The Deck Investigates - 8 of 15: It All Goes Through One Guy

🎁Amazon Prime 📖Kindle Unlimited 🎧Audible Plus 🎵Amazon Music Unlimited 🌿iHerb 💰Binance

In 2016, Kristen was all grown up and a mom of her own when she decided to take her mom’s

cold case into her own hands.

It got to a point about seven years ago where I was like, okay, I want to do this.

I was sitting at home with little kids and I just started reaching out like, hey, is

there anything new, anything going on?

Who can I talk to?

And a lot of them were, no, there’s nothing new, there’s nothing I can tell you because

I don’t know anything type of thing.

She was asking all those questions over the phone and via email from hundreds of miles

away, so it’s not like she could just march down to the prosecutor’s office and demand


You see, it had been decades since Kristen or any of her immediate family members had

lived in Indiana.

Back in 1989, five years after Darlene’s murder, Ron got a new job opportunity with the door

manufacturing company.

So the Holst family moved away from Argus and not just out of town, to a whole different


This is episode eight.

It all goes through one guy.

By then, Ron and his wife, Chris, had also added a son to the family.

So Marie, Melissa, and Kristen had a new baby brother, tons of changes for their family

in just five years.

So the girls were a bit hesitant about leaving Argus.

It was the only place they’d ever called home, even though it was a constant reminder of

their family’s biggest tragedy.

I was not excited because I was leaving all my friends and all of our family was there.

I was not excited.

And the South is so different from the North.

The only part I was looking forward to moving down here is because I got my own room.

They’re like, we’re going to get you your own room.

I was like, okay, that works.

From 1984 to 1989, the family was defined by what happened to Darlene and the failed

investigation into finding her killer.

The move wasn’t exactly intended to be a fresh start for them, but in many ways it was.

They settled in and all of a sudden no one at school knew the horrible thing that had

happened to their family.

Of course, they would visit family members back in Argus every so often.

I mean, we would try and go back twice a year, but then they got fewer and further between

after that.

But we would go back for a long time.

But it got to the point where they sort of dreaded going back there.

They figured if a huge breakthrough ever came in Darlene’s case, someone would let them


But in the 30 plus years since, no one ever called.

So when Kristen started making calls about her mom’s case back in 2016, she was frustrated

to learn that nothing had been done in years.

She found out the case file was essentially sitting on a shelf in Marshall County Prosecutor

Nelson Chipman’s office in Plymouth, Indiana.

So I reached out to Nelson and he talked to me because he remembered about mom’s case.

He said he had her picture up in his office still, but that there was nothing new going

on with it.

Of course, Kristen’s next question was, well, how do we change that?

She pushed and pushed, call after call, but she felt like she was getting nowhere.

Kristen even arranged an in-person meeting with Prosecutor Chipman, and he basically

dismissed her, saying that what’s been done has been done and there’s not much else he

can do.

I said, you guys, the case files are just sitting there collecting dust.

And he leaned across his desk, he goes, you don’t think I know that?

I was like, well, obviously nothing is going to get done when it’s just sitting there.

You know, have a fresh pair of eyes look at it, something, you know, do the touch DNA


After that meeting I had with him, when I left, I got up and left his office in tears.

And I didn’t, we haven’t spoken since then.

Kristen left that meeting not knowing if anything would even happen.

And Marie knew how hard Kristen had worked for years by that point, trying to get some

movement in their mom’s case.

So being the big sister she is, Marie called Prosecutor Chipman.

I said, you know, you don’t understand what it’s like, because you don’t have this in

your life.

And I said, you need to be a little more gentler with her, because you are coming off rude,

and you’ve got to understand where she’s coming from.

And I just think he’s lost that sense, that touch of things, because it’s not his personal


And I get that, but you still don’t need to talk that way, a little more kinder.

There were no apologies or mending fences.

Instead, Nelson assigned someone in his office to act as a liaison between Kristen and himself.

But maybe something about what Marie said tugged at his heartstrings.

Or maybe Kristen’s persistence paid off.

Either way, Kristen was shocked, surprised, encouraged.

All the emotions when in 2019, Prosecutor Chipman was in the local news talking about

how they were planning to use new DNA technology to try and solve Darlene’s case once and for


Detectives are not giving up.

Right now, they are starting over with fresh eyes, once again tracking down persons of

interest and conducting interviews.

Chipman also says they’re choosing new pieces of evidence to send to the Indiana State Police

Crime Lab.

Kristen was hopeful.

She could feel answers just around the corner.

But around the same time, that liaison that Nelson had appointed, Kelly, who’d been keeping

Kristen in the loop on stuff that was going on in the case, she left Nelson’s office for

a different job.

She still tried to keep up to date on the investigation in order to text Kristen updates,

but new information was scarce after that.

It took some time.

I mean, so much so that Kristen thought the ball had been dropped yet again.

But at some point, she heard that they had gotten some kind of DNA off some piece of

evidence, but the details were fuzzy.

Now, she knew nothing was going to happen overnight.

But months were going by.

And then years.

February 2021 was when I came across that 2018 news story.

I had stumbled across Darlene’s story and become a little obsessed, as I’ve been known

to do.

But there was just nothing, a big void where I expected answers were sure to be.

Now, normally, I’d set my Google alerts and wait for something to pop, but I don’t know

what it was about this one.

Instead, I found Kristen on Facebook and sent her a DM.

And that message put us on a wild journey that I could have never imagined.

After my message to Kristen, we hopped on a phone call and she got me up to speed with

everything she’d been doing since 2016, which included not just pushing the prosecutor’s

office, but doing some sleuthing of her own, creating maps, connecting important events

through newspaper archives.

But she said that she was stuck.

What needed to happen was DNA testing, which brought us full circle to the reason for me

reaching out.

My big question was, well, what the hell happened after that article in 2019?

And she said she had no idea.

She explained to me the falling out that she had with Prosecutor Nelson, and by 2021,

his liaison no longer worked in his office.

Her only lifeline of communication was gone.

So really, she had no idea exactly what evidence they had or what was happening with it.

I worked with a lot of good people in law enforcement, and I’ve worked with a lot of


And this kind of rift that happens is something that I’ll never fully understand, but it happens.

I knew there was no fixing it by the time we came in, but maybe there could be a bridge.

Maybe we could be that bridge, is what I was hoping.

When I asked Kristen if she wanted our help, I’ll be honest, she wasn’t jumping.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t against it, but I think over the years, she learned

to keep her hopes tempered.

So instead, she gave me a resounding, at this point, it wouldn’t hurt.

We dipped our toes in slowly.

Chitman sent us everything she had, and we tried wrapping our heads around the case,

one little piece of the puzzle at a time.

By 2022, I had assigned our reporter, Emily, to start digging into Darlene’s case full-time.

And like any good reporter, she knows that you gotta get to the source.

And the source in this case is prosecutor Nelson Chitman.

So she started there.

It took several phone calls to Chitman’s office before he even called her back.

And when we asked for a sit-down interview with him, this is what he said.

Foreign, says the guy who had gone on local TV saying he was reopening the case.

What’s changed between then and now that makes you not want to do another interview?

I mean, isn’t it always worth trying?

Isn’t it always worth trying just to get some new publicity out there in case it does spark

someone’s memory?

You’re listening, right?

Even if Nelson doesn’t think anything will come of this, he’s the gatekeeper.

And I know this because we also tried getting interviews with the Indiana State Police and

the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, even the state crime lab.

And they all say that we have to talk to Nelson, that he is in charge of the case.

And I just have to preface this by saying it’s unusual for a prosecutor to be the gatekeeper

of a case that has never even been close to an arrest.

He’s not a detective and his office doesn’t have detectives.

But when we asked him why he had it, he said that he just inherited it from the prosecutor

before him.

Like at some point, Darlene’s case went from the jurisdiction of the Marshall County Sheriff’s

Office to the Indiana State Police and then the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office.

But no one really has a logical explanation for why that happened or any real plans to

transfer it again.

But Emily is nothing if not persistent.

Let me just pop by your office and we can have a conversation, she said.

Reluctantly, he agreed.

I think it’ll be worth our time either way.

All right.

OK, thanks, Nelson.

I will…

OK, I’ll buy it.

I’ll buy it.

I’ll take it for granted.

Emily traveled to Plymouth, Indiana for that meeting.

And the first thing Nelson did was take her to see the photo of Darlene that he keeps

on the wall in his office.

What has made you want to keep that up on your wall?

It’s just a reminder of what we’re here for.

Our big goal for that first meeting with Nelson, which was in September 2022, was to see what

results, if any, they had gotten from the new DNA testing they allegedly tried around

2018 or 2019.

And keep in mind, Nelson talks in circles and sometimes the details are fuzzy or he

says he can’t answer a question.

But about a half an hour into the interview, he started to open up a bit.

And he said, OK, yes.

After Kristen and I had our disagreement, I sent off a piece of evidence for MVAC testing

and the results were exciting, but, quote, not a slam dunk.

So it sounds like you got something partial.


And it identifies a male.

An unknown male?



I mean, they don’t have a standard to go with.

If we had a standard, you’d be here taking pictures of a perp walk or something, right?

A partial profile isn’t enough to put in CODIS, but it is enough to do direct comparison


Do you have DNA swabs for the suspects in the case?

I can’t, I can’t talk about that.

So Nelson wouldn’t say if they were in the process of doing any direct comparisons with

suspects or persons of interest, but he was sort of willing to theorize about what he

thinks happened to Darlene.

And his theories, even decades after the crime, are very similar to what Sergeant Dave

Yokelet was theorizing back in the 80s, though they’re still in touch today, so that’s likely

where the theory came from.

I think it’s one person.

I think it was sex-driven.

You would think that the person would have the tendency of have done something like that

before and would have done something like that after.

You would think, amateur, I’m an amateur.

That paradigm, that way of perspective for me has proven useful through the years of

if I’m going to go in a courtroom, those people in there, in the jury box, they’re going to

know less than, and I need to convince them.

So if I’m going to convince them, I need to be convinced.

Do you think it was someone who has really strong local ties, who’s lived here, who lived

here at the time and sounds like still might be in the area?

You’re not going to let up, are you?

When we asked Nelson to explain how he managed to have a falling out with a victim’s daughter,

he said that when she first reached out, he was really open with her about investigative

information, and that he was getting criticized by certain people, quote-unquote, on his side,

for being too open.

And then everything came to a head when they met in person.

Nelson even accused Kristen of lying about her grandfather’s funeral in order to come

to Indiana to meet with him.

It was a bad scene, and she was very emotional.

She’d come up here.

She said she came up here for a family funeral, but she couldn’t tell me where it was or whatever

was going on.

I think it was just an excuse to get here, which is fine, you know, I could feel for


It was very uncomfortable.

For the record, I don’t think it matters why Kristen was in Indiana.

I mean, she has a right to meet with authorities in charge of solving her mom’s case anytime

she wants.

But just in case anyone’s wondering, her grandpa did, in fact, die.

We found the obituary, complete with funeral service information.

Yeah, I mean, I don’t blame them for wanting answers.

Oh, yeah.

And I felt bad.

You know, I hate for it to have ended like that.

And I sure as hell hate, like, if in 14 months, 16 months, whatever it is, 18 months, and

I’m gone, you know, I sure hope whoever takes over, if it was just gonna be Tammy that they’d

take over with as much passion.


Prosecutor Chipman is saying that he hopes whoever takes over his job will have as much

passion as him when it comes to trying to solve Darlene’s murder.

But this guy talks a lot about retirement.

He’s been in the role for a decade, and when Emily met with him in September 2022, he was

in the middle of running for reelection, and he ran unopposed, so he won the bid for Marshall

County prosecutor in November 2022.

But he says he’ll be retired by 2024.

He also talks a lot about how busy his office is, and how huge their workload is, and how

they don’t have a dedicated investigator working on Darlene’s case.

Do you wish you had, like, a full-time cold case investigator looking at both of these


Um, I couldn’t justify that.

If it was supplied, yeah, it would be great, but, um, you know, just two cases.

We had three, but everybody seems to think pretty well that the suspect on the third

one is deceased.

So apparently, in Nelson’s opinion, two unsolved murders isn’t enough to justify a dedicated

homicide investigator.

And unfortunately, passion without action ain’t gonna cut it.

So Emily and I decided, we’ll do it.

We’ll investigate Darlene’s case, and we’ll start from scratch.

What we didn’t realize in the fall of 2022, after that first meeting with Nelson, was

just how much more there was to uncover.

Part of that meant staying on Nelson’s good side, because the guy’s a talker.

You can tell he wants to talk and be a part of this.

And to his credit, he gave us time, a lot more than we expected.

So Emily thought, why not ask for just a little more?

She asked if he would take her out to the crime scene.

Yeah, if you want to go that way, I can lead you that way.


Let’s do it.

Nelson escorted Emily himself, past Darlene’s house and the patch of woods where her body

was found.

And along the way, he opened up more about his real theory of Darlene’s murder.

And it gave us a really great place to start our investigation.

That’s in episode 9.

Let’s go for a ride.

You can listen to that right now.