WESTFIELD — Most people knew Herbert Baumeister as a successful businessman with a wife and three kids who lived in a big house on a horse farm in suburban Indianapolis.
But Baumeister led a secret, murderous life. He picked up young men in gay bars and brought them back to his home at Fox Hollow Farms in Westfield — and killed them.
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.
Here's what we know about Herbert Baumeister.
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.
Remains still found in 2022
Decades after investigators found human remains on the Baumeister property, a new search on Dec. 4, 2022, found one bone and about 20 locations that might have more remains buried under the ground.
The Hamilton County Coroner's Office enlisted the help of about 10 dogs from Indiana Canine Search and Recovery to search the property.
"It's time now to re-examine, take a look [and] see where we're at with this," Coroner-elect Jellison 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.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.