Produced by Steven Reiner
This story originally aired on May 30, 2006.
Michelle Jones was a successful TV executive, living the good life in Orlando, Fla. When a hurricane threatened the Florida Keys, Michelle invited her aunt and uncle to take shelter with her in Orlando.
Days later, Michelle and the aunt were discovered savagely murdered; the uncle committed suicide.
As correspondent Susan Spencer reports, the investigation would unravel a dark family secret and lead detectives to the possibility they were dealing with a serial killer.
It has been more than a year since the shocking murder of Michelle Jones, but her best friends, Lisa Emmons and Debbie Knight, still feel the loss.
"She wanted so much more out of life, but she was robbed," says Debbie.
Michelle was 37, single, and a successful executive at The Golf Channel in Orlando, Fla.
The three women had been friends since they were teenagers, but the events that would tear them apart began Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2004. A violent storm, Hurricane Ivan, gathered in the Atlantic, prompting an evacuation of the Florida Keys.
"Michelle kept an extra-close watch on it because her aunt and uncle lived there," recalls Lisa.
"She said, 'Of course … Come stay with me,' " Debbie adds.
To Michelle's delight, the aunt and uncle, Teri and Charlie Brandt, did come for the weekend; Michelle was close to both, but especially to Teri, her mother's sister.
"Twenty minutes after they got there I got the phone call from Michelle. 'Teri and Charlie are here, where are you? Why aren't you over here?' " remembers Lisa. "They were hanging out."
"She had a Jacuzzi and a pool. She had a lovely home," Debbie adds.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Michelle's mother, Mary Lou, wondered how the weekend was going. "We were very close, very close. We talked almost every day," she remembers.
So Mary Lou was puzzled when Michelle didn't pick up the phone. "We placed a call to Michelle Monday night and Tuesday night. We got her voice mail," Mary Lou recalls. By Wednesday night, there was still no answer and Mary Lou was beginning to get very worried.
She called Debbie, asking her to go check on Michelle and stayed on the phone as Debbie walked up the drive to Michelle's home.
Debbie says she thought something was wrong and was worried about what she would find. When her key wouldn't open the front door, she headed to the back, with Mary Lou still on the phone.
"There was a garage door with almost all glass. So you could see in," Debbie recalls. "I was in shock."
Inside the garage, she could see Charlie hanging from a rafter.
Even Rob Hemmert, the lead investigator, had to steel himself for the gruesome scene in the sweltering garage. "I could see Charlie Brandt hanging from the rafters in the garage. He was hanging from a bedsheet, which was around his neck, and there was a ladder close by to his body," he explains.
Brandt had apparently committed suicide.
Little could Hemmert imagine what else awaited him inside Michelle's meticulous house.
"It was just a nice home. It had that feminine kind of feel to it. All of those nice decorations and the aroma of her home was masked by death. The smell of death," Hemmert says.
Teri's sat slumped on the living room couch. She had been stabbed seven times in the chest. Michelle's mutilated body — decapitated, with her heart removed — was in her room.
All three bodies were locked inside the house, and Hemmert says there was no indication of any type of struggle or fight. That led the investigator to one inescapable conclusion: that Brandt had committed the murders and then hung himself.