This Day In Infamy: July 3

Herbert Richard Baumeister in a 1986 mugshot.

1996: Herb Baumeister Eats His Last Peanut Butter Sandwich

July 3, 1996 – Suspected serial killer Herb Baumeister kills himself with a single gunshot to the head rather than answer questions regarding human remains on his Westfield estate. In his suicide note, the founder of Sav-A-Lot thrift stores states his intention to eat his favorite snack, a peanut butter sandwich, and then “go to sleep.”

The remains of eleven men were found on his property, only eight of whom were eventually identified.

He is also suspected of being the I-70 Strangler, killing at least nine and dumping their bodies along the interstate between Indianapolis and Ohio.

In Their Own Words: Belle Gunness

Beginning in the summer of 1905, the following ‘lonely hearts’ ad began appearing in Norwegian-language newspapers. Translated into English, it read:

WANTED—A woman who owns a beautifully located and valuable farm in first class condition, wants a good and reliable man as partner in same. Some little cash is required and will be furnished first class security.

Anyone interested in the ad was directed to contact “B.G.” in care of the newspaper.

D.J. Hunter, Belle’s postman at her LaPorte Farm, later said she often received as many as eight to ten letters per day from hopeful love interests, including several of her future victims.

On This Day in Infamy: A Serial Killer Exposed

In the predawn hours of April 28, 1908, a fire broke out in a two-story farmhouse in LaPorte. By the time the blaze was extinguished and the ruins sifted through, a serial killer would be exposed and a mystery posed which still remains unsolved to this day.

Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset Sorenson Gunness, better known as Belle Gunness, had a rather unfortunate past. Not only was the hardy hog farmer twice-widowed, but mysterious fires seemed to plague her properties. She’d lost both a candy store and a house in Chicago before purchasing a 48-acre farm on McClung Road in LaPorte, and it was her house that had erupted in flames that early April morning. When the volunteer fire department responded to the blaze, they expected to find the bodies of Belle and her children—Myrtle, 11, Lucy, 9, and Phillip, 5— but ended up finding more than they had bargained for…much more.

By the time the smoldering farm had given up its secrets, at least 13 bodies had been discovered and no one was even sure if Belle’s cadaver was among them. A subsequent investigation revealed she had been running ‘Lonely Hearts’ ads in newspapers, drawing victims to her with the lure of a prosperous farm and the promise of matrimony. The unlucky suitors who responded to her ads were instructed to bring a large cash deposit when they came to visit, in order to prove their financial solvency and worthiness to assume management of the farm. But, once they set foot on the farm, the men were never seen alive again. Belle ruthlessly robbed and killed her unsuspecting visitors before hacking their bodies to pieces and depositing them in various places around her property. The body of Jennie Olsen, Belle’s foster daughter, was also found. Belle had told everyone the girl had gone to school in California.

Ray Lamphere, Belle’s former handyman and occasional lover, was eventually convicted of arson, but he was never convicted of murder because no one was certain that the body found in the burned-down farmhouse belonged to Belle, or if it was she who had killed the children. For one thing, the corpse in question was quite a bit smaller than Belle had been in life, and there were reported sightings of her long after the fire. On his deathbed, Lamphere allegedly told at least one person that he’d taken Belle to a train station after the fire was set and she was waiting for him, living in disguise as a man, until they could be reunited.

Supposed sightings of Belle continued for years. In 1931, a California woman living under the name of Esther Carlson was accused of poisoning a man for his money. It was thought that the woman might be Belle living under an alias, but she died awaiting trail and before a definitive identification could be made. However, former LaPorte residents viewed the woman’s remains and stated that they did indeed believe the woman to be Belle.

In the end, no one knows how much money Belle made from her lethal scheme, just how many people she killed, or even the true circumstances under which she actually died. The bloody mystery of Belle Gunness, LaPorte’s murderous matron, still remains unsolved today.

Eyler Victim Identified

From Associated Press:

Apr 26, 2021 / 09:40 AM EDT /Updated: Apr 26, 2021 / 09:40 AM EDT

CHICAGO (AP) — Human remains found at a northwestern Indiana farm have been identified as a male Chicago victim of the late serial killer Larry Eyler, authorities announced Sunday.

The Newton County Coroner’s Office in Indiana identified the victim as John Ingram Brandenburg Jr. of Chicago. No age was given. He was among four “young men” found on an abandoned farm in rural Lake Village on October 18, 1983, according to the office.

Two others, Michael Bauer and John Bartlett, have already been identified, leaving one victim nameless, according to authorities.

Brandenburg, called “Johnny” by his mother, had been drugged and killed by Eyler, who confessed to at least 20 killings before dying in an Illinois prison in 1994. Eyler was on death row for the 1984 murder of Danny Bridges, a 15-year-old.

Indiana authorities worked with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project, which uses genetic genealogy, and others to find a match to a family member. That led to the positive identification earlier this month, according to the coroner’s office.

“While my heart breaks for this family, I’m thankful that they finally have some of the answers they’ve waited so long for, and I hope this brings them peace,” Rebecca Goddard, a Newton County prosecutor, said in a statement Sunday from the DNA Doe Project.

She worked on the case with Indiana State Police. The prosecutor’s office and state police didn’t return messages left Sunday.

The coroner’s office said Brandenburg’s family had been contacted and authorities would not release further information until relatives gave further permission.

A Little Ditty About A Serial Killer

Inspiration strikes in the strangest of places.

Belle Gunness was a lady fair

In Indiana State.

She weighed about three hundred pounds,

And that is quite a weight.

That she was stronger than a man

Her neighbors all did own;

She butchered hogs quite easily,

And did it all alone.

But hogs were just a sideline

She indulged in now and then;

Her favorite occupation

Was a-butchering of men

Anonymous, “The Ballad of Belle Gunness”