‘I-70 Strangler’ remains mysterious Midwest boogeyman, but private investigator has theory

The “I-70 Strangler” has become a ghost story about a faceless boogeyman who hunted boys and men in the 1980s and 1990s.

At least 12 bodies were found partially nude and strangled and dumped in streams, gullies and trenches along Interstate 70 in Indiana and Ohio.

Over the years, investigators looked at two notorious serial killers – Larry William Eyler and Herb Baumeister – as the “I-70 Strangler,” but the theories never materialized into definitive proof. 

Baumeister, whose property was littered with 10,000 “burnt and crushed” skeletal remains of his victims, is more commonly associated with the shadowy Midwest monster since a local retired, highly respected sheriff turned private investigator tied him to the killings. 

‘I HAD A BRUSH WITH THE DEVIL’

After Virgil Vandagriff retired as the sheriff of Marion County, Indiana, he received a pair of calls in the mid-1990s from families concerned about suspicious disappearances of loved ones.

Seemingly isolated missing persons cases became a hunt for a serial killer. 

Both missing men were gay with similar heights, weights and appearances. They vanished on the way to bars, and that’s where he distributed flyers. 

WATCH: KILLER EXPLAINS IN PRISON VIDEO ABOUT ‘WARPED LOGIC’ HOW SHE WASN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR HUSBAND’S DEATH

During his investigation, a publisher of a magazine focused on issues concerning the gay population alerted Vandagriff about a rash of missing men in the Indianapolis area that seemed to fit the same profile. 

“It became obvious there was a serial killer,” Vandagriff told WTHR in a December 2022 interview. “Just had to figure out who, where and how to bring it to an end.” 

The "Interstate 70 Strangler," whose identity is still unknown, killed at least 12 boys and young men and dumped their bodies along the interstate in Indiana and Ohio.
Interstate 70 from Indiana to Ohio has a a lot of different terrains, including water, gullies and wooded areas, where the bodies were dumped in the 1980s and very early 1990s.

Vandagriff took his findings to the police, but gay victims were considered a low priority for law enforcement at the time. 

“It was shocking to me the number of gay people that were missing that no one would pay attention to,” Vandagriff told WTHR during the 2022 interview. 

WATCH: HAUNTING FOOTAGE OF COP SHOOT-OUT WITH MAN SUSPECTED OF SLAUGHTERING FAMILY BEFORE HE VANISHED

Instead of waiting, the investigator took the case into his own hands and created a profile of the killer. 

During the investigation, an informant who used a fake name said he had met a man named “Brian Smart,” a nickname used by Baumeister when he frequented local watering holes.

Interstate 70 from Indiana to Ohio has a a lot of different terrains, including water, gullies and wooded areas, where the bodies were dumped in the 1980s and very early 1990s.

The informant survived a confrontation with Baumeister and saw him again in a bar and reportedly yelled, “This guy’s a serial killer. Somebody get his license plate number,” Vandagriff told WTHR. 

Not surprisingly, that license plate came back to Baumeister, which led law enforcement to his secluded, 18-acre property at Fox Hollow Farm in Westfield, Indiana. 

WATCH: TYLENOL MURDERS SUSPECT RELAXES AS HE CALLS COPS ‘STUPID’ FOR MISSING ‘BIG BLUNDER’

Law enforcement ultimately dug up 10,000 “burnt and crushed” skeletal remains around Baumeister’s home in the 1990s, including those of Vandagriff’s two missing persons. 

Before he bought the vast property in 1991, investigators believe Baumeister had dumped his victims along I-70, but he died by suicide after fleeing to Canada as his life spiraled into a tailspin. 

His marriage crumbled, his businesses went bankrupt, and there was a warrant for his arrest. 

SIGN UP TO GET TRUE CRIME NEWSLETTER

About 10,000 remains of Indiana serial killer Herb Baumeister were found on the 18-acre Westfield, Indiana, property.

He shot himself in July 1996 and took all his secrets to the grave. 

The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office teamed up with Othram, one of the country’s leading forensic genetic genealogy labs, to identify Baumeister’s victims three decades after his death. 

So far, the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office has identified eight victims, and investigators have four more DNA profiles that have not been identified yet, which brings the body count up to 12, according to Hamilton County Coroner Jeff Jellison. 

GET REAL-TIME UPDATES DIRECTLY ON THE TRUE CRIME HUB 

Jeffrey A. Jones, who was reported missing out of Fillmore, Indiana in 1993, was identified as the latest victim of serial killer Herb Baumeister.
Manuel Resendez, who was 34 when he seemingly vanished in 1996, was identified as one of Herb Baumeister's victims in January 2024.

Investigators have tied Baumeister to at least 25 victims, but he was never definitively named as the “I-70 Strangler,” and neither was the other prime suspect, Eyler, who is believed to have murdered at least 21 victims around the same time. 

His victims were also boys and young men in the gay community from the same area. Eyler was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

The “I-70 Strangler” and “I-70 Killer” are two different – but still unknown – serial killers who murdered their victims in the same area. 

But the “Strangler’s” killings appeared to be sexually motivated, and the victims were male, while the “I-70 Killer’s” victims didn’t have evidence of sexual assault and were typically young women. 

Share.

Leave A Reply

© 2024 Time Bulletin. All Rights Reserved.