The Deck Investigates - 12 of 15: P.I.'s Best Lead

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About a year before we got involved with Darlene’s case,

her family worked with a private investigator, Patrick Zirpoli,

who goes by Zip to those who know him.

Zip spent his career with the Pennsylvania State Police.

He retired in 2015 as a corporal and the unit supervisor

of the Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit.

One of his specialties is cold case homicide investigations,

and after retirement, he’s gone on to consult in cold cases.

Zip had the opportunity to review Darlene’s case file,

and he honed in on a particular person of interest.

He cannot be ruled out as a suspect.

When you look at means, motive, and method, and opportunity,

he’s the guy who stands up above everyone else.

This is Episode 12, P.I.’s Best Lead.

We’re not using the real name of Zip’s P.O.I. for legal reasons,

so I’m going to call him Daryl Lemon.

Daryl first came on the radar for police back in January 1985

via a tip from a woman named Darlene.

Daryl first came on the radar for police back in January 1985

via a tip from a woman named Dolores who worked at Young Door.

That’s the same manufacturing company in Plymouth where Ron Hulse worked.

Dolores told police that during the summer of 1984,

Daryl had been in Argus under quote-unquote peculiar circumstances,

and he had been staying at a home on 15 B Road

just northeast of the Hulse home.

He’d been staying with them for a couple of months

before taking off in either October or November

and then moving to Arizona.

There isn’t much follow-up on this tip,

just a note that I can find about Daryl having brown hair,

not blonde like the suspect,

so maybe that’s how they determined that this tip

didn’t warrant any further action.

But almost a year later in December 1985,

Marshall County dispatchers got a call saying that

a detective needed to contact Ron Hulse ASAP.

Sergeant Yocolette called Ron right away

and Ron said that he had just gotten a call from his brother Randy

who had gotten a call from another woman

saying that she had information about Darlene’s murder.

Now the woman said that she knew a man who was in a motorcycle gang

and that he killed Darlene.

The woman told Randy that she was afraid to report this

the information directly to law enforcement

because she was scared of the gang.

The woman said that she even knew where the murder weapon

or the suspect car could be found.

So at this point, we’re talking almost a year and a half

after Darlene’s murder.

This was a pretty exciting potential lead at the time

when all other leads had dried up.

But it was born out of a confusing game of telephone.

By the time it got to police,

it was like four sources removed.

Now Ron’s brother Randy knew the name of the woman who called him

but he didn’t want to share her name because she was scared

but also because she claimed she wasn’t the direct informant

because she had actually heard this information from a friend of hers.

So now we’re like five people removed.

So Sergeant Yocolette contacted Randy Hulse directly

to cut out at least one middle person.

And Randy had enough information to get them going.

He told them that the guy everyone is talking about

is a man named Daryl Lemon.

And the people that he was staying with,

the ones who started this chain of information,

were Larry and Bonnie Berger.

Maybe because the case had stalled out

or maybe because of how the information reached Sergeant Yocolette,

this time there was documented follow-up

of him sitting down with the Bergers.

Larry Berger told Sergeant Yocolette that, yes,

his former friend Daryl Lemon had been a house guest of theirs

in Argus during the summer of 1984,

specifically from July to early October.

Larry described Daryl as slim, tall, with blue eyes and brown hair.

When Sergeant Yocolette asked Larry and his wife

if they could recall what Daryl was up to on August 17th, 1984,

they couldn’t account for all of his movements that day

because Larry said that he’d been at work until the evening

and Bonnie had been running errands in the critical window of time

when Darlene was attacked.

Specifically, Bonnie Berger said that she went to Rochester

around 9 that morning to shop and then she got back at around 10.30.

But she remembered so clearly, even a year and a half later,

because on her way home she was driving north toward Argus

and she saw all of the police activity on State Road 110.

She said at the time she had been driving their four-door,

light green 1970s Plymouth Satellite,

a car that closely matches the suspect car police had still yet to locate.

Apparently, Daryl had borrowed that car quite a bit

while he was staying with the Bergers.

But Bonnie was certain she was the one that had the green car

the morning of the homicide.

And Bonnie was also certain that Daryl was at their house

when she returned home that morning at 10.30.

Before the interview wrapped up, Sergeant Yokelet asked the Bergers

if they thought Daryl would have been capable of murder.

And they both said yes.

But Sergeant Yokelet was already pretty convinced

Daryl didn’t have anything to do with Darlene’s murder,

mostly because Bonnie said that he didn’t have the green car that day.

And that was that.

Until about a month later, in January 1986,

when Larry Berger called Sergeant Yokelet

and he said he had some more information to provide now.

You see, Larry and Bonnie had since moved to Chicago.

So Sergeant Yokelet and another officer

drove up to interview them immediately.

The Bergers told police that they had known Daryl Lemon for years

because he was originally from Indiana.

They said that Daryl was a member of a motorcycle gang from Arizona

and that in October 1984, Larry had tried to kick Daryl out of their house

because he was trying to manipulate them.

Larry said during that summer,

Daryl was trying to drive a wedge between him and his wife Bonnie,

and he was trying to convince them to move to Arizona with him.

They were all getting high a lot,

and apparently Daryl gained so much control over the couple

that they signed over their bank accounts to him

so he had free access to their money.

Bonnie also came clean about her suspicions

from the day Darlene was abducted.

She said that her story before about going to the store in Rochester

was mostly true, but her timeline was off.

And this time around, her story got a lot more detail.

Bonnie said when she left that morning, Larry was already at work,

and she’s pretty sure Daryl was asleep in his sleeping bag on the floor,

but she can’t say for sure.

She said that when she left that morning,

which she puts at around 8 a.m., well before Darlene’s attack,

she remembered looking at the Hulse’s house when she passed by it.

She doesn’t say she saw anything,

just makes it a point to say that the house drew her attention

and she looked at it even though it, quote,

had no significance to her at the time, end quote.

On her way back from Rochester in the green car,

Bonnie said she saw the police near the Hulse home,

but she didn’t go straight home.

In this version of her story, she says instead,

she went to her mom’s realty office in Argus

and told her mom that she was worried Daryl had done something bad.

She didn’t get back to her house until 3.30 that afternoon,

and that’s when she saw Daryl was there.

Now, here’s where the Burgers story gets really weird.

They told Yocolette that Daryl always carried a Bible with him

and would quote from it,

but they said that he wasn’t a church-going guy,

and they said Daryl kept telling Bonnie about a quote-unquote

black market for babies that he had connections to,

and he kept saying that they could sell Larry and Bonnie’s

blonde-headed blue-eyed children and make a huge profit.

Larry said when Daryl was in Indiana,

he would make a point to dress like a clean-cut businessman

because he was paranoid of police.

Larry said one time after the Hulse murder,

he and Daryl were driving around Southern Marshall County

and Daryl became very nervous when they got close to the intersection

where the Hulse home was.

Oh, and by the way, they said there was this other weird thing.

During the months that he was staying with them,

Daryl would act weird at night,

and he would ask them to drive him around the back roads,

like no particular destination in mind,

just aimlessly drive off the beaten path for like hours at a time.

We’re talking 11 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning.

At one point in October of 1984,

Daryl tried to get Bonnie to leave Larry and move with him to Arizona,

which was the last straw for Larry.

And that’s when he kicked Daryl out.

The Burgers said that before,

they had been scared to reveal all of this information about Daryl

because they were scared of him.

But after thinking about it for a while,

they definitely thought Daryl had been involved in Darlene’s murder.

This was a bombshell.

But could they prove it?

Not exactly.

Though they did say all of his actions after the murder

seemed like that of a guilty man.

Like they said he started growing a mustache and beard after the homicide,

which seemed sus,

and Bonnie said all of a sudden a pair of his pants went missing

because they weren’t cycling through their laundry anymore.

Daryl also became violent and even physically hurt their children

a few times after Darlene’s death.

And they said he wouldn’t go out during the day, only at night.

Larry said he became so certain that they had a killer living with them

that at one point he even went out and searched behind their house

for the missing fireplace poker.

He and a friend dug up a 55-gallon drum in the woods behind his house

looking for it.

And yeah, same reaction as you.

The cops were like,

hell, did you have a 55-gallon drum buried behind your house?

But Larry said, oh no, it doesn’t matter, that’s just where we kept marijuana

and we didn’t find any weapon anyway.

Before the officers left Chicago,

the Burgers said they also believed that Daryl stole their motorcycle

and they had filed a report with the local police about it.

The Burgers also let them look at their old green car,

which they still had,

but a cursory glance didn’t reveal any bloodstains

or anything else suspicious.

So it seems like the police didn’t take the vehicle with them

or do any formal testing.

On the ride back to Indiana,

the officers discussed what they’d learned about Daryl Lemon from the Burgers

and they agreed that the couple didn’t seem trustworthy.

It seemed like Bonnie was still hiding something from them

and to them it was more likely that the Burgers just wanted revenge on Daryl

for possibly stealing their motorcycle.

So that’s where the Daryl Lemon leads seemed to stop.

And if Daryl was involved in trafficking children,

wouldn’t his motive to go to the Holst home have been the girls rather than Darlene?

From the record searches we conducted,

Daryl also doesn’t appear to have any type of criminal history

outside of some drug-related crimes.

But Zip wasn’t put off by the same things we were.

He told us this guy had all the behavioral characteristics of a murder suspect.

I’ll let him explain.

After looking at everything, looking at the motive of the crime,

how the crime was committed, his post-crime behavior,

he’s the guy that you have to deal with before you can move forward.

Either it’s him or it’s not him, but they have to make that decision.

Before the incident occurs, he’s doing a lot of strange things.

Like, I always look for those people who are roaming around at night.

He’s having the people he’s living with drive him around at night.

He acts very suspicious there.

Plus he has access to a vehicle that is almost described exactly as the vehicle that’s there.

And it’s interesting when you read the report,

there’s different people who are saying he has that vehicle that day of the incident occurring.

And there’s some confusion to that, but I think he has a lot of control,

again, power and control and being manipulative,

over the people that he’s living with, over these burglars.

Zip thinks Daryl could have wanted to cruise the backroads at night

to stake out houses in different areas.

You know, with someone from the area.

It’s not your wandering psychopath who just is wandering through the area.

It’s someone from the area.

And like I always tell people, like when you, again, bigger picture here,

whoever did this knew the area.

It’s not like they knew where to then, here’s a remote and place the dumper body.

And what to me is very interesting is that the female burglar makes a comment

that she drove past the Hulse residence the morning of this happening

with the vehicle that matches the description of the vehicle that was in the driveway.

Well, why are you putting yourself there?

Why are you even making that comment?

And that’s to a third party.

It’s not even to the police.

You know what I’m saying?

And then, you know, his kind of manipulative power and control behavior fits the crime scene.

It fits the person who committed the crime.

And then afterwards, that’s even amplified even more,

where he starts taking more control over the burglars

and more control, like, of their finances.

He’s having them ship stuff to Arizona because he wants them to come down here and live.

It’s reported that he changes his appearance,

which is a big piece of this that, you know, why all of a sudden change your appearance?

And, you know, and after this crime is committed again,

you know, it’s another red flag that you see there.

Zip also thinks that even though robbery wasn’t explicitly stated as a motive,

and even though Ron said nothing was taken from the house,

it’s clear by the suspects police did have early on that police’s theory was a robbery gone wrong.

And Zip really believed that if they wouldn’t have chased that motive from the get-go,

that this could have been solved a long time ago.

This is not a multiple-person crime.

Like, if two people did this, like one drove and one went in there and did this,

this would have been solved because one of them would have talked.

You know, this is that one-person crime.

And I think the problem is they missed the motive from the beginning.

They missed the lie from the beginning.

And when you miss that, it leads you in the wrong direction.

And now you’re trying to play catch-up so many years later to,

and again, you know, people are deceased now.

Time is, you know, there’s, there’s, you know, you’re never going to get that back again.

So now it’s try to figure out how to solve the case, you know,

using new technology that we have today.

Zip’s theory of motive actually fits what most people agree on today,

that the crime was sexually motivated, but it didn’t go as planned.

The consensus now is that Darlene’s murder wasn’t premeditated.

If the killer would speak, he’d probably tell you she wasn’t supposed to die.

Do you think that the person who killed Darlene went on to commit other violent crimes?

Because of why he did it, it might not be violent homicide.

It could be, you know, domestic violence being abusive.

It’s that power and control piece.

I think the homicide came out of anger, because he couldn’t control the victim.

And he tried to control her, but he went too far and killed her.

I think you’re going to have some of those power and control behaviors

and power and control crimes might not be homicide.

And sometimes, you know, if, like a lot of people,

like this is how we get our serial killers and sexual sadists,

who get excited from that homicide.

If he’s a person who’s like, I didn’t want that to happen,

he might never see anything of it again, you know.

And in this case, I think it was just trying to control her.

And he ended up hitting her, not realizing that he killed her

until he gets her to where her body’s dumped.

And he’s like, she’s dead.

And just kind of dumps her and goes on from there.

We tried reaching Daryl for comment.

We found a few numbers for him in Arizona,

and we messaged him on Facebook, but never heard back.

We also tried a dozen different numbers,

trying to track down Larry and Bonnie.

Most of them were disconnected,

or we were told that we had the wrong number.

A few of them went to voicemail, so we left messages.

Now, we didn’t get any calls back,

but one of the numbers did text us back, saying,

I am in no relation to Larry Berger,

but after doing some research,

I learned that Mr. Berger had unfortunately passed

on the 17th of May, 2022.

But if you don’t mind me asking,

what case are you working on?

Emily dodged that question about the case

and just asked if they knew that their number

was on several different websites

as being associated with Larry Berger.

But whoever was on the other end

just said that they didn’t know,

and that was the end of that conversation.

Now, there is an obit for A. Larry Berger from May, 2022,

but it’s just one sentence,

so it doesn’t help us confirm if it’s the same guy.

Bonnie, on the other hand, she has a new last name now,

and we found four numbers for her,

but they were all dead ends.

So, Bonnie, if you’re listening, call us back.

When we asked Prosecutor Nelson Shipman about Darrell Lemon,

he said that it made him uncomfortable

talking about him in case he’s involved

and it made him uncomfortable talking about him

in case he’s innocent.

We asked him if he was ever interviewed by police

in the Hulls case,

and he gave a weird answer.

I think one of them was,

but nothing came of it.

One of them?

Nelson wouldn’t go into more detail

about what he meant by one of them.

Did he mean Larry and Darrell?

Someone else connected to Darrell?

From the context of the rest of our conversation,

the best we can piece together

is that he maybe meant a family member of Darrell’s,

but he wouldn’t give a name.

And then he moved on, making mention of how close

Darrell’s family lived to Darlene,

which, again, made us scratch our heads

because Darrell Lemon didn’t live anywhere near Darlene.

He was staying with the Burgers, who lived nearby,

but the location of where Nelson was pointing to

was in the opposite direction of where the Burgers lived.

Specifically, Nelson was pointing to a property

west of Darlene’s house.

It was that same property that he had pointed out

to Emily on their ride-along

the very first time they met,

that same property with the lure

of the buried bus in the yard,

the bus where Nelson said he had dreams

about finding the fireplace poker.

Now, we knew about the buried 55-gallon drum

behind the Burgers’ place,

but surely that’s not what everyone is confusing with a bus.

Nothing was adding up.

So, to try and make sense of all of it,

we’re sitting down with Nelson

in his conference room back in November,

and so we bring up Darrell again.

And Nelson says something about him being dead.

And we knew Darrell was still alive and living in Arizona,

so we pressed, and Nelson walks over to this whiteboard,

where there’s this huge piece of white paper

covering something up.

Yeah, I don’t know.

What’s behind the paper up there?

Can you peek behind the paper?


Nelson takes off his mic, lifts up the paper,

and there’s something that looks like a family tree,

maybe with some photos and initials

written in little boxes.

And that’s when he’s like, yeah, Darrell died,

and then he puts the paper back down.

Do you think there’s some kind of connection?

I don’t have any idea.


Any idea.

You know, I despise that expression.

I don’t have any idea.

You have some idea.

Well, as far as this goes, not really.


He’s a lot harder to research

because he doesn’t have much of a criminal history.

He has a little bit, but there’s not…

It seems like most of it was after.


If there is a connection,

no one’s brought it together

to even, you know, even go to the next sentence

about, oh, yeah, there’s something to look at here.

We tried to get Nelson to let us take a closer look

under the paper on the whiteboard before we left,

but another meeting was about to start in the conference room

and we were being told to leave.

But I just couldn’t let it go.

I was certain from the little bit I’d seen

that it wasn’t Daryl Lemon’s family on that board.

And I was right.

Some Internet sleuthing using the names and initials

that I was able to see led me to a completely different family,

one that I’ll call the Parsons.

So between that meeting and meeting back up with Emily for lunch,

I am frantically looking up what I can about this family,

specifically these four brothers who grew up in Arcus

and would have been in their 20s at the time of Darlene’s murder.

And listen, you guys, I was literally shaking,

99% from excitement for what I was finding

and 1% because I thought Emily might kill me when I tell her,

hey, we’ve been working on this for a year

and everything was going in kind of one direction,

but we got to pivot.

But she’s as deep in as I am

and she was just as excited about this new possibility

because for us, it’s not about proving a theory,

it’s about finding the truth.

And speaking of truth,

Emily and I were left with one giant question after we debriefed.

Had Nelson been lying to us?

I mean, the more innocent explanation is that maybe he’s confused.

A few of the sons in the Parsons family

have the same names as members of the Lemon family,

so maybe that was the mix-up.

But to me, that’s more than an innocent mix-up

because it wasn’t just one slip of the tongue.

He didn’t confuse the names once in passing.

We had talked over and over about the Lemons.

And again, that very first meeting Emily had with Nelson

where he offered to give her a ride-along around town,

it was him who pointed out what he said was the Lemon property.

So was the guy in charge really that turned around

or was he intentionally trying to throw us off?

At that point, I was kind of done taking his word for things.

So I had Emily look up the property records

for this mythical bus property in Nelson’s infamous triangle.

And sure enough, the buried bus property that Nelson was pointing to,

it’s the Parsons.

When we started digging into this new lead,

we found more than just a buried bus.

We track Nelson down again for an explanation

and investigate brand-new people next in Episode 13,

Untangling Misinformation.

You can listen to that right now.