Herbert Richard Baumeister: The I-70 Strangler

Baumeister fled to Canada and committed suicide in July of 1996 to avoid being arrested for the murders of at least eleven men. The remains of these men were found in the woods near his home; authorities would later conclude that he was likely responsible for at least sixteen killings.

Childhood

Herbert Richard Baumeister was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1947, the oldest of four children belonging to Herbert and Elizabeth Baumeister, an anesthesiologist and a homemaker.

From all accounts, he had a normal childhood, unlike most serial killers. I wasn’t able to locate any reports of familial neglect or abuse; I found a minimal amount of information regarding his childhood. There is one mention here of abuse by his father, but there is no context given.

By the time Herb began his adolescence, he reportedly started exhibiting anti-social behavior. Some reports from former classmates state that, on multiple occasions, he played with the remains of dead animals, and urinated on a teacher’s desk at least once.

When Baumeister was a teenager, his father reportedly had him psychologically tested, and as a result, he received a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He eschewed any form of treatment for his illness. It is unknown whether this was a factor in his later alleged crimes.

1965-1985

Herb graduated from High School in 1965 and began attending Indiana University.

He met his future wife, Juliana Saitor, during his Freshman year. They reportedly shared strong conservative views and were drawn to each other. Juliana and Herb would eventually marry in 1971 when he was twenty-four years old.

Baumeister dropped out of college before the start of his Sophmore year, despite being extremely intelligent. He reportedly worked a low-paying job at a newspaper in Indianapolis for some time.

There is minimal information regarding the next few years of Baumeister’s life, but he spent at least two months of 1972 in a psychiatric hospital. He was reportedly committed to the institution by his father, but I couldn’t find any information about why his father had him institutionalized, or what therapies he underwent.

From 1974-1985, he worked for the DMV, and during this time, he and Juliana had three children.

According to former acquaintances, he often acted strangely. For example, he reportedly sent Christmas cards to friends and family, featuring a photo of him and another man dressed in drag. The DMV fired Herb in 1985 after witnesses reported seeing him urinating on a letter addressed to the Governor of Indiana.

September 1985 – 1995

Reports indicate that Herb ran into some trouble with the law in 1985 and 1986. He allegedly committed a hit-and-run while under the influence of alcohol in 1985; there is no information about the resolution of this case.

In 1986 he was charged with auto theft and conspiracy to commit auto theft; the judge ruled to acquit him of the conspiracy charge after a one-day bench trial.

Herb’s father died in 1986, and in 1988 Herb borrowed $4,000 from his mother to open a thrift store, SAV-A-LOT, with his wife. They were immediately successful and opened a second store in 1990. At some point in the early 1990s, Herb and Juliana purchased Fox Hollow Farm, an 18-acre estate in rural Indiana, for roughly $1 million.

After five prosperous years, SAV-A-LOT profits started to plunge in 1995. Around the same time, Herb and Juliana’s marriage started going downhill.
Police arrested Herb for drinking and driving in 1994, and he received a sentence of three days in jail and one year’s probation.

In July or August of 1994, Herb’s oldest son Erich found a human skull while playing in the woods near the family home. He brought it to his mother, and together they discovered more bones hidden nearby. They showed the remains to Herb, and he insisted that they were from an anatomical skeleton that had been in his father’s medical office.

The Investigation

In 1989 authorities found the body of a twenty-six-year-old man, Steven Elliot, in a rural area off of Interstate 70. Between this discovery and 1994, nearly a dozen men went missing in the area, most were never seen again.

A man named Tony Harris contacted police in 1992 with information that would be extremely important to the investigation. Harris claimed that a man calling himself “Brian Smart,” who frequented local gay bars, had killed a friend of his and had also tried to kill him with a pool hose.

Authorities searched Indiana for Brian Smart but found nothing. In an improbable turn of events, Harris saw “Brian” again in 1995 and was able to note a license plate number. This led police to identify Herb Baumeister as Brian Smart.

In November of 1995, police spoke to Herb and Juliana, and the couple denied them permission to search the farm, Herb also denied any involvement in the disappearances and murders. Just two months later, Juliana reportedly became afraid of her husband’s erratic behavior and filed for divorce.

Six months later, Juliana told her lawyer about the bones that her son Erich had found. She also confessed that, in twenty-five years of marriage, she and Herb had only had sexual contact six times. Juliana and her lawyer went to the police, and she finally permitted them to search Fox Hollow Farm.

Police searched the farm while Baumeister was on a trip without his family, and discovered the remains of eleven young men. Authorities found the bodies only 50-60 feet from the back door of the house.

On the Run, Death, and After

Herb heard about the search and escaped to Ontario, Canada, on July 3rd, 1996. At some point on the 3rd or 4th of July, he committed suicide in Pinery Provincial Park, shooting himself in the head.

He left a suicide note; in the letter, he attributed his suicide to his failed marriage and businesses. He took no responsibility for his alleged crimes, and because he died before any criminal proceedings, there will never be a resolution for the families of the dead men.

Posthumously, Baumeister has been named as a suspect in nine additional murders, bringing his suspected victims to 20+. In an interview after Herb’s death, Juliana told authorities that her husband went on 100+ business trips to Ohio along I-70 throughout their marriage.

Police used DNA and dental records to identify eight of the eleven men they found on the Baumeister property; three remain unnamed to this day.

A list of the men who were found on the Fox Hollow Farm property; all were reported missing between 1993 and 1996:

  • Johnny Bayer, 20
  • Allen Wayne Broussard, 28
  • Roger A. Goodlet, 33
  • Richard D. Hamilton, 20
  • Steven S. Hale, 26
  • Jeff Allen Jones, 31
  • Michael Kiern, 46
  • Manuel Resendez, 31
  • Unnamed Male Victim, Age Unknown
  • Unnamed Male Victim, Age Unknown
  • Unnamed Male Victim, Age Unknown

Sources:

http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Psyc%20405/serial%20killers/Baumeister,%20Herb%20-%20fall,%202005.pdf
https://www.thoughtco.com/herbert-richard-baumeister-973121
https://murderpedia.org/male.B/b/baumeister-herbert.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Baumeister
https://virtualglobetrotting.com/map/fox-hollow-farm/view/google/
A&E Investigative Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPEbmk5i2Ck

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