'If somebody were killing cheerleaders, nobody would rest': Police identify more victims of suspected serial killer (2024)

Jonny Bayer was 20 years old when he said goodbye to his mother and left for his shift at a fast-food restaurant in the US state of Indiana in 1993.

He never came home.

Warning: This story contains content which may be distressing for some readers.

More than half a decade later a single rib belonging to him would be found among the 10,000 pieces of human remains scattered across a property owned by a suspected serial killer.

Now investigators say they have identified more victims of Herbert Baumeister, who died before he could ever be charged.

The 'perfectionist' owner of a sprawling estate

Fox Hollow Farm is a sprawling seven-hectare estate in Westfield, Indiana.

In the middle of the property sits a 1,021-square-metre home boasting four bedrooms, a five-car garage, two libraries, stained glass windows and an indoor pool.

In 1994 it was owned by businessman Herbert Baumeister.

Baumeister, already in his late 40s, had grown up in the state's capital of Indianapolis and met his wife, Julie, at Indiana University in 1967.

The pair got married in 1971, with Baumeister working at the State Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Ex-colleagues would later say he was "a perfectionist, given to sudden, unprovoked rages", according to People magazine.

After leaving the bureau, he turned his attention to second-hand shops, opening the first of three "Sav-A-Lots" in 1989.

Initial success didn't last. The businesses began to fail and financial pressures grew.

By 1991 the marriage had become strained and Baumeister moved out of the home, filing for divorce, but the couple reconciled shortly after.

'If somebody were killing cheerleaders, nobody would rest': Police identify more victims of suspected serial killer (1)

In November of that same year the family bought Fox Hollow Farm.

In May 1993, gay men began to disappear in Indianapolis.

As men disappear, a human skull appears in the yard

Virgil Vandagriff, a former police detective turned private investigator, was asked to look into the disappearances of Allen Wayne Broussard and Roger Allen Goodlet, by both men's families.

"I had investigators go out to the gay bars, start gathering information and passing out the wanted posters," he told news station WRTV in 2022.

"And we found out real quick there were a lot of missing people, a lot of missing gay people in Indianapolis or the Indiana area."

Members of the community were angry, believing the police were not treating the situation as seriously because it involved gay men.

Former magazine publisher Josh Thomas said in the following years that he believed hom*ophobia and a strained relationship with the police didn't help the situation.

"If somebody were killing cheerleaders at a suburban Dayton high school, nobody would rest until the killers were found," he told Daton Daily News in 1996.

In mid-1994, the Baumeister's 13-year-old son brought home a human skull he had found in the woods near the family home.

Herb Baumeister told his family the skull — and the pile of other bones found with it — were part of a medical school skeleton that his anaesthesiologist father had brought home.

Police were still investigating the multiple disappearances.

One man came forward and told them of an incident with a man who called himself Brian, who had taken him to a sprawling estate and tried to strangle him during sex.

He gave them a licence plate number – registered to Herb Baumeister.

Baumeister refused to let police search the estate, and for five months of 1995 investigators were left trying to convince Julie Baumeister of what they knew.

"I was angry," she said later. "I said, 'You're wrong. That can't be true.'"

As police kept contacting her, she would remember thinking: "What if the police are right and I'm wrong?"

On June 24, 1996, she let them search the estate while Baumeister wasn't home.

Before he could be arrested, he fled to Canada and took his own life in an Ontario park, leaving behind a three-page suicide note.

He was sorry about spoiling the scenery in the park, he was sorry about the damage to his marriage, he was sorry about the financial trouble to the businesses.

What was missing, according to officials at the time, was any mention of the human remains scattered across his property.

Police have since identified at least 10 alleged victims who all disappeared between 1993 and 1995.

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They also suspect Baumeister may have been an unidentified serial killer known as the I-70 Strangler, who killed at least a dozen boys and men from 1980 to 1991.

Bodies stopped appearing along the Interstate 70 highway at the same time the family bought Fox Hollow Farm.

'I know that man got him, I just know it'

Allen Livingston disappeared in 1993, just a month before his 28th birthday.

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His mother, Sharon Livingston, kept her landline phone operational for almost 40 years in the hope her son would call.

"When Allen disappeared, there was only a landline," she told media in 2022.

"That's the only number he knew because there was no cell phone.

"He was always happy and he never had a bad word to say about anybody. He was just a wonderful person.

"I know he's there. I know he's there. I know that man got him. I just know it. I feel that. I know."

Police finally identified Allen's remains among the bones found on Fox Hollow Farm last November, along with those of 34-year-old Manuel Resendez.

They were identified as part of a "renewed" investigation launched by the Hamilton County Coroner's Office.

A few weeks ago another name was announced – Jeffrey A Jones, who also disappeared in 1993.

'If somebody were killing cheerleaders, nobody would rest': Police identify more victims of suspected serial killer (2)

There are four more DNA profiles which have not been identified, and have been sent to the FBI for genetic genealogy testing.

Coroner Jeff Jellison said: "Because many of the remains were found burnt and crushed, this investigation is extremely challenging.

"However, the team of law enforcement and forensic specialists working the case remain committed."

DNA testing ongoing for remains found on farm

Jonny Bayer's mother, Rose Dewey, buried his rib at a cemetery not far from where he had grown up.

"One rib bone," she told the Indianapolis Star in 1999.

"They did DNA testing and matched one rib bone. The first, right rib.

"Herbert Baumeister took the normal things away from us. He left us with a lot of unanswered questions.

"Even though they gave me his rib bone and we had the services, it's not real to me.

"I'm not really anywhere closer to the end of this as I was six years ago. I can still see him some-day coming up to the door."

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DNA testing of the other remains found at Fox Hollow Farm continues.

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'If somebody were killing cheerleaders, nobody would rest': Police identify more victims of suspected serial killer (2024)
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