|“||Well, you know what the perfect revenge is, Jim? You kill somebody, and then you cut their heart out, and you eat it.||”|
Brandt was the second child, and the only son, of Herbert and Ilse Brandt, two German immigrants who moved to Texas in 1955. During the day, Brandt's father worked as a laborer for a division of International Harvester, and attended college at night. Eventually, he worked up his way to draftsman and project engineer. However, the family had to move quickly and often. As a result, Brandt and his older sister Angela attended several different schools. Brandt was regarded as a good student, but he was shy and had difficulty adjusting to his constantly changing environment. In September 1968, Herbert was transferred to Fort Wayne's International Harvester plant. All of the Brandts disliked having to resettle in Indiana and longed to return to Connecticut, where Brandt had been born, and all of their friends and relatives lived.
Every summer and Christmas, the Brandts stayed in Florida, where Brandt would hunt with his father in the morning and go to the beach with the rest of the family in the afternoon. When he was twelve years old, Brandt got a dog as a Christmas present. Brandt became quickly attached to the animal, but it was never properly trained. The dog would make the floor messy often, forcing Brandt to clean it, and it would never come when Brandt's father called it. The following Christmas, Brandt and his father took the dog out on a hunting trip. The animal ran behind some bushes, and when it wouldn't come out, Brandt's father became impatient and shot twice at the bushes. The dog was killed, much to Brandt's shock. His father claimed that it was an accident and that he only intended to scare it, and the two continued hunting without discussing the issue further.
Fort Wayne Shootings and Move to Florida
"Sandi, I just shot my mom and dad."
The Brandts returned to Fort Wayne on January 3, 1971, just after midnight. The following afternoon, Brandt retrieved his father's handgun and shot him while he shaved. His mother, who was eight months pregnant and taking a bath, screamed for help before Brandt shot her twice, killing her instantly. Angela ran to the bathroom, from where Brandt also tried to shoot her, but he had no bullets left. Angela defused the situation by telling her brother how much she loved him. She then told him to retrieve their younger sisters, ages four and two, who were sleeping, claiming that they were going to live in a hippie commune together. As soon as she had the opportunity, Angela fled to a neighbor's house to call for help and Brandt ran after her. She knocked on the door, then ran for the next house. When the neighbor opened the door, she found Brandt at her porch instead; he told her that he had just shot his parents. After the neighbor called for help, Brandt was taken into custody and his father was rushed to a hospital, where he was saved.
Since Brandt was too young to be charged for murder in Indiana, he only appeared before a grand jury, who advised to subject him to three separate evaluations in a mental institution of Indianapolis. None of the doctors who examined Brandt found that he suffered from mental illness. Nevertheless, Brandt's father forgave his son and petitioned for him to be released back into his custody, which he was granted after a year. Once back together, the family moved to Florida, where they never spoke of the incident again, and Brandt's younger sisters were never told about it. After another year, Brandt's father remarried and returned to Fort Wayne with his younger sisters, his older sister moved out, and Brandt remained in Florida under the care of his grandparents, who moved there from Germany. Brandt became more open and sociable than he had been before. In 1974, he got a degree on electronics and became a radar specialist. In 1986, Brandt married his longtime girlfriend Teri after he told her about his past and she accepted it. No relatives were invited to the wedding. The couple settled in a beach house of Big Pine Key, the southernmost portion of the Florida Keys, in 1989.
Further Murders, Suicide, and Aftermath
Many years later, on September 9, 2004, Big Pine Key was ordered to evacuate before Hurricane Ivan made landfall. The Brandts were offered refuge by Teri's niece, Michelle Jones, in her home of Maitland near Orlando, Florida. Jones was a single, 37-year-old advertising executive, whom Brandt had given the pet name "Victoria's Secret." During the visit, Jones kept regular contact with her mother and several friends. However, on the day the Brandts were supposed to leave, Jones called a friend to cancel a date and told her that the Brandts had been drinking and arguing. After that, Jones never contacted anyone again. At the request of Jones's mother, her friend checked on her on September 15. She saw Brandt's body hanging behind the house's backdoor and called the police. Besides Brandt, the officers found Teri dead on a couch, after having been stabbed seven times; and Jones's body on her bed, killed by a single stab wound and subsequently decapitated and deprived of her heart with surgical precision. Since there was no signs of a struggle, the house was locked from the inside, and the Brandts suitcases were packed next to the front door, the police concluded that Brandt had convinced the women to stay one more night, before murdering them in their sleep and hanging himself.
Further investigation at the Brandt home revealed that Brandt was a monthly subscriber to Victoria's Secret catalogs; had an extensive collection of surgery-themed books, posters, and clippings; and used the Internet regularly to search for autopsy photos and snuff film websites depicting violence against women. Because Brandt traveled often due to his job, the police checked cold cases in Florida that could match Brandt's M.O., and launched requests for similar inquiries in the U.S. and abroad. Ultimately, Brandt was considered a suspect in 26 Florida cold cases, although only some were made public:
- The abduction of twelve-year-old Carol Sullivan from a school bus stop in Volusia County on September 20, 1978. Sullivan's body was never found, but she is presumed to have been murdered and decapitated because her skull was found inside a bucket. Brandt was 20 years old and lived in Volusia County at the time, but he could not be tied to the crime in any other way.
- The murder of Lisa Saunders, 20, who was beaten, stabbed and dragged from her car in Big Pine Key in December 1988. Saunders's heart was missing when she was found, but it is unclear if it was extracted by a person or eaten by vultures.
- The murder of Sherry Perisho, a 38-year-old homeless woman in Big Pine Key, on July 19, 1989. Perisho slept in a boat over water, which was found inland and with knife marks on the hull, indicating that someone had used it as a cutting board. Her body, missing the heart and showing signs of an unsuccessful decapitation, was thrown off a highway bridge and found floating in a canal. This murder took place only three months after the Brandts moved to Big Pine Key, and Brandt's brother-in-law Jim Graves revealed that Teri had told him that she suspected her husband of Perisho's murder, because he came home late during the night of the crime, and had blood stains on his clothes that he claimed were from filleting fish. Because of Brandt's strong resemblance to a suspect filmed by CCTV while fleeing the scene of Perisho's murder, Brandt was named as the official killer in 2006.
- The rape and murder of an unnamed four-year-old girl in Big Pine Key in either 1988 or 1989.
- The murder of Darlene Toler, a 35-year-old prostitute in Miami, on November 24, 1995. Toler's body, missing her head and heart, was found near a highway wrapped in plastic like a package. Brandt used the same highway regularly and he kept a mileage record of his truck, which shows an entry for 100 miles on the day of Toler's murder. This is the driving distance between Big Pine Key and Miami.
During the Fort Wayne shootings, which seemed to have been a spur-of-the-moment crime, Brandt shot his parents with his father's handgun, which he stole from the nightstand. His father was injured by a single gunshot, while his mother died from two shots to the chest and abdomen. The second bullet also hit her unborn child, Brandt's brother, in the head, killing him instantly.
During the Maitland murders, Brandt attacked his wife and niece while they slept. His wife was stabbed seven times, while his niece was stabbed once. Afterward, the niece had her heart carved out, and her body was decapitated and the head placed next to the body in bed. This basic M.O. (single stab or slash, post-mortem heart removal, and decapitation or attempted decapitation) is presumed to have been used by Brandt in other crimes.
- January 3, 1971, Fort Wayne, Indiana: His family
- Herbert Brandt, 39 (his father; shot; survived)
- Ilse Brandt, 40 (his mother; shot twice in the chest and abdomen; was eight months pregnant)
- Angela Brandt, 15 (his sister; attempted)
- Big Pine Key, Florida:
- July 19, 1989: Sherry Perisho, 38 (fatally slashed her throat, attempted to decapitate, and threw her body from a highway bridge; her heart was removed post-mortem and never found)
- September 13, 2004, Maitland, Florida: The double murder-suicide:
- Teresa "Teri" Brandt, 46 (his wife; stabbed seven times)
- Michelle Lynn Jones, 37 (his niece; stabbed once; decapitated and removed her heart post-mortem)
- September 20, 1978, Volusia County, Florida: Carol Lynn Sullivan, 12 (only her skull was found)
- Big Pine Key, Florida:
- December 1988: Lisa Saunders, 20 (beaten and stabbed; her heart was never found)
- Unspecified date in 1988 or 1989: An unnamed girl, 4 (raped and killed by unknown causes)
- November 24, 1995, Miami, Florida: Darlene Toler, 35 (her head and heart were never found; her body was wrapped like a package and left near a highway)
On Criminal Minds
- Season Three
- "In Name and Blood" - While Brandt has yet to be directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Joe Smith - Both were serial killers who stabbed women, extracted their hearts as a revenge by proxy, and had children who were involved in their crimes in some way (Brandt's niece was his last confirmed victim, while Smith used his son to lure victims).