The story of Herb and Julie Baumeister begins with a home that looks like paradise. A $1 million 18-acre estate in Indianapolis suburb Westfield, Indiana. It’s a mansion, complete with an indoor pool, set in wooded grounds. And it’s about to become a nightmare for the family inside it.
In the fall of 1994, Julie’s son Erich was playing in the wooded backyard when he unearthed a human skull. Herb explained that the bone had been one of his father’s dissecting skeletons, and she accepted the explanation without question.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Soon, gay men and boys started disappearing in the Indianapolis area. And when police got a tip from someone who claimed he had been killed by a man calling himself Brian Smart, they tracked down the suspect’s license plate number, which led them to Herb Baumeister.
Then he began bringing men to his home, often using the name Brian Smart to hide his identity. His behavior became increasingly odd, but Julie never saw it as anything to worry about. In the early years of their marriage, she spent most of her time with the kids and Herb stayed busy running the Sav-A-Lot thrift store chain he founded.
So when Erich found that bone in the woods, she assumed it had simply been carried off by wild animals. And she refused to let police search her property. For months, police would contact Julie and her lawyer Bill Wendling, but she was adamant that she’d never give them permission. It wasn’t until Herb’s erratic behavior had reached an unbearably high level—even to the oblivious Julie—that she finally agreed to allow police on her property.