Due to the graphic nature of this killer's crimes, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussions of murder suicide and assault that some people may find offensive. We advise extreme caution for children under 13.
It was a calm end of summer day in Orlando, Florida, several hundred miles south. Hurricane Ivan was battering Florida's southern coast, but in Orlando, it was cloudy and warm.
The outside of the house on 390 Hickory Drive was quiet and peaceful. The pool and Jacuzzi in the backyard were still the barbecue was still warm. And the smell of grilled fish from lunch that afternoon lingered in the air.
Inside the house, 47 year old Charlie Brandt finished taking a shower. He stepped out onto the mat and dried himself off, gave himself a quick shave and made sure his hair was presentable.
Then he dressed in a clean white polo shirt and blue shorts. He walked into a linen closet in the hallway and rooted around to find a bed sheet.
He took one last look inside the bedroom to admire his handiwork for a moment before heading into the garage.
Charlie found a metal stepladder, placed it in the center of the garage and climbed to the top. He threw the bed sheet over one of the rafters and tied it into a noose. Then he slipped his head through, made sure it was tied tightly and kicked away the ladder.
Hi, I'm Greg Polson. This is Serial Killers, a podcast original.
Every episode we dive into the minds and madness of serial killers. Today, we're concluding the puzzling story of the life and murders of Carl Charlie Brant. I'm here with my co-host, Vanessa Richardson. Hi, everyone.
You can find episodes of Serial Killers and all other podcast originals for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to stream serial killers for free on Spotify.
Just open the app and type serial killers in the search bar.
Last time we covered Charlie's childhood and his first crime, killing his own mother, along with the attempted murder of his father and sister when he was just 13 years old. We then heard how Charlie lived a seemingly normal life for the next 30 years.
Today, we'll learn about Charlie's shocking murders as an adult, how the authorities reacted to his gruesome crimes and what dark secrets came to light when the dust settled. We've got all that coming up.
Terri Brandt was terrified, she was worried that her husband, 33 year old Charlie Brandt, wasn't the mild mannered radar technician she thought she'd married, she was scared that he was a killer in the summer of 1989. Terry reached out to Charlie's good friend, Jim Graves. She told him that she suspected Charlie of murdering a woman whose body was found about a thousand feet from their home. Terry found Charlie coming home late that night, covered in blood without a good explanation.
They lived in the Florida Keys and Charlie liked to go fishing often, so it was possible the blood was from cleaning his catch. But there was so much blood and no fish. Nervous and scared, Terry asked Jim for his help.
Jim took the concerns seriously because he knew a deep secret about Charlie Brandt. Something it's possible even Terry didn't know. Jim knew that Charlie Brant had murdered before.
It's unclear whether Charlie ever told Terry that he'd murdered his mother when he was 13, whether his wife knew the truth or not. There were still signs that the darkness and Charlie hadn't gone away after hearing Terry's concerns.
Jim confronted his friend, but Charlie denied having anything to do with the murder. And ultimately, Jim believed him despite knowing about the 1971 murder. Jim never saw anything that made him suspect. Charlie was capable of more violence. So Jim forgot about Terry suspicions, and seemingly so did she. She remained happily married to Charlie for the next 15 years. Then in the summer of 2004, the weather changed. It had already been nicknamed the summer of hurricanes in Florida.
By the time a third consecutive storm, Hurricane Ivan, emerged from the Atlantic Ocean in September, Ivan had caused over 60 deaths in the Caribbean and was now threatening the Florida coast on September 10th.
Residents of the Florida Keys were ordered to evacuate the area when he first heard the evacuation order.
Charley scoffed. He had faith in the house he'd built and thought he and his wife should be able to wait out the storm safely in their own home.
But Terry was less enthused about waiting out the hurricane. So she made some calls trying to find a place to weather the storm and safety. Her niece, Michelle Jones, was one of her first calls.
Thirty seven year old Michelle was a TV executive working at the Golf Channel. She was close with her aunt. So when Terry called, Michelle Haply invited her and Charlie to stay at her large Orlando home when he heard about Michelle's invitation.
Charlie was suddenly more open to the idea of evacuating.
The truth was, Charlie was slightly infatuated with his wife's niece when he was with his friends. He referred to Michelle as Victoria's Secret because of her looks.
Vanessa is going to take over on the psychology here and throughout the episode. Please note, Vanessa is not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, but she has done a lot of research for this show. Thanks, Greg.
Given what we know about Charlie's infatuation with his niece, it's possible he harbored some sexual fantasies about her. According to psychologist Lewis Beesly, messenger of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, violent offenders like Brandt are at a risk of acting out when their fantasies become too powerful. While almost all people experience sexual fantasies of some sort, repeat homicide offenders like Charlie tend to use their fantasies as motivation to commit violent crimes.
It's not clear whether Terry knew about her husband's infatuation with her niece. She was just happy that Charlie was now on board with a plan to evacuate and get away from the hurricane. So on Saturday, September 11th, 2004, Charlie and Terri packed up their Subaru outback and made the six hour drive from Big Pine Key to Orlando.
They arrived in Orlando and spent the day getting settled at Michelle's house. That same afternoon or the following day, Charlie and Terry went down to visit Charlie's family in nearby Ormond Beach.
By all accounts, it was an idyllic family gathering. Charlie and Terri spent time with Charlie's father, Herbert, and his youngest sister, Jessica. Charlie's oldest sister, Angie, couldn't make it, but the family talked on the phone together, and Angie invited Charlie to visit her the next day. But Charlie said he would be busy. Maybe next time.
Charlie told Terry they should head back to Big Pine Key the following day. Terry didn't want to go back so soon. But Charlie seemed anxious to get home. He argued and pushed to leave as soon as possible when it was time to leave Charlie's family and get back to Michelle's house.
They still hadn't come to an agreement before they left. Charlie pulled his father and sister in for a hug.
Charlie pulled them in tight and hugged them for longer than he ever had before. Both his father and sister thought it was odd, but didn't think too much of it.
Then Charlie and Terry left the house and drove back to Orlando.
Sometime after that night, Charlie changed his mind, he decided they could wait to go back to Big Pine Key. Michelle's house was certainly comfortable. It had four bedrooms, a pool and a Jacuzzi. There was also Michelle herself, the object of Charlie's secret obsession. But Terry was annoyed. She didn't understand why, after all of the fuss her husband made about returning home as soon as possible, he now wanted to stay in Orlando through the end of the weekend.
The conflict continued into Monday morning when Charlie surprised his wife by telling her he wanted to stay yet another day. By this point, the hurricane had long passed by the Florida Keys, and it was now headed west, approaching the Alabama coast. There was no reason to stay any longer. Terry and Charlie argued again, but they stayed another day. On Monday, Terry called one of her sisters and talked about her surprise and frustration with her husband. But beyond some odd decision making, nothing seemed truly amiss with Charlie.
Despite their arguments, the Browns were enjoying their little vacation in Orlando.
Terry's conversation with her sister was the last anyone heard from her, Charlie or Michelle. For days, it was radio silence.
Mary Lou Jones, Terry's sister and Michelle's mother tried calling the house several times on Monday night and Tuesday, September 15th. But each call went to the answering machine. It wasn't like Michelle not to return her mother's calls. Mary Lou was worried. On Wednesday, Michelle's co-worker called Mary Lou to tell her that Michelle hadn't shown up for work. Mary Lou knew something was seriously wrong, so she called one of Michelle's closest friends, Debbie Night, and asked her to go to the house that night and check up on Michelle.
Debbie had also been struggling to reach Michelle for days and said she'd go to Michelle's house immediately. Conveniently, she had a spare key that Michelle had given her just in case.
Debbie arrived at Michelle's house feeling a deep sense of foreboding, her unease deep, and she spotted Charlie and Terry Subaru Outback still parked outside. There were two newspapers wrapped in plastic, untouched on the lawn and a full mailbox. It was clear that no one had left the house and at least two days Debbie knew something was terribly wrong.
Debbie went to the front door.
Her hands shook as she tried to unlock it. But try as she might, the door wouldn't budge.
She tried banging on the door, yelling for Michelle, but there was no answer. Beginning to panic, Debbie went to the large family room window and looked through. She couldn't see any signs of movement from anywhere inside the dark house. Then she tried going around the side of the house to a bedroom window. She knocked on the glass. Still nothing. Debbie ran back to the street, hyperventilating and terrified, she ran across to a neighbor's house where a man was walking out of his garage, Debbie explained the dire situation.
The neighbor agreed to help bringing a gun and flashlight from his garage. The neighbor tried and failed to get the door open. Debbie, panicking, asked him to break the front window, but he decided to try the garage door in the back of the house. Instead, the two of them walked around to the back of the house. They looked into the window when the garage door peering into the darkness. The neighbor quickly pushed Debbie back, trying to shield her from what he'd seen inside.
But it was too late. Debbie had seen it, too.
There was a dead body hanging from the rafters. Next, authorities make a horrifying discovery inside Michelle Jones' house. Hi, it's Greg.
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These presidents may have run, but they most certainly can't hide. Followed very presidential with Ashley flowers free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Now back to the story. At seven forty three p.m. on Wednesday, September 14th, 2004, a nine one one call came into the Seminole County Sheriff's Office directing them to Michelle Jones home. They were told that there was a man's body hanging in the garage and it was likely there were more bodies inside the house.
The neighbor who'd made the 911 one call, along with Michelle Jones friend Debbie Knight, were waiting outside the house when police officers and paramedics arrived. Debbie watched nervous from across the street as the authorities entered the home.
The investigators broke through the front door and entered the house. Once they stepped inside before they even saw anything, the thick air told them they were about to find something terrible. The fetid stench filled the large house. It was the smell of death.
The investigators carefully stepped into the living room.
There they spotted Charlie and Terry Brandt's travel bags and a cooler as if the pair were getting ready to leave.
But it was quickly clear those plans never came to fruition. Sitting on the couch in the living room, slumped over and covered in blood was the dead body of Terry Brant. There were seven stab wounds in her chest. The investigators then slowly walked down the hall to the master bedroom. Inside was a horrifying, nauseating scene on the bed was the dead body of Michelle Jones. She'd been stabbed in the chest like Terry, but her killer hadn't stopped there.
Michelle's decapitated head was laying next to her body, as were her severed left leg and breasts.
Her heart had also been cut out of her chest. Two bloody kitchen knives were found next to the body. Scattered across the floor were pieces of Michelle Jones underwear cut to rags by those same knives, they were coincidentally Victoria's Secret brand.
Finally, the investigators moved into the humid garage. They confirmed what Debbie and the neighbor had already seen.
The dead body of Charlie Brand hanging by his neck from a bedsheet tied to a rafter, kicked over a ladder, lying a few feet away, told them that Charlie died by suicide.
Even for the most experienced and hardened police officers, the scene inside Michelle's home was difficult to handle. Several nauseated deputies walked out of the house, physically sickened. It was like nothing they'd ever seen in their careers.
After examining the house, the investigators came to a simple conclusion. At some point during the last two days, Charlie Brant murdered his wife and niece and spent hours mutilating Michelle's body. When he was finished, he showered and changed into clean clothes before hanging himself.
However, that conclusion posed so many more questions. Why would Charlie Brant commit such a brutal crime and could anyone have seen it coming?
The discovery of the murder set off a shockwave in the community and amongst the family and friends of the dead. The senseless and horrific violence seemed completely inexplicable. Terry and Charlie Brant were from the outside, a perfect couple.
Still, investigators were determined to find answers. They tried to keep the details quiet as they began their investigation, refusing to comment to the press on reports of how the bodies were found.
But speculation and rumors continued unabated.
Reporters went down to Big Pine Key, where they interviewed anyone they could find who knew Charlie and Terry. No one seemed to have anything bad to say about Charlie, nor did anyone suspect trouble in the Brant's marriage.
Many of Charlie's friends told reporters that they couldn't believe he was even capable of killing. One friend claimed that Charlie even had a difficult time killing the fish that he caught.
Though from what Jim Graves reported, Charlie had no such compunctions but inside the Brant home.
Investigators uncovered evidence that illustrated the darkness inside Charlie. While he may have appeared to be a peaceful, well-adjusted man, he clearly harbored violent fixations. The first thing the investigators found that piqued their interest was a detailed poster illustrating a dissected woman's body hanging on the back of the Brandts bedroom door. It was the kind of thing that wouldn't have been out of place in a doctor's office. But inside the bedroom, the investigators saw it as a sign of a man with disturbed fantasies alone.
The poster might have indicated the harmless curiosity of a scientific mind. But considering the state of Michele's surgically mutilated body, it suggested that this was something Charlie dreamed of for a long time and their continued search of the house.
Investigators found further evidence of Charlie's obsession with dissection, including numerous medical journals and textbooks inside an anatomy book. They found a newspaper clipping with an image of a human heart when they investigated Charlie's computer.
They uncovered even darker material in his browsing history, including websites dedicated to necrophilia and sexualized violence against women, in addition to Charlie's dark obsessions.
Investigators discovered stressors beneath the surface of his seemingly idyllic life in Big Pine Key. Most pertinently, they found that in the weeks leading up to the murders, Charlie was dealing with more than just an incoming hurricane.
Charlie's current employer, Lockheed Martin, would soon experience a change of management, and every employee was set to undergo a background check.
It's possible that Charlie feared this would uncover the crimes he committed as a child. That revelation might cause him to lose his job and unstitch his perfect life. The pressure was too much for Charlie to handle. And like he'd done in 1971, he lashed out while interviewing Charlie and Terry Brandt's family and friends.
The investigators found another possible reason Charlie snapped. His wife was considering a divorce. A few days before the murder, Michelle's friend Lisa Emons spoke to Terry over the phone while they chatted, Lisa mentioned her ongoing divorce and Terry then confided that she was considering divorcing Charlie.
She was tired of living in the Florida Keys and wanted to return to the mainland. But Charlie was adamant that he wanted to stay.
Terry's other friends confirmed that she'd spoken about divorce several times before. The police believed it was possible that Terry threatened Charlie with divorce on the day of the murders, causing the final argument.
The revelations about Charlie's life and the discoveries inside his house in Big Pine Key confirmed to investigators that the murders in Orlando weren't impulsive acts. They were likely premeditated to some degree, the results of a man finally acting out his deepest, darkest fantasies. It was an act he put a lot of thought into, if not the very victims he'd imagined.
Just because he was acting on his own obsessions and sexual fantasies, though, doesn't mean that Charlie had gone to Michelle Jones house intending to kill. According to Dr. Jay Reid Meloy, forensic psychologist, some sexual homicides are triggered by stress factors in the killer's life that suddenly build to an explosive emotional crisis.
As some investigators believed, Charlie Brant was already anxious about his workplace issues and possible marriage troubles. Then, living in the same house as Michelle Jones, the object of his long time obsession might have been what caused him to finally lose control of his violent desires. It was perhaps a twisted case of being in the right place at the right time for Charlie's murderous impulses to reemerge.
The news about Charlie's murders came as a shock to almost everyone who knew him, but reportedly Charlie's sister Angie wasn't shocked when she first heard he was dead.
Her first thought wasn't sadness. It was relief.
Deep down, she was still scared of her brother and never forgot what he was capable of. It had been three decades since her mother's death, and Angie still feared that Charlie would return to finish what he'd started, according to Mary Lou. And she often had difficulty sleeping and always kept her windows closed and locked at night.
But now her brother, the man who tried to kill her 33 years ago, was finally dead and Angie finally felt she was truly safe. She could sleep easy knowing Charlie was gone.
Angie was one of the few who knew that Charlie wasn't only capable of murder.
He'd done it before. In the days after the bodies were discovered, as the investigators tried to figure out what had happened inside that house. And she struggled to decide whether to tell the police what she knew.
She wasn't sure whether she was finally ready to tell the truth about what had happened on January 3rd, 1971. And she didn't know if she was ready to tell her younger sisters the truth of how their mother died.
Two days after the murders, Angie, her father, Herbert, and her youngest sister, Jessica, went to the police station to give the police their statement. It was part of routine procedure and Angie drove with them to the station. But when they arrived, she hesitated. She told her family to go on without her. She didn't want to talk to the police yet.
Herbert and Jessica continued into the station while she sat in the car outside alone with her thoughts inside.
Jessica told the investigators that her brother had seemed perfectly normal when he visited her the weekend before the murders. She likely told them that Charlie never displayed any violent tendencies for as long as she'd known him.
After Jessica told the police all she knew. And Herbert told them all he was willing to share. Angie walked into the station and approached the senior detective alone. She told him she had information he needed to hear.
A member of the Brandt family was finally going to tell the truth, the detective said Angie down in front of a tape recorder, her voice breaking into tears. Several times, Angie told the story of January 3rd, 1971, of how her 13 year old brother Charlie murdered their mother, shot their father and nearly choked her to death.
When she was finished telling her story, investigators asked whether Terry Brandt knew about Charlie's violent past, and she thought that Terry did because Charlie promised to tell her. But then again, she didn't know for sure. The investigators now had everything they needed to close the case, evidence, motive and opportunity, they knew about Charlie's murderous past, the stress factors in his life and his sexual obsessions with both human anatomy and his own niece.
But there is one extremely disturbing question left unanswered. Charlie's killings fit perfectly with the profile of a compulsive murderer. Immediately after seeing the crime in Orlando, the investigators felt certain they were dealing with someone who had done this before. Michele's body was too meticulously posed. It all felt too advanced for a first time offender. So they wondered, was Charlie Brandt a serial killer? Charlie had killed his mother in 1971, then his wife and niece in 2004, it was a long stretch of time in between the two events.
Could he have committed any other murders and those 33 years in between and gotten away with it? Next, the investigators look back on Charlie Brant's life and discover something horrifying.
Now back to the story. As soon as he saw the crime scene at Michelle Jones's house in September 2004, the Seminole County sheriff was convinced that 47 year old Charlie Brand had killed before his methods. Psychology and sexual compulsive motivation all fit with the sheriff's idea of a serial killer. But was Charlie really one of them?
To answer that question, investigators look backwards. They went through every unsolved case from the previous 30 years in Florida searching for any that fit the modus operandi that Charlie displayed in the murders of Terry Brant and Michelle Jones. Two cases immediately stuck out.
The first was the 1989 murder of Sherry Perico. Sherry was a 38 year old former beauty queen who lived a transient life in the Florida Keys in the summer of 1989.
Sherry lived in Big Pine Key, normally docking her boat just a few blocks away from the Grant's house.
On July 19th, 1989, a fisherman saw what he thought was a mannequin about 10 feet underwater by the Pyne Channel Bridge. When he tried to reel it in, he discovered to his horror that it wasn't a mannequin. It was Sherry Perico.
Her body had been mutilated in a similar fashion to Michelle Jones. Her heart had been cut out of her chest and her neck was cut so deeply that investigators presumed the killer tried but failed to completely decapitate her. What are the police divers who retrieved the body described the cuts as surgical, unfortunately, beyond the body itself.
Police had very little evidence. The best they had was a composite sketch of a man walking near the crime scene the night of the murder. But it wasn't enough and the murder remained unsolved. But Terry Branstad suspected Charley's involvement in the murder. In fact, she'd made a point of telling her husband's friend, Jim Graves, her concerns when Jim confronted Charlie to ask about the murder.
All he got was a flat denial. So Jim believed his friend.
However, Sherry's murder fit perfectly with a pattern of Charlie Brandt's 2004 slayings, the same victim type, the same surgical precision, and possibly the same sexual compulsive motives.
When he heard that the police were probing the Sherry Perry show case again, Jim Graves came forward with what he knew.
Grace told police about how Terry Brant had confided in him that she suspected Charlie might have killed Sherry and about Charlie's mysterious blood covered clothes on the night of the murder.
That revelation was enough for the police department to consider the Sherry Perry show. Case closed. Charlie Brant was declared her murderer, but there were more crimes still to be discovered.
The second case that the authorities investigated was the murder of 35 year old Darlene Toler. Darlene was a sex worker in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami whose body was discovered on November 24th, 1995, the day after Thanksgiving, just like Sherry Perico and Michelle Jones.
Darlene was decapitated and her heart surgically removed. Her body was wrapped in plastic, rolled into a blanket and left by the side of the highway. Neither her head nor her heart were ever found.
The method of murder clearly fit Charlie Brant, but the location of the crime scene created some doubt. Darlene's body was found nearly 100 miles away from Charlie's home in Big Pine Key. But when they looked closer, investigators discovered that Charlie had maintained meticulous records of his car's gas usage through the years. And there had been a huge spike in mileage on November 24th, 1995. The lead detectives speculated that while his wife was working, Charlie drove to Miami to find a victim.
He found Darlene Toler.
Although his actions may have been opportunistic and impulsive, it's still likely Charlie carefully planned his killings.
A 1997 study by psychologist Bradley R. Johnson and Judith Becker in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law noted that some sexually sadistic serial killers planned their crimes in detail from organizing kits of tools to use beforehand to precisely selecting a victim to leaving behind an orderly crime scene. Serial killers tend to commit more organized planned homicides, and this attention to detail helps them avoid notice and capture for decades.
Because Charlie traveled often for work, the Seminole County investigators expanded their scope and began looking all over the country using Charlie's work schedule and Terri's diary. Detectives put together a 35 page timeline of Charlie's travels between 1971 and 2004, trying to find more unsolved crimes that might have been his handiwork with help from the FBI.
The investigators narrowed down the search to around 20 additional unsolved murders committed in those 33 years. All shared a similar signature to Charlie Brandt's crimes. The crimes went as far back as 1978, when Charlie was 22 years old, hoping to gain more insight into Charlie's mind and motives.
Investigators went after his medical records from Indiana. They hope that records of the treatment he received during his year in a mental health facility would shed some light on what drove him to kill.
While the lead investigators believe Charlie's medical records helped them better understand his motives, they didn't provide any additional clues to help with the other unsolved cases.
Cold cases are difficult to solve without direct physical evidence, thanks to the evidence provided by Jim Graves, investigators close the Sherry Parishad case for Darlene Toler. However, the case remains unsolved while DNA tests were performed in 2007 on dog hairs found near Toler's body. The results were not reported to the media. Many investigators still believe that Charlie was responsible for her death.
The truth about Charlie Brant, what really motivated his crimes, how many murders he actually committed will likely never be known to the families of Terry Brant and Michelle Jones, though the biggest question isn't about Charlie's motives or crimes. It's about whether Terry knew about Charlie's violent past and why Charlie's family kept it hidden. Mary Lou Jones, Terry's sister and Michelle's mother, believes that Terry couldn't have known about Charlie's past because if she did, she wouldn't have married him.
She blames the Brandt family for keeping it a secret.
In the years since the murders, Mary Lou has lobbied for the passage of Michelle Lynn's law, which would unseal the public records of violent crimes committed by all people, including minors, and place this information in the database as of 2020. The law has not been passed.
Still, Mary Lou hopes the existence of such a database might prevent someone like Charlie Brant from killing again.
Meanwhile, the Brandt family has receded from public view since 2004. Angie and Herbert Brant have not spoken publicly about Charlie, just like they did after Charlie's first murder in 1971.
The Brandt family prefers to move on and try to live out their lives. It seems like they would prefer to act as if Charlie's murders never happened. After decades of pain, they want the past to remain the past. Thanks again for tuning in to serial killers will be back next week with a new episode.
For more information on Charlie Brandt, amongst the many sources we used, we found Invisible Killer, The Monster Behind the Mask by Diana Montani and Sean Robbins. Extremely helpful to our research.
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This episode of Serial Killers was written by Ryan Lee with writing assistance by Abigail Cannon and stars Greg Paulson and Vanessa Richardson.
Hi again, it's Greg. Before I go, I wanted to remind you to check out the new Spotify original from podcast, very presidential with Ashleigh Flowers.
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