The Deck Investigates - 13 of 15: Untangling Misinformation

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When we made the discovery about the Parson family,

it made us question everything Nelson had told us so far.

And again, Lemon and Parson are pseudonyms

because these guys have never publicly been named suspects by law enforcement.

So to see if this was just some kind of huge mix-up,

we first reached out to a former employee of Nelson’s

who Emily had interviewed prior.

She’s actually the one who was assigned to be the liaison

between Nelson and Kristen when their relationship deteriorated,

so she’s very familiar with the Hulse case.

She was also someone who told us that buried bus property was Daryl Lemon’s.

So we fired off a quick text just asking for clarity,

and she texted back right away and was like,

Oh, I misspoke. That’s the Parsons.


So I threw together a Parson family tree

and realized that most of the four Parson boys were dead,

and none of them were all that old when they died.

From what I can tell, only one of them was still alive.

We’ll call him Mike.

The others we’ll call Jay, Jacob, and Daryl.

Now, I’m not calling Daryl Parson the same name as Daryl Lemon

just to confuse you.

I’m doing it because they really have the same first name,

which might be why Nelson and his staff have confused them for so long.

I mean, it’s not really an excusable mistake in a homicide investigation,

but I thought the context was important to add.

Now, the brothers who had died were too old in their obit photos

to see if they met the description of Darlene’s killer,

so we headed to the historical archive in Plymouth

to dig through old yearbooks.

And there were two brothers that stood out to us.


That nose even back then.

This is episode 13,

Untangling Misinformation.

While Emily was trying to track down Nelson again

to confront him about the discrepancy between the Lemon and the Parson families,

I went back through all our materials

to see if any of the Parson sons showed up in any reports

because so far, no one had brought them up to us.

And isn’t it amazing what a little context can provide?

A couple of names on a prosecutor’s whiteboard

suddenly gave a whole new meaning to things that I had looked at a hundred times.

Tips and reports from the very first days of the investigation

that seemed to be investigative dead ends

were now our best lead.

And so, once again,

we had to start back at the beginning.

On August 18, the day Darlene’s body was found,

a local mail carrier called police and said

the suspect might be Jay Parson of Kenilworth Road.

She said about two weeks before Darlene’s abduction,

she saw a light-colored car by the Hulse house.

At the time, she didn’t pay it much attention

because she thought that they were probably just picking marijuana

out of a field nearby.

And for context about the marijuana crops,

we did find old police reports

where an ISP trooper with a plane had been doing flyovers

and investigating a field right behind the Hulse home.

Now, the Hulses were in no way involved with this.

Their house just happened to be close by.

Apparently, the Parsons were thought to be involved in that grow patch.

That same day, August 18, a different tipster called

to say that the suspect’s sketch in the newspaper

looked like Mike Parson.

That’s all the tip says.

Then the next day, August 19, another woman called police

and said she also thought the suspect might be Jay Parson.

The woman said she saw him, quote,

drive by her house two weeks ago,

driving a dark green over dark top midsize car.

She lives 20B west of Old 31 Southside, end quote.

Now, it’s a little tough to translate these.

Does she mean that she saw Jay driving a green car by her house

or by Darlene’s?

Some of these handwritten tips and notes just leave a lot to be desired.

Now, two days later, on August 21, police got a call at 2 a.m.

about a person hiding in a cornfield at State Road 110 and Highway 31.

An officer went out to check the area and didn’t find anybody.

Then 15 minutes later, police got another complaint,

this time about a guy who ran off the edge of the road in the same area

and, quote, unquote, hidden a culvert.

So this is written on a police follow-up sheet,

and here’s what’s confusing.

At the top of the paper, someone wrote Daryl Parson,

not to be confused again with Daryl Lemon.

But then at the bottom of the sheet, the officer wrote that, quote,

subject was located and arrested for 1056, end quote.

In Indiana, 1056 means intoxicated person.

The guy told arresting officers that he had just hitchhiked

and that was the end of the report.

So our question was, is it Daryl Parson who is being arrested in the incident

or is it Daryl Parson who’s the one calling in the incident?

Emily put in a records request for Daryl Parson’s criminal history in Marshall County

and there was a public intoxication arrest on his record,

but it was in 2008, not 1984.

Daryl also had a domestic battery charge on his record, also from 2008.

And it’s Daryl who was blonde with a long nose

that fits the physical description for Darlene’s killer.

But what did police do with these tips?

Well, it seems like they did look into them because on August 21st,

there’s a follow-up sheet with an alibi that got called in for Daryl Parson.

Someone said that he couldn’t have killed Darlene because he wasn’t even in Argus.

He was in Boone County, Indiana that morning,

filling out a job application at 9 a.m. and he was there for an hour.

Now, it’s worth noting that Jacob Parson

is never mentioned in any of the reports that we have.

But what about Mike and Jay?

We couldn’t find much else about Mike right off the bat,

but Jay was interviewed by police.

And Jay is really the one I find myself having the most questions about,

mostly because of the stuff that we’ve learned

and how it ties back to the FBI’s profile.

He would have been 30 years old in 1984

and he lived in Argus all his life on the property with the buried bus,

really close to Darlene.

His obituary said that he graduated high school in 1974,

though we couldn’t find him pictured

or even listed in the graduating class of that yearbook.

We also couldn’t find any records showing that he ever got married or had any kids.

And he, too, has a long, flat nose,

just less pronounced than his brother Daryl’s.

Oh, and get this.

In a weird turn of events,

looking into Jay Parson truly did bring us right back to the beginning

because I found out that he ran with Danny Bender.

Remember him?

The very first suspect in Darlene’s case.

And we know this because there are some old reports

from a few of Danny’s friends that mentioned Jay being with Danny,

like riding their bikes around town and partying together and stuff.

The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office gave Jay a polygraph exam on September 5, 1984,

but it seemed more centered around Jay’s friendship with Danny

than Jay’s possible involvement.

In the pretest, the subject gave the following information and admissions.

The subject stated he knew why he was there, reference,

he was there to help this department out in any way he could.

He advised that he knows Danny Bender,

and because of him knowing Danny Bender, he feels that he may be able to help.

The subject advised that he thought Danny Bender had streaks in his hair

and was light-complected.

He advised that the last time he saw Danny Bender was on July 28, 1984,

which would have been the subject’s birthday.

He advised that his brother had driven him over there

and that his brother owns a purple Chevrolet.

He advised that he had a couple of beers at Danny’s house

and the other person was Jackie, who is Danny’s girlfriend and her five kids.

He advised that he was there for approximately one half hour.

He advised that the day of the homicide he was at home

and that he has slept out in his car, which he keeps buried in the garden.

He advised that he got up around 8.30 a.m.,

at which time his father told him that they were looking for three convicts that had gotten loose.

He advised that he was home all day working in the garden

and observed the helicopter that went over his house in the afternoon.

The subject advised that he does not know the Hulse family before the homicide

and after seeing the woman’s picture on TV,

he remembers seeing her at the laundromat in Argus sometime before.

The subject was given two tests.

His polygrams did not contain specific reactions to relevant questions,

indicative no attempt at deception.


After careful analysis of this subject’s polygrams,

it is the opinion of the examiner that he told substantially the truth during his examination.

It seems like this was the end of investigators looking into Jay,

which is weird because I was left with a lot of questions.

I mean, they didn’t even have any follow-up questions about him sleeping in a buried bus underground.

Are you kidding me?

The other thing that stood out is this whole thing about his dad waking him up

and immediately mentioning something about three convicts on the loose.

What is he talking about?

We couldn’t find anything about another manhunt going on that day in Argus.

So maybe Jay’s dad was conflating what he’d heard regarding Darlene’s abduction?

I mean, were there rumors going around that three men were involved?

The other thing that doesn’t make sense is Jay said he recognized Darlene’s photo on TV

because he had seen her at a laundromat in Argus.

But Ron Hulse told police that they had a washer and dryer at home

and all of their laundry was done there.

He was insistent.

Darlene never went to the laundromat.

There is no more mention of any of the Parson brothers or their family that we have been able to find yet.

So the question is, why is their whole family listed on that whiteboard?

When Emily tried to track Nelson down again to see if he was confused or if he’d lied to us,

this is what he texted her.


I’m sorry.

I’m in something deep.

I trust you have a sense of how many demands are put on my time.

End quote.

But the next day when we followed up,

Nelson agreed to meet Emily over his lunch hour at the Martin’s Supermarket salad bar.

The audio isn’t great because the store is loud with people talking and top 40 radio.

But when they sat down, Emily asked about the Lemon-Parson discrepancy

and Nelson just brushed it off as a simple mix-up.

Basically, no big deal.

Okay, fine.

Maybe he was confused only when talking to us.

But again, why are the Parsons even relevant?

I cannot go into that, you know?

I cannot.

How does it apply?

There’s a lot, a long line of detectives that have all done that kind of work.

I don’t know if you know what my role is.

No, I do.

But you’re the only one I’m given access to for this.

None of the detectives will talk to me.

They probably won’t.

I’m on their shit list.

Me too.

I’ll spare you from listening to all of that supermarket audio.

But basically, Nelson admits our findings are correct,

that Daryl Lemon was at the Burgers that summer

and the Parson family are the ones who live near Darlene with the buried bus in their yard.

He said the Parsons have only ever been considered persons of interest in Brandy Pelz’s case, not Darlene’s.

Emily asked if the Parsons were still on police’s radar for either case.

And Nelson said no.

So, I mean, I know what you’re wondering.

Why is their family tree on the conference room whiteboard at the prosecutor’s office?

Nelson said he wrote it up there a long time ago because he was getting confused

and that he also put the paper over the family tree because it’s quote unquote nobody’s business.

And no one in his office has taken an interest in Brandy or Darlene’s case.

So it shouldn’t just be on display every day for unrelated meetings.

I also had Emily ask Nelson if they’d considered doing any genealogy testing

regarding the Parson family for either case.

And he said, quote, I suppose if there was convincing evidence to move forward on that path, end quote.

But then I still wonder how the Parsons got up there.

Were they considered for Brandy Pelz’s case?

And if so, why, when none of them seemed to have violent criminal records,

save for Daryl’s domestic violence charge?

Maybe it was because they were being investigated for involvement with that marijuana field.

The weed patch was just north of the Hulse home, which was also in the direction of the Pelz house.

But that seems like a stretch.

Maybe a bunch of tips came in about them after Brandy’s murder.

It’s hard to say.

We messaged Daryl’s victim from his 2008 arrest on Facebook, but never heard back.

And with most of the family deceased,

it was a lot harder to find information about how they connected to the investigations.

We even swung by their old homestead where the bus is allegedly buried,

but no one was home and it was hard to tell if anyone still lived there.

Emily pushed on Nelson and asked him to be a little more specific during that lunch break meetup.

Basically, she wanted him to clarify all of this.

And Nelson said, well, everyone always had their suspicions about Mike

because he had some sort of mental illness.

Nelson didn’t know if Mike Parson had been interviewed before

or if he had the ability to be interviewed.

He thought he was in assisted living today.

And Nelson sort of acted like the idea of the Parsons came about in the Pelz case

after law enforcement’s other theories just fell apart.

They had a suspect early on in that case, this guy from England who had spent some time in Argus.

But then Nelson said by the time he returned overseas, it was too late to interview him.

I think, I feel like there’s more about the **** that you’re not telling me.

I’m not telling you?


I’m telling you what’s in my mind.

Why take the time to like write out their family tree on your whiteboard

but you’re interested in **** or something?

After that, Nelson said, quote,

I can’t spend any time on it right now.

I got too much shit going on.

End quote.

But then he made a mention that there was an effort made recently

where a detective went to a relative’s house to try and get more information

about the Parsons’ involvement in basically just crime in the mid 80s around Argus.

And he said that interaction didn’t go well.

They got yelled at and the family they tried talking to wouldn’t cooperate.

But again, I ask, what was the motivation behind that house call?

In one breath, Nelson said they aren’t looking at them.

It’s been ages.

They’re just up there because there’s nothing else.

Then he’s talking about detectives visiting living family members

to get information on one or more of the brothers.

When we tried to hone in on this, Nelson said,

well, we just knew that they were around.

So an investigator went.

Well, you know that Ken McCube’s around.

What’s the difference?

Some of these angles you take are like, why the fuck are you doing this?

Why the fuck are you doing that?

Well, no, just help me understand the difference.

Well, I’m trying to convince you that there is no logical plan here.

We’re trying to exist day to day.

Emily brought up Kenneth McCune Jr.

Because if you remember, at the time we spoke with him,

Kenneth said investigators haven’t questioned him about Darlene’s case

since he was arrested and sentenced back in like 87, 88.

So you get that something’s not adding up, right?

Over the many, many months we’ve spent interviewing Nelson,

there were no new efforts made by any law enforcement

to go knocking on suspects’ doors to try and get DNA swabs or information.

So to hear that someone went, quote unquote, recently

to check in on a relative of the Parson family was surprising.

Was it for pelts or was it for hulse?

Nelson wouldn’t say.

Nelson also said he cannot say one way or another

if Brandy and Darlene’s cases are connected.

P.I. Zip, who you heard from last episode,

said he would be shocked if they aren’t connected.

But no one can say for sure.

And I keep coming back to something else.

Daryl Lemon, the Parson family, Kenneth McCune Jr.,

all have one thing in common.

They all stayed or lived near Darlene and where her body was found.

And that seems to be the key to the hulse investigation,

at least for Nelson,

which is also in line with what the FBI analysis said.

When Emily and Jake and I were in Marshall County

visiting the crime scenes,

Nelson texted Emily to ask what our reaction was

to seeing the locations, referring to me and Jake.

Emily responded that it was more rural than we had expected.

And Nelson texted back, quote,

and therefore, beyond coincidence, end quote.

By now, I was kind of done trusting that guy.

We decided to go back to the office

and do a hard reset on everything he told us so far.

And not just the stuff he had told us.

We basically set out to double check everything,

including things reported from decades before

that have been the factual building blocks of the investigation,

starting with Darlene’s autopsy.

I told you about the autopsy findings way back in episode three

and that her cause of death was listed as blunt trauma

caused by the fireplace poker.

But like everything else in this case,

nothing is what it seems.

She died of strangulation, and then he kept squeezing.

A new cause of death, a new witness interviewed,

and a whole new opinion about what happened to Darlene

moments before her death.

That’s all next in episode 14,

A Massive Revelation.

You can listen to that right now.