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Herb Baumeister’s killing field and the new effort to identify his victims: Forgotten at Fox Hollow

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Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 06, 2023

WESTFIELD — Twenty-seven years ago, an Indianapolis police detective and two Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies found several teeth and human bones at Fox Hollow Farm in Hamilton County.

This discovery on June 24, 1996, uncovered the killing field of one of Indiana’s most notorious serial killers, Herb Baumeister.

Investigators and forensic anthropologists spent weeks digging through the earth around the 18-acre estate.

During that search and others over the ensuing years, around 10,000 bones were found on that property. These burned and broken fragments that are the remains of possibly up to 25 men, but no one knows for sure how many.

Investigators believe Baumeister prowled gay bars and lured victims to his home with a promise of booze, drugs and sex.

The hunt for a serial killer ended when Baumeister put a bullet in his head as investigators were looking to arrest him.

WRTV is taking a deep look into that hunt and the Hamilton County Coroner's new push to name the still unidentified victims he killed decades ago.

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Herbert Baumeister

Who was Herb Baumeister?

Herb Baumeister was born in Indianapolis in 1947 and had three younger siblings. He was 6-foot, 3-inches tall and a lean 185 pounds when he died July 3, 1996. Pictures of Baumeister show a man with brown hair, brown eyes and engaging smile.

He married Julie in 1971 and the couple had three children.

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Julie Baumeister told the story of her life and marriage to Herb Baumeister in a December 1996 Indianapolis Monthly article titled “Life in Limbo.”

"Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I knew we were a happy family," Julie Baumeister wrote in a December 1996 Indianapolis Monthly article titled "Life in Limbo."

"Herb always came home for dinner, and we did everything together, whether it was yard work, building a play center in the backyard or spending time with the children," she wrote. "Herb was always involved in his kids’ lives, at school as well as at home."

In 1988, the couple got a loan from Herb's mother and opened their first Sav-A-Lot thrift store, Julie wrote. The business was so successful that they opened a second store and moved to Fox Hollow Farm in 1992.

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Julie Baumeister told the story of her life and marriage to Herb Baumeister in a December 1996 Indianapolis Monthly article titled “Life in Limbo.”

Julie shared insights into her marriage, saying she and Herb were working long days to make the business a success so she would often unwind in summer months by taking the kids to a lake house owned by relatives.

While Julie and the kids were off at the lake, investigators believe Herb was picking up men at gay bars, bringing them home and strangling them to death.

Baumeister, investigators believe, burned the bodies, pulverized the bones and disposed of them on his estate.

"A very mean man"

In an interview with Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office investigators on June 26, 1996, Julie said she saw flashes of her husband’s darker side.

“Ultimately, our family has always been based on my world being pretty much controlled by Herb,” Julie told detectives. “He was, and still is, a very mean man who can do very mean things to people.”

READ |Julie Baumeister's entire interview with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Early in their marriage, Herb secluded himself in a bedroom and didn’t talk to Julie for a year, she told detectives. His mother angered him, and he cut contact with her for four years. When he was angry at her, he’d take the kids out and leave her at home alone.

Herb was always a little strange, Julie said, but she didn’t notice other things that might have been red flags to people outside their relationship.

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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.

"On our wedding night, we did not have sex," Julie told detectives. "He took magazines to read and we did not have sex."

Intimacy was rare throughout their 25-year marriage, Julie said.

"I have never seen him nude," Julie said. "If he has a birthmark, I don't know it."

The skull

In December 1994 — just months after Indianapolis police first started searching in earnest for a serial killer targeting gay men in Indianapolis — their son and a friend found something scary in the woods behind the house.

A human skull.

Herb wasn’t home at the time, Julie said in the interview with detectives.

Their son and his friend took her to where they found the skull and she made them put it back, propped up against a tree. There were more bones out there too, Julie said, like maybe a person fell and died in that very spot.

Herb came home and told her the skull and bones were a medical specimen that belonged to his late father, an anesthesiologist. Raccoons, he said, must have got into the storage area and moved them out there.

"Herb brushed it off. He told me that it was his father's" Julie told the detectives. "I didn’t really believe it, but I didn’t know what to do."

Herb threw the skull and bones in the trash and Julie stopped worrying about it. She wouldn’t think about that skull until a couple years later, months after police started asking questions about her husband’s connection to missing men.

VIEW | The timeline of Herbert Baumeister's life and crimes committed

Investigators believe the bones of at least seven men were on Fox Hollow Farm by the time that skull was discovered.

By 1995, as police were closing in on Herb, Julie said the Sav-A-Lot business and their marriage had fallen into trouble.

"Until about a year ago, we were the perfect family," Julie wrote in the 1996 Indianapolis Monthly article. "But about that time, I began to feel that maybe things weren’t so perfect. In retrospect, maybe there were things that were never as perfect as I thought they were."

The crime

Private investigator Virgil Vandagriff was contacted by the families of two missing men in 1994.

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Virgil Vandagriff keeps these missing persons posters and a copy of an old newspaper article on the Herbert Baumeister case.

They hired him to find Allen Wayne Broussard, 28, and Roger Allen Goodlet, 33. The two men were last seen in Indianapolis in June and July of 1994.

Both men were gay, so Vandagriff printed up some missing persons posters and searched for witnesses in the places they would have gone.

"I had investigators go out to the gay bars, start gathering information," Vadangriff said. "And we found out real quick that there were a lot of missing people, a lot of missing gay people in Indianapolis or the Indiana area."

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Virgil Vandagriff

Vandagriff was convinced these men had been taken by a serial killer.

His investigation led him to Mark Goodyear, who told a story about a harrowing one-night encounter with a man who was into choking his lovers during sex.

Goodyear said he met the strange man in an Indianapolis bar and agreed to go home with him in August 1994. That man said his name was Brian and drove Goodyear to a big house with a swimming pool in the northern suburbs.

He later learned that man was actually Herb Baumeister.

Baumeister drove, and Goodyear told detectives he wasn’t really paying attention to where they were going. All he could recall was that the man drove north and pulled up to a home with a long driveway.

The house was big and there were leaves and tree limbs scattered around the property, Goodyear said. Baumeister told him he was house sitting.

The house was filled with cobwebs, Goodyear said. There was a pool and pool house with a bar set up for guests, Goodyear told Hamilton County investigators in July 1996. He recalled seeing pool toys and, oddly, mannequins.

"Well, they were all posed," Goodyear told the detectives. "One woman in a dress reaching into a cabinet in the kitchenette… One was a lifeguard. Several others just posed around as if they were enjoying the day."

Baumeister talked about cocaine and fetishes including erotic asphyxiation, Goodyear said. Baumeister made Goodyear a drink, which Goodyear dumped in a sink and replaced with water.

Baumeister asked Goodyear to choke him during a sex act, Goodyear told detectives.

"I had the neck hold on him in the pool, standing in the water," Goodyear told the Hamilton County investigators. "His eyes are bugging out. His lips are turning purple. The whole nine yards. He’s into it. I mean, this guy is into it."

Goodyear made it clear he didn’t want to be choked, but he said Baumeister tried anyway. He came up from behind and threw a pool hose around Goodyear's neck.

Goodyear fought back.

“He backed off immediately,” Goodyear told investigators. “He was a little scared of me… I’m not drunk. I’m not out of my mind, ya know. I’ve got my sense to me. And at that point he did back off.”

The next day Baumeister drove Goodyear back to Indianapolis.

"I do believe that if I had been severely under the influence that he probably would have went further with me," Goodyear said. "If there's a bent human being that's it. That's one right there."

Goodyear didn’t know the man’s real name and couldn’t remember where the house was, which left Vandagriff and police investigators searching for 11 more months.

The hunt for a serial killer

Vandagriff introduced Goodyear to Indianapolis Police Missing Persons Detective Mary Wilson, who had been investigating the disappearances of gay men in Indianapolis.

Wilson has since retired from IPD and has declined to comment on the Baumeister case. Her daughter told WRTV that her declining is out of respect for the victims and the bonds she formed with their families throughout the investigation.

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Indianapolis Police Detective Mary Wilson detailed her two-year investigation into Herb Baumeister's connection to missing gay men in a 12-page memo to her supervisors dated June 27, 1996. This memo was part of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigation records.

However, Wilson did document her two-year investigation in a 12-page handwritten memo to IPD supervisors dated June 27, 1996. WRTV obtained a copy of that memo and more than two dozen other Baumeister-case documents from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

In her memo, Wilson described how meeting Goodyear in August 1994 launched her search for Baumeister.

Wilson described the months of shoe-leather police work she devoted to finding the strange man who said his name was Brian.

"Goodyear and I drove several times to the area of the home where his encounter occurred in the subsequent months," Wilson wrote. "We were never able to identify the man or locate the home."

Baumeister had Goodyear's phone number and called him off and on after their tryst, Wilson wrote. She put a trace on Goodyear's home phone, but the calls from "Brian" were never traceable.

Other leads led to similar dead ends.

Then, in July 1995, there was a break in the case. Goodyear spotted Baumeister in a bar and had his friends follow him outside to get the license plate number of the truck he was driving.

READ | Mark Goodyear's entire interview with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office

Gathering evidence

That plate, Wilson said in the memo, was break that led investigators to Herb Baumeister and his killing field at Fox Hollow Farm.

Wilson described the flurry of investigation work that followed.

She gathered information about Baumeister from courts, property and business records and interviewed people who worked with him in the past.

She even found an explanation for the alias. Brian, Wilson learned, was a real person who had been listed as a suspect in a police report connected to Baumeister.

She found property records, divorce filings and lawsuits involving the Sav-A-Lot business. She interviewed work associates and obtained his personnel file from Baumeister's prior employer, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

In August 1995, Wilson drove to Fox Hollow Farm. Seeing that the property matched Goodyear's description, she gathered the license plate numbers of every vehicle on the property.

Despite the extensive legwork, Wilson was unable to convince a judge to sign a search warrant.

With no other options, Wilson and an IPD lieutenant approached Baumeister for the first time at a Sav-A-Lot store on Nov. 1, 1995.

"He first lied about ever having been in (an Indianapolis gay bar)," Wilson wrote. "When confronted (with) fact that we had (his) plate number, he admitted. He didn’t want his wife and children to know."

Baumeister told the detective he would call them after he talked to an attorney.

Police spoke to that lawyer weeks later who said Baumeister would not agree to let police search his property.

In December 1995, Wilson and her lieutenant met Julie Baumeister at Sav-A-Lot and asked her permission to search Fox Hollow Farm. She told them her lawyer had advised them to refuse.

“She believed it concerned their business and a theft investigation," Wilson wrote. "We explained briefly how we came to the point of approaching her. She seemed stunned and refused consent."

Police contacted Julie several more times over the following months but she repeatedly refused to give permission to search the property.

Baumeister's killing field

On June 24, 1996, Wilson received a call from Julie's lawyer, Bill Wending.

Wending told Wilson that he could now tell her "that some time ago (the couple's son) found a skull on the property."

Wilson and Hamilton County investigators met Julie that day at Fox Hollow Farm.

Herb was out of town and she was seeking a divorce, so she took them to the place where the skull was discovered in the woods behind the house two years prior.

On that short walk, investigators discovered additional bone fragments and human teeth on the property. The finally had evidence linking Baumeister to the murders.

By 10 p.m. that same night, a judge had signed a warrant allowing police to search Fox Hollow Farm.

Then, on June 25, 1996, law enforcement officers joined University of Indianapolis forensic anthropologists and began the slow, meticulous job of digging on the large property.

They soon uncovered the burned and broken remains of at least two dozen men.

Detective Wilson had finally found Baumeister's killing field.

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Justice denied

Herb Baumeister was already on the run before the digging at Fox Hollow Farm began.

Police had the arrest warrant in their hands on July 3, 1996, when Baumeister's body was discovered in Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, according to various media reports from the time.

Baumeister, 49, had shot himself in the head.

Investigators found his car had been stripped clean and the carpeting had been removed, according to Kathleen Clark a former Hamilton County deputy prosecutor who traveled to Canada to gather evidence and observe the Baumeister autopsy.

He had also left a suicide note that mentioned his failing marriage and business, but nothing about the missing men or the bones buried on his Hamilton County property.

"The content was more of a fantasy as to what he wanted to do with his life. It did not yield any information as to the nature of the recovered bones or the identities of the victims," according to FBI records of the case that described the suicide note.

READ | Read all of the documents WRTV obtained throughout the process of creating Forgotten at Fox Hollow

Baumeister's suicide, Clark said, had robbed his victims of justice.

"There's no reckoning," Clark said. "I still feel hollow from that. There are these people out there who will never get their day in court."

For all the evil he perpetrated, Clark said in the end Baumeister was a coward.

"Chickensh*t is the word that comes to mind," Clark said. "And I know that's not very proper. But you know, he spent a lot of time and a lot of effort and used his intelligence to accomplish what he sought to do — as evil as it was. Then in the end, he can't even face what he did. Chickensh*t."

WATCH | Additional Interviews from some of the people directly affected and involved with the case.

The victims

The criminal case was over, but the efforts to identify the victims is still going on decades later.

It was two months after the digging started, before investigators would identify the first two victims using their dental records. Others victims took years to be identified.

Still more remain unidentified to this day.

Investigators have shared the names of the eight men whose bodies were found and identified at Fox Hollow Farm:

  • Johnny Bayer, 20, Indianapolis, last seen on May 28, 1993.
  • Jeff Allen Jones, 31, Indianapolis, last seen on July 6, 1993.
  • Richard D. Hamilton, 20, Indianapolis, last seen on July 31, 1993.
  • Manuel Resendez, 31, Lafayette, last seen on Aug. 6, 1993.
  • Steven S. Hale, 26, Indianapolis, last seen on April 1, 1994.
  • Allen Wayne Broussard, 28, Indianapolis, last seen on June 6, 1994.
  • Roger Allen Goodlet, 33, Indianapolis, last seen on July 22, 1994.
  • Michael Kiern, 46, Indianapolis, last seen on March 31, 1995.

Nine more victims

Investigators believe Baumeister started killing at least a decade before he moved to Fox Hollow Farm.

Two years after police found Baumeister's killing field, investigators from Hancock, Shelby and Hamilton counties held a news conference to announce that Baumeister was responsible for the strangulation deaths of nine men and boys whose bodies were dumped in Indiana and Ohio between 1980 and 1990.

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Two years after his suicide, investigators linked Herb Baumeister to the deaths of nine men and boys whose bodies were found in Indiana and Ohio between 1980 and 1990. This story was published in the Indianapolis Star on April 28, 1998.

"They were all found in a small body of water. They were all dumped over a concrete culvert out in rural parts of the county," then-Hamilton County Sheriff James Bradbury said, according to an April 28, 1998 story published in the Indianapolis Star. "All were partially nude. All were white males. they all had ties to the gay community in one way or another."

According to the Star and other published reports from the time, those victims were:

  • Michael S. Petrie, 15, found in a Hamilton County, Indiana, ditch on June 16, 1980.
  • Maurice A. Taylor, 22, found in northeastern Hamilton County, Indiana, on July 21, 1982.
  • Michael A. Riley, 22, found in a Hancock County, Indiana, ditch on June 5, 1983.
  • James. B. Robbins, 21, found in a remote area of Shelby County, Indiana, on Oct. 17, 1987.
  • Thomas R. Cleveger Jr., 19, found in an abandoned rail bed in Darke County, Ohio, on Sept. 12, 1990.
  • Eric A. Roetiger, 17, found in a Preble County, Ohio, creek bed on May 9, 1985.
  • Michael A. Glenn, 29, found in a Preble County, Ohio, creek bed on Aug. 17, 1986.
  • Steven L. Elliott, 26, found in a Preble County, Ohio, creek bed on Aug. 12, 1989.
  • Clay R. Boatman, 32, found near a bridge in Preble County, Ohio, on Aug. 14, 1990.

WATCH | We have gathered a playlist of archive footage relating the Herb Baumeister from the 1980s and 1990s

Forgotten no more

Nine boxes in a secure room at the University of Indianapolis hold something most sacred.

Ten thousand bones.

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Nine of these boxes stored in a secure room a the University of Indianapolis contain unidentified human remains recovered from Fox Hollow Farm.

These burned and broken fragments are the remains of possibly up to 25 men who were victims of Indiana serial killer Herb Baumeister.

These remains have been in the custody of UIndy’s anthropology lab since their recovery.

Hamilton County Coroner Jeff Jellison said it's his mission and his duty to send those men home.

“I am driven to identify [them],” Jellison said. “They are people. They're someone's brother, someone's son, potentially someone's husband, and they're sitting on a shelf at a university... And those folks deserve the opportunity to have a final resting place.”

He wants to return these men to their families.

"We have ten thousand remains right now on our hands. We need to get those to laboratories,” Jellison said. “We believe there's as many as 25 or more people that are represented in those remains and understand some of those remains are as small as a fingernail.”

Krista Latham, director of University of Indianapolis's Human Identification Center, said these remains are waiting to be identified.

"They either weren't reported missing, or there's not family reference samples on file, or we just don't have the information we need in order to identify them," Latham said. "And we look at them as being almost forgotten in life and being forgotten in death."

DNA testing is now faster, easier and cheaper than it was in the 1990s. Latham and Jellison hope a new push will finally identify these men.

"We were really waiting for DNA technology to advance to a place where it was affordable and able to tackle some of these challenges," Latham said.

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.

"The reason I'm doing this is to give closure," Jellison said. "But you also got to understand I've got a statutory duty to do it. My job by statute says that the coroner is responsible to identify the deceased in his county."

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 or fill out the form below.

Information for Coroner
Has a missing persons report been filed with law enforcement?

More: This private investigator cracked the case of notorious serial killer Herbert Baumeister| New efforts to identify remains of Herb Baumeister's victims help bring closure to local family | Bone found during Sunday search of Herbert Baumeister property | 'Not acceptable': New push to put names to 17 unidentified victims of serial killer Herbert Baumeister

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.