Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Herb Baumeister

The Dark Side

"An improper mind is a perpetual feast."

Logan Pearsall Smith

Herbert Richard Baumeister was born April 7, 1947, to Dr. Herbert E. and Elizabeth Baumeister in the Currier & Ives Butler-Tarkington area of Indiana. A sister, Barbara, was born in 1948 and two brothers followed after, Brad in 1954 and Richard in 1956. As the fathers medical practice progressed he was an anesthesiologist the family eventually moved to affluent Washington Township.

Herb Baumeister
Herb Baumeister

Herberts childhood seemed normal, according to the book, Where the Bodies are Buried, by Fannie Weinstein and Melinda Wilson. However, they continue, "by the time he reached his adolescence, it became apparent that something about him wasnt quite right." A close school pal named Bill Donovan recalled that Herb would fall into strange reveries, often pondering repulsive things like what it would be like to taste human urine. And doing strange things. One morning on the way to school, he picked up a dead crow that had been hit by a car, shoved it in his pocket, then while the teacher wasnt looking dropped it on her desk.

Irresponsible and often combustive, Herbs behavior soon caught the attention of his father, who secreted his son off to mental examinations. A lengthy series of tests eventually diagnosed the boy as schizophrenic, having a two-or-more-sided personality base. However, there is no record of further treatment.

Because his high school, North Central, focused on sports activities, pedantic bookish Herb could not become part of the "in" crowd. He tried to be one of the bunch, but, "he just didnt blend in," recalls Donovan. He withdrew to himself and spent many hours alone. As for his interest in dating, friend Donovan answers, "Zero, I never saw him date."

In his college years, he remained as ever directionless. He dropped out in his freshman year, returned for a semester here and there throughout the next four years, but never graduated. Nevertheless, through his fathers persistence his father was a respected man in town the Indianapolis Star, the major newspaper, hired teenage Herb on as a copyboy. Garry Donna, an advertising executive who worked for the paper, remembers that Herb was "sensitive" as to the way he was viewed and treated by the higher ups. He obsessively wanted to be somebody. He dressed well and was eager but, again, did not fit in.

One odd incident occurred when Herb offered to drive Donna and his friends to the IU football game in hopes that he might become one of the gang. When the day came, he showed up in a hearse, probably acquired through connections with the hospital where his father worked, and, with lights flashing, raced to the game, laughing all the way. "People started pulling off the road," recalls Donna. "He even wore a chauffeurs cap. He thought it was kind of funny." Donna, however, his friends and their dates, wondered what kind of oddball was at the steering wheel.

And the weirdness continued. Say Weinstein and Wilson, "It wasnt long after he started working at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles another job his father is rumored to have secured for him that Herb began...ranting and raving at fellow employees for no apparent reason...His tenure over the years (marked) odd behavior, according to former co-workers and others." One Christmas he "raised eyebrows" by sending co-workers a card with a photo of him and another guy dressed in drag.

Despite his in-house personality conflicts and erratic deployment, the bureau nonetheless noticed an apparent go-get-em attitude mixed with a high degree of intelligence; it wasnt long after that he earned the title of program director. Where others might have at this point taken the challenge with an exerted professionalism, Herbs antics increased and flourished. "Herb had displayed what those who knew him characterized as a bizarre sense of humor," Weinstein and Wilson attest. "While at the BMV, it took the form of urinating on his bosss desk...It was no secret around the office who the culprit was: Still, Herb somehow managed to avoid being fired (until) he urinated on a letter addressed to the Governor of Indiana."

In November, 1971, Herb had married Juliana (Julie) Saiter in the United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Julie was a college graduate and was introduced to him by a mutual friend. She was attracted to the tall, light haired, boy-faced Baumeister and, in their initial chat, they discovered they shared many things in common. Both were Young Republicans and both yearned to have their own business one day.

Julie Baumeister as teacher (Greg Vanzo)
Julie Baumeister as teacher
(Greg Vanzo)

Julie quit her job as a high school journalism instructor in the latter half of the 1970s to concentrate on having a family. Besides, Herb was earning decent wages at the BMV. Three children followed: Marie in 1979, Erich in 1981 and Emily three years later.

When Herb was asked to leave the BMV, the ever-faithful Julie returned to teaching to supplement her husbands income through an assortment of odd jobs. He eventually wound up working for a thrift shop and, although he felt menial at first, soon realized the potential available in a place like that. He and Julie talked it over and, based on Herbs acquired knowledge of running such an outlet over the three years he worked there, decided to invest what money they had into their own store. They borrowed $4,000 from Herbs now-widowed mother and in 1988 opened Sav-a-Lot Thrift in conjunction with the highly respected Childrens Bureau of Indianapolis, a centenarian charity benefiting the areas families.

The shop, located on 46th Street, sold used clothing, household goods and a number of second-hand items. The inventory technically belonged to the charity, which in turn received a contracted percentage of the proceeds. Shoppers found the Sav-A-Lot tidy and offering only quality merchandise; it became a popular place to shop for families on a budget. In no time, Herb and Julie Baumeister received high praise from the Childrens Bureau, whose human cause greatly benefited from the couples obvious management skills. The store earned $50,000 its first year. Soon, they opened a second store.

Successful business people now, in 1991 the Baumeisters moved from their middle-class home into the fashionable Westfield district, nearly 20 miles from Indianapolis, in Hamilton County. Here they bought, on contract, an elegant Tudor-style home called Fox Hollow Farms, complete with four bedrooms, an indoor swimming pool and a riding stable. Its eighteen-and-a-half acres provided the country tranquility in which Julie always hoped to be able to raise her children.

The couple was living "the American dream."

On the surface.

"(Herb) called the shots and Julie always went along for the ride," explains John Egloff, the Baumeisters one-time lawyer, who felt Julie was forced to live in Herbs shadow. In Where the Bodies are Buried, he discusses his perception of the couple. "Whenever they disagreed about what should be done with respect to a particular matter, Herb would basically take over the conversation. Hed say, Julie, thats not what were going to do.... Julie deferred to Herb, but she wasnt very happy about it."

More than once, the couple split, albeit briefly.

The house itself seemed to adopt the tension within its walls. Neighbors and business associates who entered the Fox Hollow estate later recalled the rooms as being cluttered and unkempt. The Baumeisters, they said, lacked order. Or, more appropriate, ignored it. The once groomed grounds of the manor house became overgrown.

Julie would often take the children to visit Grandma Baumeister weeks on end at her condominium on Lake Wawasee. The couple would tell their friends that Herb didnt go along because of business pressures.

Behind the bedroom door, there was little pacificity to their marital problems. "Julie later admitted that she and Herb had engaged in sex only six times in the 25 years they were married," detective Vandagriff explains. And, according to authors Weinstein and Wilson, Julie never saw her husband nude. "Herb dressed in the bathroom (and) when it came time to go to bed he would always put on pajamas (slipping) between the sheets." He was ashamed of his skinny body.

"That should have been a tip-off to Julie that something was wrong," Vandagriff adds, reflecting again on those "danger signals" of bad, bad things to come. "But, she was an over-trusting woman who, despite their problems, put complete stock in her husbands actions."

Julie, probably in trying so hard to reconcile their differences, threw her mental state into a complete dependency on Herb. "I think deep inside she chose not to see the signals," Vandagriff continues.

And that may have been the reason why she believed a preposterous alibi in 1994. Son Erich had been playing in the familys wooded back yard when he found, half buried, a complete human skeleton. Showing the gruesome discovery to his mother, Julie anxiously awaited her husbands arrival that day home from the shop. When she showed him the curiosity, he explained (in quite a monotone) that it had been one of his doctor fathers dissecting skeletons; he had had it stored in their garage and buried it in the yard only after he decided to clean out the garage.

Simple explanation, said he. Subject closed.

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