Charlie Brandt: Killer Child to Serial Killer? And the Murder of Baby Elaina

April 3, 2014
If you knew a dark secret about a friend’s past, would you tell his or her significant other? In 2004, 47-year-old Carl “Charlie” Brandt murdered his wife, Teri, and her niece, Michelle, before hanging himself. But what most of his friends and family didn’t know at the time was that Brandt had killed before. When Brandt was 13, he shot and killed his pregnant mother, shot his father — who survived — and attempted to shoot his sister, Angela, who escaped. Brandt was not charged but was placed in a psychiatric facility. After he was released one year later, his family packed up and moved out of state, where no one knew about his past. Members of Teri and Michelle’s family join Dr. Phil in search of answers. Who knew about Brandt’s history, and why didn’t they come forward? Brandt’s ex-brother-in-law, Jim, joins the conversation and admits he knew about Brandt's dark past when he introduced him to Teri. Why does he say he kept the secret from her? And, what red flags does he admit he missed? Plus, authorities say unsolved murders may be connected to Brandt. Was he a serial killer all along? Then, in 2013, the body of missing 18-month-old Elaina was found in a box in a garage. Her mother, Angela Steinfurth, and Angela’s then-boyfriend, Steven King, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with eligibility of parole in 18 and 25 years, respectively. What do they claim caused baby Elaina’s death? Angela’s half-sister, Mary, and Elaina’s father, Terry, say they are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy and want to know how they should approach the subject with Elaina’s 4-year-old sister. How can the family move forward after such a devastating loss? Plus, Dr. Phil checks in with former guest, April, who was battling an eating disorder and the end of her marriage. How is she now?

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Charlie BrandtMichelle Jones and Teri Brandt, two of Charlie Brandt's victimsBill and Mary Lou, with their daughter, MichelleMary LouBillSean, Michelle's brotherJim, Charlie's ex-brother-in-lawPeggy and Debbie, Michelle's friendsBaby ElainaAngela Steinfurth, Elaina's mother, and Steven King, Angela's boyfriendMary, Angela's sisterTerry, Elaina's fatherApril

A Hidden Past

In 2004, 47-year-old Carl “Charlie” Brandt murdered his wife, Teri, and her niece, Michelle, before hanging himself. But what most of his friends and family didn’t know at the time was that Brandt had murdered before. Bill and Mary Lou, the parents of Michelle Jones, one of Charlie Brandt’s victims, explain what they learned about Brandt’s history — after it was too late for their daughter. 

“Charlie Brandt was 13 years old when he killed his mother and tried to kill his dad.”

On September 13, 2004, Brandt killed again.

Michelle’s parents, Bill and Mary Lou, and brother, Sean, join Dr. Phil. Sean tells Dr. Phil that Brandt was a quiet, unassuming guy who kept to himself. Bill and Mary Lou say they don’t believe Teri had any idea of her husband’s violent past. “Teri was a person who couldn’t keep a secret, and especially from her sisters,” Mary Lou says. “We would’ve known."
 
“She wouldn’t have stayed with him,” Bill says.

Who Else Knew?

Jim was married to Brandt’s sister, Angela. He shares how he found out about Brandt’s deadly past, and what he did with that knowledge. Also, were there any warning signs that Jim may have missed?

“I met Charlie Brandt’s sister, Angela, when I was 16,” Jim says. “We got married about 18 months later. Angela told me about Charlie’s past before we got married. She goes, ‘I have something I have to tell you. My brother killed my mother.’ I wasn’t quite prepared for that at all. I didn’t believe it. One day, we went over to Angela’s father’s house, and he was mowing the yard without his shirt on, and he had these scars. There was no mistaking it was a bullet hole, and now I am aghast. She was telling me the truth. Now, all kinds of things are racing through my mind — and she had said it more than once — that she was still frightened of him at times.

“After Angie and I split, Charlie and I actually became closer. Somehow we got on the topic of revenge. He looks at me and goes, ‘Well, you know what the perfect revenge is, Jim … You kill somebody, and then you cut their heart out, and you eat it.’ I didn’t know what to say. I was dating a girl named Nancy, and Charlie had inquired if she had any friends that she thought would be interested in palling around with all of us. Teri was Nancy’s friend. Charlie and Teri hit it off and started dating. After six months, Charlie expressed to me he was going to ask Teri to marry him. I told him, ‘You have to tell her about your past.’ Charlie told me that he told her about his past.

“I came down to the Keys, and I hadn’t seen them in quite some time. Teri told me that she was considering calling the sheriff because she had walked into the utility room, and Charlie was covered with blood. That was the last time I ever saw Teri and Charlie. A friend called and told me that Charlie had killed his wife and niece, and Charlie had committed suicide. Charlie fooled everyone. I feel terrible. I missed it. I will never completely heal from this.”

Bill and Mary Lou speak to Jim for the first time to ask him why he didn’t tell Teri about Brandt’s past.

“Do you know how many people’s lives have forever been changed?”

Dr. Phil notes that Teri’s story of seeing Brandt covered in blood in the laundry room was the same day a woman was murdered in their area.

Invisible Serial Killer?

“After the murders, there were a number of inquiries from law enforcement agencies around the country,” Mary Lou says.
 
“At one point, they were investigating 26 different cases. Charlie was formerly charged with two of those,” Bill says. “It turned out that Charlie Brandt was a serial killer. Would Teri have married Charlie if she had known that he had killed his mother? No ma’am. She would not have married Charlie, period.”

“And our Teri and Michelle would still be alive with us today,” Mary Lou says.

Dr. Phil says, “We now know he killed his mother, her unborn baby, attempted to kill his father and sister, killed Teri, Michelle, two other murders that we now know about, others that are being investigated — we’re talking about a serial killer here, a predator among us.”

Clues the Night Before?

Debbie and Peggy were two of Michelle’s best friends. It was Debbie who got the call from Mary Lou to check on Michelle and found Brandt hanging in the garage. They join the discussion via satellite in front of the house where Michelle and Teri were found.

Did Debbie foil Brandt’s plan to kill the night before the murders took place?

“Tell me about these journal entries that were written,” Dr. Phil says to Mary Lou.

“I did see the journal entries. The entries that I recall seeing described evenings where Charlie had an emotional day or Charlie was very emotional,” Mary Lou says.
 
“There was nothing in there that tells you she knew?”

“Nothing that was any clear indication that she knew. We won’t ever know, but in my heart, I don’t believe my sister would’ve stayed with someone who committed a violent crime like that,” Mary Lou says.

Michelle Lynn's Law

Mary Lou and Bill are campaigning for a new law called Michelle Lynn’s Law. In a previous interview, Mary Lou explains. “It would be our goal that a Michelle Lynn’s Law be implemented in every state in this country. If you commit a violent crime, regardless of your age, your criminal profile is entered into a database that is retrievable by law enforcement. Once you are in the database, you are not an invisible criminal, and that was what Charlie was. He was an invisible killer.”

Back onstage, Mary Lou tells Dr. Phil, “If we had our dream come true about honoring our daughter and preventing other people from experiencing what we did, anyone, regardless of their age, who’s committed a violent crime would be entered in a database that’s retrievable by law enforcement. They could pull it up when they’re investigating a crime, but it would also a deterrent. If you knew that you were discoverable, then you would think twice about what behavior you manifest.”

Learn more about Michelle Lynn's Law in Bill and Mary Lou's blog.

What would Dr. Phil have done if he knew a friend’s dark secret?

The book, Invisible Killer: The Monster behind the Mask by Diana Montane and Sean Robbins is in bookstores now.


Baby Elaina

In 2013, the body of missing 18-month-old Elaina was found in a box in a garage. Her mother, Angela Steinfurth, and her then-boyfriend, Steven King, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison with eligibility of parole in 18 and 25 years, respectively. Steinfurth’s half-sister, Mary, and Elaina’s father, Terry, say they are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy. How can the family move forward after such a devastating loss?

“My 18-month-old daughter, Elaina, was murdered by her mother, Angela, and her boyfriend, Steven King,” Terry says. “Angela lived at Steven’s house and cared for the girls from there. I dropped off my daughters, Kylee and Elaina, to Angela on May 30. I returned to pick them up on June 2. Angela gave me Kylee but refused to give me Elaina because she said that she was taking a nap. I ran into Steven’s house to see if I could find her. I was screaming her name. She was just not there. It just felt like a bad dream.”

“Terry called me and told me that Elaina was missing,” says Angela’s sister, Mary. “I was shocked. I went over to Steven’s house. I just ran up to my sister, Angela, and I was like, ‘Where is Elaina?’ She did seem emotionless. I felt like she was hiding something from me.”

“Toledo police showed up, and they started a missing persons case,” Terry says.

“We were out until 5:00 in morning searching dumpsters, alleys, abandoned garages,” Mary says. “Angela got arrested 10 days after Elaina went missing. She admitted to Elaina having a black eye, a broken nose and a lump on her head. I heard that Angela threw Elaina against the wall, and she was unconscious, and that’s when Steven covered her nose and mouth, and she died.”

“Elaina was missing for about three months before Steven finally confessed,” Terry says.

Courtroom footage shows Steven’s confession: “I tried to do CPR on her but blood started coming out of her mouth and nose. I panicked. I covered her mouth and nose. I wrapped the body in bag and hid the body in the garage.”

“Elaina’s remains were found at Steven’s parent’s house in the garage,” Terry says.

“When I heard about her body being found, my heart dropped to my knees. I never thought Angela would hurt Elaina. She loved the girl,” Mary says.

Angela Steinfurth maintained her innocence by entering an Alford plea. King pleaded guilty to aggravated murder. Angela was sentenced to 18 years to life, and Steven was sentenced to 25 years to life.

“When I think about Elaina, I just miss her smile, her playfulness,” Terry says.

“I miss her a lot. I’m going to cry,” Mary says tearfully. “I miss her running around my house, grabbing my dog by its tail. I just miss her.”

“I don’t feel that the sentencing was fair. I feel like Angela and Steven should both get the death penalty,” Terry says. “I hate her. She took my daughter from me.”

Mary tells Dr. Phil that her sister still maintains that she did not hurt her baby, but she knows that’s not true. “For them to find the blood on the wall, the bed and the floor, and then it came out that she threw Elaina, who hit the wall, the bed and the floor,” she says. Mary says her sister admitted her daughter was injured — a black eye, broken nose and a bump on her head — but never explained how baby Elaina got those injuries.

How can they move forward after such a loss? And, Mary explains the tension between her and her father, who believes Angela is innocent. 


A Healthier Place

On Tuesday, April 8, Dr. Phil celebrates his 2000th episode with updates on some of viewers’ favorite guests!
 
Seven years ago, April wrote Dr. Phil, desperate for one last chance to save her newlywed marriage. She weighed a frail 76 pounds on her wedding day due to her battle with a very serious eating disorder. But she says her husband, John, refused to stick around, and she had to adjust to life after divorce, while still battling her disorder.

April joins the show for an update. “I’m great. I became the star of my life. Just moving on from all of that. I’ve just accomplished a lot, and I started writing a book soon afterward, and you know, I know I was on death’s door, and even on the show, and the follow-up show, I know that I was still very sick. God saved my life, and your show has been a resource for eating disorders and I think that’s so critical and so important,” she says. “I’m happy and healthy and I feel wonderful.”

“Congratulations on all of your progress,” Dr. Phil tells her.

“Thank you,” she says with a smile.

See more guest updates here!