The Deck Investigates - 2 of 15: A Stranger's Wrath

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Everett Fish was the reserve officer who passed 20B Road.

The dirt roads off the highway aren’t well marked, and it’s easy to do.

I even missed it my first time up there.

It took about .2 seconds for him to realize what he’d done and make a U-turn back toward the Hulse House,

which was just a stone’s throw away from the highway with a cornfield and a barn between.

The first thing Officer Fish did when he pulled up was look for any cars or suspicious activity.

And keep in mind, Officer Fish didn’t know much yet.

He’d just been told that there was possibly an armed robbery at the house with a woman inside.

When he finally pulled up, he didn’t see any cars at the house,

so he got on his radio and relayed that to Marshall County authorities.

Then Officer Fish got out of his police car, grabbed his shotgun from the backseat,

and as he walked toward the house, he noticed something.

On the ground in front of the house was blood.

A long trail of it that led from the driveway right up to the front door.

That’s when he got back on his radio and was like,

hey, whatever this was, it’s more than that now,

and it’s not looking good, so I’m going to need some backup.

And just then, he heard something so foreign in that moment,

the last thing he ever expected to hear.

It was a baby crying.

Officer Fish approached the front door, and before opening it,

Officer Fish approached the front door, and before opening it,

he called out, announcing himself as police.

But there was no response, just more crying.

Fish knew he couldn’t wait.

He threw open the front door and stepped inside.

This is Episode 2, A Stranger’s Wrath.

Officer Fish was shocked when he opened the door

and found a crying baby in just a diaper and covered in blood.

But not her blood, it seemed.

You see, Officer Fish was also a trained EMT,

so he was able to discern just by doing a once-over

that the baby was okay.

Yes, she was covered in blood, but she didn’t have any obvious wounds,

and there didn’t seem to be any fresh bleeding.

He also thought it was a good sign that she was crying,

because that meant she was breathing fine.

But just to be safe, he radioed for an ambulance to come right away,

both for the baby and for whoever was taken out of the home

if they could find them.

And Fish knew they needed to find them soon.

Just from the looks of things, that person lost a lot of blood.

They had to be seriously hurt, if not already dead.

The blood trail he found outside extended into the house,

from the front door to the living room carpet.

That’s where the brunt of the attack seemed to have taken place,

because there were streaks and small pools of blood in the carpet,

as well as smears on the slate tile by a wood stove near the front entrance.

And a struggle had clearly taken place,

because the stove’s fireplace tools were scattered on the floor.

Within about three minutes, Lt. Ed Criswell from the sheriff’s office

and Indiana State Police Trooper Dan Ringer got there.

Lt. Criswell took baby Kristen outside to meet the EMS crew,

and together, Ringer and Officer Fish started through the house

with guns drawn to see if anyone else was inside.

They checked every inch of the house.

The bathroom, bedrooms, closets, laundry room, kitchen,

even the basement, all clear.

Once they gave that all clear inside, other police units arrived

and checked the outside of the home, looking for anyone or anything.

But the outside left more clues than in,

because the blood trail stopped right at the driveway

where a car would have been parked.

And beyond the driveway in the road,

there was a skid mark pointing eastbound,

which is the opposite direction of the highway

and the opposite direction that the girls ran in.

If you leave the Holst house going that way,

it doesn’t really lead to anything.

I mean, if you look at the road from the house,

all you can see are trees and fields.

There aren’t any other houses.

But if you take that road, it just takes you east and then south

and then eventually feeds you out onto another highway, 110,

which, if you wanted, you can take 110 right back to 31,

and you can basically do a big square.

While some officers and detectives were formulating a plan

for how they were going to track down the vehicle and bring Darlene home,

others were charged with finding Darlene’s husband, Ron Holst.

They phoned him at Young Door,

which was a door manufacturing company in the neighboring town of Plymouth.

And police basically just said something had happened at his house

and they were sending a unit to come get him.

Now, if they were coming to get him, Ron knew that it was bad.

So while he waited, he called his parents’ house.

I mean, they live just a stone’s throw away,

so surely they knew what was happening.

His mom, Doris, answered, and she told him that the kids were OK,

but that police couldn’t find Darlene.

I remember my dad coming through the door and him just sobbing.

Like, they’ve got to find her, they’ve got to find her.

He just kept mumbling stuff over and over again.

Like, he was just crying, absolutely crying.

And I just remember my dad saying,

we’re going to do everything we can to get her back,

we’re going to get her back, we’re going to find her, we’re going to find her.

And he’s like, I would give up.

I remember he said to me, I would give up everything if we could find your mom.

He goes, I would give up all of this.

I just, I would give up everything I have to find your mom.

Like, why would they not find her?

I did not even process that it was more than that.

I didn’t get that she was in humongous danger.

I didn’t get that she could go away and not come back.

It never really crossed my mind.

Seeing their dad, who was usually so reserved and in control,

break down like that was scary for the girls.

I mean, again, they were so little and they were confused.

And on top of all of that, they were uncomfortable.

There were police showing up at their grandparents’ house

wanting to talk to them about what had happened.

And there were also all these grown men standing around asking them questions

and they just wanted to go home and put on some damn clothes.

That feeling of being scared and vulnerable haunted them for a long time.

We were like, we need clothes.

I had a blanket on and I had nightmares for a very long time

about going places without clothes on.

Marie and Melissa told police what the man looked like

and described his car and pretty soon there were dozens of law enforcement agents

out searching for a green or bluish green early 70s rusty car

with a blonde man driving.

And that was the first issue.

What in the world color was this car?

And I know it sounds simple, but Marie and Melissa each saw something slightly different.

Marie called the car green and Melissa called it more blue.

Other witnesses that they would eventually talk to say light green,

maybe dark green with a light top.

I’ve spent more time thinking about this car than I’d like to admit.

But I think it bothers me so much because it seems so straightforward.

Was it blue or was it green?

I really focus on what the girl said.

A lot of people try and discount their recollection

or will tell you to take their accounts with a grain of salt

because they were so young and traumatized.

But I believe that car is burned into their brains.

Just how is it burned in, in two different colors?

One of us said it was like a pea green

and the other one said it was more like a blue green color from day one.

And I don’t know how that happened.

I don’t know how, I don’t know.

That frustrates me to this day that we couldn’t agree on the color.

No one could have solved this whole color mystery.

Not some fancy equipment.

Run-of-the-mill paint swatches.

And so last year, that is exactly what we used

to get to the bottom of this 38-year-old enduring mystery.

Last time Emily met with Marie, Melissa and Kristen,

they were talking about this,

about how they both saw something different.

Marie actually whipped out one of those paint swatch fan decks

from her utility room

and they found the exact color that they both remember.

Now their memory hadn’t changed.

That was the color and they both saw the same color.

It’s teal green.

It’s teal green.

The problem is that Melissa sees that color as a shade of blue

and Marie sees that as a shade of green.

We actually took a picture of the color that they agreed on

and you can see that on our website.

But this provided a ton of clarity

about the actual color of the suspect’s car.

Unfortunately, no one thought to do that in 1984.

So in the bulletin that went out to the area,

police called the car blue green.

That bulletin also included other details

that the girls remembered about the rust

and the old age of the car as well.

By mid-morning, dozens of officers were looking for that car

and that man,

but more importantly, Darlene.

At the same time they were searching,

technicians were collecting evidence from the Hulse home.

They recovered some bloody rocks near the front stoop.

On the front porch, they found some hair,

a piece of gray duct tape on the front step,

a white sock,

and just inside the door was a Nike tennis shoe

and another piece of duct tape.

In the dining room, they collected a smock

that had seemingly been ripped off Darlene in the struggle.

One of the buttons had flung over by the baby’s crib

that was set up in the front room.

In the kitchen, investigators found the phone cord

that had been pulled out of the wall receiver.

They dusted for fingerprints on the phone receiver itself

but came up with nothing.

The bedrooms were mostly undisturbed

except for one small blood spot on Darlene’s bed,

which was photographed and attributed to Kristen

looking around the house for her mother

when she was left alone.

They moved on to the fireplace tools

that were strewn about the front entrance of the house,

and that’s when they noticed something that they hadn’t before.

A part of the fireplace poker was missing.

You know how wood fire stoves come with

basically this, like, carousel of tools?

There’s usually a shovel, a broom, tongs, poker,

well, the rod part of the poker was gone.

Their assumption was that the poker

was potentially what Darlene had been hit with.

Now, this was just a guess.

The girls had run from the house

before the man ever hit their mother,

and she wasn’t bleeding when they left.

But if the officers were betting men,

they would have put money on it.

This meant that the killer hadn’t come with a weapon.

This was a crime of opportunity,

for even if something was planned,

what was planned wasn’t murder.

Things had clearly gotten out of control.

Darlene surprised her attacker

with more than he was bargaining for when he barged in,

and she must have made him angry

because what he was able to do to her

in the few minutes between the girls running from the home

and the attacker fleeing with Darlene spoke volumes,

and they had to find her now.

But in a town of 1,500 people,

the places an assailant could have taken Darlene were limited.

Police went scouring nearby fields

and checking under bridges,

while other officers went knocking on doors.

The early canvas efforts were tricky

because, as I said, the Hulses didn’t have

any super close neighbors,

so state and county law enforcement

had to widen their radius

to within a few miles of the Hulse home,

and they worked to talk to anyone within that bubble.

Most people hadn’t seen

or heard anything unusual that morning.

A few people mentioned a book salesman

who had been frequenting the area.

Sometimes they added a detail about a green car,

but that was the only stranger

they encountered in recent weeks.

Police also asked Ron to come to the house

to look around and see if anything of value was missing.

They wanted to know what exactly they were dealing with

because there’s a difference between a robbery gone wrong

and a crazed abductor on the loose snatching housewives.

I’m sure it was awful for Ron to see his home

with blood all over the carpet.

But he said that the only thing missing

was the fireplace poker,

and of course, his wife.

Everything else was still there,

even the cash that had been left

sitting out on the piano.

While he was there,

Ron was able to grab some overnight clothes

for his daughter,

since they’d all probably have to stay

with his parents for a while.

And speaking of his parents,

back at their house,

police interviewed his dad, Harvey Hulse,

who said that this whole thing

was even more shocking to him

because he had just seen Darlene and the girls

that very morning at like 8.45

when he biked over to drop off

some mushy bananas for baby Kristen.

This actually helped police with their timeline

because that meant that the man showed up

and likely attacked Darlene

sometime between 9 when Harvey left

and 9.30 when the girls showed up

at their grandparents’ house.

Harvey said that he hadn’t noticed anything unusual

and that things seemed totally normal

when he was there.

He said he biked home,

got in his car,

and went to work after that.

Evening was rolling in

and the searches for Darlene

hadn’t turned up anything.

Not her, not the suspect.

But at around 6,

Indiana State Police announced

that they had stopped a blonde man

driving a green Pontiac Grand Prix.

Officers went and actually got

Ron, Marie, and Melissa

and immediately took them

to the ISP post in Peru, Indiana

to get a look at this guy and his car.

But the girls said,

nope, that wasn’t the green clunker

they saw outside their house

and the guy wasn’t the one that they saw

knelt over their mother, growling.

Police knew their best bet

would be to put out a picture of the suspect

rather than bringing every blonde-haired man

driving a green car down to their station.

So that same night,

they took Marie and Melissa

to the South Bend Police Department

to make an artist’s sketch of the suspect.

It was all day long.

Someone else would pull me aside and say,

okay, Marie, let’s go over this again.

Okay, look at this.

And I cannot tell you how many times

we had to go into the police station

and look at picture books.

They were lined up

in like those plastic folder things

and we would just flip, flip.

And then dad’s like,

okay, we’re going to go do something fun.

And I was like, what?

And he’s like, we’re going to go

to a person who sketches people, an artist.

And I was like, that’s not fun.

It was a woman who drew like amazing stuff

and she’s like, okay,

so when you look at these eyes,

what were the shape of his eyes?

And I remember like lines of eyes,

lines of noses, lines of mouths.

I remember his eyes,

but beyond that and the color of his hair

and stuff, I couldn’t really.

And then when she got done,

the picture did look similar.

So I was like, oh, that was neat

that you were able to do that.

Yeah, but it was constant.

It was all the time.

And they would bribe me with Cokes,

which I never drank Cokes.

And so I remember, I don’t want any more Cokes.

But you just remember weird stuff like that.

And I was freezing.

It’s so cold in all of those places.

That was my memory of it.

We have that original sketch

and you can see it on our website,

What they really focused in on for the sketch

were the light eyes.

Also the fact that Marie and Melissa

both remembered him having a distinct thin

and long nose, a narrow face

and light combed over hair.

Which the girls described as streaky.

And the way it got reported back in the day

was that he had black streaks in his hair.

This is something that I also became obsessed over

because it seemed so distinct.

But when we talked to them today,

they said, no, it was more like it was two-toned.

Like someone who’d been out in the sun

and it looked highlighted.

The other thing that they were both adamant about

is that he was clean shaven

with no facial hair whatsoever.

By the time Ron and the girls

got back to his parents’ house,

it was dark out.

And the searches for Darlene

were wrapping up for the night.

All the law enforcement agencies

from state, county and local

met at the Argus Police Department

to make a plan for the next morning.

Even two FBI agents from the South Bend field office

came down to help with the kidnapping aspect

of the investigation.

It’s hard to imagine what that first night

was like for Darlene’s family.

Ron must have felt totally helpless

and just distraught

from the thought of his wife being either

held hostage by some crazy guy

or alone and injured somewhere

or even worse.

And thoughts about the scary man

kept running through Marie and Melissa’s minds.

They had just witnessed

such a horrific, life-altering tragedy

in the safety of their own home,

watching a stranger hurt their loving mom

and protect her.

Their sense of safety had been shattered.

And as they tried to go to bed that night,

praying that their mother would be there

when they woke up,

one terrifying thought kept them awake.

What if the man came back for them?

Well, dad did the best he could

to make it okay.

He just kept saying things like,

we’re going to have new carpet,

you’re going to love it,

I picked out new carpet.

And he would assure us that,

just like lightning’s not going to strike

the same place twice,

that he’s like, now,

this is not ever going to happen to you again.

This will never happen to you again.

You don’t have to worry about that anymore.

It’s like that’s,

this doesn’t usually happen to anybody.

The chances of it happening again,

it’s not going to, you know?

And so we just kind of held on to that,

that he’s not going to come back.

That would be stupid.

Ron was right.

He didn’t come back.

But neither would their mother.

As they laid, tucked into bed that night,

unbeknownst to them,

Darlene was lying just six miles away.

That’s next on episode three,

The Wooded Path.

You can listen to that right now.