Whether you have an avid interest in serial killers or not, when the subject arises, many names initially come to mind: Jack the Ripper, Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy. The names of these killers are embedded into our mind and our pop culture due to the shockingly large scale and horrific nature of their crimes. They’ve officially earned a place on everyone’s mental list of people-you-don’t-want-to-run-across-in-a-dark-alley, making their name and reputation as infamous as Marie Antoinette. One person that should be on that mental list, but probably isn’t is Herb Baumeister. As a person who has always been fascinated by serial killers and was allowed to watch the eleven o’clock news at far too young an age, I hadn’t heard about Herb Baumeister and his crimes until about a year ago. Since then, I have been obsessed. His story, and that of Fox Hollow Farm, the estate where the murders took place, is one that begins in Herb’s childhood and has outlived him by multiple decades. The case of the “I-70 Strangler” will easily continue to unfold with seemingly unending macabre evidence and details for the next half-century.
Baumeister’s bizarre behavior was recounted by a childhood friend who recalled an instance in which Herb found a dead crow in the road on his way to school and later that day, dropped it on his teacher’s desk when she wasn’t looking. According to those who knew him, “playing” with dead animals was a favorite pastime of his, as well as pondering what human urine tastes like. Herb once urinated on a teacher’s desk, although it is unclear if his malicious actions were aimed at multiple instructors, or one in particular. When Herb Baimeister reached his teens, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was suspected of having multiple personalities, but did not receive treatment. Theses disorders would become more apparent as Herb matured. While attending college for one year at Indiana State University, he met Juliana Saitor. The two were drawn to one another due to their incredibly conservative ideologies. In 1971, the two were married, but only six months afterwards Herb was committed to a psychiatric institute where he spent two months. Over the next several years, the couple produced three children: Marie (1979), Erich (1981), and Emily (1984). In 1974, Herb Baumeister began working for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and displayed symptoms of his mental illness. One year, he and a coworker appeared on the company Christmas card dressed in drag. Obviously, simply dressing in drag is not a sign of mental illness, however it was out of character for Mr. Baumeister and in hindsight, disturbing, considering the nature of the crimes he would go on to commit. Herb worked his way up to the title of Program Director, but was terminated from this job in 1985 when he urinated on a letter which was to be sent to then-governor of Indiana, Robert D. Orr (Republican). It was the same year the body of Eric Roetiger, a seventeen year old white male was discovered in Indiana. He may or may not have been serial killer Herb Baumeister’s first victim. On September 3, 1985 he committed a hit and run while intoxicated, though he received no severe punishment. Less than one year later on March 27, 1986 Herb was charged with auto theft and conspiracy to commit theft, avoiding implications of his actions a second time and beating the charges against him. In 1988, Herb’s mother loaned him $4,000 to open a thrift store, ‘SAV-A-LOT’, which made him $50,000 in its first year alone, allowing for a second location. In 1991, ‘SAV-A-LOT’ was so successful Herb, Julie, and their three children were able to move to Fox Hollow Farm: An eighteen acre, one million dollar estate in the prestigious Westfield district, a suburb of Indianapolis. For the first time in his life, Baumeister was viewed as a pillar in the community. The town recognized Herb as a family man and charitable entrepreneur. He owned a popular business that had recently become a small chain, and a dream home complete with a pool house, which included a wet bar. This area was decorated lavishly and filled with mannequins dressed by Baumeister to appear as if they were guests attending an upscale pool party. Herb began to frequent the local gay bars in search of potential victims to lure back to his pool house. He would pose as an autoerotic asphyxiation fetishist (someone who receives pleasure from choking/being choked, or having air cut off/restricted by other means during intercourse and/or masturbation) and invite the unsuspecting men to engage in this act with him. Once he got these men back to Fox Hollow Farm he would ensure they were intoxicated, invite them in the pool and strangle them to death. Their remains were discarded in the woods behind his home. Reports of missing gay men in the area began piling up, and bodies continued to be discovered throughout Indiana and Ohio. Unfortunately, at this time police did not put much effort into investigating the murders and disappearances of gay men. Most investigators and members of the community believed the ones who had simply gone missing decided to run off to a big city where they may be more widely accepted by society without informing their families. Finally, law enforcement began to connect the dots and in 1992 received their first tip from a man named Tony Harris. Tony called the Indianapolis police and claimed a gay bar patron by the name of “Brian Smart” had murdered his friend and tried to kill him, as well. Unable to locate a “Brian Smart”, the killings continued. In 1994, life took a downwards turn for Herb Baumeister. His business, which had previously been flourishing, began to fail. This could have been caused by a sudden, vastly superior attitude he began to display towards his employees, and by his habit of leaving work, only to return later in the day reeking of booze. He was also arrested for drinking and driving in Rochester, Indiana, which earned him three days in jail and one year of probation. To make things far worse, Herb’s son, Erich, who was thirteen at the time, found a human skull on their property while walking through the woods. Erich showed it to his mother, Julie, who inquired about the skull to her husband. Herb’s answer was that had come from a medical skeleton belonging to his deceased father which he had acquired many of throughout his long career as an anesthesiologist. Although there were problems at this time in Herb and Julie’s relationship, surprisingly, this was not one of them. Later, when Julie went looking for these remains, they could not be located. Assuming they had been carried off by a wild animal, she accepted her husband’s explanation without giving it a second thought. In 1995 Tony Harris had another run in with Brian Smart at a local gay bar and this time he got a license plate number. Police ran the plates and learned “Brian Smart” was an alias of Herb Baumeister. When police arrived at the Baumeister home and asked to search the property without a warrant, both Herb and Julie refused. Herb told his wife he was being falsely accused of theft and ordered her not to allow police onto the property. One day, investigators were able to speak to Julie alone and explained they were really there; Her husband was suspected of multiple murders. Even after learning this and knowing a human skull had been lying in the woods on their property, she remained unwilling to a search. However, as Herb’s luck began to run out, his mood swings and odd behavior reached a climax and began to disturb his wife. In 1996, both of Herb’s SAV-A-LOT stores shut down and he became depressed, even threatening to take his own life. Julie was filing for divorce and suing for sole custody of their three children when she finally contacted police and agreed to a full search of the property while Herb was away on vacation. During the initial search, which lasted a few days, law enforcement recovered 5,500 bones, bone fragments, and teeth from four different victims in the wooded area of Fox Hollow Farm. Many of the remains had been concealed beneath piles of leaves and garbage. A second search was prompted by the Baumeister’s neighbor, who informed police he had discovered skeletal remains near a drainage pipe separating the two properties. When police arrived, they immediately noticed several somewhat intact skeletons protruding from the muddy ground. 140 more bones (including several intact rib cages and vertebra) from seven additional bodies were found in this location along with many cans of Miller Genuine Draft, Mr. Baumeister’s favorite drink. In all, eleven bodies were found but only eight could be identified: Johnny Bayer (20), Allen Wayne Broussard (28), Roger A. Goodlet (33), Richard D. Hamilton (20), Steven S. Hale (26), Jeff Allen Jones (31), Michael Kiern (46), and Manuel Resendez (31). While Eric Roetiger was never confirmed as one of Herb’s victims, Baumeister is suspected to have killed many more men who fit the profile and were dumped along rural roadsides throughout Indiana and Ohio during his active years. According to Julie Baumeister, Herb took a hundred or more trips to Ohio on store business. There would have been plenty of time for Herb to commit these murders that took place on the property, undisturbed. Usually during the summer, sometimes for several months at a time, Julie and the kids would go out of town to stay with Herb’s widowed mother. When asked by investigators about the human skull her son Erich had found on the property a few years prior, Julie informed them of the story Herb provided her with and stated, “It wasn’t like I was sitting at home with nothing else to think about.”. While searching Fox Hollow Farm, police discovered a video camera hiding in a corner of the pool house where Herb had committed multiple murders. Despite no tapes being found, police believe this camera was used to record the deaths of his victims. Still away on vacation, Herb contacted his older brother. He claimed he was away on a business trip and needed more money immediately. A few days later, Herb called his brother a second time to request more money. By this time, he had caught wind that corpses were being discovered on his brother’s property. Herb’s brother informed him that the local police wanted to have a chat regarding all the bodies uncovered on Fox Hollow Farm. Having run out of options, Herb quickly escaped to Canada. One evening, while sleeping in his car under a bridge, a Canadian trooper approached him. Baumeister told the trooper he was a tourist who was just passing through, and had stopped to get some rest. The trooper noted that there was a large stack of what appeared to be video tapes in the backseat of his car. The next day, on July, 3 1996 Herb Baumeister killed himself with a shot to the head from a .357 magnum in Pinery Provincial Park, Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada. He left a three-page suicide note on yellow note paper giving his reasons for the suicide: A failed marriage and business. He made note of the fact that he had originally planned to kill himself elsewhere, and apologized for “messing up” the park. He mentioned he would have a peanut butter sandwich for his last meal and afterwards he would “go to sleep”. Herb Baumeister never confessed to any of the murders, though there was more than enough sufficient evidence to convict him. The video tapes spotted the previous evening by the trooper were not in the car and were never found. It is believed Herb disposed of them in the river before committing suicide. His body was found eight days after his death.
That seems like the end of the story, but this is where things become even more bizarre. In 2009, Rob and Vicky Graves purchased Fox Hollow Farm. They moved in and soon began renting out an apartment on the property to Joe LeBlanc. Shortly after getting settled in, Vicky spotted a man in a red T-shirt wandering about near the tree line on their new property, close to the spot investigators had exhumed many of Herb Baumeister’s victims. Assuming the man had a morbid curiosity with the location and murders, the new homeowners were prepared to confront the trespasser. Once she got a better look at the man, Vicky noticed he had no legs- he was just floating, then disappeared into thin air. The two searched the wooded area in the direction he had last been seen, but found nothing. The Graves installed a security camera following the incident in hopes that they could catch any future trespassers on their property. Joe and his dog, Fred, later saw the same man with the red t-shirt in the woods. Fred went chasing off after the man, and Joe ran after him. Eventually Joe came face to face with the trespasser, but as before he had done before, he suddenly vanished. On another occasion, Fred ran back into the woods, and Joe followed behind him. When his dog stopped, Joe noticed something peculiar: a human femur. The police were contacted to collect the bone and informed the new owners it may only be the first in a long series of human remains they would discover on their property. While law enforcement recovered thousands of bones and bone fragments from Baumeister’s victims, there are undoubtedly countless more skeletal remains still buried. Afterwards, the sightings of the man in the red t-shirt ceased, but the activity on the property did not. Joe had been experiencing instances of a constant knocking at his door. While the knocking would become growingly intense, no one would answer when he asked who was outside. Anytime Joe opened the door, he would find no one was there. One night when it began, Joe asked who it was and as always, did not receive a response. The knocking grew louder, and more violent. When he opened the door, he saw the knocker was hanging straight out as though someone were still holding it. It would certainly not be a paranormal event for a door knocker to simply stick and hang in a position that seems to defy gravity, but if Mr. LeBlanc’s story is to be believed, there would be no way the door knocker could repeatedly move up and down by itself, before freezing in a perpendicular position. Joe closed his door, locked it and waited, hoping for it to stop. He noticed the knob twisting, like someone outside was trying to get in. The doorknob finally quit turning to his relief, but only a moment later the door burst wide open, sending woodchips flying into his apartment. Moving outside to confront whoever it was, Joe was met at the door frame by a young Caucasian man in soaking wet clothing. The man was terrified, screaming and went running for his life through Joe’s apartment, then just vanished. Not long after this occurred, Joe was able to identify the man he had seen tearing through his apartment that evening as one of Herb Baumeister’s victims. The strange events at the property escalated when Joe invited his friend, Jeremy, to come for a swim at the infamous Fox Hollow Farm pool, which Joe had access to as a tenant. Jeremy was a hardened skeptic who wanted to put to rest the rumors of hauntings on the property. In the water, Joe felt someone touch his back immediately before he claims to have been pulled under the water by an unseen force. He felt like he was being choked, as Herb Baumeister’s victims had been years before in the same pool. Jeremy, who witnessed the events, says Joe was clawing at his throat as though he were trying to get someone’s hands off his neck. Having known Joe a very long time, Jeremy is confident that his friend was genuinely scared for his life, and that something unseen had been trying to cause him harm. Bizarre events had become very mundane for Joe LeBlanc who was beginning to feel a constant presence in his kitchen and was hearing footsteps in the room. Frustrated, he finally faced the presence in his home after he investigated a metal scraping sound only to find a knife on the kitchen counter along with cuts in the wooden wall. Attempting what he had seen done on paranormal investigation shows, Joe turned off anything in his house that could make noise, and began to record audio from his computer. Although he felt silly, he asked who had been hanging out in his kitchen. Later, he got his answer from the recording, “The married one.”. Of all Herb Baumeister’s known victims, none of them were married- they were all single gay (or assumed gay) men. LeBlanc believes the voice he captured is that of Baumeister. It is true Herb did not die on the property and many are under the impression this is irrefutable evidence that the voice could not possibly that of the serial killer; However, many parapsychologists strongly believe, assuming the existence of spirits is real, it is not a requirement that a ghost be attached to the location of their death. It is possible that a spirit would, in certain situations, be more likely to return to the place they were most happy during their physical life, as opposed to spending a good chunk of eternity exactly where they met their demise. In Herb Baumeister’s case, it is very likely the best years of his life were those spent at Fox Hollow Farm, killing to his heart’s content. Despite his depression and his awareness that he had reached the end of the line and lost everything, Baumeister did not seem incredibly emotional about taking his own life. As he put it, he was just going to “go to sleep.”, perhaps hoping when he woke up he could return to his property and continue to torment his victims without fear of ever being caught. That being said, police think it very likely Baumeister murdered many more whose bodies have yet to be discovered on his property, or were dumped along the rural roads of Indiana and Ohio and were never officially identified as one of his victims. Therefore, it is possible Herb did at one point kill a married man, unknown to investigators. According to the Graves, the femur bone they located on the property was unable to be identified, and strange happenings still regularly occur at the estate.
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