Science

Coroner asks relatives of missing for DNA, IDs linked to suspected serial killer: “These people are somebody’s sons”

An Indiana coroner’s office is asking relatives of youths who disappeared between the late 1980s and early 1990s, in a renewed effort to submit DNA samples so that human remains can be identified. The remains, which were once owned by a man suspected of the murders, could be identified. Whose scope is unclear.

More than 10,000 human bones and bone fragments were discovered in the mid-1990s at Fox Hollow Farm, an 18-acre property in Westfield, a Hamilton County town a few miles north of Indianapolis, county seat said Chief Deputy Coroner Jeff Jellison and the Coroner-elect.

The land’s then-owner, businessman Herbert Baumeister, was 49 when he killed himself in Canada in July 1996 as investigators sought to question him about the remains.

Investigators believed that Baumeister, a married father of three who frequented gay bars, took the men to his home and killed them. By 1999, authorities had linked him to at least 16 men missing since 1980, including several whose bodies were found in shallow streams in rural central Indiana and western Ohio.

Jellison said in a news release that investigators believe the 10,000 charred bones and fragments found at Baumeister’s property could represent the remains of at least 25 people.

CBS affiliate WTTV reported that the investigation began after Baumeister’s 15-year-old son found a human skull on the family’s property, about 60 yards from the home.

At the time, Baumeister explained the find was part of his late father’s medical practice, the station reported.

Three days after the boy’s remains were discovered, more remains were found by Hamilton County firefighters, puzzling investigators, the station reported.

“It’s an unusual place to find bodies,” then-Sheriff Joe Cook told The Indianapolis Star.

He said 11 human DNA samples were extracted from the bones during the original investigation in the 1990s. Jellison said eight of those people, all youths, were identified and matched to DNA samples, but the remaining three DNA profiles belonged to unknown individuals.

Jellison, who takes over as Hamilton County coroner in January, said in a news release that it is “not acceptable” to have skeletal remains sit on a shelf for nearly a quarter-century. “We need to do everything possible to identify these people and return them to their loved ones,” he said.

Jellison said the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office is partnering with the University of Indianapolis’ Forensic Archeology Laboratory, the Indiana State Police and other law enforcement agencies to determine if some of the remains can be used to create additional DNA profiles. Yes or No.

Jellison said that so far about 100 bones have been identified that may be viable for DNA extraction.

He is encouraging relatives of youths who went missing from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s to submit a DNA sample to aid identification efforts. Jellison said anyone with a friend who went missing during that time frame can tip off investigators.

DNA was a relatively new investigative tool a quarter-century ago, Jellison said, but now DNA profiling “has become faster and more user-friendly.”

“These remains represent people. These people are someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father. They are not just a box of bones. They are people and we have to pursue that,” he said.

If you know anyone who went missing in the 1980s or 1990s in the Indianapolis area, 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 mid-90s, let’s give it a shot,” Jellison said. “He may be alive and well somewhere, we don’t know. But he may also be one of the victims of this serial killing.”

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