Due to the graphic nature of this killer's crimes, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussions of murder and assault that some people may find offensive. We advise extreme caution for children under 13. January 3rd, 1971, an ice storm battered the Midwestern city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, bringing temperatures down well below freezing as night fell.
Bone chilling winds howled through the sleepy residential streets. Families cozied up inside with their heaters on and the curtains drawn.
Just after 9:00 p.m., the quiet was shattered by the sound of gunshots inside 62 008 Stoneybrook Drive, then eerie quiet. A few minutes later, the front door of the house opened and 15 year old Angie Brant sprinted outside in a panic.
She was barefoot, her nightgown torn and bloody. She screamed as she ran across the icy snow and pavement, putting as much distance between herself and her house as possible. She made it to her neighbor's place across the street, and she tried to get inside to safety. But the door was locked. She ran to the next house, banging on the door and trying to get someone's anyone's attention.
Across the street, the front door to her home opened again, her brother, 13 year old Charlie, walked down the steps onto the front lawn. He watched Angie run from house to house, trying to find anyone who would answer the door.
And she looked back to see Charlie watching her from the front lawn with tears in his eyes. Charlie screamed over the howling winds. You promised you wouldn't leave me. 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 exploring 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 cast 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.
This week, we'll cover Charlie's childhood and his first shocking murder committed when he was just 13 years old. Then look at what became of Charlie and his family after their world turned upside down.
Next time, we'll explore Charlie's later horrific murders and the troubling mysteries they exposed. We've got all that and more coming up.
Stay with us. For the earliest part of his life, Charlie Brandt never had a place to call home. He was born in Connecticut in 1956. But in 1968, his family moved to Indiana, according to an article in the Journal Gazette. Charlie and his siblings often had to change schools. Any time he became comfortable or began making friends, he had to start over again at another new school.
His parents, Herbert and Ilsa, were German immigrants who moved to the United States in 1955.
Herbert worked as a laborer for International Harvester, an agricultural manufacturing company.
Herbert worked during the day and studied at night, eventually earning a degree in engineering. His new degree allowed him to climb the ladder at International Harvester.
But with each promotion, he had to move his wife and children to a new town while Herbert and Ilsa Brant handled the move to Indiana.
Well, Charlie wasn't able to cope as effectively.
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. According to a 2006 report for the MacArthur Foundation by Rebecca Levine, Coley and Melissa Cole moves during childhood can negatively affect a child's social and emotional well-being, with effects worsening with each additional move. The psychological toll of repeated moves can be long term and stay with a child for years.
It seems these negative effects stayed with young Charlie Brandt. He took his family's move and his multiple school changes particularly hard, exacerbating what was already a difficult childhood.
Charlie didn't make friends easily as it was. He was a meek and overweight child who struggled to stand up for himself. Changing schools every few years made his social issues more apparent and difficult to overcome.
Despite this, he was a good student and showed no signs of inner turmoil.
But he became increasingly introverted as the years went by to outside observers, Charlie Brandt seemed like a well-behaved kid whom some described as a mama's boy and whose best friend was his family's dog.
But Herbert Brandt disliked how weak his son seemed in an attempt to bond with Charlie and make him stronger. Herbert took him on annual hunting trips paired with their family vacations. On these outings, he taught his son how to use a rifle and kill small game.
It became a regular activity for the two of them and something that Charlie seemed to actually enjoy doing with his father in December of 1970, when Charlie was 13. The family was vacationing in Ormonde by the Sea Florida over the previous few years. The family had swelled in size. Charlie now had two younger sisters, two and three years old, and his mother, Elsa, was eight months pregnant.
One morning during the trip, 39 year old Herbert took Charlie out hunting somewhere out in the Florida wilderness while father and son were looking for quail. The family dog ran into some bushes and disappeared.
Herbert yelled for the dog to come out. It didn't appear, he yelled again, but the dog still didn't return. Frustrated. He raised his rifle and aimed it at the bushes. Charlie yelled after the dog. It usually came to him when he called, but again it remained hidden in the bushes. Suddenly, Herbert fired two shots.
The shots hit and killed the dog. Heartbroken, Charlie pulled his friend's body out of the bushes. Herbert Brandt would later say he shot the dog accidentally, but he was simply trying to scare it out of the bush. But according to a book about Charlie called Invisible Killer The Monster Behind the Mask, it's also possible that Herbert shot the pet in an attempt to toughen his son up and make him less emotionally dependent on the dog, regardless of what really happened.
Herbert and Charley left the dog there and continued hunting for another couple of hours. All the while, Charley was on the verge of tears, trying not to cry in front of his father.
At the end of the vacation, the Brant's packed up their things and bundled into the family car to start the 16 hour drive back home to Indiana as they drove the reality of the dog's death hit Charley hard.
He lost his best friend. He resumed his freshman year of high school on Monday morning, and he wouldn't have as one major source of emotional support in the family. His father had taken that away from him.
They arrived back in Fort Wayne, Indiana, just after midnight on January 3rd, 1971. The next morning, Charlie prepared for school to start again the following day.
But that evening, an ice storm rolled into Fort Wayne as rain and hail pounded the house. Outside, the family sat down for a dinner of pork chops and green beans at the dinner table.
Ilsa scolded Charley for not finishing a school project that was due the next morning. She told him he'd need to finish it before he went to bed that night. Charley meekly nodded and kept eating.
Just after dinner, the family gathered around their brand new color TV to watch an episode of the TV series The FBI. Charley remained quiet, deep in thought as the family watched. When the show ended, the family went their separate ways. Charlie's parents put his two younger sisters, three year old Jessica and two year old Melanie, to bed, while 15 year old Angela went to read a book in her own room.
Charlie remained downstairs at the kitchen table, diligently working on his school project through the walls, Charlie could hear his mother running a bath.
The house was otherwise quiet. Charlie was alone with his thoughts.
And those thoughts were angry, dark, anxious ideas pounded through Charlie's head. He was upset that he was the only one not relaxing, more upsetting.
He was devastated that the one family member he truly liked was now gone. In that moment, he knew he didn't want to stay meek and quiet anymore. He wanted to lash out.
His father had tried to make him stronger and tougher through hunting. And now being out in the wilderness with a gun in his hand was the only way Charlie Brandt knew to feel powerful. Holding a weapon was the only way he knew to feel in control of his life.
So Charlie's dark thoughts coalesced into a plan. He stood from the table and walked up to his parents bedroom. Ilsa and Herbert didn't see him from their bathroom. As he retrieved his father's Luger pistol from the nightstand, Herbert kept it loaded with an empty ammunition clip for safety.
Charlie swapped it out with a loaded gun.
Then he cocked the gun.
Charlie returned downstairs and hid the pistol under a book as he continued working on his homework, thinking about what he was about to do and putting together a plan when he finished with his schoolwork.
He calmly closed his book and picked up the pistol. He slowly went back upstairs to his parents room when he reached the second floor.
He walked past the doors to his sister's rooms and stepped inside his parents bedroom.
He walked to the bathroom door. Inside, he could see his father standing at the sink, shaving. His mother was reading a magazine in the bathtub.
Charlie stood in the bedroom for a moment, looking at both of his parents as they happily chatted with each other. Neither of them noticed their son standing at the doorway. And then Charlie raised the gun. Next, Charlie Brandts bloody rampage begins. Hi, it's Greg.
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These presidents may have run, but they most certainly can't hide. Bollo very presidential with Ashley flowers free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Now back to the story. Just after 9:00 p.m. on January 3rd, 1971, 13 year old Charlie Brant found and loaded his father's handgun. He then walked to his parents bathroom where his mother, Ilsa, was taking a bath and his father, Herbert, was shaving. Charlie watched his parents for a moment, then without making a noise.
He raised the gun and fired three bullets into his father's back.
In the next room, Charly's 15 year old sister Angie heard the gunshots through the wall, it sounded like firecrackers, but that didn't make any sense.
She got out of bed unsure what was going on when she heard her father yell for Charlie to stop. She knew something was terribly wrong.
Ilsa screamed as Charlie stepped into the bathroom and coldly approached with his gun raised at her. She begged him to stop, but he pulled the trigger again, shooting her multiple times. With her last ounce of strength, Ilsa screamed for Angie to call the police through the wall and she heard her and ran.
But before she could reach her bedroom door, it swung open. Charlie stood in the doorway, holding the smoking gun in his hands, and she stared, terrified at her brother.
His eyes were glazed over, his expression blank, as if he was in a trance.
Then he raised the gun, pointed it at his sister and pulled the trigger.
The gun jammed and Charlie tossed it onto the floor and instinctively kicked it under the bed, trying to get it as far away from Charlie as possible.
But Charlie wasn't done. He pounced on his sister grabbing for her neck as she tried to push him away.
He overpowered her, punching her over and over again until she was bruised and bleeding, panicking and punched and kicked at her little brother as his fingers wrapped around her throat, trying desperately to get him to stop. She screamed, I love you, Charlie. I love you. The blank trancelike expression suddenly vanished from Charlie's face, he let go of his sister's neck. He looked down at Angie and asked, What am I doing?
Angie told him that he'd shot their parents. Charlie was confused, unclear of what just happened. Angie asked him to get off of her and told him that they'd figure it out together. But first they had to go downstairs.
Charlie went along with Angie as he slowly walked down the stairs, trembling with every step.
She continued talking to Charlie, trying to keep him distracted. She told him that it would be OK, that they'd run away together.
They'd escape to a hippie commune when they reached the ground floor and she spotted an ax by the fireplace.
Terrified of what Charlie would do if he saw the axe, she led him away from it to further distract him. And she asked Charlie to get blankets for their little sisters. It was cold outside and their sisters would need blankets when they ran away together.
Charlie nodded and went back upstairs staring at Angie. As he did halfway up the stairs. Charlie stopped and quietly asked her, You're not going to leave me alone, are you? Angie sobbing assured him that she wouldn't. Charlie believed her and continued up the stairs. As soon as he was far enough away, Angie bolted out the front door. Barefoot and bloodied.
Angie ran down the steps and away from the house. As she sprinted through the snow and ice storm. She screamed as loudly as she could, trying to get someone's attention.
She made it to the house across the street, so terrified that her brother was going to come after her that she didn't bother knocking. She just tried to open the door and run inside. But the door was locked. So Angie ran to the next door down as she did. She looked back at her house and saw Charlie standing on the lawn, staring at her with tears in his eyes and a betrayed look on his face.
Charlie wailed and called after her, accusing her of breaking her promise. But Angie kept running. She tried one more house before she finally found an unlocked door and rushed inside.
There she found a family playing cards and begged them to call the police outside.
Charlie, calm down, walk to the house across the street and knocked on the door. When his neighbor answered, Charlie flatly told her that he'd shot his parents. Inside the brand house, 39 year old Herbert found the strength to pull himself off the floor despite the three bullet wounds in his back. He managed to get to his bedside telephone and call nine one one as the phone rang. He stumbled over to the bedroom door and locked it in case his son returned to finish what he started.
Minutes later, police arrived on the scene as Herbert Brandt was loaded into an ambulance. He told police officers that his son was the shooter, but he had no idea why he'd attacked them. Charlie was taken into custody immediately.
Herbert was rushed to the hospital, but paramedics were unable to save 38 year old Ilsa or her unborn baby and pronounced both dead at the scene as investigators unraveled.
What happened that night, 13 year old Charlie Brandts motivations remained a mystery to all involved, including seemingly himself. Neither his father or sister nor anyone else who knew him could think of any reason he would want his parents dead.
His odd, confused behavior didn't stop at the attack. A few days after the shooting, a police officer brought Charlie to the hospital to visit his father. On the drive, the young boy asked for permission to cry. The officer granted it while visiting his father.
Charlie apologized for what he'd done. Herbert accepted his apology and forgave his son. In return, Herbert apologized for killing the family dog and promised he would visit Charlie wherever he was sent.
Charlie attended his mother's funeral in leg chains flanked by police officers. Other family members and friends were disturbed by Charlie's presence and by his strange lack of emotion. He seemed to show no remorse.
But Herbert was determined to give Charlie a second chance and to keep his family together. He made good on his promise and visited Charlie in jail every day while he awaited trial. For their part, the Fort Wayne police and courts had no idea what to do with Charlie Bratt at 13 years old. He was too young to be tried as an adult. Still, a grand jury convened to determine whether he posed a threat to the community.
They ordered Charlie to undergo three different psychiatric evaluations, hoping to gain some insight into his troubled mind. But the psychiatrist found nothing obviously troubling. Each testified that Charlie seemed like a normal, well-adjusted boy who had a good relationship with his parents.
Nothing was amiss, but there was something darker hiding inside Charlie Brant, something he showed clearly in his attack on his family.
And mysteriously, when police questioned him afterwards, he described a complete disconnection as he committed the crimes.
Charlie said he didn't want to shoot his parents. He loved them. When asked why he did it. He said that it was like I was sort of programmed to do it. The grand jury had a difficult determination to make in the strange case, because he was so young, they weren't sure if he should be considered criminally liable for his actions and sent to prison.
But because his motives were still a mystery, they felt uncomfortable releasing him. Finally, four months after the shooting, the grand jury decided to send Charlie to a state mental health hospital.
Along with their ruling, they issued a warning they believe Charlie Brandt was dangerous and that his behavior could turn violent again.
Charlie spent a year in the mental health hospital and his father did his best to keep him involved in the family. Herbert visited as often as he could, and Charlie was allowed home for weekend visits at the hospital.
Charlie was a model patient. He participated in therapy sessions, never fought back or argued with doctors and had no complaints about his situation. In all, he seemed to adjust well to his surroundings. We can't be sure, but it seems that during his stay at the hospital, Charlie received no formal diagnosis of a psychological illness or personality disorder. It's also unclear if he was prescribed with any medication following the murders as the months passed.
Herbert Brandt lobbied the courts to allow his son to return home permanently. Finally, after a year of good behavior and close supervision by doctors, authorities determined that Charlie no longer posed a threat to his family or anyone else.
So in June of 1972, 17 months after he killed his mother, shot his father and attacked his sister, 14 year old Charlie Brand walked out of the mental hospital.
He was free. Next, Charlie Brandt moves on from his violent past, or so it seems. Now back to the story.
In 1971, 13 year old Charlie Brandt murdered his pregnant mother and attempted to kill his father and his sister after a year in a mental health facility.
Doctors determined that Charlie was no longer a threat and allowed him to leave. His forgiving father welcomed him home with open arms.
After Charlie's return, Herbert Brandt took time off from his job and moved his family to their old vacation spot in Ormond Beach, Florida. It was clear that the Brat family wanted to put the past behind them and never speak of Charlie's attack ever again. To that end, Herbert and the rest of the family told anyone who asked that Ilsa died in a car accident.
Herbert even repeated the lie to his two youngest daughters to shield them from the truth.
They had no idea their brother had murdered their mother.
Still, it seemed to his family that his stay at the mental hospital did Charlie some good. He was more personable, outgoing and happy than he was before the shooting.
But returning to normal was difficult for his older sister, Angie.
She was once a straight-A student, but in the aftermath of her mother's murder, her grades plummeted in 1972 when Charlie returned home and she dropped out of school to help take care of her younger sisters.
Despite all that he had done and she remained committed to her brother. Perhaps she felt guilty for running away that night, for abandoning him in the snow. So she tried her best to be there for him now.
After a good year in Florida, Herbert had to return to work in Indiana. He took his two youngest daughters with him, but felt it best that Charlie remained in Florida to finish high school. Charlie's grandparents moved from Germany to stay with Charlie, while Angie, now 18, went to live on her own.
At 16, Charlie handled his family's scattering well. He came out of his shell and had an active social life at school. He gained a reputation for being passive and non-violent. He never even attempted to fight back against bullies.
None of his friends would ever guess. There was darkness in Charlie's past. His only friend who knew the truth was Jim Graves. Angie and Jim were high school sweethearts who married Young, so she told him what Charlie did, but asked him to keep it secret. Jim wasn't much bothered by the truth. After all, the shooting was years in the past.
After graduating high school in 1974, Charlie earned a two year degree from Daytona Beach Community College.
Following that, he got a job in the Bahamas with an American defense contractor working as a blimp radar technician intercepting drugs before they were smuggled into the United States.
He grew into an average successful adult, but there were still warning signs for those who knew him and knew what he'd done.
Jim Graves remained good friends with Charlie even after his marriage with Angie ended one weekend not long after she left him. Jim went on a fishing trip with Charlie to take his mind off the breakup.
During the trip, a despondent Jim began talking about how he'd like to take revenge on Angie and find some way to break her heart. The way she broke his.
Charlie had another suggestion. He said The best revenge is when you cut someone's heart out and eat it. Jim thought the comment was strange, but try not to judge Charlie based on his past. However, it wasn't the only odd thing Jim noticed about his friend whenever they caught a fish, Charlie always made sure to carefully and precisely slice it open while it was still alive. An unusual habit for a fisherman.
A 1986 study of convicted murderers published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that unresolved childhood trauma can cause some people to find comfort in violent fantasies revolving around domination and control. Eventually, these fantasies can become so powerful that the individual feels no choice but to act on them. Charlie Brown's childhood trauma, though caused by his own criminal act, was absolutely unresolved. His family refused to talk about what happened in any way, even amongst themselves. Even Angie, who was perhaps the most traumatized by the event, kept it a secret from most people.
She swallowed her trauma and maintained a good relationship with Charlie into adulthood. But Angie never forgot what her brother was capable of. According to Diana Montani and Sean Robin's book Invisible Killer. Once Angie had children of her own, she set clear boundaries out of an abundance of caution. She never let Charlie stay the night in her house. Still, she likely never suspected that Charlie was truly dangerous.
And it seemed she was right. Charlie spent a few years stationed at a remote island in the Bahamas working to prevent drug smuggling. He liked the work but found it isolating and repetitive to keep himself occupied. Charlie went fishing nearly every day.
One day, Charlie hauled in the biggest catch of his life, a duffel bag filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine.
It was Charlie's job to stop drug smugglers, but he had no interest in telling anyone about what he'd found. He knew that this stroke of luck could set him up for the rest of his life. So instead of reporting the cocaine, he hid the stash. Slowly but surely, over the course of several months, Charlie sold off the drugs and saved the money when he finally had enough cash.
He quit his job in the Bahamas and moved back to Florida. He paid a quarter of a million dollars for a house in Astor, then picked up a job as a technician for Ford Aerospace.
In early 1985, 29 year old Charlie was the image of young professional success. He owned a house, had a cushy job and had enough money to live comfortably. He hadn't just moved on from the tragedy of his childhood. He seemed to be thriving.
There was only one thing missing from his life, a partner. So he turned to his old friend, Jim Graves, for help. Charlie told Jim that after years on an island, he was ready to rejoin the dating pool. In April of that year, Jim and his girlfriend Nancy, invited Charlie out for drinks on the beach in Daytona. There, they introduced Charlie to Nancy's roommate, a retail store manager named Terry Helfrich.
The two hit it off immediately. Charlie was attracted to Terry's upbeat, energetic personality, and Terry brought Charlie out of his shell by summer's end. They moved in together.
Charlie and Terry's relationship developed quickly and seemed idyllic. By early 1986, Charlie was telling his friends and family that he wanted to propose for his closest friends and family.
Though Charlie had one question that complicated his whirlwind romance should he tell Terry about the murder he'd committed 15 years ago? And she advised him to tell Terri and deal with any consequences, he couldn't keep it a secret forever, she reasoned. And Terri needed to know about Charley's past before marrying him. Jim was even more insistent. He told Charlie that he had to tell Terry about his past, and if he didn't, then Jim would do it for him.
So Charlie promised Jim that he would tell Terri before they walked down the aisle. On August 29th, 1986, Charlie and Terry were married in a small ceremony in Ormond Beach, neither of their families were invited, perhaps because that would have made Charlie uncomfortable.
Following the wedding, Charlie and Terry moved 400 miles south to Big Pine Key, where they built their own house on the waterfront.
Terry got a job as a receptionist at a dentist's office while Charlie returned to working as a radar technician. Everything for Charlie and Terri Brandt seemed perfect.
They found domestic bliss as the years passed, the small number of people who knew the truth about Charlie's past continued to watch him carefully. But to their eyes, nothing was amiss. All was well.
One summer, Jim Graves traveled to Key West for a gig playing with a band for a bar opening. He invited Charlie and Terry to come see him. After a few drinks, Charlie excused himself to go to the bathroom as soon as he was gone. Terry's demeanor suddenly darkened. She turned to Jim with a scared look in her eye. She said she needed to tell him something about Charlie, something urgent. A few days earlier, there had been a woman found murdered only a block from their house.
She'd been decapitated. Her heart had been cut out and then her mutilated body and left in a rowboat under a bridge. And that wasn't all around the same time as the murder, Charlie arrived home late, covered in blood. He went right to wash off the blood, claiming he'd been fishing and bloodied his shirt while cleaning his catch. But he hadn't brought home any fish. Terry told Jim she was thinking about calling the sheriff, she was worried that perhaps Charlie wasn't the normal, well-adjusted man she thought she married.
Jim didn't know if Charlie had ever come clean about his childhood crimes, but suddenly it seemed possible his violent urges had returned.
And if that was true, it was only a matter of time before Charlie acted on them again.
Thanks again for tuning in to serial killers will be back on Thursday with part two of Charlie Brown's story, we'll cover the brutal murders Charlie committed decades after his first and peel back the layers of his life to uncover the shocking secrets beneath the surface.
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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Have a killer week. Serial killers was created by Max Cuddler and is a podcast studio's original executive producers include Max and Ron Cuddler Sound, designed by Trent Williamson with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Aaron Larson. This episode of Serial Killers was written by Ryan Lee with writing assistance by Abigail Cannon and stars Greg Polson and Vanessa Richardson.
Hi again, it's Greg. Before I go, I wanted to remind you to check out the news, Spotify original from podcast, very presidential with Ashleigh Flowers.
Every Tuesday through the 2020 election, host Ashleigh Flowers shines a light on the darker side of the American presidency, exposing wildly true stories about history's most high profile leaders. There's torrid love affairs, shocking blackmail schemes and even murder.
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