Darlene Hulse Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Image Credit: WNDU-TV

The generally peaceful town of Argos, Indiana, witnessed a terrifying incident when a 28-year-old mother of three, Darlene Hulse, was found murdered in a wooded area near her home. While two of her daughters witnessed a man breaking in and assaulting their mother, she had already been abducted by the time authorities arrived on the scene. Moreover, to everyone’s horrific surprise, the kidnapper left Darlene’s 12-month-old baby covered in blood but completely unharmed. Crime Junkie’s ‘Murdered: Darlene Hulse’ thus chronicles this gruesome incident and follows the investigation that tried its best to get to the bottom of the case.

How Did Darlene Hulse Die?

Darlene Hulse was a caring mother of three who lived with her children and her husband, Ronald, in Argos, Indiana. Life in the rural town was seemingly perfect, and she was known to be a generous and well-respected member of the community. Besides, she never hesitated to help others in need and always maintained a healthy relationship with those around her. Being a loving mother, Darlene shared an excellent bond with her children and embraced her parental duties. On top of it, she and her husband were very much in love, and there was no indication that a tragedy would soon end up claiming Darlene’s life.

Image Credit: WNDU-TV

While Ronald left for work in the early morning hours of August 17, 1984, reports mention that Darlene was getting ready to take her 12-month-old daughter, Kristen, to a doctor’s appointment. So, at around 9:30 am, while she was busy with her infant daughter, her other daughters, Marie, 8, and Melissa, 6, were in a different room. That was when the latter two heard a growl and believed that Ronald had gotten them a puppy as a present. However, their joy was cut short when they ran to their mother’s room, only to find a stranger brutally assaulting her. Later, Marie mentioned that she immediately thought of calling someone for help, but even though she ran into the kitchen to pick up the phone, the home invader followed her, dragging her mother behind. Scared out of their wits, Marie and Melissa somehow escaped the attacker’s clutches and ran all the way to their grandparents’ house. From there, they were able to call the police, and within 15 minutes, authorities surrounded the Hulse residence.

When police officers entered the Hulse residence, they noticed a blood trail stretching from Darlene’s bedroom to the front door, indicating someone had dragged a body across the floor. Moreover, additional evidence confirmed that the home invader had abducted Darlene and forced her into his vehicle before driving away. Though, quite surprisingly, despite being covered in her mother’s blood, Kristen was left unharmed on the bedroom floor. With Darlene missing, authorities organized several search parties to comb through the nearby areas. Yet, they did not have to search for long as her body was discovered by a timber businessman the following day. The businessman later candidly revealed that he had found her bloody remains while exploring a wooded area roughly 7 miles away from the Hulse residence, and the ensuing autopsy determined that the victim died after being hit in the head multiple times by a fire poker. However, the report also made it clear that there was no sign of rape or sexual abuse.

Darlene Hulse’s Murder: Killer Unknown

Since Marie and Melissa had seen the perpetrator with their own eyes, the police used their descriptions to come up with detailed sketches. These sketches were distributed to several police stations and law enforcement agencies across the state, but the investigation stalled due to the lack of leads or witnesses. Law enforcement officials even interviewed several of Darlene’s acquaintances and looked into her husband, but none of those avenues of investigation provided a respite. Furthermore, investigators were also unable to come up with a motive for the murder as nothing was stolen from the victim’s house.

Image Credit: WNDU-TV

With time, police investigators zeroed in on three witnesses, namely Daniel Bender, Robert Zebrowski, and Richard W. Mock. Incidentally, Robert lived a nomadic lifestyle, and the police quickly realized that his face resembled the sketch they had of the perpetrator. He was hence taken into custody, but a lack of promising evidence led to his quick release. On the other hand, the podcast mentions that Richard was a bank robbery suspect who matched the sketch and drove the same car that Marie and Melissa had seen at their residence on the day of Darlene’s murder. Yet, Richard was never questioned as he was shot to death in a police encounter following a variety store robbery in October 1984. The police then believed that Daniel Bender was hiding crucial information, which led to him being accused of assisting a criminal. But alas, the charge did not stick in court.

Once the three primary suspects were ruled out, the case witnessed little to no progress due to a lack of leads. For years it sat unsolved while authorities asked the public to come forward with any information they might have. However, cold case officials reopened the investigation in 2019 and began revisiting the evidence. They also interviewed several of the victim’s acquaintances and ran DNA tests on the evidence collected from the crime scene. Yet, like previous times, the interviews did not provide any information, while the only DNA sample found on the evidence belonged to Darlene Hulse herself. Therefore, at present, Darlene’s murder remains unsolved, even though the police deem it an active investigation. They have also asked the public to come forward with any information available while Darlene’s family still hopes to get her justice.

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