Detectives Armstrong and Murphy brought in the Brandt family in hopes of finally resolving this case.
Click the tabs below from left to right to view all three interviews in the order they were conducted.
Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 10:09 a.m.
Following the search of the Brandt residence, the detectives re-interviewed RJ Brandt. Because RJ is a minor, his father, Ronny Brandt, was also present. The interview was conducted at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department and was recorded with the witnesses' knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- RJ Brandt
- Ronny Brandt
Detective Murphy: Mr. Brandt, thanks for coming in again. Have a seat.
Ronny Brandt: Cut the niceties, Detective. What'd you pull my kid in here for?
Detective Armstrong: We wanted to talk to him about what we found in our search of your home.
Ronny Brandt: I found a mess. Ought to sue the darn county for an illegal search. Messing up my house, taking what belongs to me.
Detective Armstrong: We had a warrant. Everything was legal and proper. Now maybe you want to tell us about RJ's bedding.
Ronny Brandt: Talk to Heather. I don't know anything about that stuff.
Detective Murphy: Maybe you should learn. RJ, how do you explain the piece of fabric we found on a nail under your bed?
RJ Brandt: I don't know anything. Can I go now?
Detective Murphy: Not yet, son. Now think hard. Are you sure you don't want to tell us anything?
Ronny Brandt: RJ, keep quiet. The kid's room is always a mess.
Detective Armstrong: If you say so.. RJ, tell us about the kennel cage in the living room. We didn't find any dog. There was no dog food in the house.
Ronny Brandt: Darn dog ran off. We kept the cage. So?
Detective Murphy: Is that true, RJ? We found some of your bedding in that cage. And strands of brown hair.
Ronny Brandt: You know, this is a waste of time. That dirty dog got hair all over. Look, I've got stuff to do.
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Brandt, we think you know what was on that bed sheet. How are you going to explain the forensic evidence of your son's hair in the kennel? RJ, I think you should tell us what your father did.
RJ Brandt: What? No, he‒ he didn't do anything. I‒ I was goofing off. I went in there sometimes.
Detective Armstrong: RJ? Are you sure? Your parents didn't put you in that cage?
RJ Brandt: No, you got it wrong. He‒ he didn't do anything.
Ronny Brandt: Shut up, RJ. Detective, you got proof of this wild idea?
Detective Armstrong: The hairs are being tested for DNA as we speak. We also found bones in the cage. Chicken bones. One thing you never feed a dog. But then there's no evidence you ever had a dog.
Ronny Brandt: Like I said, stupid dog ran off. Look, I think you better quit harassing my family or I'm going to own this department. I'll slap such a huge lawsuit‒
Detective Murphy: You kept your son in there, didn't you? You punished him, treated him worse than a dog. You threw his food at him, made him grovel‒
Ronny Brandt: You listen. I did no such thing. That kid is always pushing my buttons, doing stupid things. I told him to stay out of that danged cage.
Detective Armstrong: What about the blood?
Ronny Brandt: What blood? OK, the dog didn't run away. It was sick. I saw blood before it died. You satisfied?
Detective Murphy: Better tell the truth, Mr. Brandt. We already know the blood is human, not canine. Tests will confirm a biological match. You wrapped your daughter's body in that sheet after you killed her, didn't you? Before you put her in the matching blanket you buried her in, right?
RJ Brandt: No, no. Dad‒
Ronny Brandt: Shut up, RJ. Got proof? Charge me. Otherwise me and my son are‒
Detective Murphy: Very well. Stand up. Mr. Ronny Brandt, you are under arrest for‒
RJ Brandt: No, no! Stop. He‒ he didn't do anything.
Ronny Brandt: RJ, shut up!
Detective Murphy: RJ, you have something to tell us?
RJ Brandt: He‒ he didn't do it.
Ronny Brandt: RJ, I said shut‒
RJ Brandt: It was me, you hear? It was an accident! I did it! He made me stay in the cage after that. Told me I was going to get them all in trouble. I was showing her some wrestling. I fell on her. She didn't move, so I wrapped her up in that sheet.
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Brandt, you have something to say?
Ronny Brandt: Kid, shut up. Not another word. Both of us ain't saying another darn word. Not until we get a lawyer.
Detective Armstrong: RJ? You'll feel better if you tell us what happened, get it out in the open. You've been keeping this secret for a long time, haven't you?
Ronny Brandt: RJ, I said shut it! He's underage. You can't make him talk. He's not saying another word until‒
RJ Brandt: I don't care! Gracie, she‒ she wasn't breathing. She looked all funny and blue. I didn't know what to do, so I wrapped her up. I tried to hide her under the bed, but she got stuck.
Detective Armstrong: So someone helped you move the body, isn't that right? Someone helped you cover it up?
Ronny Brandt: Not another word! This interview is over.
Interview ends: 10:33 a.m.
Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 10:40 a.m.
After terminating the detectives' interview with his son RJ, Ronny Brandt agreed to speak with Detectives Armstrong and Murphy on his own. The interview was conducted at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department and was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Ronny Brandt
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Brandt, for the record, do you understand your rights?
Ronny Brandt: Yeah, I know.
Detective Armstrong: And for the record, you waived your right to have an attorney present at this time?
Ronny Brandt: Yeah, yeah. I got nothing to hide now. May as well get the whole thing off my chest. You said it would be easier on RJ this way.
Detective Murphy: RJ said he fell on Gracie and crushed her. Is that how you understand it?
Ronny Brandt: I told that kid a million times she was too little to have him wrestling with her. She loved to roughhouse with him though. And he was a good kid. Never meant her no harm. He really loved her. It was just a terrible accident. I guess.
Detective Murphy: But you didn't report it. You could have reported the accident. RJ is just a kid. How old was he when this happened? Nine? 10?
Ronny Brandt: And what if they didn't believe us? We went through all that before when the baby died of SIDS. Who says they would believe us? We couldn't take the chance. RJ was scared to death. He begged us not to report him. He was scared they'd put him away. And we were scared we'd lose him too. Hadn't we already been through enough?
Detective Armstrong: So you decided to just throw Gracie away.
Ronny Brandt: We didn't do no such thing. We gave her a proper burial. Took her down to Biloxi and buried her right and proper in the cemetery with her sister. Heather even said a prayer over her. No one would ever have known, if that stupid kid hadn't dug up that skull. I don't know what's wrong with him.
Detective Armstrong: When did all this happen?
Ronny Brandt: What difference does it make? Gracie Lee's still dead. You're still going to take my son away now.
Detective Murphy: How did you know the skull was Gracie's?
Ronny Brandt: What?
Detective Murphy: Why do you think the skull RJ brought to school is Gracie's?
Ronny Brandt: Who else could it be?
Detective Armstrong: Just how many children do you have?
Ronny Brandt: I had three. Now two are dead. And you're going to put the other one in kiddie jail until he's old enough for the real thing.
Detective Murphy: Tell us more about the second Gracie's death. Is RJ covering for you? We know you have a temper. Are you the one who really killed her?
Ronny Brandt: What? You think I had something to do with that? Not on your life. RJ was there with her alone. That kid was too rough with her. I told him a million times.
Detective Murphy: You left Gracie alone with RJ?
Ronny Brandt: Sometimes I had to leave for work and Heather was held up at the restaurant, so RJ'd take care of her for a couple of hours.
Detective Armstrong: What about the nights you and your wife went bar-hopping?
Ronny Brandt: Never happened. We're good parents.
Detective Armstrong: Is that how you describe locking a 12-year-old kid in a kennel and treating him like a dog?
Ronny Brandt: Hey. I did the best I could. That kid gets out of control sometimes. I have to let him know who's boss, don't I? If I'd kept him under lock and key before he killed Gracie, she'd still be alive.
Detective Murphy: That's what you told RJ? He killed Gracie?
Ronny Brandt: Well, he did, didn't he? Accident maybe, but she's still dead.
Detective Armstrong: And you've kept him in that kennel ever since?
Ronny Brandt: You don't know nothing about parenting, do you? You keep him in there all the time, it's not really a punishment, is it?
Detective Murphy: So you've been punishing him for something recently?
Ronny Brandt: That damn kid dug up his sister's skull and took it to school to show off to his friends. Damn straight I was punishing him! What the hell kind of person does that? It doesn't take a genius to know that's f****d up. I got a responsibility as his father to teach him to not act crazy, don't I?
Detective Armstrong: And you don't think the way you've treated him contributed to his behavior at all?
Ronny Brandt: All I ever did was try and teach him right from wrong. It's not my fault if he's too stupid or too crazy to learn.
Detective Murphy: We'll see what the prosecutor says. You just sit tight for now.
Interview ends: 10:57 a.m.
Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 11:05 a.m.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed Heather Brandt after talking with her son RJ and her husband Ronny. The interview was conducted at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department and was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Heather Brandt
Detective Murphy: Mrs. Brandt, for the record, do you understand your rights?
Heather Brandt: Yes.
Detective Murphy: And for the record, you waived your right to have an attorney present at this time?
Heather Brandt: When are they going to let us go home?
Detective Armstrong: When the investigation into the death of your daughter is completed, and the prosecutor decides who's going to be charged with what. Then the court will decide who can go home and who's going to spend some time in prison first.
Heather Brandt: I did nothing wrong.
Detective Murphy: First, Mrs. Brandt, there's some confusion about Gracie. Can you tell us about your daughter or daughters?
Heather Brandt: Well, Gracie Lou was born December of 2003. She was a darling, and RJ was crazy about her. He was four when she was born, and he loved being a big brother. When she died, he saw what all we went through with the investigation. He didn't really understand it, and we tried to protect him from it, but he still knew something bad was happening ‒ and that he had lost his baby sister.
Detective Murphy: And then you had a second girl, also named Gracie?
Heather Brandt: We hadn't planned to have any more children after Gracie Lou died. It was so hurtful when people suspected us of harming her. Even when the investigation cleared us, people looked at us funny and acted like it was our fault.
Detective Murphy: That must have been difficult.
Heather Brandt: Yes. It was an accident when I got pregnant again. At first we were devastated, but then we decided it would be wonderful to have another child. When we told RJ, he was thrilled that he would be a big brother again. He kept referring to the baby as "Gracie too" so when she was born and it was a girl, we named her Gracie Lee.
Detective Murphy: Very few people even knew she existed. Can you explain that?
Heather Brandt: After she was born, we wanted to protect her. People were so cruel after Gracie Lou's death, we wanted to shield our children from all unpleasantness, so we kept Gracie Lee out of public view as best we could.
Detective Armstrong: We couldn't find a record of her birth. Why is that?
Heather Brandt: She was born at home. I had a midwife. I thought she was supposed to take care of registering the birth, but I guess something happened. We never did really look into it. We were just so happy to have a healthy little girl that nothing else mattered.
Detective Murphy: Pastor Olson knew about her.
Heather Brandt: That old fool! If it didn't involve money for his church or a pretty lady, he didn't pay attention to anything. I'm surprised he even knew she existed. Ronny must have let it slip during one of his counseling sessions. But I don't think he ever saw her.
Detective Murphy: Tell us about Ronny's counseling. We understand he had an anger problem, maybe knocked you and RJ around?
Heather Brandt: Poor Ronny. He thinks he's big and tough, but he's such a softy really. When Gracie Lou passed and they accused us of hurting her, it took a terrible toll on him. Then he lost his job and went through all kinds of stuff. Once in a while he'd lose it and smack RJ, but he never really hurt him. And he was always so sorry afterwards. But he agreed to go for counseling to resolve his anger problems so he talked with Pastor Olson. Fat lot of good that did.
Detective Murphy: Mrs. Brandt, there is evidence that he's been abusing RJ. What can you tell us about that?
Heather Brandt: No, no. He just disciplined RJ that's all. With everything that's happened, Ronny's been under a lot of pressure.
Detective Armstrong: Don't you think locking RJ in a kennel is a bit harsh for just disciplining a kid?
Heather Brandt: Ronny was devastated by Gracie Lee's death. We all were. It was horrible. I guess Ronny blamed RJ even though deep down he knew it was a tragic accident.
Detective Armstrong: But Gracie Lee died a few years ago, didn't she? We have evidence that RJ's been in that kennel recently. Has Ronny kept him in there this whole time?
Heather Brandt: Of course not. He's not a monster. It's just‒ this whole business with the skull has been real… upsetting. It's so‒ I just don't‒ We didn't‒ Ronny just didn't know what to do with him after that. So maybe he was a bit hard on the boy.
Detective Armstrong: Yeah. I'd call locking him up and treating him like a dog a bit harsh.
Heather Brandt: RJ could see out and watch TV. And the boy wasn't getting into any more trouble.
Detective Murphy: Did you ever consider getting grief counseling? I mean, if RJ and Ronny were as devastated as you say, shouldn't you have talked to somebody instead of keeping it such a big secret?
Heather Brandt: Ronny said we couldn't trust anybody. He said any counselor would just report us, and then they'd take RJ away. And anyways, he said RJ needed any help that we couldn't give him. He said the boy had to learn how to tough it out.
Detective Murphy: So that's what Ronny thought, but what did you think?
Heather Brandt: One time, I asked if maybe RJ should talk to someone and got such a reaction I was afraid to mention it again. Ronny said we could handle it all ourselves.
Detective Murphy: But you're RJ's mother. You didn't think it was your responsibility to get him some help?
Heather Brandt: RJ begged us not to tell anyone. He was so scared they'd put him away somewhere and he'd never get to come home again. He won't be charged with a crime will he? I'm sure it was an accident like he said. He'd never intentionally hurt anyone.
Detective Armstrong: You're sure RJ is responsible for Gracie's death? You never once thought it could have been someone else?
Heather Brandt: Like who?
Detective Armstrong: Like Ronny.
Heather Brandt: Oh, no. Ronny would never do something like that.
Detective Armstrong: Even if it was an accident?
Heather Brandt: It was an accident. But it wasn't Ronny. He wasn't even home when it happened.
Detective Armstrong: You're sure about that? You were with Ronny at the time?
Heather Brandt: RJ said he did it. He's just a child and it was an accident, but he did it. Why are you trying to put this on Ronny?
Detective Murphy: I think it will take us a while to total up all the charges here.
Interview ends: 11:22 a.m.