April 7, 1947|
|Died||July 3, 1996
Grand Bend, Ontario
Cause of death
|Other names||Brian Smart
The I-70 Strangler
|Victims||Undetermined (11 confirmed, 9 others suspected)|
Span of killings
|State(s)||Indiana and possibly Ohio|
|Never arrested, charged or convicted|
Herbert Richard "Herb" Baumeister (April 7, 1947 – July 3, 1996) was an American serial killer from Westfield, Indiana outside of Indianapolis. Baumeister committed suicide before he could be brought to trial, and never confessed to the crimes he was alleged to have committed.
The oldest of four children, Baumeister's childhood was reportedly normal. By the onset of adolescence, however, he began exhibiting antisocial behavior; acquaintances later recalled the young Baumeister playing with dead animals and urinating on a teacher's desk. As a teenager, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but did not receive further psychiatric treatment. As an adult, he drifted through a series of jobs, marked by a strong work ethic, but also by more and increasingly bizarre behavior.
He married in 1971, a union that produced three children. Baumeister founded the successful Sav-A-Lot thrift store chain (2 stores total) in Indianapolis in 1988. These are not to be confused with the grocery chain founded in 1977.
In the early 1990s investigators with the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department began investigating the disappearances of gay men in the Indianapolis area. In 1992, investigators were contacted by a man claiming that a gay bar patron calling himself "Brian Smart" had killed a friend of his and had attempted to kill him. The detectives told him to contact them in case he ever saw the man again. In November 1995, he called them and supplied the man's license plate; after checking the license registry, investigators discovered that "Brian Smart" was actually Herb Baumeister.
Investigators approached Baumeister, told him he was a suspect in the disappearances, and asked to search his house. When Baumeister refused, investigators confronted his wife, Julie, who also forbade police to search the house. By June 1996, however, Julie Baumeister had become sufficiently frightened by her husband's mood swings and erratic behavior that, after filing for divorce, she consented to a search. The search of the 18-acre (73,000 m2) estate named "Fox Hollow Farm" was conducted while Baumeister was on vacation; it turned up the remains of 11 men, 8 of whom were identified.
Baumeister escaped to Ontario, where he committed suicide at Pinery Provincial Park by shooting himself in the head. In his suicide note, he described his failing marriage and business as his reason for killing himself. He did not confess to the murders of the men found in his backyard.
In addition to the murders at his estate, Baumeister is also suspected of killing nine more men, the bodies of whom were found in rural areas along the corridor of Interstate 70 between Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. Julie Baumeister told authorities that her husband made as many as 100 business trips to Ohio, on what he said was store business.
The A&E television series The Secret Life of a Serial Killer aired an episode about Baumeister in 1997. History featured the case in their Perfect Crimes series. The case was also featured on The Investigators on TruTV in 2008, Behind Mansion Walls on Investigation Discovery and Paranormal Witness on Syfy in 2012, and Ghost Adventures in May 2014.
- Jerome, Richard; Fannie Weinstein (contributor) (23 December 1996). "While Julie Was Away". People. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- "Murderpedia: Herbert Richard Baumeister".
- "Indiana Businessman Is Linked To 9 Other Killings of Men". New York Times (Indianapolis, USA). April 29, 1998.
- Herb Baumeister at CrimeLibrary.com
- Herb Baumeister at CharlieManson.com
- Herb Baumeister “The I-70 Strangler”
- Fannie Weinstein; Melinda Wilson (September 15, 1998), Where the Bodies Are Buried, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0312966539