HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office is trying to identify the remains of more than a dozen people found on one Westfield property back in 1996.
Police suspect Herbert Baumeister was a serial killer, operating in the mid-80s to mid-90s.
“We do know Mr. Baumeister did frequent gay bars and some of the missing people that were identified were tied back to gay bars and nightclubs,” said Jeff Jellison, the Hamilton County Coroner-Elect.
In 1996, roughly 10,000 bones and bone fragments were collected at Baumeister’s 18.5-acre property where his home, Fox Hollow Farm, was.
”Some of them as small as a fingernail, some of them as large as some leg bones,” said Jellison. “Most of those remains were crushed before they were discarded, a lot of them were also burnt before they were discarded. Those two things right there create huge hurdles.”
Jellison said 11 DNA samples were found from those remains in 1996 and of those eight were identified. Investigators believe the bones belong to an estimated 25 people. The bones have remained in storage at the University of Indianapolis since being found.
”These people were on a shelf for 26 years,” Jellison said. “They were forgotten, they’re no longer forgotten.”
Jellison hopes new technology can help them identify more samples in the remains.
”There is nuclear DNA, instead of just mitochondrial DNA, so that broadens our comparison sample,” he said.
But, he needs help from the community.
”If you had a relative, a loved one, that was missing from the mid-80s to middle 90s,” Jellison said. “I need you to come forward and provide us with DNA.”
Jellison said it’s a simple process.
“It’s just a cheek swab,” he said. “It takes just a few seconds. You can come to us, we’ll come to you, but we need those swabs. Without those, we’re not going to go anywhere with this investigation.”
But, it’s not just new DNA technology going into this investigation, Jellison said the work of the deputy coroner’s office will be huge.
”Tracking down next of kin, getting those DNA swabs, following up with other law enforcement agencies on missing cases they have,” Jellison said. “It’s just a lot of good ole fashioned police work.”
If you don’t have a missing relative you’re looking for, Jellison said there is still a way you can help.
”The more people talk about this case, the broader reach it will get, the broader reach it gets, I’m hoping will provide people to step forward. Call me and we’ll take it from there,” he said.
He said the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office renewed effort is already getting attention.
“Today my phone has been ringing off the hook from people saying, ‘Hey, I had someone missing,'” Jellison said.
He said they’re focusing their search in Indiana and surrounding states, but the investigation could stretch further.
“I’ve been contacted by a law enforcement agency in Florida that have an interest in this case,” Jellison said.
Attention is something Robert Graves has been used to since he bought Fox Hollow Farm 15 years ago. He said people still drive by to look at the home Herbert Baumeister once lived in.
”We try to keep the gate shut but if you don’t you’ll have people coming down the drive,” Graves said.
Graves took us around the property, showing us where investigators found thousands of bones back in 1996.
”This area south of the house is where most of the remains were found,” Graves said, pointing to the woods behind his Fox Hollow Farm.
Graves said he’s found bones himself – from a full femur about 10 years ago to a tiny finger bone just this summer – and he thinks there are more.
”It’s just a large wooded area and I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to search it all, but it would be a big, big job.”
The original Fox Hollow Farm property was 18.5 acres with roughly 60% of that being woods.
Graves has the same hope as Jellison, the people found here can get their names back.
”Get them identified, get them sent to their loved ones, so they can be sent to a final resting place,” Jellison said.
If you know someone who went missing in the Indianapolis area in the 1980s or 1990s, Jellison wants you to call the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office at 317-770-4415.
”If you haven’t seen your loved ones since the middle 90s, let’s give this a shot,” Jellison said. “They may be alive and well someplace, we don’t know. But they also might have been one of the victims in this serial killing.”
The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office is working with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Fishers Police Department DNA Unit, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Missing Persons Division, Indiana State Police Biology Unit and the University of Indianapolis’ Archeology and Forensic Lab.