Discovery of Bodies Yields Sad Footnote
From rural communities across Indiana, young gay men have moved to the big city, leaving behind their families to find a place where they could openly express their sexuality. When some of them began disappearing, no one came looking for them.
Years later, at least four gay men have been identified among the remains of at least seven bodies discovered on an 18-acre suburban estate whose owner committed suicide in July. Three were male prostitutes working the gay bars in Indianapolis, police said.
Perhaps the saddest part is that their families didn’t come looking for them, members of the gay community said.
“They go to the nearest big city where there’s a number of gay clubs and gay life,” said Ted Fleischaker, publisher of The Word, a gay newspaper with 10,000 readers in Indianapolis. “They may or may not even bother to tell their mom and dad they’re even gone. They won’t even go home for Christmas.”
No one knew whether the men had even left Indianapolis. They were reported missing between July 1993 and July 1994, and by that time, “there was definitely some nervousness” among the gay community, said Jeff McQuary of Justice Inc., which promotes the civil rights of gays and those infected with HIV.
“Probably we never would have known if not for this very accidental discovery,” McQuary said.
The dead were found along with spent shotgun shells and handcuffs on the Fox Hollow Farms estate. Herbert Baumeister, 49, lived there until he went to Canada, where he shot himself to death in a park in Ontario, police said.
Baumeister, a businessman who was going through a divorce, left behind a four-page letter that revealed nothing about the discovery of the bones.
But Baumeister’s ties to the Indianapolis gay community are unquestioned. Police have spoken to men who had sexual encounters with Baumeister, said Sgt. Ken Whisman, the lead investigator on the case.
“We put him in every gay bar in the city,” Whisman said.
Whisman, however, refused to call Baumeister a serial killer, saying that since the causes of death remain undetermined, the cases aren’t even classified as homicides.
Baumeister’s wife, Juliana, contacted police earlier this year after her 15-year-old son had found a skull in the woods on the estate. Baumeister told his family that the skull had belonged to his father, who was a doctor.
About the same time, the Police Department’s missing persons unit acted on an informant’s tip and sought to question Baumeister about one or more men who had been reported missing. But Baumeister evaded them.
The department said it handled 160 reports of missing adult men in 1993 and 13 went unsolved. It had 10 unsolved cases out of 232 in 1994, and nine unsolved cases out of 178 in 1995.
Most people in the Indianapolis gay community believe that police have treated the disappearances seriously, McQuary said.
Fleischaker, however, said a police registry of missing gay men may have prevented some of the deaths. “They didn’t close in on this guy until it was too late,” he said.