thought they would hit pay dirt when they found Teri's journal.  Surely she could give them some insight into Charlie's life. They were sorely disappointed.  The journal was full of mundane things and just short sentences.  There was a day or two that had said "weird day" but that was all.  There was no sort of elaborations in the entries.  About the only new thing the investigators felt they discovered in the search was that Charlie was obsessed with Michelle.  The rest of the stuff was just interesting stuff they needed to look further into.

Eventually investigators found their way to a man by the name of Jim Graves. Not only had he been the best man at Charlie and Teri's wedding, he had also once been married to Charlie's sister, Angela.  Jim knew about Charlie's past in Indiana because Angela had told him when they were married.  Jim had remained friends with Charlie after his divorce from Angela and in fact it was a girlfriend of his that was friends with Teri and they introduced her to Charlie. Jim believed that Charlie was fine now but he insists he told Charlie before they married that he should inform Teri to which Charlie told him that he had.  Jim said he further believed that Teri knew of Charlie's past because not long after their marriage he asked them when they were planning to have children and it was Teri that commented that all things considering they did not feel it was a good idea.  But, Jim's biggest claim was that in July of 1989 Teri had told him she all but suspected Charlie had been involved in the murder of a woman not very far from their home (some reports say a few blocks, others say a mere 1,000 feet).  The person Teri was referring to was Sherry Perisho.  

By the time investigators talked to Jim Graves they had already begun to comb over some unsolved cases and had seen the case of Sherry Perisho.  They were looking hard at her case not only because of the proximity to the Brandt home but also the condition of her body.  She too was either almost or fully decapitated (reports vary) and her heart had been removed... just like Michelle Jones.  Someone later (after 2004) identified a person they had seen running from the area as similar to Charlie.  But it was statements Jim Graves gave investigators that helped close the case and officially determine that Charlie was responsible for the death of Sherry.  According to Graves Teri had told him that on the night Sherry Perisho was murdered she had found Charlie downstairs with blood all over him.  She told Graves when she asked Charlie what happened he claimed he had been filleting fish.  Graves said he was not sure if he felt Teri believed that or not, especially since she was telling him.  Graves claims that he then confronted Charlie about it saying that apparently his own wife thought he had murdered a woman.  He claimed that Charlie denied being involved.

Of all of the cases that investigators, apparently around the country, as Charlie seemed to travel quite a bit, looked at it seems that there was really only one more that they are pretty certain (although not enough to close the case it seems) Charlie was responsible for.  In 1995 a woman's body was found on the side of a Miami highway.  Darlene Toler too had been decapitated and her heart removed (the thing investigators seemed to look at the most to tie Charlie in).  Her body was wrapped in a blanket and then wrapped in plastic and tied up like a package.  Aside from the condition of the body there were also dog hairs on the blanket.  Investigators say dog hair was also found in the back of Charlie's truck but test has never officially been done on them it seems.  They also claim that along with all the other meticulous things Charlie did he kept mileage records for years every time he filled up his truck and that it seems to fit the time period.

The biggest contention in this story seemed to be the secrecy surrounding Charlie's early crime against his parents.  Again, while Jim Graves contends that he does believe that Teri did know of Charlie's past, her family fails to believe this. If you believe Jim Graves then there seems to be no way she did not know. Then you add all the things in the search that was found out in the open and one has to wonder, just how much did Teri know or at least suspect. Investigators have attempted to get the sealed records from Indiana to see if there was ever any treatment given or even an idea of what drove Charlie but my research indicates that to do so they need the Brandt family permission and the last I saw Herbert Brandt was still alive and refused to allow it.  Michelle Jones' family holds a lot of anger towards the Brandt family for not only concealing the crime but refusing to allow it to be examined even today. Considering the secrecy that it seems at least Herbert held about the crime there is a part of me that understands some of their anger, and yet they also seem to blame them for Teri and Michelle's death which I do think is unfair.  

It seems that Herbert Brandt took to heart the way things were done mainly in the generation before him but had lingering effects into the next generation in my opinion.  Things were kept secret and private.  Many things that were kept secret were not bad things, at least not by today's standards and just the fact they were kept secret for decades often became worse than the secret itself. However, in this case it does not seem as if it was just simply kept secret. Angela has been quoted as saying that even within the household it was as if "it never happened."  As I stated earlier it was said that until the 2004 incident Charlie's two younger siblings believed their mother had died in a car accident. Even through the Internet it seems a bit odd.  It took a bit of extensive work to determine what Charlie's mother's name actually was.  I was finally able to find it but again, it took a bit of time and then connecting of dots to do so.  But Herbert apparently advocated Charlie's release from the mental institution and welcomed his son back with open arms. Did he do everyone an injustice or did he truly believe his son was fine?  No one will truly know because Herbert still apparently does not discuss it.  

This case had made me think of the Bart Whitaker case. Bart too had shot both his parents (and a sibling) and his father survived.  Unlike Charlie, Bart was of age to be criminally charged as well as the fact that the era in which it occurred there was little in the way of being able to hide it as well as the Brandt's did. But, Bart's father has forgiven him and I have no doubt would do as Herbert Brandt did even today in the modern age....brought him back into the fold of his family and move on as if nothing happened.  Who are we really doing favors for when we protect children in this manner?

Comments

  1. Hi Susan,

    Good work! I noticed right away that you named his mother.
    I could be wrong but I thought that the investigators were finally able to see his medical records, but that the records were not made public. At the end of the 48 Hours episode there was an update that said the information in the medical records helped investigators understand the motive for the 1971 shootings.

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  2. Hi Susan,

    Lots of good investigating you've done. As the above commenter mentions, it does appear the police investigator was finally able to see the medical records & his comment was, it helped them understand the motive for 1971 shootings. That means there *was* some sort of motive in Charlie's world. The later killings seemed to be driven by fantasies relating to sexuality, but I am sorry...I do not believe all was well in that household & the kid just up & shot both his parents. True, there are psychoses...and some who just suffer mental illness & do things that have nothing to do with their treatment as a child. But, there was no discernible mental illness found in Charlie by court evaluators. I think the father's cover up of the crime may very well be due to a need to cover up something else going on in that home. I would really like to know what triggered that first killing.

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    Replies
    1. Just wondering what happened to the unborn child. Did it survive?

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    2. Does anyone know his birthdate. Doing research on the astrological chart of victims and their murderers.

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