Deadly Obsession

A family tragedy unmasks a killer's secret past

As Hemmert pieced events together, the evening seemed to have started innocently enough. "I know they had dinner together. Charlie cooked some type of fish. It looks like they may have had some drinks, some wine and so forth," he explains.

But after dinner, Michelle spoke with Lisa and told her not to come over. "She said Teri and Charlie had been arguing and they weren't in the best of company. They had a little too much to drink. She was tired and she wanted to go to sleep," Lisa recalls.

Hemmert learned that although the Brandts had planned to leave that day, their bags sat in the front hall, because Charlie insisted on staying the extra night.

"There was no reason for them to stay behind," Hemmert says. "The hurricane had passed so he chose to stay for a reason. I think that was because he knew what he was going to do."

Brandt used Michelle's own kitchen knives to kill both her and his wife. "Teri was killed in a quick, repeated stabbing-type attack to her chest. In comparison, Michelle had one stab wound to the chest," Hemmert explains.

Hemmert says he then carefully put her blood-soaked clothes in the bathroom sink, before dismembering Michelle's body. "It all took time. And it took thought," he says.

Mary Lou just couldn't accept that this monstrous crime was the work of the mild-mannered brother-in-law she had known for 17 years. "When they described what had happened to Michelle, it was even beyond description," says Mary Lou.

The crime was just as incomprehensible to Michelle's horrified friends, who considered Charlie a bit of an oddball, but certainly no threat.

"He was just very quiet and reserved," Lisa remembers. "He would just sit back and observe. Michelle and I used to call him eccentric."

But Charlie was well suited to Teri's carefree personality, says Debbie. "Teri was gypsy-like. Just happy-go-lucky. Nothing bothered her. She was a wonderful person. Very kind, very sweet," she says.

Teri's closest friend, Melanie Fecher, said Teri and Charlie were inseparable. "If my husband could love me one-third the amount that Charlie loved Teri, I'd be the luckiest woman in the whole world," she says.

Melanie says she never detected any problems in Teri's marriage, saying they never argued, that she never saw him get angry and that, to her knowledge, Charlie didn't have a temper.

Everyone agreed that it had seemed a perfect match. "They often did things for each other that would make each other feel good," says Hemmert. "One of those things was that they would make their lunches for each other. Because the lunch tasted better when it was made by the one who loved you."

Yet Charlie stabbed his wife seven times. He left no note or an explanation. But the first hints came a few days later from an unexpected source: Charlie's older sister, Angela.

Angela was supposed to join other relatives for a briefing by police, but she didn't show. "She was in a car in the parking lot. She basically came to us and said there's something I need to tell you people," explains Hemmert.

Angela shared with investigators an explosive secret — a secret her distraught family had kept hidden for more than three decades.

She haltingly told her story on tape to a stunned Hemmert, telling him exactly what happened on a hellish night in January 1971.