When Marine Pvt. Leroy Dulaney went missing from a military base, his family’s dogged investigation eventually led to his murderer, rumors of a satanic cult and, eventually, another murder.
The new Hulu special, “Where Is Private Dulaney?” tells the story of Dulaney, who vanished on an otherwise ordinary day in May 1979.
Dulaney grew up in West Virginia, in a family with two brothers. “Leroy was the wild one, I was the middle one, Mike was the baby, Mommy's boy,” his brother Michael Dulaney told ABC News. His brothers described him as a jokester, cocky and the protector of the family.
“After her and my dad had separated, Mom expected more out of him because he was gonna teach us,” said Michael Dulaney.
When Leroy Dulaney graduated high school, he made the decision to join the Marines. After his training, he married his high school sweetheart Brenda and they moved to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Brenda was the love of his life. “Everybody that knew him knew that I was his girl, and he was my man,” she told ABC News. “He was it. That's just all I can say. To me, he was it, he was the one.”
At first their life was calm, but Dulaney’s family and investigators said a dark undercurrent was swirling at the base.
“The best way to describe Camp Lejeune in the 1970s and 1980s is the Wild West,” said Joe Kennedy, an investigator within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“It had a reputation. Crime was pretty rampant and that includes homicides, that includes rape, that includes robberies. Sexual assaults, narcotics, illegal drug usage was high there.”
Dulaney's mother, Carol, remembers vividly the last time she saw Leroy. He had recently fallen off a horse and cracked his hip bone, so he walked with the aid of a cane, which he named Elmo.
“They started to pull out, back out of the driveway,” she said. “And then he pulled back in the driveway. I said, ‘What's wrong?’ He said, ‘I forgot Elmo.’ He had left his cane lined up against the bricks. And he said, ‘I don't think Elmo wants to leave this time, mother.’ He said, ‘He knows we'll never be back.’”
Leroy went missing on May 22, 1979. He never came home from work. “It was like he just disappeared off the face of the Earth,” said Brenda Dulaney.
Over the next few days, Brenda, Carol and Leroy’s brother Michael would scour the base, looking for clues as to what happened.
The name of another Marine, Mark Fletcher, kept coming up in their investigation. “We started putting the puzzle together,” said Greg Dulaney.
The family said they couldn’t get help from local authorities, because they had no jurisdiction on the base.
“As far as the state of North Carolina is concerned, that base doesn't exist,” said Douglas Freeman, head of detectives of the Jacksonville, North Carolina Sheriff's Office. “How much crime occurs at Camp Lejeune? We never know. We're never notified.”
The Marines, the family said, declared him AWOL.
“Everybody was real sorry,” said Carol Dulaney, “but nobody did anything.”
The family went on the hunt for the Marine named Fletcher, who others told them might have had something to do with Leroy’s disappearance.
“My mom at that point had already knew he was dead,” said Greg Dulaney. “Mother's intuition.”
The family eventually found Fletcher, he was at the Camp Lejeune cafeteria, and they brought him into their car to interrogate him.
“I said, ‘I'm here to find my son, he's been killed,’” said Carol. “Fletcher said, ‘Well, if we'd only known he had a hundred and thirty-four dollars, he wouldn't have been killed.’ Well, I mean, to me, that's an admission.”
The girlfriend of Mark Fletcher's friend, Benjamin Duval, called the authorities and tipped them off. Duval's girlfriend, B.J. Rohweller, gave the officers enough information to bring in Duval for questioning.
Benjamin Duval, who had driven the car and helped Fletcher bury the body, was eventually charged with involuntary manslaughter.
"After we had obtained the information from Duval, we felt like we had enough to pick Fletcher up," said Freeman. "And he was picked up."
Leroy Dulaney's body was found on August 1, 1979, and Fletcher was later convicted of second-degree murder.
During court testimony it was revealed that on the night Leroy Dulaney disappeared, Fletcher asked Dulaney if he had hashish to sell, and then led him out to a car where he said someone was waiting to buy the drugs.
There were rumors of cults that were investigated. Investigators would also uncover the murder of another Marine, Ronald Ray Jenkins, for which Fletcher received another charge of second-degree murder and Duval received another charge of involuntary manslaughter.
The death of another Marine, Ricky Allen Rahn, was never investigated.
The story, detailed in the Hulu special “Where Is Private Dulaney?” details how the murder of Leroy Dulaney would lead to uncovering another murder, and the revelation of a number of dark secrets hidden at Camp Lejeune.