The Deck Investigates - 4 of 15: They Left Town

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Before Darlene’s body had even been found, a tip had come in to police.

A man named Jim Garman suggested they check out the home of a woman named Thelma Burns.

He said there were a lot of quote-unquote druggies and creeps who stayed there.

When police went by to talk to him the next evening, this now being after Darlene’s body

had been found, Jim Garman’s tip had gotten even more specific, and it pointed the finger

at one particular man, Danny Bender.

This is Episode 4, They Left Town.

James gave police a quick version of events over the phone when they spoke to him a couple

of times on the 18th.

But a few days later, they asked him to come in to give a formal statement.

James said the weekend before the murder, he’d run into an acquaintance, Thelma, at

the laundromat, and arranged to buy some speed off her.

And Danny Bender was with her.

They all made plans to meet later at James and his wife’s house to party that night,

after they got done with their laundry.

Here’s an actor reading James Garman’s exact statement.

On the Sunday before the thing happened at the residence on 20 B Road, I was at my house

and Thelma Burns and a guy by the name of Dan, I think his last name is Bender, came

over and Dan and I got into my car to go to Thelma’s to get a keg of beer.

On the way over to Thelma’s, he started talking about stealing and he said he was a kleptomaniac

and I was thinking about my tools and my backhoe.

And I told him that just because a guy has belongings, that it doesn’t mean he has money.

When we crossed the tracks on State Road 110, we were coming up to the first road past the

tracks and he pointed out to the north and he said that there is a young guy who works

at Yungdor and who just bought a new house and paid cash for it.

And he said that they had a lot of cash in the house, like they didn’t trust banks.

Then he started talking about going to California with this guy who was staying at Thelma’s.

We went on and got the beer and on the way back, he told me that he just got out of prison

for armed robbery.

He also said that he had an uncle that owns a junkyard on 25 South of 110.

So not only was James super forthcoming with police, but his story seemed legit.

He’d stayed pretty consistent from the interviews over the phone to the one that he did in person.

So police wasted no time looking into Danny Bender and it turns out he did have a criminal

record and had in fact been in prison, out in Texas, but not for armed robbery, for kidnapping.

And he had just gotten released on July 1st.

But there was one problem.

Danny was nowhere to be found.

Police were hearing that he might have skipped town recently, like right around the time

of the murder kind of recently, which made him look even more suspicious.

Soon enough, people in Danny’s social circle started talking and word got to Danny that

the cops had been looking for him.

So Danny just called them up, all the way from Colorado.

Danny told Sergeant Yokelet that he had been out West since even before the murder happened.

He said he even had a friend who could vouch for him because they had hitchhiked out there

together, from Indiana to Illinois, all the way to Utah and Nevada before going back to Colorado.

Danny also said that he wasn’t familiar with Darlene or Ron Hulse, but he did admit to

maybe having heard the last name Hulse before.

Police, gauging that Danny was a talker and seemed pretty willing to cooperate, were like,

listen, your statement over the phone is really no good to us.

We need you to get back to Indiana to take a polygraph.

And Danny was like, sure, but you got to come and get me.

So two investigators hopped on a flight and escorted Danny back to Indiana, where they

wasted no time in getting him hooked up to a lie detector test.

Subject advised that he was not in Indiana on August 17th, that he does not know Darlene

Hulse by name, but he might by sight, and that he did not know Ron Hulse by name, but

he might know him by sight.

He advised that he did not know the house or where it was at.

He advised that the officers told him that Ron Hulse worked for Youngdore.

He advised that the only person he knows at Youngdore would be his uncle.

Subject advised that the reason he left Indiana was for a job, and that he wanted to go out

west with Tim.

He advised that he did try to make a couple phone calls while he was out west.

Subject advised that he was told that the woman was beat to death, but he does not know


Subject advised that he has not broken into anywhere since he’s been out of prison, and

that he left to go out west on August 15th.

During the pretest portion of the examination, the subject gave the following information,

that he does not know who killed the woman.

He is not trying to withhold any information from anyone about the murder.

He denied having the conversation with Garman that Garman describes.

He denied pointing out the home of the victim as a good place to burglarize.

He denied telling Garman or anyone else that the owner of the house worked at Youngdore.

He stated that the conversation he did have with Garman was about a house that was located

at the corner of State Road 110 and Old 31.

He stated that this house was owned by a probation or parole officer.

This was the house that he described to Garman as a good place to rip off.

Subject was given two tests.

His polygrams contained specific reactions indicative of deception to the relevant questions

pertaining to.

Do you plan to try to lie to me on this test?

Answer no.

Do you know who beat Darlene Hulse?

Answer no.

Did you know in advance who was going to the Hulse house?

Answer no.

Did you talk about the Hulse house before the murder?

Answer no.

Are you attempting to protect anyone now?

Answer no.

Are you attempting to withhold information from me about this matter?

Answer no.

Have you lied to any of my questions?

Answer no.


After careful analysis of this subject’s polygrams, it is the opinion of the examiner that he

did not tell the complete truth.

Lieutenant Ed Criswell wanted Danny’s full story, so they went around the area trying

to talk to some of the people known to hang around him, including his relatives at the

junkyard in Fulton County.

They already knew Danny didn’t own a car, but since he had ties to a junkyard, they

wanted to find out if he’d had access to a rusty old green four-door car.

But as you can imagine, looking for something like that at a junkyard was a needle in a

haystack situation, and it didn’t result in anything meaningful.

So police arranged to interview Danny again and asked him to start with what he’d been

up to since he was released from prison in Texas, all the way until he allegedly left

Indiana on August 15th.

Danny said that he had gotten out of prison on July 1st, and a friend had picked him up

and got him a plane ticket back to Indiana.

He said he landed in Indianapolis on July 2nd and hitchhiked up to Plymouth.

He then went through what he did each day, which was basically him partying day and night

with various people around Plymouth, Argus, and another small town called Monterey.

And he was working odd jobs for a few weeks all in between there.

Investigators grilled him for hours, but according to the report, he didn’t give up much.

Here’s a reenactment of that questioning between Dave Yochelet and Danny Bender.

Basically, Danny didn’t want to snitch.

He actually told police he would rather spend 30 years in prison than nark on someone.

Police were ready to keep interrogating Danny daily until they could get more out of him.

But there was one hang-up.

Marie and Melissa didn’t recognize him.

And you might think, well, that’s the end of Danny as a suspect, but police weren’t

ready to give up on him that easily.

They knew that the girls had been traumatized, and they wanted to check him off their list

so to speak, with other evidence.

So police kept Danny in jail on an unrelated warrant.

While there, Danny wrote a letter to his dear friend Thelma.

Thelma, hi.

So how’s life been your way?

If you see Jim, tell him I said I understand why he called the law.

But Thelma, I got to tell you one thing.

I don’t know who killed that chick.

I told my mom in the letter that I wrote her and didn’t know.

But I wish in a way I did, because they showed me some picture of her after they found her

body and it fucked me up.

By the way, the law told me what you said.

I thought Ace was funny.

Thelma, if this letter sounds like I’m nuts, it’s because I’m in a one-man cell and they

won’t let me call no one.

And I keep telling them I don’t remember who told me about the house.

Oh yeah, they told me I could get 20 years for not tell, and 30 years for the bitch,

and two years for leaving the state.

But if I tell them, they’ll drop all the charges and let me go.

Thelma, I think you know me better than one else does, because you know the real me on

both side of me.

You do believe me.

If I know who killed that chick, I’d tell them.

Love, your friend, Danny."

Before police could really rule Danny in or out, tips started to pile up and investigators

knew they needed to split resources to avoid getting tunnel vision for Danny.

And just as they figured, as soon as they started vetting other leads, another viable

suspect made his way onto their radar.

Robert Zabrowski.

People had been calling in, saying that Robert not only fit the description of the man who

killed Darlene, but just like Danny, he was said to have left town right after the murder.

According to what they were hearing, Robert was now with a traveling carnival in Alabama.

Sure enough, that is exactly where they found him.

Investigators got the cooperation of a police department down there to bring him in and

administer a polygraph while Indiana officials came and got him.

Robert said he didn’t know anything about the murder, but he failed the polygraph.

So by the time Indiana authorities made it to him, they were more eager than ever to

bring him back to Indiana and talk to him there.

And Robert went willingly.

Even though he wasn’t under arrest, he said he was willing to help them out, though he

never wavered in saying that he had nothing to do with any murder.

The entire way up there, he wasn’t acting like a guilty man.

Or if he was a guilty man, maybe he was a man without a conscience, because he slept

practically the whole drive.

One of the first things they did when they got back was to give Robert another polygraph,

one of their own.

Roberts stated he knew why he was there, reference he was a suspect in a murder case.

He advised he was at a friend’s house having coffee when he heard about the kidnapping.

He advised that that night he had heard a bulletin on the television set in which they

had advised that the woman had been beaten and that the description fit him.

He advised the description fit him, but that the description was described as having a

goatee, that he did not have one, and he advised that that was the only thing that he had prior

to talking to police.

Once talking to police, he advised that he now knows that the woman was beat in the face

or head, but he does not know what she was beat with, that her husband and daughters

are eyewitnesses to the kidnapping and beating.

Subject advised that the day in question he was at Betty Zaner’s house, that he got up,

had breakfast.

He then went to Rochester, to the Fulton Industries, and put an application in.

He then went to Winnemac and drove around, but did not stop and put an application in


Subject advised he then stopped and got gas.

He then took SR-14 and SR-17.

He stopped by a friend’s house at Tippecanoe Shores and then went to Culver and got cigarettes,

and that he then went to a Roy Carr’s house.

Subject advised that referenced the car that was supposed to have been used in the murder,

that he does not remember what kind of car it was, but that he does remember that it

did not match the kind of car that he does have.

Subject advised that he’s never killed anyone.

Subject was given three tests.

His polygrams contained specific reactions indicative of deception to the relevant questions

pertaining to,

Do you plan to try to lie to me on this test?

Answer no.

Have you told me the whole truth since we’ve been talking?

Answer yes.

Do you know who killed the woman on August 17th?

Answer no.

Did you go to the woman’s house on August 17th?

Answer no.

Did you have a poker in your hand on August 17th?

Answer no.

Did you beat a woman on August 17th?

Answer no.

Are you attempting to withhold information from me about this matter?

Answer no.

Have you lied to any of my questions?

Answer no.

Did you go to Darlene Hulse’s house on August 17th?

Answer no.

Did you struggle with the woman on August 17th?

Answer no.

Did you drive someone else’s car on August 17th?

Answer no.

Did you dump the woman’s body in the woods on August 17th?

Answer no.

After careful analysis of this subject’s polygrams, it is the opinion of the examiner

that he did not tell the complete truth.

By the way, the bulletin did not describe the suspect as having a goatee, so I’m not

sure where he got that info.

The robber went on to say that yes, technically he was in Argus on the 17th, but he’d only

gotten there in the afternoon, after the murder.

And when he was there, he was busy filling out a job application.

Police did end up tracking down the application, filled out by hand in Robert’s handwriting.

But of course, the application wasn’t time-stamped or anything, so it wasn’t the strongest alibi

of all time.

Aside from him being in Argus when the crime happened, and then leaving a month or so later,

there wasn’t much else about Robert that stood out.

They weren’t finding nearly as much dirt on him as they had on Danny Bender.

He didn’t have a green car, he didn’t have a ton of local ties, and he wasn’t offering

up a confession.

After three iffy polygraph tests, they didn’t have enough to hold Robert, and they had to

let him go.

But before they did, they did take his fingerprints, just in case.

Meanwhile, while police had been vetting these suspects, the Hulse family was grappling with

life without Darlene.

Which was hard.

By this time, Darlene’s toxicology had come back, and it was clear she had no drugs or

alcohol in her system when she died.

Ron wasn’t surprised by this, because they lived a party-free existence.

Their lives revolved around each other, their kids, and church.

It was a humble life, which was another reason why robbery as a motive was so confusing for

their family.

Here’s Marie again.

I remember dad being worried about how to pay for her funeral expenses.

Just little things like that.

And he would get letters in the mail, and people would send him like $10, $15, and like

he would just cry every time he opened the mail.

I remember him being at my grandparents’ house crying as they opened the mail.

The Hulse family was just praying that police would catch the right guy while trying to

survive each day without Darlene.

And eventually, they moved back into their house, which was hard.

There were big and little reminders of their mom everywhere, and not just reminders of

her as their mother, but awful reminders of what had happened to her.

We helped him clean up the house.

They didn’t have like a surf pro back then.

Every once in a while, they’d find like, they’d see a rock or something with blood.

And it looks different than what you think it’s going to look like.

My eight-year-old self, I thought it was supposed to be bright red.

It’s dark.

And you know, my dad, because he built the entire house, he poured all of the concrete.

He did the split rail fence.

He did everything.

And so, I don’t even know why we were the ones that had to go clean it up.

You know, when he drug her, her blood was all over, and we had a gravel driveway, so

it got on the rocks.

And for years, you could see, I would see a dark, a dark rock with dark, it’s almost

like blackish brown by the time you see it.

And I was like, I just, and I don’t think he had an option.

I don’t think anyone was like, let me go clean that up for you.

The daily reminders were one thing, but certain things made it really hard for the whole family

as they tried to regain a sense of normalcy.

You realize that what happened at your house, no one wants to come to your house and spend

the night.

You go to other people’s homes.

You don’t invite people over, because you’re, I mean, that’s the house that it happened


It was such a small town.

Investigators were becoming more concerned with each passing day.

Every time they had a suspect in for questioning that didn’t result in getting answers, they

had to go tell the grieving Hulse family that they were still working every lead possible.

But they knew, deep down, that they might have just wasted several months on two suspects

that resulted in absolutely nothing.

On October 26th, 1984, just as they thought things were slowing down, police got their

strongest lead yet when Indiana State Police called Marshall County Sergeant Dave Yokelet.

He informed me of an individual who had been shot and killed by police in Amarillo, Texas

the day prior, which would be the 25th of October, 1984.

He advised this individual was Ricky Mock.

Police were searching an apartment in Logansport, Indiana, where this individual is from, and

had located a newspaper clipping in regards to the homicide investigation, and also some

clothes that had what appeared to be blood on them.

That’s coming up in Episode 5, He’s Gunned Down.

You can listen to that right now.

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