A little over two years ago, I came across an old news article.
It was about an old unsolved murder that I had never heard of in a tiny Indiana town
that I had only ever passed on my way to somewhere else.
When I reached out to the victim’s daughter on Facebook, I had no idea that I would spend
the next two years of my life living and breathing this case, dumping every resource I had into
But that’s precisely what happened.
I pulled in one of our reporters, Emily, and basically made this her full-time job.
But even in the early days, I didn’t know what this was.
We didn’t set out to make a whole series about this case.
But the more we dug in, the more secrets we uncovered.
And the more secrets we uncovered, the more holy shit moments we had.
Because not only does this 38-year-old cold case have what it needs to get solved literally
tomorrow, but the person responsible may have been hiding in plain sight all along.
Over the course of this series, I’m going to take you along as we hit the backroads
of Argus, Indiana, looking for evil truths, the kind that you never expect to find in
small Midwestern towns.
And I’ll take you along as we uncover facts that have never been reported until now.
This is the untold story of Darlene Hulse, the Four of Hearts from Indiana.
I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck Investigates.
This is Episode 1, Take a Bath.
On August 17, 1984, in a small, middle-of-nowhere Indiana town called Argus, 8-year-old Marie
Hulse was at home with her mom and two little sisters.
It was a Friday morning at the tail end of their summer break, and since Dad was at work,
Marie and her 6-year-old sister Melissa were going to have to tag along to their baby sister’s
doctor’s appointment in the nearby town of Plymouth.
Their mom Darlene told them to take a quick bath and get washed up before they left, while
she got baby Kristen ready in the other room.
The two girls were waist-deep in water, when all of a sudden there was a knock at the front
Marie thought she heard their mom say something like she wasn’t expecting a package or delivery
or she didn’t order anything.
They tried to listen closer for more, but there weren’t words.
Instead, there was weird noises coming from the front room of the house.
It was a sound Marie has never forgotten.
He was grunting and growling.
I thought it was a puppy.
I thought my parents had literally got us a puppy.
I told Melissa that in the tub.
I was like, do you hear that?
It’s a dog.
And it was like growling and grunting.
Marie hopped out of the tub and she was so excited about the idea of a new puppy that
she didn’t even stop to dry off or put on clothes before running down the hallway.
Their dad, Ron, had surprised them before with a new dog, so this idea wasn’t out
of left field.
In fact, that exact week, their dog Ling was at a breeder’s house for a consultation
about puppy making.
The Holses lived in a long one-story ranch-style house, so when Marie got out of the tub, she
ran down the hallway toward the den where the front door was.
But when she rounded the corner, she froze.
Because there was no puppy.
Just a man pushing her mom down on the floor.
He was on his knees, straddling her mom Darlene, trying to put duct tape over her eyes and
In that moment, at eight years old, Marie didn’t know what was going on.
She didn’t know this man and he wasn’t saying anything.
He just continued grunting and growling.
Her baby sister, who was last in her mother’s arms, was nowhere to be found.
Through all the confusion, she knew something was wrong.
My mom was yelling, you know, don’t hurt my babies, or something to that effect.
She was, I mean, screaming.
She was, you know, she was flailing, like, I’m talking like, I know she scratched him,
I know that she got pieces of him, and he was dragging her by her hair.
Completely terrified, little Marie started screaming and she ran towards the kitchen
This was 1984, so not only was there no 911 system yet in Marshall County, Indiana, the
Holses had a rotary phone.
But Marie knew she needed to call for help, so she started that slow circle dial of one
of the only phone numbers she had memorized, her Aunt Nancy’s.
He was already coming around the corner, but I did get, I did get through.
I got a busy signal.
As the busy tone beeped in her ear, Marie looked up, just as the man came around the
corner, dragging her mom by the hair behind him.
I just remember him coming towards me and ripping the phone out, and me thinking, he’s
going to get me now.
He’s going to get me.
And I think that’s when she said she, to run, run, but it was so jarbled, you know,
it was just chaos, and he never spoke a word.
I do remember that.
He never spoke.
In that moment, she got a really good look at the guy.
He was skinny, but not scrawny, and clean-cut, with blondish two-toned hair combed over to
The guy was wearing normal clothes, like a brown shirt with stripes and tan-colored pants
and brown shoes.
Marie remembers in that moment thinking that this guy didn’t look like a super scary person,
but because he was hurting her mom, he must have been a bad guy.
Just when he tried to grab Marie, Darlene screamed for Marie to run.
I remember her saying, don’t hurt my babies.
And she was screaming, like blood-curdling screams while she was fighting.
So there were grunts, and it was just like surreal, it was completely surreal.
By that point, Marie knew they were in serious danger, and she had to get her sister before
running for help.
Now this all went down in just a matter of seconds.
So six-year-old Melissa was just getting out of the bathtub when she heard Marie come back
down the hallway.
But instead of announcing or introducing a new puppy, Marie was frantic.
She came back and she was like, no, get out now, get out now.
You’re the one that told me something wasn’t right and I had to leave.
After alerting her sister, Marie took off back down the hallway and ran through the
kitchen and out the back door that led outside.
And Melissa, not knowing what was the matter, ran toward the front door.
When she rounded the corner, she saw the man pinning her mom down on the carpet, and he
was hovered over Darlene in a way that put his back towards Melissa.
But Darlene started screaming at Melissa to get out, and the man turned around and spotted
I just remember him looking at me as I ran out the door, like never lunged for me, never
But he was on his knees.
So when I first looked down the hall, I want to say I saw just the top of his head.
And then when I came out, then he looked up.
The man didn’t say anything to Melissa either.
She remembered his face being totally expressionless.
The only one speaking any words was Darlene.
She just kept saying, Melissa, get out.
And then just let the children go.
That’s all she said.
Still completely naked and soaking wet, the girls ran from their house to the dirt and
gravel road, passing a car that they didn’t recognize parked in their driveway.
I remember turning around and looking at the car.
I looked at it because I was looking to see if Melissa was following me.
Or the guy.
I remember turning around, looking, thinking, is he going to follow me?
So I did, I remember looking at it.
It was a huge clunker of a car, dirty and green with rust all across the bottom.
And it was pulled right up into the driveway.
Marie noticed that it had big round taillights and a big, long body with a big trunk.
And she remembers thinking that it looked old, like you know how in the mid-80s cars
were pretty boxy, but their bodies were smaller than cars that were made in the 70s that were
basically just massive boats on wheels?
Well, that’s what Marie saw, a massive, rusty, ugly boat of a car that was chalky
green, like not just in color, but the paint job itself was bad.
To Marie’s relief, as she was running and looking back at the car, she spotted her sister
coming out the front door.
I do remember seeing Melissa run behind me.
I saw her and I thought, I’m going to get there faster.
I’ve got to get there faster.
And Melissa was screaming, crying, but I could see her and see we weren’t allowed to cross
And I do, I do remember thinking, I don’t have any clothes on and this is not even hurting
I had, I had a, because I always tried to walk without shoes or whatever.
And I remember thinking, this isn’t even hurting.
I can run faster than I’ve ever ran before.
I remember thinking that.
They had turned right out of the house, running down the road toward the next crossing, which
was this busy highway.
They were headed to their grandparents’ house, who lived just on the other side.
We’re eight and six.
I’ve gotten spanked before for going across the road.
And I remember thinking, I’m going to get in trouble.
Nope, I got to go.
And I just took off across the road.
They knew that’s where they needed to go for help.
Marie says that as she’s running to her grandparents, she felt like she was flying.
We were fast as lightning, okay?
And you know, the distance between there does not take but just like two, three minutes
if you’re running fast.
Marie got to her grandparents’ house first, and relief flooded her when she spotted her
Grandma was in the window.
You know, they have like those wind chimes, because they didn’t have air.
And I remember the wind chimes, and she was standing at the sink.
And I said, someone’s hurting, Mom.
You need to call.
And she’s like, what?
She didn’t even, I was talking too fast.
And she just couldn’t, she couldn’t understand.
I was like, someone has Mom.
And she just couldn’t process what I was saying.
I was like, call the police.
She goes, I don’t understand.
I was like, call the police.
Meanwhile, Melissa had almost caught up to Marie.
But when she got to the edge of Highway 31, there was a car coming, so she had to stop
and let them pass.
And I wonder about this person a lot, if they’re still out there.
If they even knew what they saw that day.
A six-year-old girl, wet, naked, crying, barefoot, standing on a dirt road at the edge of a highway.
Would things have been different if they would have stopped?
Would we still be asking the questions that we are today?
Unfortunately, unless they come forward, we may never know.
That car went by, and Melissa darted across the highway to meet Marie and her grandma
just as Doris was dialing the number for the Marshall County Police Department.
Doris relayed to police what her granddaughters told her.
And the police dispatched the closest unit to get to the Holsholm as soon as possible
for an armed robbery in progress.
Doris stayed on the phone with them while Marie and Melissa propped themselves in their
grandparents’ front window to watch for police to go save their mother.
And then I remember her being on the phone with the police, and because it was a dirt
road, we heard the police cars come.
And we were watching out the window, and they went past the road.
And she went nuts.
I do remember that.
She’s like, no.
And she’s on the phone.
She’s like, you’ve missed it.
You’ve missed it.
You’ve just passed the road.
Then, do you remember seeing them come, like, circle back and go back down the correct road?
But then my grandmother pulled me away from the window.
Do you think she was coming to the realization of what was happening, or how serious it was?
She asked me where Kristen was, and I didn’t know.
And I got really scared that I was in trouble, because I didn’t know where you were.
I just remember the primary concern is, where is Kristen?
And then I think Melissa knew more about that, because she was the last one to run out.
Kristen, who is almost in her 40s today, doesn’t remember anything about that day, because
she was still in diapers.
But her sisters have struggled with the fact that they couldn’t find her.
I’ll never forget one time Melissa said the one thing that she regrets was not getting
me, not grabbing me, when we were running out.
With Darlene and baby Kristen at the house with a crazed man, Doris didn’t know what
She knew something was wrong, based on what her granddaughters were able to relay through
sobs, but she couldn’t have known the horror that awaited.
Marie was hopeful that she had run so damn fast that her mom and baby sister would be
I mean, it happened so fast.
And so, all of a sudden, just a million people were at my grandparents’ house.
And cops were there.
And I just remember them saying,
The baby’s been found, but the mom is not there.
I’m going to take you into the crime scene, and the search for Darlene, in episode two,
A Stranger’s Wrath.
You can listen to that right now.