This is part 2 of our 3-part series covering Herb Baumeister.
Herbert Richard Baumeister was an American businessman and suspected serial killer. A resident of the Indianapolis suburb 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 the remains of eleven people, eight identified, on Baumeister's property. Baumeister committed suicide after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was later linked to a series of murders of at least twelve men along Interstate 70, which occurred in the early to mid-1980s.
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Previously on The Secret Sits, Tony Harris has spoken to a psychic and she told Tony this about his encounter “You must never go back to that house, Tony. I see a man handcuffed to a bed. Tied up and spread-eagled. I see pictures being taken while he is being strangled. His tongue is swollen and purple and hanging out of his mouth. And the eyes, oh the eyes. Tony, you must never go back. This is a hell house.” And that is where we find ourselves while we pick up our story today.
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Welcome to The Secret Sits, I’m your host John Dodson. Join us every Thursday as we uncover the Secrets behind the world’s most fascinating true crime cases. You can find all episodes of The Secret Sits for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or where ever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you are hearing, reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook @The Secret Sits Podcast or on Twitter @SecretSitsPod. Now, on with our story.
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Although Virgil would do almost anything to solve a case, he did not put much credence in the visions of psychics. But as Tony and Connie hung up the phone, the fear splashed across their faces made Virgil press on with his investigation and he assigned one of his top investigators to initiate a search through the rich suburbs, in a renewed effort to locate this hell house. This investigator was named Bill Hilzley, he had worked as a state trooper and he knew the Indianapolis area better than anyone. Bill only had to search a couple of days before he located a home in Westfield that had a wooden sign out front which read, Fox Hollow Farm. Bill drove up the long driveway, past the overgrown and unkempt front yard, the house was big, but it was also extremely run down. Bill exited his vehicle after he arrived at the circular driveway and he began poking around. He wanted to locate the indoor swimming pool, a sure sign that he had the correct house, but he could not see an indoor pool through any of the home’s windows.
Bill took a few photos of the exterior of the home and he headed back to the office. When Bill showed Virgil the photos of the house, Virgil ordered aerial photos of the property. He then showed the photos to Tony, but Tony was still unsure, he thought the driveway had felt longer as they drove it in the darkened night. Next, Virgil contacted the Hamilton County Police department and asked for information about the owners of Fox Hollow Farm, but the police department would not relinquish any information to Virgil. The Hamilton County Police had no interest in assisting in this investigation, because Hamilton County was completely crime free, and not only was the county completely crime free, it also held the largest amount of wealthy residence in the entire state. Money, as they saw it, was not the root of all evil, instead, money meant the absence of evil, everyone in the county was above suspicion.
With no help from the local authorities, Virgil pulled all of the public records he could and he discovered that Fox Hollow Farm was owned by a family with the last name Baumeister. So, he added this information to the case file and he sent Bill back out to keep looking.
It had now been a year since Tony Harris had experienced one of the worst nights of his life, the night when his life had almost been snuffed out. But his life had moved on and he decided to go out and have a good time. As Tony sat in the bar, enjoying himself, just talking to some friends, there was suddenly a commotion and a guy began shouting toward the bartender, “This guy is Brian Smart” Tony was shocked and only saw a glance of the man who was being called out, as the man tore off through the bar and out of the front door. Tony leapt from his seat and gave chase, he made it outside of the bar just as the blue Buick was beginning to speed away, but it did not get away before Tony Harris was able to take down the car’s license plate number.
Tony took the plate number to Virgil who immediately called Detective Mary Wilson with this new information. They discovered that the car was registered to one Mr. Herb Baumeister, and Herb was the owner of a chain of local thrift stores and the owner of a property in Hamilton County named, Fox Hollow Farm. But so far this case was purely circumstantial and there was not enough evidence to arrest Herb for anything. So Detective Wilson did what she had done her entire career while hunting the worst people who live amongst us, and she went to confront Herb directly.
Mary went to one of the Sav-A-Lot stores owned by Herb, she stood outside assessing the situation and she saw who she believed to be Herb inside of the store. She walked up and opened the door to the thrift store, as she stepped inside she displayed her Detective badge for the man, who stood there, smirking at her.
“And how can I help you today, officer?” said the man in a cloying manner
Mary had no time for this man’s bad acting and she shot back at the man, “Its Detective. Are you Herb Baumeister? Owner of Fox Hollow Far and a light blue Buick?”
“I most certainly am” the man replied.
“What do you know about the attempted murder of Tony Harris?” Mary asked. At this the man feigned surprise, “I beg your pardon?”
But Mary Wilson was straight to the point, “You took Tony Harris to your home at Fox Hollow Farm and attempted to strangle him to death.”
The man’s face registered shock at this accusation, “I did not!” decreed the man. But Mary was relentless, “Johnny Bayer, Allan Broussard, Roger Goodlet, Richard Hamilton? None of these names ring a bell?”
Herb claimed that he had never heard of any of these people before.
Mary continued “Steven Hale, Jeff Jones, Michael Kiern, Manuel Resendez?”
Herb shook his head and said, “Listen, I think there had been some sort of misunderstanding here.” Mary asked another question, “So you don’t frequent gay bars around this city?” Herb was the most outraged by this question and his face turned red as he responded, “I am a married man. Not some sick pervert.”
At this Mary gave Herb a smile, “That is a relief to hear. So you won’t mind us taking a look around Fox Hollow Farm, just to clear any suspicions about you?” After asking this question, Herb’s shocked and almost comical reactions to Mary’s questions stopped and Mary saw the dark shadow envelope Herb’s face, the same change, she assumed, all of his victims must have seen in the last fleeting moments of their lives.
Herb spoke in a calculated tone, “Well now, I can’t have you traipsing all over my house. I’ve got kids, I don’t want them getting frightened.” Mary explained to the man that if he was innocent, he would have nothing to hide, but Herb shot back at her that he would not give the police permission to search his property and he also told her that she did not have enough evidence to get a search warrant. She thanked him for his time and left the store.
Detective Wilson then traveled out to Fox Hollow Farm and she was greeted at the door by a woman named Julie, she was Herb’s wife and as she looked at the police badge she let out an exasperated sigh. “You don’t have permission to come in.” Julie told the detective, “You aren’t allowed to search the house. There is nothing illegal here. There is nothing stolen here. Please just leave us alone.”
Mary was somewhat taken aback by this, seemingly prepared statement. “Stolen?” Mary asked the woman.
Julie then said, “Herb already called to warn me about you.” This made Mary a bit amused, “Ma’am, I don’t care if you have stolen every single piece of furniture in the building. I am here about a series of murders that we believe your husband committed. We want to search the property for evidence that Herb had been killing people.”
This made Julie actually snort with laughter, for a moment this all seemed like a joke, “Herb? Herb wouldn’t hurt a fly.” But a feeling of panic began to fill Julie, still she shook her head from side to side. She was a good and dutiful wife and she remained loyal to her husband, at all costs. Mary gave the woman her card and told her to call her if she thought of anything.
As Detective Wilson left the house, she knew that Herb would never contact her, it was clear to her that the man was a sociopath, but Julie seemed much more likely to break. Less than one week after Mary’s visit to Fox Hollow Farm, she received a frantic call from Julie, the woman was screaming at her over the phone that she had ruined her marriage. Since Mary’s visit to the thrift store and then the house, Herb had begun to spiral out of control. He had become almost agoraphobic and refused to leave the house. He was rampantly paranoid and he ran around the house all day peering out of the windows. The Sav-A-Lot stores had started going downhill due to the lack of supervision by Herb. Julie then told Herb that he should go visit his mother and just get away for a while. Herb took this as his chance to leave town without looking suspicious and so he agreed. The very day that Herb left town to visit his mother, Julie filed for divorce. Now with Herb out of town, Julie placed another call, this call was to Detective Mary Wilson, but in this call, she revealed to Mary that she had unearthed something strange out in the garden of their home at Fox Hollow Farm, a human skeleton, during this same phone call Julie gave Mary permission to search the property, while Herb was away and completely unaware.
Detective Wilson launched a full-scale search of the Fox Hollow Farm property. During this search, police discovered the indoor pool, surrounded by posed mannequins, just as Tony had described it. They also found a hidden video recorder, which they assumed, Herb had used to video tape his egregious acts, however; they could not locate any video tapes to confirm their suspicions. Because of Tony’s details about the night he had almost been killed by Herb, the police were not so surprised by what they found in the house, nothing could have prepared this investigations team for what they would unearth in the gardens, here at Fox Hollow Farm.
With little to no effort, the CSI team immediately began discovering human remains all over the property. Herb had lit bonfires as his way of disposing of human remains, what was left after the raging fires had destroyed almost all of the evidence was blackened and burnt pieces of human bone and teeth. The investigators found these pieces of bone and teeth strewn all around the garden. They also located a portion of a human skull, after searching the property for a further 3 days, the police were confident that they had located all of the human remains on the property.
Julie Baumeister, was understandably shocked by what was happening on her property. The police had informed her about all of their suspicions surrounding her husband’s bad deeds, listening to all of this information placed Julie into an almost catatonic state. The police officers had to remind Julie when it was time for her to drive to the school to pick up her children. So, in her state of shock, Julie grabbed her keys and pulled away from her home, a home she had once loved, but just about an hour later, Julie careened back into her driveway, driving like a bat out of hell. Detective Mary Wilson came out of the house as the sounds of Julie’s car disrupted the quite around the house.
Julie ran to Mary and almost crumpled into the woman’s arms, “Herb has taken Erich.” You see, that morning Herb decided to take an insurance policy with him as he left for his mother’s house and that insurance was his own son. Herb figured if he had Erich with him, his wife would stay under his control, even while he was away. The problem was that Julie had no idea that Herb had taken Erich, and she had already contacted Detective Wilson.
Herb Baumeister heard a knock at the door to his mother’s house, he walked to the door and he was somewhat taken aback that standing on the other side of the door were 6 uniformed police officers, from the local police department. He opened the door, “Can I help you?” Herb said to the gaggle of officers. One officer did the talking, “I am sorry to inform you that your wife has filed for divorce and has been granted full custody of your children until such time as the proceedings have been completed. We have been asked to come here by the county to collect Erich Baumeister and return him to his mother’s care.” The local police had not been informed about the investigation taking place at Herb’s house, Mary Wilson did not what these officers informing Herb about anything, or attempting to arrest him before they had collected all of the evidence they needed from his home.
Herb quickly called his wife a bitch in front of the officers and then he hollered over his shoulder, “Erich, pack your bag buddy. You are going back to mom.” He then turned back to the officers and said, “I’m sorry. I understand that you are just doing your job.” The local police then took Erich back to the safety of his mother.
Herb took this as his window of opportunity to create even more space between him and his quickly deteriorating home life. He informed his mother that Julie had filed for divorce, he then said that he needed to travel back home to speak to Julie about this, he walked out of his mother’s house and vanished off of the face of the earth.
Detective Wilson learned that Herb had fled, so five days after their initial search of Fox Hollow Farm, she broke the news about Herb’s vicious cycle of crimes during the evening news. They wanted to flush Herb out of hiding, or they hoped that someone would spot him and possibly call in a tip. And Mary did receive a phone call, this call was from Herb’s own brother Brad. Brad informed Mary that he had wired Herb $5,000.00. Brad said that Herb told him that he was in Canada on a business trip and did not have his wallet. Only one person on this earth would ever see Herb Baumeister alive again, but who was this monster?
Herb Baumeister was born April 7th, 1947 to his parents Herbert and Elizabeth Baumeister. His father was a successful anesthesiologist. Herb was the first child the couple conceived, but after Herb they would go on to have more children, after Herb was a female child they named Barbara, then another boy called Brad, the couple’s final child was another boy they named Richard. After having their entire brood of children, the couple felt cramped in their current house and they elected to move to the affluent Washington Township, which is located just north of Indianapolis. Herb spent his childhood doting on his younger siblings, he also loved playing practical jokes. He was a boy who could easily lift the mood of his entire family with a joke or two.
Herb had done well in school, and he had many friends. The fact that his family was wealthy helped, the boy seemed to lead a charmed life, absent from many of the real-world problems that you and I had to go through growing up. All of this was true, until Herb Baumeister hit puberty and the dark shadow began to creep into the boy’s soul. Slowly Herb’s practical jokes turned from innocently trying to draw laughter from others and they began being a bit more twisted, and they only spawned glee from Herb, himself. Herb never dated while in school, he was the nerdy skinny boy who was not good at sports. It was also during this time that Herb’s morbid fascinations began to manifest.
I do not know if at this age, Herb knew that he was gay, he was more fascinated by things that he thought had nothing to do with sex. One day as a bunch of boys were outside running around playing, Herb stopped and pondered out loud what human urine might taste like, he went on to say, he wondered if it would taste better cold, or fresh from the source. The boys wrote this off as Herb’s strange sense of humor and Herb began chasing them around asking for a drink. Kids this age, do not think about these things as disgusting, they think they are funny, because boys this age are just gross.
Herb was fascinated by dead animals, he wanted to touch them and play with them, his favorite new toy would be a rotting and bloated carcass. On more than one occasion Herb’s teacher would find a dead rotting crow left on her desk, all of the other students knew that Herb Baumeister had been the one responsible, but they never said anything, they did not want to be the target for Herb’s next prank. During this time, Herb, also became increasingly disruptive in class, one day when the teacher arrived at her classroom, she discovered that someone had urinated all over her desk. The other children, once again, did not rat out Herb, but the school knew it was him and they phoned his parents. Herb’s father agreed to get Herb some professional help for his problems and the school allowed Herb to continue attending class. Herb’s father used his connections in the medical field to create an endless cycle of referrals to specialists, specialists that Herb never saw. His father did not want his son imprisoned in the psych ward of some mental hospital and he thought a stern warning was enough to correct his son’s outlandish behavior.
In the 1950s and 1960s, psychiatry was still in its infancy and people were misdiagnosed regularly. If Herb’s father had actually taken him to a psychiatrist, he would have likely been put in an institution for the rest of his life. Herb was actually schizophrenic, and the only treatment during this time would have been electroconvulsive therapy or a lobotomy.
As Herb came into his teenage years, his friends began to distance themselves further and further away from the boy. His name became taboo around the school, with his teachers tip toeing around the problem and his friends slowly came to realize that it was not just Herb’s personality that was a problem. Even Herb’s own father continuously found excuses not to be in his odd son’s presence. The only person in Herb’s life that seemed to love him despite all his faults was his mother, but even she cried just looking at her little boy, a boy, she barley recognized anymore. Herb knew that his attraction to other boys would not be accepted by others, so he kept that hidden. Now his love of dead things was also driving people away, so attempted to tuck that deep inside of himself as well. After slightly changing how he presented himself to the world, Herb made it through his final year in school with less attention and far less scrutiny.
After high school, Herb went to Indiana University, there he was ostracized for his bizarre sense of humor and shunned by his classmates, he left the University and moved back in with his parents before he had even completed one semester. After returning home to live with his parents once again, Herb’s father used his connections to get Herb a job as a copy boy at the Indianapolis Star. Many of the staff at the paper found Herb odd, no matter how hard the awkward boy attempted to fit in, his one saving grace was his boss, Garry Donna, who served as the executive of the advertising department. Garry enjoyed the eccentricity in Herb’s sense of humor and he would let him get away with things that should never be tolerated in a professional office environment. When Herb’s fellow employees would complain about his inappropriateness Garry would just brush them off with a, “That is just Herb” comment. On one occasion, Garry was going to attend a football game at the University of Indiana with some of his close friends, so, Herb offered to drive the group of men. When the day arrived, Herb showed up to drive his boss along with his rich friends, but all of the men were shocked when Herb pulled up in a hearse. Apparently, Herb had used his father’s connections to purchase the hearse from a local mortuary at a great discount. So, once again Garry Donna turned to his friends and said, “That is just Herb.” It was not long after this incident that Herb quit the paper, after this incident praise from his boss Garry had somehow dried up. Herb’s father was even more upset that he could not hold a job than he was about Herb quitting school. So, Herb Sr. sent his son back to school and told him not to worry about everything at once, he wanted Herb to pick one class, only one, and stick to it. Herb perused the course catalog and found a class that he thought he could really zero in on, human anatomy and physiology. And that is what he did, Herb returned to school, enrolled in one class and put his nose to the grind stone. He soon realized that if he only focused on his course work and he stopped caring what those around him, thought of him, he could be quite successful.
With Herb’s newly found confidence, he decided to start traveling into Indianapolis so he could go incognito to some of the local gay establishments. He traveled via public transportation, so no one would spot the extremely noticeable hearse he drove as his daily vehicle. In the gay clubs, Herb found that he could go mostly unnoticed by the men surrounding him, but those who did notice him were kind and open. As he visited more and more often, the other regulars in the clubs began to recognize Herb as part of their welcoming community and he began making some actual friends, these people appreciated Herbs somewhat off sense of human and his disturbing observations made his friends cackle with laughter.
Herb Sr. felt that his son was spending all of his free time on frivolous matters, even though he did not know the extent of what Herb was actually doing with his free time. This worried Herb, he was hiding so many things about himself, he did not want to lose this new part of his life that he was growing to love. So, to get his father off of his case, he decided to pick an extracurricular activity that his father would agree with, and so Herb Baumeister joined the Young Republicans Club. Herb was quite a contradiction, he held fast to extremely right-wing political ideals all while secretly going to gay clubs most nights. But here in this club, Herb’s family wealth was a source of adoration and Herb became quickly popular within the group. It was here that Herb met Juliana Saiter, Juliana was a high school English teacher, who attended classes part-time at the University. Herb and Julie shared several interests, like cars and their right-wing political agendas. It was at this point in Herb’s life that he walked to the crossroads and had to face the devil. He could choose one of two paths; one was to live the traditional lifestyle expected of him by his family and friends, he could marry Julie, have 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs; or, he could continue his hidden gay lifestyle where he could make out with guys in bars, watch drag shows and be who he felt like on the inside. From the story we have been telling, you know which path Herb chose.
Herb and Julie married in November of 1971 and all of Indianapolis’ wealthy residents were in attendance. After the wedding came the first time Herb was expected to consummate their marriage, something Herb was not ready for. But Herb and Julie moved on, they were a shining example of what the atomic family should look like, they worked out in the yard together, they never fought and all of their friends simply saw them as a perfect couple. But things were not perfect, 6 months into the marriage Herb Sr. came for a visit and he observed that Herb simply agreed with anything Julie said, there was no argument, no trepidation, just agreement. After Herb’s father had been at their home for around 24 hours and he observed his son’s behavior, he suggested that Herb be checked into a mental institution. Herb, once again, just agreed to go. The institution was treating Herb for depression, but after 2 months of being in the institution, doctors diagnosed Herb with something different than depression. The doctors said that Herb had schizophrenia and that he was suffering from multiple personality disorder, a disorder that today has been largely debunked. But this diagnosis made perfect sense to Herb, no wonder he felt like a different person at times, it was because there was another person living in his body, a gay twink, who just wanted to party at the club and hook up with random dudes. After this realization, Herb’s depression almost melted away and his father had him removed from the institution. Of course, this was the 1970s and mental health was severely stigmatized, so Herb and his father swept his time in the mental hospital under the proverbial rug and pretended that it had never happened. Herb returned home to Julie his dutiful wife and it was then that Herb was able to consummate the couple’s marriage for the very first time. But Herb would not even undress in front of his wife and their first sexual experience was performed in a completely blackened room.
After this Herb began taking long walks to be alone, or whatever other excuses he would use to begin returning to the gay clubs under the cover of night. He escaped to the dark world his other self, loved to be in, but he found no satisfaction here either, if he had sex with a man, he hated it just as much as he had hated having sex with his own wife. Eventually Herb and Julie conceived and produced 3 children; Marie, Erich and Emily. Herb was an unexpectedly attentive father, he paid lots of attention to his children and time with them meant time he was not letting his second personality do the things it wished to do. Due to his attempt to suppress his darker self and spend all of his free time with his children, the dark Herb of his adolescents came back to the surface and Herb began to urinate on his boss’ desk at work. This went on for much longer that you would suspect, but everyone in the office was afraid of what Herb might due if he was fired for this conduct unbecoming of an employee. The final straw was the day Herb’s boss came in to his urine-soaked desk and there on his desk was a letter from the governor of Indiana, now tea stained with bodily fluids. Herb was told to leave quietly and they would keep his water works as their own little secret.
It was difficult after this for Herb to find a job. Julie returned to teaching part-time, just to put food on the table. Eventually Herb’s dad found him an entry level job as a clerk at a local thrift store. Herb took the job, but he was not satisfied by the position, quite honestly, he felt it was beneath him. Two months into Herb’s menial job, the point where he would normally begin wetting everything down around him, he received some urgent news that took him away from this job for a little while, his father, Herb Sr. had died. The death of a parental figure has been the commencement of many a serial killer’s murderous spree. Herb continued working at the thrift store after his father’s passing, but finally, with the stalwart figure of his life, now out of the way he decided that he could do whatever he wanted. So, Herb decided that he had learned all he could from his three years working at the thrift store and what he really wanted to do was to open his own chain of thrift stores, thus Sav-A-Lot was born. This also gave Herb the opportunity to drive all over Indiana and Ohio, searching for treasures for his new store. Herb and Julie opened the doors to their first Sav-A-Lot in 1988, and the public was impressed at the organization and cleanliness of this new thrift sore. The store made a profit of $50,000 in its first year. During their second year of operation, their second location opened. And in year three, the couple had made enough money to buy a fancy new Tudor style house on a property called Fox Hollow Farm. This property had 4 bedrooms, an indoor pool and over 18 acers of land, it was more than enough room for the couple and their 3 children. Finally, Julie felt happy, she felt they had achieved what their goals had been since they married. Julie still wondered about certain things, like Herb’s long trips to Ohio when he would come back with nothing for the stores, or his long drives he took at night to gather his thoughts. But those were small things, that were probably nothing and Julie told herself to just be content with what she had, so that is what she did. After moving into the house at Fox Hollow Farm, one day while Erich was out paying in the garden, he unearthed a partial human skeleton. Erich ran to the house to tell his mother what he had found. This obviously upset the woman greatly and she phoned Herb to tell him about the discovery. Herb told his wife in an almost monotone voice, that is one of my dad’s old dissection skeletons, he went on to explain that it used to take up residents in the garage, but he had moved it to the garden and buried it, because he needed the room in the garage. Either way, Herb told Julie not to worry about it, he would take care of it when he came home, so that is what she did. Julie had done whatever her husband had told her to do, until the day she contacted Detective Mary Wilson and that one phone call set off a flurry of unimaginable truths.
Truths that we will cover next week in our final episode on Herb Baumeister. We dance round in a ring an suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and know.