Carl “Charlie” Brandt was born on February 23, 1957 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S. Second son to Herbert and Ilse Brandt, two german immigrants. He had and older sister named Angela and two little sisters. Charlie was described as a regular ¨normal¨ kid. He loved to spend time with his dad, together they would go hunting, play football, etc. He also got along really well with his mother, being called sometimes a ¨mama’s boy¨. Charlie Brandt was a good student. Still he had a bit of trouble adjusting to new surroundings but nothing really out of the ordinary. Nobody would imagine that normal kid was going to become a killer soon.
Murders and Victims
On January 3, 1971, when Charlie was 13 years old, the evening in his family residence was like any other. They had been watching tv all together and when bed time was closer, Herbert and Lise Brandt started to Groom themselves. He was shaving while his wife Ilse, who was 8 months pregnant at that moment was taking a hot bath. Suddenly out of nowhere Charlie appeared in the bathroom with a handgun he had taken from his father’s dressers. He shot Herbert Brandt in the back once and then shot his pregnant mother five times. Charlie then looked for his sister Angela and tried to shoot her too but the gun woulnd’t fire. He tried to choke her as she kept telling him ¨Please Charlie stop, I love you. Charlie what are you doing?¨. Charlie finally stopped. He seemed to have woken up from a trance-like estate. He asked ¨What am I doing? What did I do? ¨ Angela calmed him down by saying she believed he had shot both their parents and that now she was going to be the one taking care of him and their younger sisters. She then convinced Charlie to go upstairs to bring blankets to cover the little siblings since they now were on their own and they had to run away together. Charlie believed her and went upstairs walking backwards; asking her all the time to please not leave him. Once he was out of sight, Angela managed to run out of the house to seek help from neighbors. Charlie run after her yelling ¨Angie, you promised you wouldn’t leave me, please¨. After seeing his sister was gone, Charlie Brandt knocked on a neighbor’s door and when they asked him what happened, he calmly said ¨I just shot my mom and dad¨
When police and paramedics arrived to the Brandt residence, they found Herbert still alive. it was Charlie’s mom, Ilse, and her unborn baby, that had died immediately after the five shots. When Charlie was interviwed about his actions all he said was he didn’t know what happened. He said it probably was a combination of things between school and an incident that happened a few days before when he and his dad were haunting and Herbert shot and killed Charlie’s dog. He just said he had never felt that way before.
Carl Brandt was too young to be charged with murder so he was taken to three different psychiatric evaluations, all three psychiatrists failed to determine what was the actual cause for the shooting. Charlie Brandt was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a year and was released back into his family’s custody in June 1972. Herber, Angela and Charlie never talked about the incident again. The two younger sisters were told their mother Lise had died in a car accident. The whole thing was kept as a dark family secret.
The Brand family moved to Ormond beach, Florida where they would try to live a normal life. A year after, in 1973, Charlie’s father remarried and moved back to Indiana with his two little daughters and his new wife; Charlie and Angela stayed with their grandparents. Charlie continued to be a good student and received a degree in electronics. He became a radar specialist for Ford Aerospace in Astor in 1984.
Theresa “Teri” Helfrich and Michelle Lynn Jones
In 1986, Charlie Brandt eloped with his girlfriend Teri Helfrich. It’s believed Charlie didn’t invite anybody to their wedding because his sister Angela and her husband at the time, Jim Graves, were putting pressure on him. They wanted Charlie to tell his soon to be wife that he had killed his mother when he was a teenager. They thought Teri deserved to know. Charlie said he would of course tell her but nobody really knows if he did. After getting married in 1989, Charlie and Teri Brandt settled in a beach house on Big Pine Key and they were described as an extremely ¨perfect¨ couple. Charlie and Teri would make each others meals all the time because they said nothing tasted better than food made by the one who loves you. Yes, a bit too sweet for many but that was the Brandt couple kind of love and they were happy. Sadly for Teri, nothing lasts forever.
On September 2, 2004 Charlie Brandt and his wife has to evacuate their home ahead of Hurricaine Ivan. They went to their niece Michelle Jones’ house near Orlando to stay there for a few days. Everything seemed to be pretty normal for Charlie and Teri. He even took the chance to visit his father and younger sister Jessica. On the other hand, Michelle’s routine was pretty much the same, she would go to work, run errands, talk to her mother Mary Lou on the phone everyday.
On September 13, Michelle was supposed to have her friend Lisa Emmons over for a visit but instead asked her to re schedule since her uncle Charlie Brandt and aunt Teri had not only suddenly decided to stay for one more night at her place but they had also been drinking and were having an argument. Michelle didn’t want to put her friend through an awkward situation so it was better to just leave it for another time.
The Next day Michelle’s mother Mary Lou called her like usual but she got no answer. She didn’t make much of it at the beginning but next day was the same. Not only no answer from Michelle but neither from Teri. Mary Lou then called one of Michelle’s friends, Debbie Knight and asked her to please go check her house, see if Michelle was alright. When Debbie arrived in the house, she noticed Michelle’s and her uncles’ car were there. So they had to be home. She knocked and called out for Michelle several times but nobody opened the door. She started going around the house and when she got to the garage window, she saw something terrifying, It was Michelle’s uncle Charlie’s decomposing body hanging from the roof of the garage. She called 911 and police arrived immediately.
When getting into Michelle Jones’ house, police found Teri Helfrich dead too. She had been stabbed seven times in the chest while lying on the couch. That was pretty messed up already but when they made their way further back into the house to Michelle’s master bedroom, they found Michelle’s body. Some police officers even had to leave to scene because they needed to throw up. What they were witnessing was horrific. Michelle’s body was placed on her bed. It was determined that the cause of death was one stab wound to her chest. She had been decapitated; her head was placed next to her body as if she was meant to watch what her attacker did to her body. Her breasts were severed and her body was cut open. Her organs including her heart had been removed and placed around her body while her intestines were put in the trash. The rest of the room had her Victoria Secret underwear thrown all over.
Police believe the whole thing was a murder suicide. That Charlie had killed both Teri and Michelle and had later committed suicide. Still something didn’t add up. How could Charlie being the most normal guy in the world do something like that? He had been married to his wife for almost twenty years and they had what everybody called ¨the perfect marriage¨. So the reasons behind the murders were unknown.
The first thing Police did was check Charlie’s records to see if he ever had problems with the law but nothing, he was clean. They would be surprised after interviewing Charlie’s older sister Angela who told them that he had killed before. Charlie had murdered his mother when he was a 13 year old teenager. Too young to be processed and sent to jail when the incident happened, he had been taken to a psychiatric hospital for a year instead. His files were sealed. There were no records of the episode.
When talking to Charlie’s co-workers, investigators heard Charlie seemed to be a bit obsessed with his niece Michelle. He talked about her all the time, about the men she dated, how none of them seemed to be enough for him. The weird thing for his mates was that Charlie didn’t refer to his niece by her name but instead he called her ¨Victoria’s Secret¨ which gave everything a sexual connotation. As weird as everybody thought this was, nobody said anything.
Investigators also talked to Charlie’s younger sister Jessica, who he had visited a few days before the killings. She told the police that Charlie kept telling her he wanted to leave back home as soon as possible and she could tell there was like a sense of urgency in him but she didn’t really know what it was really about. There’s nothing more comfortable than your own home, right? Jessica thought maybe Charlie just wanted back his home life but maybe Charlie was feeling the urge to kill again.
Police conducted a search of Charlie Brandt’s residence on Big Pine Key. They found he was a monthly subscriber to Victoria’s Secret catalogs, had an extensive collection of surgery-themed books, anatomy books, Medical books, creepy anatomy posters. It seemed like Charlie had a deadly obsession with female anatomy. When looking into his computer they discovered he regularly searched online for autopsy photos and snuff film websites depicting violence against women. Police determined that Brandt’s murder of Michelle was so ¨clean¨ so ¨well executed¨ it indicated past experience. Charlie had probably had the chance to practice with other victims. And because he travelled often due to his job, police checked cold cases in Florida that matched his apparent modus operandi. The investigation uncovered evidence linking Brandt to the 1989 murder of a woman near his home.
When talking to Angela Brandt’s ex husband Jim Graves, who also happened to be Charlie’s best friend, he told them about Teri coming to him in confidence one time saying she suspected Charlie had something to do with Sherry Perisho’s murder. Teri Brandt claimed Charlie had returned home in the night of July 16, 1989, covered in blood and he had gone inside the room where he usually filleted fish. When she opened the door of said room and asked him what was going on, he said it was just fish’s blood but when she looked around, there was no fish.
38 year-old Sherry Perisho’s partially-clothed body was found on July 16, 1989, floating in the water near the North Pine Channel Bridge at Big Pine Key. Her throat had been slashed and her head had been nearly severed. Like Michelle Lynn Jones, her body was extensively mutilated and her heart was removed. Sherry was found less than 1,000 feet from where Brandt lived, and Charlie 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.
When reinvestigating twenty-six unsolved murder in Florida dating back to 1973, police found Charlie Brandt may have been the involved in for three other cases, these were:
1978, Carol Sullivan,
Carol was 12 years old when she 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-year-old 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.
1995, Darlene Toler,
Toler was a 38-year-old sex worker from Miami. Her body was found wrapped in plastic and blankets, missing her head and heart. It was discovered dumped in a grassy area 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.
Even though police believed Charlie Brandt was involved in these three cases, there was never conclusive evidence to link him directly to the crimes. He is nevertheless rated as an american serial killer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any books published about Charlie Brandt’s crimes?
There are a couple of publications. ¨Invisible Killer: The Monster Behind the Mask¨ and ¨Charlie Brandt, Serial Killer: An Anthology of True Crime. Both books go over Charlie Brandt’s brutal murders.