Baumeister's c. 1986 Mugshot
Herbert Richard Baumeister
April 7, 1947
|Died||July 3, 1996 (aged 49)|
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Other names||Brian Smart|
|Victims||11–20 (not confirmed, died before trial)|
Span of crimes
|State(s)||Indiana and possibly Ohio|
Herbert Richard Baumeister (April 7, 1947 – July 3, 1996) was an American man who was suspected of being a serial killer. A resident of Westfield, Indiana, Baumeister was under investigation for murdering over a dozen men in the early 1990s, most of whom were last seen at gay bars. Police found human remains on Baumeister's property and issued an arrest warrant, after which he fled to Canada and subsequently committed suicide before he could be brought to trial. He never confessed to the crimes and his suicide note made no mention of the murder allegations. He was later linked to a series of murders of at least nine men along Interstate 70, which occurred in the early to mid-1980s.
Baumeister was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the oldest of four children born to Herbert and Elizabeth Baumeister. His childhood was reportedly normal. By the onset of adolescence, however, he began exhibiting anti-social behavior; acquaintances later recalled the young Baumeister playing with dead animals and urinating on a teacher's desk. In his teens, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but did not receive further psychiatric treatment. In 1965, Baumeister attended Indiana University for a semester before dropping out, and later returned in 1967. In 1972, he attended a semester at Butler University. As an adult, he drifted through a series of jobs, marked by a strong work ethic, but also by more and increasingly bizarre behavior.
Baumeister married Juliana "Julie" Saiter in November 1971, a union that produced three children. Julie later said they had been sexually intimate only six times in over 25 years of marriage. In the 1970s, he was committed to a psychiatric hospital by his father. His wife said he was "hurting and needed help." He founded the successful Sav-A-Lot thrift store chain (two stores total) in Indianapolis in 1988 (not affiliated with Save-A-Lot grocery store chain).
By the early 1990s, investigators with the Marion County Sheriff's Department and the Indianapolis Police Department began investigating the disappearances of gay men of similar age, height, and weight in the Indianapolis area. In 1992, investigators were contacted by a man named Tony Harris claiming that a gay bar patron calling himself "Brian Smart" had killed a friend of his and had attempted to kill him with a pool hose during an erotic asphyxiation session. Harris eventually happened to see this same man again in August 1995, following him and noting a license plate number. From this data, police identified "Brian Smart" as 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 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, Fox Hollow Farm, was conducted while Baumeister was on vacation; it turned up the remains of eleven men, eight of whom were identified.
With a warrant out for his arrest, Baumeister fled to Ontario, Canada, where he committed suicide at Pinery Provincial Park, on Lake Huron, near Grand Bend, 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.
Baumeister would posthumously be suspected of killing nine other men, the bodies of whom were found in rural areas along the corridor of Interstate 70 between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio during the early to mid 1980s. One eyewitness identified Baumeister as the man seen leaving a bar in 1983 with Michael Riley who was later found dead; like the other victims, Riley was strangled to death and deposited nude or semi-nude in a river.
The A&E television series Investigative Reports aired an episode about Baumeister titled The Secret Life of a Serial Killer 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 (ID) and Paranormal Witness on Syfy in 2012, and Ghost Adventures in May 2014. An independent documentary film titled The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm also explores the crimes and the possibility of hauntings on the grounds of Baumeister's former home. ID featured the case again on the series True Nightmares, in October 2015. The Crime Junkie podcast released an episode on Baumeister on March 4, 2018.
- Natasha Albert; Erin Allen; Sherri Armistead; Josh Bradley. "Herb Baumeister "The I-70 Strangler"" (PDF). Department of Psychology, Radford University.
- Jerome, Richard; Weinstein, Fannie (December 23, 1996). "While Julie Was Away". People. Time Inc. 46 (26). ISSN 0093-7673. Retrieved January 17, 2015.
- "Longtime anesthesiologist Herbert E. Baumeister dies". The Indianapolis Star. November 13, 1986. p. 48. Retrieved June 21, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Labalme, Jenny (September 15, 1996). "Businessman puzzled people in life and death". The Indianapolis Star. pp. 41, 49. Retrieved June 21, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Meredith, Robyn (October 16, 1996). "Seven Skeletons, and a Suburb in Shock". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- Higgins, Will (October 30, 2012). "House with dark past fulfills family's dream". Chillicothe Gazette. p. 4A. Retrieved June 21, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Mitchell, Dawn (February 29, 2016). "Retro Indy: Heinous crimes of serial killers in Indiana". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
- Labalme, Jenny (July 6, 1996). "Suicide note mentions marriage, business but not bones". The Indianapolis Star. pp. 1–2. Retrieved June 21, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Indiana Businessman Is Linked To 9 Other Killings of Men". The New York Times. Associated Press. April 29, 1998. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- Hall, Steve (September 4, 1997). "Baumeister program is chilling but flawed". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved June 21, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm on IMDb
- True Nightmares on IMDb
- "SERIAL KILLER: Herb Baumeister – Crime Junkie Podcast". crimejunkiepodcast.com. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
- Fannie Weinstein; Melinda Wilson (September 15, 1998), Where the Bodies Are Buried, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0312966539
- Crime Library: "HERB BAUMEISTER: SKELETONS BEYOND THE CLOSET" (story archived on 12/13/2007)
- Herb Baumeister "The I-70 Strangler"