The Deck Investigates - 6 of 15: Evil All Around

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Before moving on to other suspects, whose names were coming in via phone calls and letters

from the public, investigators knew what they had to do next—give Ron Hulse another polygraph


I say another because they actually gave him one just three days after Darlene’s abduction,

which he passed.

And listen, Ron was never a suspect.

But back then, officers knew that they had to play offense and defense.

And if this case were to ever go to trial, police knew that Ron would be an easy target

for a defense attorney.

So they had to formally rule him out—not just as a suspect, but of any involvement.

Plus, talking with Ron was a great way for investigators to learn more about Darlene.

As far as bad habits, the only one I ever got her on was the fact that at night she

never pulled the drapes or pulled the shade down.

She just thought that we lived out in a remote area.

Anybody that’s out there is going to be sick anyway.

And if I went into the bedroom first, was going to shower or something, then I always

pulled them down.

She never did.

She never did.

And I just wonder now if there’s been someone looking all along or what.

Up to this point, they had kind of skimmed over Darlene’s lifestyle and personality,

because A, nothing really stuck out as a red flag, and B, they were hot on the trails of

Danny Bender, Robert Zabrowski, and Ricky Mach.

But it was time to understand more about their victim and her husband.

So in October 1984, they sat Ron down again.

This is Episode 6, Evil All Around.

At your request, Ronald Glenn Hulse was examined on the polygraph, a detection of deception


In the pre-test, the subject gave the following information and admissions.

Subject stated, he knew why he was there, reference, he had been asked by Detective

Criswell to take a polygraph, reference, to cover all the bases, reference, of the investigation

into his wife’s death.

Subject stated, he had nothing to do with his wife’s death, Darlene, and that he had

not contacted anyone to come in and take her from the home and kill her, and that he did

not know that Darlene was going to be taken from the house on August 17th, and that he

did not know that she was going to be killed.

Subject advised, he’s never talked with Danny Bender, and that he’s never talked with anyone

in particular about his finances.

He advised that several people at work knew that his dog would have been gone that week,

but that was something that he had talked about for quite some time, wanting to have

his dog bred.

Marshall County Lieutenant Ed Criswell conducted the Q&A part of Ron’s interview, and he started

off asking where Darlene did her shopping to try and establish her routine.

As far as incidentals, it was always done at either the mall up at Scottsdale or 3D

in Rochester.

I’d say 75% of it was done at 3D.

And how about Argus?

Did you do any shopping at Argus at all?

Oh, the parking shop and stuff like that, you know, for odds and ends, but she didn’t

like to go into Argus very often like that.

Things were too high.


She did most of her buying in…


What were some of her habits?

What were her daily routine?

Well, as far as getting up, generally a quarter till seven.

Was always…

The alarm was set for 6.45, bathing the children, getting them ready in the summer, you know.

She liked to take off around 10 or 10.30 in the morning.

She wouldn’t go anywhere.

She’s been going lately to Jellystone Pool, trying to go there once a week.

Last year, she had gone to Lake Maxinkuckee.

I don’t think she’s gone there this year at all.

Jellystone Pool.


And do you have a membership out there?

No, that…

She’s got a girlfriend she usually went with that knew someone that got her in for nothing

all the time.

About the only other place she went would be piano lessons for the kids.

That’s all.

Otherwise, she’s pretty much a homebody.

She wasn’t one to go out.

I had the old car at home and it was terrible on gas.

We really watched that.

So if we went anyplace, it was as a family in the evening.

I understand you said something to one of the officers about her having an exercise



There for a while, she hasn’t done this now for a few weeks, she’d take a walk around

the square.

She’d go east from the house down to 110, all the way down to 31 and back.

That was her exercise, just walking.

Lieutenant Criswell asked Ron to recap the week before the abduction, trying to see if

he remembered anything weird happening.

I tell you, of all the weeks we’ve had this summer, I’d say that was about the least active

week we’ve had.

She’s been doing a lot of canning at home, except for one day on Wednesday, previous

to the incident, she hadn’t gone anywhere.

She’s been putting the garden up.

I think she just finished it up Thursday evening.

It’s been a pretty boring week for her.

Ron said the only thing out of the routine for that week was the fact that they were

having issues with their new refrigerator, and a guy named Lee Chisholm, who owned the

nearby appliance store where they bought the fridge, was going to come by and take

a look.

We called him, and he was supposed to come down shortly then and fix it.

As it turned out, he was on his way at 9.30 that morning, drove by the road and said,

well, I promised I’d call first, so he kept driving, and went into Rochester.

Now you’d guess the next questions might have been about this Lee guy, who was apparently

supposed to be arriving at the Hulse home on the exact day, at the exact time Darlene

was attacked.

Well, you’d be wrong.

Instead, Lt. Criswell asked Ron what was wrong with his refrigerator light, and then they

moved on to talking about their relatives, basically to gauge if there were any creepy

boyfriends of Darlene’s sisters that had come around or anything like that.

Ron said no, pretty much everyone within their immediate and distant circles were upstanding


Ron admitted that there was some family drama between them and Darlene’s parents regarding

a family business, but it wasn’t anything serious.

They both came from religious families and weren’t ones to let greed or spite destroy


They were good, church-going folk who were all about love and giving.

And speaking of church, Lt. Criswell then asked Ron why he and Darlene had hopped around

to lots of different churches lately.

Why not just stick with one?

We went to First Baptist.

We went for about a year and a half and just felt like we weren’t getting what we needed.

So we visited a couple other, and when we visited, it was generally just for a Sunday

or two, and then we’d move on.

Got back to the First Baptist for a while, and then we’d settle in down at Liberty Baptist

down in Rochester.

There’s probably a half dozen churches that we’d visited in the last, oh, two and a half


Well, what exactly were you looking for?

We’re not out to be entertained.

We want good, basic Bible doctrine.

Okay, a lot of these people are out for the Sunday school programs for the kids and this

and that.

We’re not.

We just want a good preacher.

That’s all we’re looking for.

Your social life then would probably mainly revolve around the church.

Even then, we didn’t have much contact.

We were not party goers.

We only go out to eat once in a couple months.

Pretty thrifty, not extravagant.

Well, during your travels from one church to the other, did there, was there ever a

time that you felt that someone had taken a special interest in Darlene?

You and I both know that usually you can tell when somebody’s a little interested.

No, I really can’t.

Anybody contact her from the church?

Well, we were always getting letters from the other churches and stuff thanking us for

our visitation and stuff.

But as far as, we had a couple of pastors come over for a visit, but no.

She was a, Darlene was a hard person to talk to.

She was real quiet and she wasn’t really one to open up to anyone.

So I was generally around her all the time.

If people called ahead of time, she’d make arrangements so I could be there too.

She was pretty quiet and shy.

No, I can’t think of anyone.

No, if there had been, she would have told me.

She’d have been awfully shook up.

How about your marriage to Darlene in general?

Did you guys communicate?

Never went to bed mad, not once.

You had differences though.

We’ve always had arguments and stuff, but no sleeping on the couch or running off to

mama’s house.

Not once.

Ever had any fights?

What I mean, you ever slap her or?


Or she ever slap you?


Sounds like a fairy book, but we’ve really got a good marriage.

Ron passed the polygraph with the conclusion stating, quote, after careful analysis of

this subject’s polygrams, it is in the opinion of the examiner that he told substantially

the truth during his examination.

End quote.

Police never questioned Ron’s alibi since he was at work when the crime happened, coupled

with the fact that the girls saw the intruder and it wasn’t anyone they recognized.

But there had been some hushed whispers about him around town not long after the murder

because Ron gave an interview to the local paper, The Pilot News, saying, quote, I just

know it’s his will.

Darlene was ready.

I’m ready whenever he wants to take me.

End quote.

He went on to say in that same article that he didn’t understand why something so awful

would happen to his wife, but that it must have been God’s will.

He said, quote, I don’t understand, but I accept it.

People side eyed those remarks and gossip spread.

Even online today, sometimes people point the finger at him.

Sure, he wasn’t the one who took Darlene, they’ll say.

Otherwise his daughters would have seen him.

But he could have maybe hired someone.

But let me tell you, that makes no sense.

Darlene’s attack was anything but a professional job.

The attacker didn’t come prepared.

He used her fire poker to subdue her.

Ron is not now, nor has he ever been a suspect.

And listen, I get his comments may feel strange to some people.

I’m not very religious myself, but I do come from a family that was.

And I understand what he said.

It was something that he could hold on to in a time where his whole life was upended.

He also told the reporter that he thought Darlene’s attack was random, which might

have also been comforting in some way.

After losing Darlene, Ron tried his best to be there for his daughters.

But Marie said that some things were harsh reminders of what the family had lost.

Things like mornings spent with their mom.

My dad hired a babysitter.

Her name was Lori.

And I remember being aggravated because I just didn’t, I mean, she was fine, but I was

like, I don’t want to see her first thing in the morning.

And he was, she was there instead of my dad.

And it just felt lonely.

I mean, my aunts chipped in, but it was more like, from my memory, they would watch us

like after school, not first thing in the morning.

And I remember the mornings being hard to me.

I didn’t like the mornings anymore.

Eventually, the family established a new routine.

Ron went back to work.

The girls went back to school.

And Ron remarried a woman named Chris.

One of Darlene’s friends had actually set Ron up with Chris, and the girls went on his

first date with her.

I think that when she married my dad, I know that she loved us and she didn’t think she

could have children.

So, you know, you look at it from that perspective, like, I don’t know that I could marry someone

with three small children and take that role on.

So that was a huge sacrifice on her part.

Chris had been a substitute teacher in Argus, so the girls were familiar with her prior

to her dating and marrying their dad.

And the two are still together today.

As Ron continued trying to rebuild their life and establish a new one with his new wife,

police were going back to the drawing board.

In an effort to draw in some new information, they went knocking on doors in Argus.

Police really wanted to know if anyone else had any problems with peeping Toms or harassing

phone calls or literally anything.

One woman named Karen said she noticed a white car watching their house during evening hours,

but had been months since she’d last seen it.

In fact, she said, she hadn’t seen it since Darlene’s murder.

Another couple said their 18-year-old daughter had gotten creepy phone calls from a man.

They said the man would ask when her dad would be home, how old she was, and if her parents

were home.

A woman named Marsha, who lived nearby with her family, said that she’d also gotten

some creepy phone calls in the past year, mainly heavy breathing and dirty talk.

Similarly, a neighbor named Rex said that his household had gotten some calls with filthy

language and they had happened three or four times since Darlene was killed.

Rex also said they had one strange visitor who said that he was a preacher, but he had

a car full of girls with him.

And then some other neighbors reiterated rumors that police were already familiar with, involving

Ricky Mock and Danny Bender.

Since so many people had talked about having phone calls from creepy men, and because so

much time had passed and investigators were really starting to spiral, police decided

to look into other crimes that they may have missed before.

Maybe smaller things like break-ins, thefts, whatever.

And they actually found a crime that interests them.

A break-in, an attempted sexual assault that happened at a house just a stone’s throw

away from where Darlene’s body was found.

It happened in December 1982.

It was early in the morning and a woman was at home asleep when her phone rang.

The man on the other end asked if her husband was home, and the woman, I’ll call her Pam,

said that no, he was at work and he wouldn’t be home until later that evening.

They hung up, and soon after, a man came bursting through her front door and running

down her hallway to her bedroom.

The man pinned her to the bed, but Pam was able to fight him off before he was able to

assault her.

And he gave up and ran back out the front door.

In 1985, when police went back to look at the details of this case and compare it to

Darlene’s, Pam’s case was still unsolved.

And the location was almost eerie.

The woman’s home, where she was attacked, was just across State Road 110 from where

Darlene’s body had been found off Olive Trail.

I mean, like, even in a small town, this was strangely close.

Now, the problem was, again, Pam’s case was unsolved.

So weird, yeah, connected, maybe?

There was some blood from the intruder left at Pam’s house, and I know they tried to

compare it to at least one of their known suspects, Robert Zebrowski, that traveling


But it wasn’t a match for his blood type.

So it seems like the idea of a connection, while there, didn’t further the case.

And the investigation into Darlene’s murder slowed down as police got busy working other

violent crimes in the area.

In August 1986, a night manager at the Plymouth Dairy Queen was shot and killed at work.

In October 1986, a 47-year-old woman died in a suspicious fire at her house in nearby


And on December 11, 1986, 11-year-old Brandi Peltz was sexually assaulted and strangled

in her house in rural Argus, just 1.5 miles north of the Holst home.

Brandi’s murder shocked the community that was still recovering from Darlene’s murder.

Brandi’s case even hit close to home for one of the Holst daughters, Marie.

She and Brandi had been in the same grade in school.

That just tells you how small this town was.

She rode my bus, and she didn’t go to school that day, and we were on the same bus route,

and our house was further out than her house, and she was not on the bus, and we were coming

home from school that day, and we saw smoke billowing out of her house.

It just felt surreal, because that was just a couple years later, I think.

December 11, 1986 had been a Thursday, and Brandi wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed

home from school.

She was old enough to stay home alone, so Brandi’s mom, Roxy, went to work at Hollins


During her lunch break that day, Roxy went home to check on her daughter and bring her

some lunch.

Everything was fine, so Roxy returned to work.

And sometime after she got back, Brandi called her mom and said that someone had just called

the house and was breathing heavily into the phone, but the person didn’t say anything.

Now this had happened before, apparently, and it creeped them out, so Roxy had previously

notified the telephone company, but she hadn’t reported the calls to police.

Now because this had happened before, it was kind of part of their routine.

Brandi let her mom know, but she said she felt safe and she felt fine at home.

So they hung up, and her mom said she would see her after work.

But later that day, around 3 p.m., a school teacher driving on Old Highway 31 saw smoke

coming from the Peltz house, so he stopped at a neighbor’s house and asked them to call

the Argus Fire Department.

He then went back to the Peltz home and went inside.

First, he let out a barking dog, and then he walked around the first floor, and as he

was yelling for anyone inside to get out, he went inside the bathroom and found Brandi’s

body in the tub.

When police got there, they immediately noted the kitchen telephone had been ripped out

of the wall receiver, which told them that Brandi likely tried to call for help when

her killer came inside.

They also thought that it looked as if her body had been placed in the tub after she

was killed.

The autopsy revealed that Brandi had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

The water from the bathtub and the fire in the house were most likely efforts to cover

up any evidence left behind.

These days, if you go to Argus and ask locals about the unsolved murder, they bring up Brandi.

This is the case that people remember, the little girl violated and murdered in her own


Someone even self-published a novel about it, and even though it’s fiction, the author

admitted that it’s about Brandi’s case.

Though most people from Argus dismissed the book entirely, calling it sensational and


The South Bend Tribune ran an article on December 14th, 1986 about how many calls police were

getting about Brandi’s murder.

In the story, reporter John Wilcox wrote,

“…people here are concerned, remembering and wondering if there is any connection between

the pelt-slaying Thursday and the yet-unsolved August 1984 slaying of Darlene Hulse, who

lived just one and a half miles away.”

The Tribune quoted an anonymous co-worker of Roxy’s, who said, quote,

“…a lot of things like that are going through our minds.

Quite a few people have been talking about it in private,” end quote.

That question was the right one.

Are they connected?

If they were, it meant investigators’ worst fears were confirmed.

Their killer wasn’t some evil man just passing through town.

He was living among them.

But he wasn’t done.

Local police decided it was time to get some assistance from the feds.

So Sergeant Yokelet wrote the FBI and spelled it all out in a letter.

The undersigned investigating the homicides of Brandi Peltz and Darlene Hulse and the

home invasion of Pam has investigated these crimes from the standpoint of being individual

cases and that the assailants responsible for those cases are separate individuals and

that these cases are unrelated.

And it is only coincidence that they have occurred within a particular geographical


At the same time, this officer has geared my investigations to include that very well,

that all three of these cases may be linked together, and I base that opinion on several

similarities that I feel exist in each of these cases."

You’ll get the Fed’s take and a brand new suspect in Episode 7, Bring in the FBI.

You can listen to that right now.