The Deck Investigates - 15 of 15: Next in the Investigation

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As of last summer, authorities have Ron Hulse’s DNA swab.

They agreed to do a direct comparison test against the partial male profile found on Darlene’s blouse.

Not because Ron is a suspect, but because he’s her husband.

If that DNA belongs to Ron, then it actually means the profile is kind of useless.

Maybe it was from their hug goodbye that morning when he went to work,

in which case it means that we need to start testing other items while we still can to get a suspect sample.

And that sample might be right there in the slides from her autopsy if they still have them.

If they did a comparison between Ron’s swab and the semen,

they could figure out pretty quickly if it did in fact belong to Ron.

But we asked Prosecutor Chipman if that has been done yet, and he said no.

It was the first of many no’s that we’d hear.

This is episode 15. Next in the investigation.

We also asked Chipman if there were any immediate plans to get a swab from Kenneth McCune Jr.

And he said he still needed to write an affidavit to get a court order to do so.

So what are you waiting for?

I’m not waiting for—I’m waiting for my people.

I gotta do—I got work to cut out. I mean, I got work to do.

Maybe you’re too early.

It’s been almost 40 years.

I feel like you could put that clip on repeat, and it was every conversation we had with Nelson.

When Emily met with him in August, the plan was to get some comparison testing done in October.

Then the goal was by Thanksgiving, then by the end of the year for sure.

We haven’t gotten any updates since then.

When we push, Nelson gives us the same story he’s always given Kristen.

They’re busy. New cases come in every day.

No doubt, I don’t think he’s bluffing.

But I also don’t think that’s an excuse.

What keeps you motivated in wanting to solve this case?

That’s the romantic way of saying it.

It’s also, there’s ego.

You know, I want to win.

But, you know, I want that family to have some kind of closure.

I never like that term or that concept.

I don’t even understand what it means.

Justice, ego, and closure for the family.

If his ego wants a win, it seems like a softball.

We’re at the point where the only thing that’s left to do is test the freaking evidence.

It’s the only thing I personally can’t do.

Nelson’s lack of urgency around this has been driving us bonkers for the last year.

And please keep in mind, the frustration that we’ve felt is just a fraction of what Darlene’s family has lived with for nearly four decades.

If I put myself in their shoes, and we’re talking to the state police, what I want to say is,

I get that new crimes are popping up every day, but like, if we’ve got something so viable and we’ve been waiting 38 years,

like, when do we get to cut to the front of the line?

And I understand the frustration.

I understand the frustration.

Right, and I’m not saying there’s like an easy fix or something.

It’s, it’s, it’s disheartening.

Nelson said he’s never thought about it that way.

About Darlene’s case, getting to cut the line because she and her family have already waited so long.

I mean, it seems like the most natural conclusion to me.

Which is why I think bringing in fresh perspectives can be good sometimes.

So, what now?

The to-do list for authorities is short and simple.

Number one, compare the unknown sample to Ron.

If it ends up being his DNA, go back to the underwear, to the sexual assault kit, other pieces of evidence,

and do more retesting to get a new sample.

Number two, if it’s not Ron, or once another sample is obtained,

start going down the list and testing it against people known in the investigation, both then and now.

Now, for me and Emily, our to-do list is a little less straightforward.

I mean, really, our to-do list comes to a grinding halt,

the second comparison testing is done, and Darlene’s killer is identified.

But until then, we want to keep looking at all the things that still don’t make sense,

and we want to keep pulling at little threads that unravel into something bigger.

And there are all of these little threads.

Some that lead nowhere, some that might mean nothing.

But we don’t know unless we pick and pull them apart.

Here’s an example.

Back around the holidays, as Emily and I were in the thick of writing this series,

we kept going back through old reports to fact-check and also to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything.

And almost every time we did, we came up with another person worth investigating.

Like, do you remember the Argus appliance guy, Lee?

I told you about him back in episode six.

Ron Hulse said that he was going to do a house call on the day that Darlene was abducted.

Ron told police in one of his original interviews

that Lee was supposed to stop by that morning to check out a faulty refrigerator light.

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.

Police didn’t pose any follow-up questions about this, but I have a few.

First, we know Darlene was about to head out the door that morning

with all three girls for Kristen’s doctor appointment, which was at 10 o’clock in Plymouth.

So she wasn’t even planning on being home at 9.30 that morning to meet a fridge repairman.

So was it an unplanned, spontaneous house call?

I mean, you have a man who says that he’s going to stop by the Hulse house on the day

and the exact time a murder is going down, and you don’t interview him?

We asked Sergeant Yokelet about this, and he said that he remembered this lead about Lee Chisholm,

but he doesn’t remember anything coming from it.

I gather that Lee was older and didn’t quite fit the physical description of the suspect,

so it was discounted quickly.

But after doing a little digging ourselves, we found out that Lee has a son

who was within the suspect’s age range, who is a convicted sex offender.

Sergeant Yokelet didn’t remember anything about the son,

and the son didn’t return our calls.

So it’s hard to say if he even worked for his dad back in the mid-’80s

or would have known about the Hulse’s refrigerator problems.

But again, this is another question worth getting answers to in this case.

Another name that sometimes gets tossed around in Darlene’s case is Ray Oviatt,

a former Baptist pastor from Argus who was arrested for child molestation in 1986.

That would have been two years after Darlene’s murder.

He was head of the First Baptist Church in Argus in the 80s,

which is one of the churches that the Hulses attended for a bit

while they were kind of church hopping.

Now there’s a rumor around Argus that because Darlene played piano for the church,

that she was there during a weekday and maybe walked in on the pastor molesting a young boy

and that her murder was a silencing tactic.

But according to Darlene’s family, Darlene did not play piano at First Baptist

and wouldn’t have ever had a reason to go there for anything besides Sunday service.

And by the time Darlene died, the Hulses were attending a completely different church, Liberty Baptist.

We’ve already talked about why, but nothing about Darlene’s case says it was a hit job.

And her family feels like the pastor theory is just a baseless rumor.

But do you want to hear about the little thread that really keeps me up at night?

There’s another man that police questioned briefly back in 1984

because of something an officer found in the Hulses’ yard after the murder.

It was this torn piece of a prescription paper with the name Robert Ewing on it.

Now that alone is not all that suspicious until you look at the date.

There is something scribbled out and written in its place is August 17th, 1984,

the day Darlene was abducted.

According to old reports, Robert told police that he didn’t know the Hulses,

but he thought that maybe he had been at their house for a yard sale a few weeks prior.

We asked Darlene’s family, but they don’t remember there ever being any yard sales at their house.

I even had Emily check old newspaper ads for yard sales at the Hulse home from that summer,

and there weren’t any.

We even had Darlene’s daughters ask their dad Ron.

Nobody remembers hosting yard sales there.

Now Sergeant Yochelet told us that he remembers this lead,

and he remembers following up on it because he said there was a valid reason for that paper to be there.

He just doesn’t remember what it was.

Nelson suggested that maybe the piece of paper flew over into the Hulses’ yard from the nearby landfill,

which we found so weird.

Why even suggest a thing unless it had any merit?

I mean, there is a landfill about a half a mile south of where the Hulses lived,

so his suggestion wasn’t totally random,

but it’s not like trash from there is constantly blowing into people’s yards.

And that logic doesn’t even make sense.

Again, it was dated 8-17.

Then you’re saying it made it to the landfill on 8-17 and then blew into Darlene’s yard that same day?

I don’t think so.

Old reports are vague.

They don’t say exactly where or what day the paper was found.

Though the way that the reports are written makes us think that this piece of paper was found pretty soon after Darlene’s body was found,

like when police were all over the property looking for evidence.

It seems like police just took Robert’s word for it,

because in the report the officer wrote that there was no need to follow up.

We tried to reach Robert Ewing,

but we got a family member instead who said that Robert wasn’t in good enough health to speak with us.

We’re also actively trying to track down this guy,

or pretty much a kid at the time,

who was in the woods hunting the day Darlene’s body was found.

He claimed to be just 20 feet from where the body was discovered,

but said that he never saw anything.

It’s particularly interesting to me because there were reports from other Hulse women,

Ron’s mom and sister,

about someone who was lurking around their properties and peeping into the window months or even years before Darlene’s death.

And the officer who interviewed this young man mentioned that there were rumors that he was that peeping Tom,

which he denied, but I’d still love to talk to him.

And then there are all these other rapes and murders at the time.

First and foremost, I think the Brandy Peltz case needs a second look,

specifically in comparison to Darlene’s case.

For years, Marshall County authorities have discounted a connection between Brandy and Darlene’s case

because of the different causes of death.

But now we have an expert saying that Darlene was likely sexually assaulted and strangled,

just like Brandy two years later and just less than two miles up the road.

The big difference between the cases was the fact that Darlene was taken from her home

and Brandy was placed in the bathtub and her killer lit a fire inside the house.

But even those details make the Hulse daughters wonder about a connection.

You can’t tell me all those are not related. Right there.

But why did he set that house on fire?

Well, think about it, though. He’s trying to cover it up.

He’s like, OK, I jacked up moms, like I took her somewhere and they found her body.

How am I going to get rid of this one?

I mean, honestly, what would you do? What would get rid of all the evidence?

You would set something on fire.

I mean, also seeing us coming out of the bathtub, did that spark his imagination of, oh, bathtub.

I don’t know. I know that sounds weird, but he’s reviewing everything in his head and he’s like, yeah, water.


Brandy’s not the only case I’m interested in giving a closer look.

There was a string of rapes across northern Indiana at the time that I find particularly interesting.

And a weird tip I’ve never been able to shake suggests that Darlene’s case could be connected to the murders

of other Indiana housewives in the surrounding years.

Is there a season two of Darlene’s case up our sleeve?

I don’t know. Honestly, I hope not.

Because that would mean the authorities did the testing and we don’t have to keep digging.

It means Marie, Melissa and Kristen finally have the answers after all of these years.

And you know what? Answers is all they want.

Not justice or vengeance.

Just answers.

It’s the why. What did you think you were going to accomplish?

But now that we know more about it, I feel like that answers some of the why.

But like, why her? Why that time of day?

I selfishly want to be like, you saw us.

You saw us.

You saw us.

You knew what you were taking away from three young girls.

You saw us all. You saw her crawling around.

You saw her. You chased.

Like, what? How did you think it was going to turn out?

If you get the chance to, you know, ask this person any questions or anything you’d want to say to him.

What did you hope to accomplish? And please tell me that you took her life and she was not aware of it.

That she didn’t suffer.

Do you ever think about us?

Did you follow any of us?

I’ve had that question asked to me a lot.

Like, when people find out, they’re like, is that why you moved?

And I was like, it’s actually not why we moved, even though it seems that way.

There’s a lot of questions.

Did you follow her? Did you stalk her?

When did you see her?

How did you get over that and then live a normal life?

What did you do after you dumped her?

What was your day like?

What did you do the following weeks?

Where’d you go?

I’m not all about him getting punished, but just the fact that we could go on and never, never know anything.

Just, I don’t know.

I mean, once upon a time I would have been a lot harsher, but now I just want closure.

I just want, I feel like time is running out for my dad.

He told me yesterday when we were in the kitchen, and I was asking him all those questions, he’s like,

I just, oh Kristen, I’ve just, I’ve just resorted and told myself that this is never going to get solved.

We’ll never know.

The Hulse family deserves those answers, and they do deserve justice.

Something that has been so remarkable about working on this project has been seeing that

despite the awful tragedy that happened to their family,

they all have so much happiness and love in their lives.

I mean, in half the audio from our interviews with them, you can hear it.

Babies cooing, kids interrupting to ask their moms for snacks, and teenagers running through the house.

The first time I heard it, the audio producer in me was like, crap, we can’t use any of this.

But then I listened close.

I listened as a mom.

You hungry, baby?



Get you some food.

She eats french fries with a fork.

What kind of crazy is she?

Love and laughter fill their houses, and it’s comforting knowing that whoever did this to Darlene

couldn’t take that away from her family.

And I hope Darlene can hear all of it.

Darlene will always be their mom.

She’s not the body in the woods or the homicide victim.

She’s the woman who made all of their own bedding and clothes and lived frugally

to make sure she could send all three of them to college.

She would try and make a meal, like a dollar a meal.

You know, that’s what she wants to spend because she was trying to save for our college.

Even when I was little, that was something that she was already saying,

you know, we’re going to save for your college.

You girls are going to college.

When the girls were little, Darlene would do these audio diaries with them,

and she would ask them questions and help them practice pronouncing words.

It’s now March 29, 1980.

Marie is three and a half.

Melissa is 27 months old.

They’re taking their bath now.

We’re going to be talking.


Marie, say your ABCs.

B, C, D, E, F, G,

H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O.

Q, R, S, T, U, V,

A, B, C, D, E, F, G,

H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P,

Q, R, S…

She did these to document what her kids sounded like at different ages,

not knowing that they would grow up to cherish the recordings to remember her voice.

Today is December 17, 1980.

Marie is four years old, and Melissa will be three on December 29 in a couple of weeks.

And here’s what they sound like at this age.

Marie, what would you like for Christmas this year?


Tinkerbell what? What’s that?

What kind of Tinkerbell?


What do you want, Melissa?

Candy canes.

Candy canes?

Did you see Santa last week?

Yeah, we did.

What did he say?

He said, you want some Tinkerbell?

Yeah, I want some.

Did you think you were a good girl or a bad girl?

Good girl.

He thought you were a good girl.

What did you say, Melissa?

Did you like Santa?


You did? How come you went to the lab?

Because I don’t want to.

Well, maybe next time, huh?

Darlene was also the kind of mom who would just joke around with her kids.

She was silly and she wasn’t afraid to go outside and play with them.

She had on a Playboy Bunny shirt.

Do you remember that?

You probably don’t remember that.

Vaguely remember the stupid shirt.


We were like, you can’t run.

You can’t run as fast as we can.

And it’s the stretch of right between our house and our grandparents.

And she’s like, I can too.

I remember her running and me thinking, you don’t have the right bra on.

Darlene also made everything homemade.

Curtains, comforters, clothes.

And she made her daughters and other family members dolls

that they can’t bear to display in their homes because they’re so creepy,

but that they can’t get rid of because they represent how much their mom loved them.

I literally have them in my attic and I try not to look at them.

I have one in my closet.

I think it’s one that she was making for one of my cousins.

Darlene Hulse spent one day of her life as a victim.

But she had 28 years of being a friend and a sister and a daughter,

a wife and a wonderful mom.

She was a talented piano player,

an intelligent, natural leader who graduated the top of her classes.

And she was a woman who loved her kids so much

that she spent her last living moments fighting like hell to protect her daughters.

What else can we talk about?

Want to talk about Teddy Bear?

Who’s Teddy Bear?

Teddy Bear’s my puppy.

What color is he?


What’s he do?

Um, um, don’t want more people.

Mommy said pick up your toy and she’s a good mommy.

I’ll see you later.

I love you, Mommy.

This might be the end of our series for now,

but Darlene’s story is far from over.

We will keep investigating her murder

and we aren’t done demanding action from investigators to solve it.

And this is where you come in.

We need each and every one of you to support Darlene’s family

by signing a petition to have her evidence tested

and comparisons done in a timely manner.

We have a link for that petition directly in the show notes

and you can also find the link on

I also think there are some of you out there who can help us dig even deeper.

If the following people are listening,

please reach out to us by emailing

Officer Fish, you were the first on the scene that day

and we have questions that the photos that we’ve been given just can’t answer.

We would love to talk to you.

I want to talk to that young man who was hunting in the woods that day her body was found.

Robert Ewing, I think you could quickly clear up the confusion we have

about your prescription and how it got into the yard.

If there’s anyone who worked with Ron Hulse at Young Door in Plymouth

who remembers the day Darlene was abducted,

you might have valuable information.

I’d also like to talk to the Hulse’s dog breeder.

Their dog Ling was with you at the time of Darlene’s attack

and we wonder if her killer knew that the dog wouldn’t be home.

So we’re trying to find out who would have known their dog was with you.

If there’s anyone familiar with the people that we’ve discussed in detail,

knowing more about their whereabouts and demeanors

around the time of Darlene’s murder could be critical information.

We’re also trying to get in touch with a former 911 dispatcher

from Fulton County, Indiana named Stephanie Miller.

You took a call regarding Darlene’s abduction in 1984

that we think could be important to her case.

So we need to talk to you.

We’d also be interested in talking to the people in the car

that passed by six-year-old Melissa on August 17th, 1984

near the intersection of US 31 and 20B Road in Argus, Indiana.

It would have been around 9.30 that morning.

There’s also the people in the black town car

that were driving slow near Interstate 110 in Olive Trail on August 17th

between 9.30 and 10.

You likely saw the suspect vehicle along with Cindy Sellers

and we’d love to see what you remember.

And we’d still love to talk to Dr. Rick Hoover.

If nothing else, it’s time to reexamine your 1984 findings

regarding Darlene Hulse’s autopsy.

And we need to know if the slides from her sexual assault kit

were preserved and can still be tested.

And to the Indiana State Police,

please expedite testing of blood and potential semen on Darlene’s underwear.

And finally, if anyone listening has any information

about the August 17th, 1984 murder of Darlene Hulse in Argus, Indiana,

even if I didn’t mention you above, please reach out.

Again, you can email us at

That email is also in the show notes.

And please do not forget to sign the petition.

With your help, justice for Darlene could be right around the corner.

The Deck Investigates is an Audiochuck production

with theme music by Ryan Lewis.

To learn more about The Deck Investigates, The Deck,

and our advocacy work, visit

So, what do you think, Chuck? Do you approve?