Herb Baumeister

I began reading true crime books when I was in high school in the late 1980's and one would say I have been obsessed ever since.  So, when a suspected serial killer and his story is being uncovered on the local television you can bet my eyes were glued.  It was the summer of 1996 in the town of Westfield Indiana, just twenty miles or so north of where I lived in Indianapolis at the time.  News crews were live on the scene as investigators were digging up the yard of a home in a fairly prestigious area.  By the time they were done they would find the bodies of eleven humans.  As far as I can tell, to this day only eight of those bodies have been positively identified.

The home in which the investigators were at belonged to Herb and Julia Baumeister.  They had come into wealth when in 1988 they had opened a store called Sav-A-Lot (not to be confused with the grocery store chain), a thrift store company in Indianapolis.  They had moved into their lavish home, known as Fox Hollow Farm in 1991.  Reports vary but the land consisted of between eleven and eighteen acres of land, many of them wooded areas.

The search of the land began on June 24, 1996 when Julia Baumeister, who had filed from divorce from her husband had finally given permission for the land to be searched.  She, as well as Herb, had been approached by investigators as early as 1992 and had refused to allow a search.  It appears that investigators now knew about the pending divorce and thought it was a good time to re-approach Julia, who apparently was living in the home without her husband.  At the time Herb, along with one of the couples three children was on "vacation."  

On July 3, 1996 Herb Baumeister would commit suicide in a hotel in Ontario Canada before ever being charged or answering questions about the bodies found on his property.  He would leave a suicide note in which the bodies were not addressed at all.  Baumeister would cite his failing marriage and business as the reasons behind his suicide.  

In the early 1990's the Indianapolis police were getting several missing person's reports of young gay men.  Sadly it has always been speculated that it was their lifestyle that prevented the police from being diligent in their searches for these men.  In 1992 a man contacted the police stating that while at a "gay bar" in the near downtown area he and his friend had been approached by a man who said his name was Brian Smart.  The man would claim that this Brian had taken him and his friend to his home, north of Indianapolis, and that it was here that the man had killed his friend and attempted to kill him using a pool hose. Detectives staked out the area and using the description of the man and his vehicle they were able to conclude that "Brian Smart" was in fact Herb Baumeister.  This is when both Herb and Julia were asked if their home and/or land could be searched and they refused. By all accounts it appears that the police did not pursue things any further.  

By 1999 eight of the eleven bodies found on property had been identified.  They had been identified because they had all been reported missing between the years 1993 and 1996 and investigators were able to obtain DNA samples from relatives to confirm identities. Police have stated they are unsure the other three will ever be identified as in order to do so they need to have an idea of whom they could possibly be and like in the other cases, have DNA to help identify.  Investigators also believed by this time that Baumeister was responsible for at least nine murders committed along Highway 70 between Indianapolis and Columbus Ohio throughout the years.  Julia Baumeister would confirm that he often took this route saying he was taking business trips.  The then unknown murderer was known as the "I-70 Killer."  

Despite the fact that Baumeister would never be charged, let alone convicted of his crime there was significant research and investigations done about him.  Born in 1947, as a teenager he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and possible multiple personality disorder but never received treatment. Childhood friends would later say that Baumeister had a fascination with small dead animals, such as birds and rodents and would "play" with them. In November of 1971 he would marry his wife Julia but within a few short months he was committed into a psychiatric hospital by his father.  All his wife would say was he was "hurting and needed help."

Over the next several years Baumeister had issues with keeping jobs.  Many say that he had a great work ethic and was often good at his job but firings would come as his behavior began to become more and more bizarre.  It was said that in 1985 after working for the BMV for several years and highly promoted he was fired when he urinated on a letter that was to be sent to the Governor of Indiana.  I have no information as to if any help was sought for him after his incident.  It does explain why however, his mother would loan him the money a few years later to open his own store.  It would appear that someone like Baumeister would do better as an employer than an employee.

I have obviously heard of this case and knew things about it for years considering I remember following the story in 1996 when it was first discovered. But, my twenty something year old self had a different perspective than my forty something year old self. While doing my research I came across several things that referred to the fact of how conservative the Baumeister's were very early on, as well as the relationship between the couple.  I have often said that I have more experience dealing with the mental health system, especially in Indiana, as well as dealing with those impacted by mental health than I care to even admit.  The fact that Baumeister was diagnosed as a teenager, which would have been in the 1960's, with at least one significant mental health issue, and received little to no treatment does not surprise me.  Many in this era, and it lingers some today, found mental illness as shameful, not just to the person, but to the family.  Add to this how many times I saw a reference to the fact that the Baumeister's were very conservative leads me to believe that not only was Herb Baumeister mentally ill and received no treatment but there is significant indication that he was homosexual also, which likely did not bode well in a conservative family, especially in that era.  

Julia Baumeister would later say that in the twenty-five years they were married, they only had sex a told of six times and that she had never seen her husband naked in all the years they were together.  She was often described as a pacifist wife who bowed down to her husband and his decisions.  This is also not surprising in this era of time.  While we proclaim to be a progressive society in our way of thinking when it comes to thinks such as "a woman's duty," racism or any array of things many of these things are taught through generations.  Julia was likely taught to defer to her husband in all decisions because he was the "king of his castle." Then you add the "shame" associated with his mental issues, and her often described stanch conservatism, she was only likely doing as she was taught. It is widely believed that Julia did not have any idea about the murders or what her husband was doing as far as that, and that mostly likely is true.  However, it is less likely that she did not suspect her husband was homosexual and more likely that she chose to ignore it, another common trait that is handed down.  It is even likely that she never discussed it with her husband.  Now, as to what exactly happened to eventually cause her to file for divorce, I cannot say.  It could have been years of all of her resentment built up, it could have been a particular incident that she has not related.  

Herb Baumeister had homosexual tendencies in a time in which people were still living double lives because it was "looked down" upon.  It was so looked down on that the reports of several gay men going missing did nothing to stir up investigations by the police, and when it did, they were not pushed.  They had a report that the prestigious family and businessman, living in the even more prestigious community of Westfield had committed a murder and apparently did not attempt to look deeper or even get a warrant.  I do not even have any information that Baumeister was even questioned in 1992, although that could have happened.  He was allowed his reign of terror on portions of the community that were considered less than important simply because of that reasoning.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Matthew Heikkila

The Quinn Hanna Gray Kidnapping

Patricia Rorrer