Filed under: Charlie Brandt

Happy Halloween, Rochester, Minnesota

On Halloween Night a convicted killer and sexual psychopath is released from prison. Even though the man killed two people in cold blood 31 years ago, even though he tried to kidnap young girls in the 80s and was convicted of sexually assaulting and almost murdering a teenager in the early ’90s, he is on the streets again.

On Halloween Night in Rochester, Minnesota, what’s a murderous psychopath to do, fresh from 15 years in the pen?

The preceding isn’t the beginning of a pitch for a new horror film. The scenario presented above may become reality in Rochester about two weeks from today.

Daryl Alt is 49 now. His father Jack and step-mom Dorothy were 49 when he murdered them in late February, 1976. Daryl was a skinny, blond 17-year-old boy at the time. Police found the couples’ remains on March 2, just after Daryl reported them missing. Jack and Dorothy Alt had been shot to death.

Alt was tried as an adult for those murders. He worked a plea bargain and got the charge related to his stepmother’s murder dismissed. Alt was convicted, and he served 6 years in prison.

Upon release in 1983, Daryl Alt began his career as a sexual predator. After several attempted abductions of young teen girls, he kidnapped and raped a 14-year-old girl. He went to trial in 1984 for that assault and was convicted.

In 1990, just months after his release from prison for the assault in 1983, Daryl Alt struck again. He kidnapped Jammey Schick, age 15.

Jammey told her story on a message board attached to the site JaneDoeNoMore.org. This is a quote from the site’s Mission page: “The Jane Doe No More initiative will create awareness about the crime of sexual assault to ensure proper treatment of the victim.”

From Jammey Schick’s post at JaneDoeNoMore.org:

I was 15 years old when a man came up to me and took me and was about to change my life for ever. He took me in his truck and put a knife to my neck and told me i will do what ever he told me or he would cut me in many little pieces. as you can [imagine] i was very scared and listened to this man and begged for my life […] he took me to a corn field were he drove into it far enough so we could not be seen my on coming cars and he brutally raped me, took me further in the corn field were he put a rope around my neck and strangled me till i passed out the kicked me and beat me till he thought i was dead. when i woke sometime later i could not feel any part of my [body]. i did not know if i had any clothing on or if i did.

[…]

somehow i did it, i got to the road were i was finally picked up and taken to the hospital. i had to go through lots of tests because i was [paralyzed] and had to learn everything over. At the trial the doctors and… a [coroner testified] that there is no medical reason for me to be alive. that looking at pictures that were taken they all thought they were looking at a dead [body]. but i survived…

Another user wrote a supportive response and asked a question. Jammey answered:

[I] will be notified about everything and anything regarding his release. The only thing they can not tell me is were he sill be living. I have also been thinking of [different] things I will need to do to protect myself and my children as he has made threats towards me while he has been in prison. If he was convicted of the same crime today he would be serving more time but the laws were not as good as they are not 17 years ago.

Neither Jammey Schick nor her family have been happy with the way the justice system handled her case. In 1993 Jammey came forward and allowed her name to be published in Minnesota papers. She was quoted in the Star-Tribune after Alt’s conviction. Jammey said she was happy about the verdict and that she hoped Alt would never be free “so he can do this again.” About the many delays in the trial, she said: “I think they should give victims more rights […] I feel I have been treated very unfairly.”

In the same article, Olmsted County Attorney (at the time) Ray Schmitz talked about the danger Daryl Alt presented to the community: “Mr. Alt is among the most dangerous people that we’ve prosecuted here and he’s simply someone who needs to be removed from the streets…”

Olmsted County (MN) prosecutors began seeking civil commitment for Daryl Alt earlier this year. In July they managed to get him held at a secure hospital in St. Peter, MN until his official release from the Department of Corrections. A civil commitment for Alt after October 31, 2007 would declare him dangerously mentally ill and put him in a secure medical facility, perhaps for the rest of his life.

Since Dru Sjodin was murdered by level III sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. in November, 2003, prosecutors in Minnesota have been averaging more than 60 requests for civil commitments a year. Fewer than 15 such applications were made the year Sjodin was murdered.

Jammey Schick seems to feel that the question of whether or not Alt should be civilly committed should never have been asked. To TV station KSTP, she said, “We were told he was never getting out.”

Minnesota press might naturally compare this case to the high-profile Sjodin murder, but plenty of incredibly vicious criminals started young, showed plenty of recidivism and still hit the streets to rape, to kill again:

Joseph Edward Duncan III — spent 20 years in prison for a violent sexual assault committed when he was 17. Duncan was on supervised release in the mid-90s when he kidnapped, molested and killed at least 3 children. He went back to prison, but only for absconding from parole. Upon completion of his sentence in 2000, Duncan went to college and seemed to be a model citizen. Until he disappeared in May, 2005, killed 4 people and kidnapped two children whom he repeatedly raped before killing one of them. Go check out his blog if you think your psyche can handle it. (NOTE: Many readers of The True Crime Weblog will be familiar with Duncan. Those who are not familiar with this serial killer need not worry about Duncan’s Fifth Nail weblog — it is safe for work and if you only skim, it seems normal. Don’t read it at night, or you’ll feel pretty creeped-out.)

Carl Edward “Charlie” Brandt — at 13, Charlie Brandt killed his pregnant mother as she sat in a warm bath, and he nearly killed his father. The only thing that saved his sister’s life was her telling Charlie she loved him. Charlie did one year in a psychiatric hospital. Some people who observed the boy at the time feared it would happen again. It did, but no one knew what was going on inside Charlie Brandt until he murdered his wife and her niece in 2004. He carefully dismembered the niece, 37-year-old Michelle Jones, before he finally committed suicide by hanging himself in her garage. After this appalling murder-suicide, police began to examine upwards of 30 unsolved murders all over the country with the idea that they may have been committed by Charlie Brandt. His M.O. may have been the careful evisceration of his victims, in particular the removal of the heart. Brandt, to most who thought they knew him, was the classic unassuming guy whom no one could imagine ever doing such horrific things.

Edmund Kemper — big Ed Kemper, a 6’9″, 300-lb serial killer, was declared to no longer be a danger to society by two psychiatrists while a couple of co-ed’s heads sat in the trunk of Ed’s car in the parking lot outside the doctors’ office. Kemper began his career as a killer with a seemingly non-sexual crime — at age 15 he murdered his grandparents. Kemper reportedly said he “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma and Grandpa.” He spent a few years in a mental hospital before he gulled psychologists into letting him out. Once in his overbearing mother’s care, Big Ed started killing college girls. He’d pick up hitchhikers, disarming them by playing the “gentle giant,” then he’d kill them and rape their corpses. Ed’s murderous rampage ended with his mother and her best friend. He raped his mother’s dead body and put her voice box in the garbage disposal. Kemper was likable and very intelligent. Many of his friends were cops, and when he finally called the police to turn himself in, Kemper actually had to convince authorities that he was telling the truth.

These are not the only killers who followed this broad pattern — early acts of violence followed by incarceration and then even more vicious acts. Arthur Shawcross also came to mind. Shawcross murdered two children in 1972 and spent 14 years in prison for manslaughter. After he was released from lockup, Shawcross began killing prostitutes. Profilers trying to catch Shawcross when he was the unknown Gennessee River Killer underestimated the killer’s age by almost the exact number of years he’d spent in prison. Arthur Shawcross seemingly picked up exactly where he left off in his maturation cycle as a killer.

If Daryl Alt is allowed to walk free on Halloween Night, it seems a stretch to believe he won’t just go right back to doing what he probably likes best — hurting other people.

Alfonso Rodriguez was an old-looking 50 when he kidnapped vibrant, athletic young Dru Sjodin. Daryl Alt is just 49, and he looks like prison has been good to him, in photos.

Rochester, Minnesota better hope along with Jammey Schick for a civil commitment in this case, because there’s plenty of violence left in a man like Daryl Alt. The worst may be yet to come.

Sources not otherwise linked:

* KSTP.com;
* KTTC.com;
* Olmsted County Attorney press release regarding Alt’s Civil Commitment (.pdf);
* Ironwood (MI) Daily Globe, 1970s articles accessed via NewspaperArchive.com.

Charlie’s Storms

I am re-posting this because CBS 48 Hours re-aired their special on Charlie Brandt tonight.

This blog entry was originally published by me at another weblog I began when having problems with a previous independently-hosted domain. I posted the original entry on October 4, 2005. Portions of the following story have been fashioned into narrative form, using known facts of the case. I’ve edited the following for this re-post.

Ice Storm

It was January of 1971. Ilse Brandt relaxed in a hot bath as the world turned to ice outside. Ilse’s husband Herbert was shaving at the basin nearby. Ilse was pregnant, and perhaps the hot bath helped with the various aches and pains that strike most women later in pregnancy. The Brandt family, Herbert, Ilse, three daughters and a son, had just returned from their yearly trip to Florida.

While there Brandt and his son Carl had hunted game, but the trip had been marred by the death of a family dog. The animal was old and ailing, so in what was perhaps an act of mercy Herbert Brandt shot the dog — putting it out of its misery.

Carl didn’t take this well.

Most 13-year-old boys wouldn’t. The relationship between a boy and his dog is part of pop culture, it is a core component in some classic movies and TV series, like Lassie.

Carl didn’t collapse in grief — he did something about it.

News reports from 1971 indicate that Carl Eric Brandt used a German Luger that icy day in Indiana to shoot both of his parents. Ilse Brandt died in the tub. Herbert Brandt was found nearby, barely alive. He survived.

Carl also tried to kill one of his sisters. The gun was out of bullets, so he tried to strangle her.

Carl stopped when his sister told him that she loved him.

Though detectives at the time latched on to Carl’s rage and grief at the death of his dog, Carl said the following to a judge during a hearing about the crime, “I didn’t really want to(…) It was like I was sort of programmed. I hesitated, but the next thing I knew I had shot them(…)It was like I was forced to do it,” Carl said. “I couldn’t really control myself.”

In May, 1971 a grand jury determined the boy was not “criminally responsible” for the act.

Carl Eric Brandt spent about a year in psychiatric treatment. Then he was returned, remarkably, to his father’s care.

The grand jury that found Carl not criminally responsible did look ahead, though. A warning was made to the future; “It is possible that such antisocial conduct could repeat itself…”

The Rainmaker

At one time Sherry Perisho had been a beauty queen. By age 38 Perisho lived in a boat near Big Pine Key, Florida, and she called herself the Rainmaker.

On July 19, 1989, the Rainmaker was discovered floating, dead, in the ocean.

Sherri Perisho wasn’t the only woman found dead in the area whose manner of death was so mysterious and gruesome. The following article by Barry Klein was published in the St. Petersburg Times on August 12, 1989, titled, “Killings shake town: 2 brutal murders are talk of Big Pine Key.” From the article:

About the only thing the two women had in common was that neither had a heart when residents of this small island community found their bodies.

Investigators say someone cut out the heart of 38-year-old Sherry Perisho, a transient who lived in a 6-foot rowboat not far from where a shocked fisherman found her body floating in a channel on the evening of July 19.

They are less certain about what happened to the heart of 20-year-old Lisa Sanders, a Michigan native who had courageously battled leukemia for most of her life…

Sherry Perisho had lived in Big Pine Key for just over a year. Nightly she would pack her things in her little rowboat, then sleep there as the boat drifted in shallow waters.

The night Sherri was murdered, a man carrying a serrated knife waded into the water near the sleeping woman. The moon was still nearly full. If there were no clouds that night, the moon likely shed a silver light on the water. The killer slit the Rainmaker’s throat and made an incision between her pelvis and breastbone. He removed her heart.

Leukemia victim Lisa Sanders may have suffered an even more horrific end. She was stabbed in the head, then a rope tied to her neck. Her killer attached the rope to the bumper of his vehicle and dragged her at least a half-mile. Then as her corpse lay on a dirt road on No Name Key, it was ravaged by carrion eaters.

For various reasons, including the tenor of the times (the term “satanic panic,” a phrase created to describe alleged instances of satanic ritual abuse, was coined in the 1980s to describe a slew of unfounded news stories about supposed instances of satan-worship-inspired murders) it was at first feared that both women had fallen afoul of some sort of satanic rite. The moon had been full the night before Sherry Perisho was killed, and some sort of devilish “markings” were found near the site of Lisa Sanders’s death.

That theory was refuted 15 years later, when it was discovered that a quiet, polite, unassuming man named Charlie Brandt lived near both murder scenes.

Charlie Brandt, who had been born to Herbert and the late Ilse Brandt, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Carl Eric Brandt.

Hurricane Ivan

On August 31, 2004, a large tropical wave flowed off the west coast of Africa. At first it wasn’t well-organized, and didn’t register on the radar of forecasters at the National Hurricane Center as a system to watch.

By September 1, that had changed. Upper level wind shear decreased and allowed the cloud tops of the loose confederation of storms to swell. Bands of clouds began to aggregate around a central core of low pressure. By September 2 a tropical depression formed. Soon the storm acquired a name: Ivan.

On September 11, Ivan was a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of intensity — the deadliest of all storms. At that point it was unclear as to whether Ivan was a danger to the Florida Keys. As the Keys can become completely inaccessible during such storms, they are often evacuated purely as a precaution.

Among the residents of the Keys driving north around that time were Teri Brandt, age 46, and her husband, 47-year-old Carl “Charlie” Brandt.

They were heading for Maitland, Florida, and 390 Hickory Drive in a suburb named Druid Hills Park. There they would be riding out the storm with Teri’s niece, Michelle Jones, age 37. Jones, a sales executive for the Golf Channel, a sports network based in Florida, had a 1,908 square foot home complete with a pool.

Charlie Brandt was fond of his niece. In fact, a co-worker of Brandt’s said the man spoke often of his beautiful niece. Charlie had a nickname for Michelle — “Victoria’s Secret.”

No one, including Michelle Jones and Teri Brandt, seemed to have any idea that they were in any danger from Charlie Brandt. It seems that no one knew of Carl Brandt, and an ice storm some 33 years before in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Everyone knew Charlie. Charlie was polite, a bit shy, friendly, well-liked.

By September 14, it was clear that Ivan was no longer a danger to the Florida Keys, or to central Florida. Ivan made landfall just west of Gulf Shores, Alabama, on September 16, a still-deadly category 3 hurricane.

Though the Florida Keys had been out of harm’s way for days, Teri and Charlie Brandt were still at Michelle Jones’s home at 390 Hickory Drive in Maitland, Florida.

Teri lay dead from stab wounds on the sofa. Charlie hung from a bedsheet in the garage.

Michelle Jones was dead in her bedroom.

Carl and Charlie

“It was like I was sort of programmed…”

In the bedroom of the Brandt home in Big Pine Key, investigators found a poster on the back of a door. It depicted the female anatomy; the skeletal system was exposed on the left side of the body. Elsewhere in the same house they found Victoria’s Secret catalogues, all addressed to Charlie Brandt.

On Charlie Brandt’s computer, police found evidence that Brandt had visited websites that addressed fetishes with death, and “erotic horror.”

Unassuming Charlie Brandt was a mask. Behind that mask another man lay in wait. A man who eroticized violence, who enjoyed gore, death, dismemberment. A monster. One that apparently was truly born many years before in an ice storm, in Indiana.

“It was like I was forced to do it…”

Charlie Brandt killed Michelle Jones with a single stab wound to the chest. He had stabbed his wife Teri repeatedly, viciously, but one single jab to Michelle Jones’s heart with a kitchen knife was all he needed to take her life.

Investigators felt it was a practiced move.

Then Charlie removed Michelle’s head. He placed her head on the bed so it faced her body. He brushed his niece’s hair from her face.

Charlie’s work took some time. He removed Michelle’s breasts and her left leg. He cut her chest cavity open and removed internal organs, including her heart. According to police, all this was done with a skill that indicated Charlie had past experience.

Before he killed himself, Charlie Brandt cut apart Victoria’s Secret bras and underwear, and left them scattered around Michelle’s bedroom.

“I couldn’t really control myself…”

The first law enforcement officers to arrive were physically sick upon finding the horrific scene.

“…Such antisocial conduct…”

Perhaps 26 women over the span of 30+ years. That’s how many victims authorities believe could have fallen prey to the man behind the mask that was Carl “Charlie” Brandt, including Sherry Perisho and possibly Lisa Sanders. As of October 1, 2005, authorities had constructed a 35-page timeline of Brandt’s movements across the years. They were examining whether or not Brandt could be linked to crimes as far away as northern Europe. His signature? Dismemberment, the removal of the head and/or the heart.

If Carl “Charlie” Brandt did commit that many murders, he would rank among the more prolific serial killers of all time. He would also be in the relatively small group of mass killers who never actually got caught. His toll of victims would be nearly 5 times that of another famous serial killer whose real name is not known for sure to this very day — the Zodiac Killer.

Who was Charlie Brandt? Obviously not the man people thought they knew. Maybe he wasn’t entirely sure. Maybe Charlie Brandt was telling the truth to the judge after he murdered his mother — he didn’t want to do it, he just felt compelled.

At 13, Carl Brandt was not yet “Charlie” — that came after his stay in the psychiatric institution — and he killed his nude, pregnant mother in the bathtub. Brandt didn’t succeed in killing his Dad, nominally the target of his rage due to the elder Brandt “putting down” the family dog while in Florida, yet he was so determined to kill his sister that he went after her with his bare hands.

The evidence of Brandt’s merging of violent, destructive impulses with his sexuality was found on his computer, and in the connection between his nickname for Michelle Jones and the Victoria’s Secret underwear and catalogues.

Such a connection was being made inside Brandt before January, 1971. And as ice encrusted the powerlines and trees outside his family’s home in Fort Wayne, that synthesis of the most potentially savage human impulses occurred inside Carl “Charlie” Brandt’s mind. As surely as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa 33 years later transformed into a huge category 5 hurricane named Ivan, around the empty center of Carl Eric Brandt was formed the mask named Charlie.

Even as Ivan roared ashore a deadly-enough category 3 storm in Alabama and the western part of the Florida panhandle, a perfect storm finally spun itself out at 390 Hickory Drive, in Maitland, Florida.

If it were the first time such a thing happened, perhaps it could be considered an anomaly.

In 1980, teenaged Joseph Edward Duncan III was put in prison for 20 years. He committed a sexually violent crime against a younger boy, raping him while holding a gun to his head, among other things. The highly intelligent Duncan began to acquire computer skills while in prison, and by the time he was released in 2000, he brought the finished mask of “Happy Joe,” or “Jet” into play, attending the University of North Dakota in Fargo as a computer science major. There he built websites, designed programs, went scuba-diving with pals from his workplace, Invie Consulting, and even wrote at least one weblog, Blogging the Fifth Nail.

In early July of 2005, Duncan was arrested with 8-year-old Shasta Groene in his company. He had allegedly killed her family in Coeur d’Alene after stalking them with nightvision equipment, then kidnapped Shasta and her brother Dylan. He took them to the woods of northern Montana, and there is alleged to have committed some of the most horribly cruel acts imaginable against the children, before killing Dylan.

Since Duncan’s arrest there has been speculation, and in one case evidence, linking him to other unsolved murders of children that occurred while he was a free man. Duncan may have considered these acts “getting even” with society. Or, more likely, he just liked to torture, mutilate, rape, and kill boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 10.

A few years before Ilse Brandt lay bleeding in her bathtub, a very tall teenaged boy named Ed killed his grandparents on their California farm.

Like the 13-year-old Carl “Charlie” Brandt, Big Ed Kemper [crimelibrary.com link] was declared mentally ill and sent to an institution. There Ed learned how to make nice, after a fashion, and when the 6’9″ Kemper finally returned home, his psychiatrists were sure he was no threat to society. Ed set about perfecting his ‘gentle giant’ persona, and by the time he murdered, mutilated, and raped his mother and her best friend, he’d already been practicing on coeds in his hometown of Santa Cruz, California. Ed had more in common with Charlie Brandt, it seems: both were fond of combining decapitation and dismemberment with their killing. The day two doctors declared Big Ed officially no longer a threat to anyone, he had body parts in the trunk of his car.

Both Brandt and Kemper first killed relatives, authority figures, both of them used firearms the first time.

Both men ended with killing family members or people known to them — Kemper his mother and her best friend, Brandt his wife and niece. Kemper turned himself into police, Brandt committed suicide.

If authorities are even partially right about the time between Charlie Brandt’s killing of his mother and his final slaughter of his niece and wife, Teri, then Charlie, just like Ed Kemper, had a lot of practice by the time he was done.

We have been able for many years to see storms coming via satellite and radar. Predicting where they will land is still an imperfect science, but it improves every year. Many times, when nightmarish crimes like those committed by Charlie Brandt occur, everyone says they just didn’t see it coming.

Maybe that isn’t always true.

As surely as someone at the National Hurricane Center issued a notice to all concerned once Ivan officially became a hurricane, a grand jury gave the future a warning about Carl Eric “Charlie” Brant in 1971. Much like the most violent storms, he was a void himself, empty of humanity inside his center, hollow and unnaturally still, but violent and deadly when a victim was in his sights.

Like the storm that was coating the trees, cars, and houses of Fort Wayne, Indiana with cold that January in 1971, he was made of ice.


The following articles and websites were invaluable in constructing this entry: