My writing partner, Sean Robbins, began his prologue for our book, INVISIBLE KILLER: The Monster Behind the Mas, by stating the strange opener his friend Jim Graves said to him at his favorite bar: “Did I ever tell you I was related to a serial killer?” Jim was talking about serial killer Charlie Brandt, who was his brother-in-law and good friend. Jim didn’t suspect a thing.
I didn’t suspect this: Never would I have imagined I would meet such diverse, wonderful people during the course of writing this book.
I will begin with my writing partner, Sean Robbins.
When he first showed up at my house with the beginnings of his story, from his friend Jim Graves, about Charlie Brandt, I saw a young, eager, tattooed from head to toe individual, typical Daytona boy, or biker. He was not that at all, and I spotted it from the start.
What he is is immensely curious, driven, and dedicated to his craft of writing, albeit disrespectful of all forms of authority. I could relate. I used to be like that. And I am grateful he still is.
What I wasn’t expecting was the rest of the people who came into my life, and have stayed.
I emailed the Michelle Lynn Jones website and received an answer from Peggy Moore, a loyal friend of Michelle’s, who said she wanted to help. Of course, at first, folks say they want to help until they realize one’s true intentions. And then they really help. I suppose all of these people realized what this was about, and why I was drawn to this story. I wanted to make the victims full-rounded people, who had lives they should have continued. That nobody had any right to take them.
Bill Jones, Michelle’s dad, was the second one to call. “I understand you’re writing a book about Michelle,” he said in his gravely, soft southern voice, and then allowed me to speak with his wife, Mary Lou.
I wasn’t just writing a book about Michelle, but by then, I realized, about Teri too, and two other victims. I wasn’t so certain who they were.
But Mary Lou filled me in about the murders of her daughter, Michelle, and her sister, Teri.
Mary Lou Jones is one of the strongest women I know. She is a psychiatric nurse with a Ph D. who had no reservations about delving into the darkest aspects of the crimes. “No no,” she said softly but firmly when I expressed my misgivings about asking her some of the questions. “You are writing a book and we want it to be as accurate as possible.”
Mary Lou also pointed me to some of Michelle’s friends. One of them I met without Mary Lou’s guidance; Lisa Emmons, who was in the 48 HOURS episode, DEADLY OBSESSION. Lisa was very straightforward, and contributed to the study of Charlie Brandt. They all did.
And then I met Debbie Knight.
Debbie, of all of Michelle’s friends, is possibly the one who carries the most hurt. She was her best friend. She also happens to be a good writer.
She was at Michelle’s house two nights before the murder. Debbie believed, possibly still believes to this day she could have prevented the murder of her friend if Charlie had attacked the night that she was there. I tried to convince her otherwise. Charlie would have killed her too. I identify with all these women for different reasons. With Mary Lou, for her wisdom; Lisa, for her honesty; Peggy, for her diplomacy and sweet temper; Debbie, for her conscience, which haunts her still, and I wish it would not.
And then I received, via a flash drive, a police report about Sherry Perisho, dubbed “a homeless transient” by the media. She was anything but…
Sherry had a 136 IQ, read Herman Hesse, and was homeless, apparently, by choice. She intrigued me. I reached out to the only person who cared enough about her to keep emailing investigators in Monroe County, for the Florida Keys, to find out how her cousin was murdered. Sherry was taken and eviscerated by Charlie Brandt.
Through the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, and Marilyn Angel, Sherry’s cousin, I found out about her life through an autobiography she was writing, and kept in the dinghy she made her home. I found a woman I wanted to know. She was another rebel who chose the Florida Keys as a last frontier.
Marilyn Angel became a friend. Not an everyday friend, but a friend to whom I sent a Christmas card last year.
I also sent a Christmas card to Special Agent and profiler Leslie D’Ambrosia. She was with me every step of the way and is a veritable walking encyclopedia of crimes and criminals. She never failed to respond to any question I asked of her, and answered back quite thoroughly and articulately. I could not have done the book without her.
And I also sent a Christmas card to Bill and Mary Lou Jones. It was of my pets, who give unconditional love as we all know. I hope it can give them some comfort.
MaryLou, Michelle’s mother, told me she and Bill kept Michelle’s cat. They adopted an injured dog. They are good people whom I’m glad to know. Mary Lou also connected me to the lead investigator, Rob Hemmert. This blog will continue as I talk with more people, but I will say one thing: Mary Lou Jones is my hero.
In the meantime, did I ever tell you I met some wonderful people through a serial killer?