On this date in 1986, Michael “Mike” Wayne Jackson (41) shot and killed probation officer Tom Gahl during a home visit. Jackson fled, setting off a three state crime spree during which he is suspected of committing kidnappings and two other murders in his effort to evade law enforcement. Briefly named to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, Jackson was cornered in a Wright City, Missouri barn where he ended his own life with a self-inflicted shotgun wound ten days later.
On this day in 1983, the bodies of Jamie Engelking (21), her children Jessica Brown (2) and Brandon Engelking, Jr. (1), along with family friend Amanda Davis (12), were found buried in a shallow grave in Bartholomew County. They had disappeared the previous August when Jamie took the children camping.
Robert Bassett Jr. was found guilty of the murders in 1998 and sentenced to four life sentences without the possibility of parole. The Indiana Supreme Court later overturned that conviction, stating pre-trial publicity had tainted the jury. Bassett was tried and convicted again a couple years later.
Sometime in the late evening of September 17, 1983, the Osbourne family of Fort Wayne were bludgeoned in their home. Killed were father R. Daniel Osborne (35), his wife, Jane (34), their son, Ben (11), and the family dog. The couple’s daughter, Caroline (2), was also beaten but managed to survive. Both Jane and Caroline had been sexually assaulted. Almost unimaginably, the tragedy was not discovered for two days, during which time the toddler was left alone with the corpses of her parents and brother. When rescued, she reportedly told police “Mommy and Daddy are sleeping.”
After being charged with an unrelated crime four months later, Calvin Perry III (18), apparently confessed to killing the Osbournes. But he would never be put on trial for the crimes. Perry was found dead, hanging in his cell, within 48 hours of his incarceration. His guilt is still debated to this day.
On this day in 1897, a vengeful mob broke into the Ripley County Jail and forcibly removed five robbery suspects before lynching them. The vigilantes strung up the suspects’ naked and battered bodies from an elm tree about two blocks from the jail then dispersed a little before 1 AM. It is believed that an estimated 250 people were present during the hanging. Approximately only 800 people lived in Versailles at the time.
The lynching victims were identified as:
- LYLE LEVI, 57, shot through the breast then dragged to the tree and hanged
- WILLIAM JENKINS, 27, skull crushed in with a stool, noose put around neck,
body dragged to the tree and suspended
- HENRY SCHULER, 24, skull crushed, body dragged to the tree and suspended
- CLIFFORD GORDON, 22, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged
- ALBERT ANDREWS, 30, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged
July 9, 1904 – William Starbuck returns from a “trip to town” and cannot find his wife Mollie or infant daughter. After a thorough search of their Greensboro farm, he hears the distant sound of a woman’s shrieks. Following the shouts into the forest, the desperate man finally traces their source to an abandoned cistern where he finds Mollie. Bruised and raving at the bottom of the well, she’s screaming about being chased by a monster, and the body of baby Beulah’s is floating in the water beside her.
Mollie dies two days later without ever regaining her sanity. She is buried in the same grave as her child.
Although her physician proposes that Mollie was suffering hallucinations brought on by postpartum depresssion which then caused her to kill both herself and her daughter, a reward worth more than $10,000 in today’s currency is offered to anyone who can prove otherwise. A freelance detective soon provides a likely young suspect, Haley Gipe. Gipe is eventually convicted on shoddy evidence and serves six years in connection with the crime.
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.
Judy Kirby exits the Morgan County courthouse, May 2001.
On March 25, 2000, a Martinsville resident deliberately drove her car into oncoming traffic, killing six children and one adult.
Estimated to have been travelling at over 90 miles per hour, Judy Kirby was headed northbound in the southbound lane of Indiana State Highway 67 when her rammed into a van driven by Thomas Reel (40). Reel and his two children, Jessica (14) and Bradley (13), were killed in the collision. Kirby’s three children, Jordan (12), Joney (9), and Jacob (5)—as well as a nephew she was raising, Jeremy Young (10)—also died.
Kirby was found guilty of seven counts of murder and sentenced to 215 years in prison in connection with the crash. Her request for a new trial was denied in 2016.
Wenck, Ed. Hoosier Killers: Indiana’s Darkest History. Indianapolis, Blue River Press, 2012.
March 18, 1986, the body of Dawn Stuard, an eighth-grader at Forest Manor Junior High, was found facedown in the mud along the banks of Pogues Run on the east side of Indianapolis. The location was just seven blocks from her home.
More than twenty-five years later, Paul Reese, Sr. was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering the girl after witnesses and DNA evidence tied him to her killing. At the time of his murder trial, Reese was already incarcerated in connection with a crime spree which had resulted in the shooting of IMPD Officer Jason Fishburn. He was sentenced to an additional sixy years for taking Dawn’s life.
On March 9, 1995, Orville Lynn Majors was suspended with pay from his nursing position in Vermillion County Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after supervisors noticed that an usual number of patients died while he was on duty. Although his victim count is believed to be far higher, he was later found guilty of six counts of murder and sentenced to 360 years. In 2017, Majors died of natural causes in prison.
People who knew father David Wayne Johnson, 50, described him as “an excellent employee who took an active interest in his son.” That “active interest” resulted in him beating the boy to death.
On Monday, March 4, 2002, Johnson received a call from one of his son’s teachers at Prarie Heights High School. The teacher wanted to touch base because he was concerned about Kyle’s performance in class, particularly since the freshman had recently moved in with his father and even transferred schools in an attempt to raise his grades. Apparently, the boy’s efforts had failed to meet expectations—with horrifying results.
After an altercation that went on for hours, David Johnson called 911 later that same night, explaining that he and Kyle had “a little fight.” Although the boy was unresponsive, David claimed he “didn’t hit him hard,” and his son was “just a 15-year-old kid who doesn’t want to go to school and doesn’t want to do homework and he laughs at everything I say.”
Kyle was airlifted to a local hospital, but it was too late. He was DOA.
His father later confessed to slapping, kicking and punching Kyle. He further admitted that, after Kyle had been knocked to the ground, he rolled the boy onto his stomach, sat on his back, and punched him in the back of the head. A ligature of some kind was used to choke the teen. An autopsy would eventually determine his cause of death was a lascerated liver caused by blunt force trauma and strangulation.
David Johnson was initially offered a plea deal by LaGrange County Prosecutor Tim Cain which could have resulted in the killer serving only five years with time off for good behavior. Judge George E. Brown rejected that plea as too lenient, and Johnson was subsequently offered another deal. On November 6, 2002, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of twenty years in prison.
“I don’t think he meant to kill Kyle,” the teen’s mother, Terry Stephenson, said after her ex-husband’s appearance in court. “But he did.”
1. Stoner, Andrew E. Notorious 92. Bloomington, Rooftop Publishing, 2007.