The I-70 Strangler: Herbert Baumeister

As a child Herbert Baumeister had a pretty uneventful upbringing but once he hit his teenage years things started to take a creepy turn. His behaviour, once he was a teenager, was erratic and he had an unhealthy obsession with death, Baumeister would leave dead animals on his teachers desks at school and he had also been caught urinating on a teachers desk.

Due to his behavioural issues at school, the parents were alerted to these problems and they decided to have Baumeister psychiatrically evaluated where he was diagnosed with being schizophrenic with multiple personalities. Despite this diagnosis, he received no treatment.

In 1972, just 6 months after Baumeister married his wife Julie his father Herbert Snr had him committed to a mental hospital for an unknown reason and he stayed there for two months. After being released Baumeister’s father helped him get a job as a copy boy at the Indianapolis Star but not long after getting the job he began irritating his coworkers and became extremely needy constantly needing praise for his work. He eventually quit that job and started a new job at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles where he continued to irritate his coworkers with his unpredictability. Whilst at this job he managed to work hard enough to earn himself a promotion to program director but he was fired after he urinated on a letter that was addressed to Robert Orr, the Governor of Indiana.

Baumeister was arrested numerous times after losing his job, including the time when he was arrested for a hit and run whilst drunk driving and the time where he stole a friends car. He never served any prison time for any of these charges.

Baumeister’s wife Julie ended up going back to work as a teacher whilst her husband became a stay at home dad to their 3 young children. Eventually, he would go back to work at a thrift shop and 3 years later he and Julie decided to open up a thrift shop which was so successful they opened up a second location. They made so much money from their thrift shops that they began making annual donations to children’s charities and then they purchased a million-dollar home known as Fox Hollow Farm.

Despite Baumeister trying to portray that he was living his best life without any worries, this was far from the actual truth. He had become lazy and the stores began to fail, his marriage was falling apart and he would dress up mannequins and place them around the pool to give the illusion that he was throwing a fancy pool party.

Julie would often take the children to Baumeister’s mothers home to get away from her husband and that’s when he started attending gay bars regularly. Around this time, numerous men started to go missing from these gay bars. All the missing men had similar features, were white and were between the ages of 20 and 46 years old.

Three years later in 1994, Baumeister’s son Erich who was 13 years old at the time was playing in the woods surrounding the Fox Hollow Farm property when he discovered a human skull. He took the skull into the home where he showed his mother and then he took his mother to the part of the woods where he had found it, the two began looking around where they found more bones.

A retired Marion County Sheriff turned private investigator named Virgil Vandagriff was contacted by two of the mothers who had sons that went missing from a gay bar in downtown Indianapolis. Vandagriff started his investigation by going to the gay bars where all these men were disappearing from and he realised that this was most likely the work of a serial killer as opposed to numerous one-off killings. Vandagriff went to the police with his theory but they didn’t take him seriously.

Just when Vandagriff thought his investigation was going nowhere he was contacted by a man that went by the fake name Tony Harris and his story changed everything. Harris said that he was friends with one of the men that disappeared named Roger Goodlet and one night when Harris was out at a gay bar he met a man named Brian Smart, the two spent the night chatting and drinking together at the bar, Smart invited Harris back to his employers place where he was staying and they left the bar.

Harris said that they drove around 30 minutes before getting to a large secluded property and they went into the pool house where there were mannequins all around the room. Smart then asked Harris if he had ever engaged in erotic asphyxiation and if he would like to try it, fearful of the situation he had found himself in he agreed. Harris choked Smart with a hose whilst he masturbated and then they swapped positions, Harris said that he felt the hose getting tighter and tighter around his neck so he decided to pretend to pass out to stop Smart from continuing to choke him, he also said that when he opened his eyes Smart looked shocked because he thought he had killed Harris. The two ended the night agreeing to meet up again but Harris had no intentions of seeing him again, he just wanted to leave the house.

Vandagriff was convinced that Smart was the serial killer and along with Harris, they searched for Smart for nearly 12 months until finally in August 1995, Harris ran into Smart at a gay bar. Harris then went outside and wrote down his number plate and gave it to Vandagriff who ran the plates and found out that the man’s name wasn’t Brian Smart it was Herbert Baumeister.

In November 1995, police went to Fox Hollow Farm and asked Baumeister if they could willingly search the property but he said no. Detective Mary Wilson tried to get a warrant to search the Baumeister’s property but she was unsuccessful because she didn’t have enough evidence.

Then in June 1996, Baumeister’s wife Julie showed up at the police station to report that her husband who she had decided to divorce was having a nervous breakdown. She also decided to finally report the fact that her son had found a skull two years earlier and then she gave permission for Detective Wilson to search Fox Hollow Farm.

Whilst Baumeister was away, Julie let the police onto the property so they could begin their search. Over the next few days, the property was excavated and authorities found over 5,000 bone fragments and teeth. There were enough bones for 11 victims but only 8 victims were able to be identified. Forensic testing also showed that the gravel in the backyard was charred and crushed up human bones.

Police put out a warrant for Herbert Baumeister’s arrest but he fled the country crossing the border into Canada. On July 3rd, 1996 a group of hikers at Pinery Provincial Park found the dead body of Baumeister. He had shot himself in the head with a .357 magnum revolver, he also left a suicide note stating that the breakdown of his marriage and failed businesses is why he took his life.

Further investigations into Baumeister’s background found that between 1980 and 1990, the bodies of 9 gay men all with similar features to Baumeister’s other suspected victims had been dumped along Interstate-70. Witnesses began to come forward and say that they saw Baumeister with some of the victims on the night they disappeared.

Rest In Peace Roger Goodlet, Stephen Hale, Richard Hamilton, Manuel Resendez, Mike Kiern, Johnny Bayer, Allen Broussard and Jeff Jones.

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