The tiny community of Argos sits in Marshall County in Northern Indiana, with a population of 1,777, per the 2020 census.
It is a typical Midwestern town with old commercial brick and stone buildings filled with local businesses lining Walnut Street. There is also a Casey’s General Store, Dollar General, and McDonald’s, three businesses you usually will find in the Midwest. Argos is not the place you would expect a horrific crime to occur.
But not all was as it seemed on one cold winter’s day in 1986.
Brandi Peltz was 11 years old and resided with her family at 18300 S. Michigan Road, about 2.5 miles south of Argos.
Her father, Steven Peltz, 35, worked at Mallard Trailer Factory in Etna Green, while her mother, Roxie Peltz, 33, was a clerk at Holland’s Hardware in Argos.
Brandie was a fifth-grader at Argos Elementary School. On Thursday, December 11, 1986, she was not feeling well and stayed home from school. Some reports say she missed school all week.
At 3:09 p.m., a neighbor, Michael Emenaker, saw smoke emanating from the second story of the Peltz home as he drove by. He immediately went to a nearby house and told the occupants to call the Argos Fire Department. Emenaker returned to the Peltz residence, removed the family dog, and returned inside. He found Brandie’s nude body in the water-filled bathtub in the downstairs bathroom.
Then-Marshall County prosecutor Fred Jones said Brandie had been strangled with a rope or similar material and sexually assaulted. The perpetrator then set fire to the house’s second story to cover up the crime, suggesting it occurred in Brandie’s bedroom.
Police interviewed several neighbors and ruled out Emenaker. Brandie’s parents were at work when the killing occurred, but Roxie had stopped by the house on her lunch break earlier.
Jones said the family had received several obscene phone calls the past couple of days, including one less than two hours before Brandie was killed. There was no conversation, only heavy breathing, and the caller would hang up. The Peltzes did not report the calls to the police but contacted the telephone company United Telephone.
Whoever killed Brandie likely knew her and knew she had stayed home from school that day. That means her killer lived in the area.
For whatever reason, it seems the police kept Brandie’s murder investigation under lock and key and their lips sealed. Equally surprising is the lack of media coverage ever since the crime occurred nearly 40 years ago. We have a child sexually assaulted and strangled, yet nothing. With today’s overabundance of media and online coverage of murder cases, old and new, I expect more awareness and reportage of this heinous murder.
Two years before Brandie’s homicide, another occurred less than two miles from the Peltz home.
On August 17, 1984, Darlene Hulse, 28, was abducted from her rural Argos home as her children watched in horror.
Darlene’s husband, Ron Hulse, had already gone to work that day. At 9:30 a.m., Darlene answered a knock on the door. Her three small kids were still in the bathtub when they heard growling and assumed their parents had gotten a new puppy.
The two older children stepped out of the tub and went to investigate. They saw a man standing over their mother, attempting to tape Darlene’s eyes, mouth, and hands.
Argos did not have a 9-1-1 system in place in 1984, so one child tried calling an aunt, but the perpetrator yanked the phone from her hand.
At that moment, Darlene screamed, “Run!”
Both children, still nude, fled the home and ran down the road to their grandmother’s house for help, leaving the one-year-old behind. There, they called the police, but by the time they arrived at the house, Darlene was gone.
Christine Karsten writes, “The one-year-old was fine but covered in her mother’s blood, which left a trail from the living room, out the front door, and down the sidewalk to where the suspect’s car was potentially parked.”
Police examined the home and noticed a missing fireplace poker rod. They believed the suspect used it to beat Darlene, causing “massive bleeding and potentially incapacitating her before loading her into his car.”
Darlene’s children were able to describe the assailant to the police.
Darlene’s body was found the next day in a wooded area on South Olive Road, near the Marshall-Fulton county line.
Investigators in Brandie’s case initially did not rule out a connection between Darlene and Brandie’s murders. However, both cases remain unsolved. Hopefully, a DNA breakthrough will happen soon.
“Brandie Peltz, online memorial.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/130072328/brandie-a-peltz
“Brandie Peltz.” Indiana State Police. https://www.in.gov/isp/crime-reporting/cold-case-investigations/cold-cases-by-county/bremen-district-investigations/brandi-peltz-12111986/
“Darlene Hulse.” Indiana State Police. https://www.in.gov/isp/crime-reporting/cold-case-investigations/cold-cases-by-county/bremen-district-investigations/darlene-hulse-08171984/
Karsten, Christine. “Michiana Unsolved: The Murder of Darlene Hulse.” WNDU. April 17, 2023. https://www.wndu.com/2023/04/17/michiana-unsolved-homicide-darlene-hulse/
Wilcox, John. “11-Year-Old Found Dead in Argos Believed Slain.” The South Bend Tribune. December 14, 1986.