WESTFIELD — Members of the Hamilton County Coroner's Office and cadaver dogs are searching the property of Herbert Baumeister .
Crews found one bone Sunday while looking for remains.
"Those bones represent people, these are people that we're talking about, have lied dormant in storage. It's time now to re-examine, take a look [and] see where we're at with this," Jeff Jellison, chief deputy at the Hamilton County Coroner's Office and coroner-elect, said. "Let's look at this again. Let's get as many of these people identified as we possibly can and begin to get some closure for some families of some missing people."
Indiana Canine Search and Recovery brought around 10 dogs to the property to help. The dogs are trained in the odor of human remains and the humans look for changes in their behavior during searches.
HAPPENING NOW: Search teams and cadaver dogs are on the property of Indiana serial killer Herbert Baumeister.— WRTV Indianapolis (@wrtv) December 4, 2022
WRTV has learned at least one bone has been found. https://t.co/nq78k2nJpA pic.twitter.com/bvKHqEg9ja
"What do you hope comes out of all of us this?" asked WRTV's Meredith Hackler.
"That's an easy one — The families find who they're looking for ... if one person can find who they have missing, it's just worth it," Leah Snyder, director and fonder, said.
In 1996, Hamilton County sheriff's deputies found thousands of decomposed and charred bone fragments on Baumeister's property just west of U.S. 31 on 156th Street in Westfield.
"There's 10,000 bones and bone fragments — how many people that they represent, I unfortunately, could not give you a number," Jellison said. "What you have here is very similar to a mass fatality ... where the challenge lies is being able to collect any remains found today [and] preserve them as pieces of evidence but still provide them with dignity."
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Robert Graves now owns the property. The original property was 18.5 acres and after a sale Graves now owns 10 of those acres
"Every day something comes up related to the case, whether it's visitors coming down the drive to see where it happened, or people wanting to come onto the property," Graves said. "If someone doesn't ask me about it, I don't think about [the case] on a daily basis."
Sunday's search was the first time he knows of that search dogs were on the property.
"We don't go looking for the bones, but they do turn up and I take them down to the University of Indianapolis," Graves said. "I hope they find any remains that have not been found and they get some identification so the families can have some kind of closure."
During the dogs search there were around 20 locations that were flagged and potentially having human remains. The Deputy coroner logged GPS points on each of those locations. Moving forward the coroners office will be consulting with their forensic and law enforcement partners to decide how to process the area. The bone that was found on the property will be submitted for forensic examination to determine additional information.
Investigators believe at least 25 people fell victim to Baumeister, who police have said lured gay men to his home at Fox Hollow Farms in the mid-80s and 90s and killed them. Baumeister died by suicide shortly after police began their investigation.
To date, 26 years after the discovery of the victims' bodies, only eight have been identified. Three other people have not been identified, but there is a possibility there are several more victims.
Anyone who believes they are a relative of a missing person connected to the case should contact the coroner's office at 317-770-4415.
"If we don't get comparison samples from relatives of those missing people, then our investigation will come to a halt very quickly. I need people that if you had someone missing in the middle 80s to middle 90s — I don't care where you're from, where they were from, I need you to come forward and provide us with a DNA sample," Jellison said. "It's just a swab of the cheek, takes just a few seconds. It's painless. We will come to you. We will get you the DNA test kit."
RELATED: A look inside how DNA is used to identify human remains
Jellison says they're in contact with law enforcement agencies across the country and people who know someone who is missing.
"These are people and that's what we have to keep at the forefront of our minds ... these people need to be returned to their loved ones so they can be given a final resting spot," he said.
Who was Baumeister?
Baumeister was born in Indianapolis in 1947, married wife Juliana in 1971 and the couple had three children, according to several media sources. In the late 1980s, he founded the successful Sav-A-Lot thrift stores and operated two locations in the Indianapolis area.
Juliana filed for divorce in January 1996, just months after police questioned her about her husband's possible link to the disappearances of several young men, according to media reports.
When Baumeister's wife and children left for summer vacations, police believe Baumeister picked up young men at gay bars, took them to his home and strangled them to death. Investigators believe Baumeister burned the bodies, pulverized the bones and disposed of most of the remains on parts of his 18-acre farm.
Authorities found the remains of at least 25 people on Baumeister's property in 1996. Baumeister fled the country after he refused to talk to police who were investigating the missing men.
When questioned by police, Baumeister's wife Juliana told investigators that one of their kids found a human skull on the farm in December 1994. Baumeister, she told investigators, told her the skull had been a medical specimen that belonged to his late father, who was an anesthesiologist, according to media reports.
According to the Indianapolis Star and other media, Baumeister, 49, shot himself in the head in Pinery Provincial Park in Canada on July 3, 1996, and died before he could be arrested and put on trial for the killings at his home.
He left a three-page suicide noted in which he apologized for spoiling the scenery of that Canadian park where he killed himself and apologized for his failing marriage and crumbling businesses, the Indianapolis Star reported on July 6, 1996. His suicide note said nothing about the missing men and the bones found on his farm nearly two weeks prior.
Investigators announced in 1999 that they had identified the remains of eight men found on Baumeister's property. Then-Hamilton County Sheriff's Sgt. Eddie Moore told the Indianapolis Star in June 1999 that Baumeister's known victims were:
- Johnny Bayer, 20, Indianapolis, missing on May 28, 1993.
- Allen Wayne Broussard, 28, Indianapolis, missing on June 6, 1994.
- Roger Allen Goodlet, 33, Indianapolis, missing on July 22, 1994.
- Richard D. Hamilton, 20, Indianapolis, missing on July 31, 1993.
- Steven S. Hale, 26, Indianapolis, missing on April 1, 1994.
- Jeff Allen Jones, 31, Indianapolis, missing on July 6, 1993.
- Michael Kiern, 46, Indianapolis, missing on March 31, 1995.
- Manuel Resendez, 31, Lafayette, missing on Aug. 6, 1993.
In April 1999, investigators announced they believe Baumeister was responsible for the deaths of nine more men and teenage boys whose bodies were left in shallow streams across central Indiana and western Ohio between 1980 and 1990, according to the the Indianapolis Star.
Identifying the victims
Hamilton County Coroner-elect Jeff Jellison announced Nov,. 28, 2022, that he hopes modern DNA technology will help identify the remains of more than dozen people found on Baumeister's former farm.
"For the past 26 years these people have been placed on a shelf at the University of Indianapolis, and that is not acceptable," Jellison said in a statement. "We need to make every effort possible to identify these people and return them to their loved ones,”
DNA testing is now faster, easier and cheaper than it was in the 1990s, Jellison said. The newly elected coroner said he's gathered investigators from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, the Fishers Police Department, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Indiana State Police biology unit, the University of Indianapolis' archeology and forensic lab, and his office to help identify remaining victims.
Jellison is urging anyone from Indiana and nearby states who have male relatives who went missing in the mid-80s to mid-90s to provide a DNA sample that will be compared to samples from the nearly 10,000 bone fragments found on the Baumeister farm.
“We have a huge job in front of us; however, I have confidence this team of police officers and forensic specialists will exhaust all efforts to identify the individuals that were brutally murdered and discarded on Herb Baumeister’s property," Jellison said.
Anyone who thinks they are related to a missing person connected to the Baumeister case should contact the coroner's office at 317-770-4415.