Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fox Hollow Farms: Case of a Serial Killer Named Herb

Take a Google search of "Fox Hollow Farms" and you will be greeted with lots of hits about Herb Baumeister.  He was thought to have committed several murders, but has never been brought to trial because of his suicide.
http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/photos/ghost-adventures-fox-hollow-farm-pictures

Baumeister was brought up in a seemingly normal family with two parents and three siblings.  He showed some odd behaviors as a child, playing with dead animals and urinating in odd places.  When in his teen years, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but received no treatment for his condition.  His education, post high school, included a few semesters at Indiana University and Butler University, but never earning a degree.

Herb married in the early 1970s and fathered three children.  His wife urged him to get mental medical help, and his father aided in getting him committed to a psychiatric hospital.

In the 1990s, several gay men were reported missing in and around the Indianapolis region in Marion County. Some of these men were known to visit certain gay bars.  Police began to question persons who were regular customers, asking if there was ever a person of interest that could be involved in some sinister events.  A few of those questioned suggested that they look into a man who went by the name of Brian Smart.  Some said that this man had spoken about killing a gay man, and attempted to kill his friend with a pool hose.

Armed with a description of Brian Smart, police staked outside of several gay bar locations.  They waited to see if they could spot someone who looked like the man in question.  They found him approaching one of the bars after parking his car.  They took notice of his license plate number, and approached him, telling him that he seemed to fit the description of the perpetrator.  They asked to search his home property, but he refused.  Later, they visited his home while he was away, asking his wife to allow them to search the property.  She refused their request.

According to an article in People Magazine, December 23,  1996, one of the children showed Mrs. Baumeister a skull that he had found on their property.  She asked him to show her where he had found it, and there, at that very place, were several other skeletal remain.

In 1996, Herb's behavior became unbearable for his wife.  She filed for divorce, and she allowed the police to search the property when Herb was on a vacation.  Eleven bodies were found in various places on the property.  Only eight of them could be identified.  Meanwhile, Herb was off to Canada.

Herb Baumeister committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.  He left a note stating that he was disappointed in the failure of his marriage and his business, Sav A Lot Thrift Stores.

Bodies of about nine men had been found along Interstate 70 between Indiana and Ohio.  Baumeister was known to take frequent business trips between Columbus and Indianapolis.  Police believe that he was responsible for the demise of these persons.

Since the story made such news, several broadcast channels have aired programs and movies depicting the case.  A documentary film, The Haunting of Fox Hollow Farm, brings forth the possibility of hauntings at the former home of Herb Baumeister.

The Travel Channel program, Ghost Adventures, explored the property.  They heard tales of Herb luring his victims from the gay bars to his home at Fox Hollow Farm and ending with their strangulation and other erotic torture which ended in their deaths.

Mrs. Baumeister and her children moved from Fox Hollow Farm back to Indianapolis where she wanted to rekindle the happier memories of her life and share those with her family.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Find My Past: Suggestions for Finding Your Fallen Acorns and Other Assorted Nuts

I just downloaded a guide from FindMyPast,  www.findmypast.com.

It's entitled, "Get the Best From Find My Past".

There's a page called "Ancestors in Crime Records"

Here's what their tips include:

ANCESTORS IN CRIME RECORDS

CRIME, PRISONS & PUNISHMENT: Only available online at Findmypast, the National Archives’ Crime, Prisons and Punishment Collection contains over 5 million crime records from England and Wales, 1770-1935. From prison calendars to convict hulk ships, the level of detail you’ll uncover about your ancestors in these records is amazing

MUGSHOTS: Some of our crime records contain original mugshots from the time of your ancestor’s arrest – an exciting find for any family historian. When searching the Crime, Prisons and Punishment Collection, focus on the MEPO 6, PCOM 2 and PCOM 4 series which all include photographs.

ALIASES: If there is a name in your family tree that doesn’t seem to fit, perhaps it’s a black sheep with a double identity? Habitual criminals often had several aliases so watch out for forename and surname swaps as well as the use of their mother’s maiden name.

WAYWARD WOMEN: A number of our Crime, Prison and Punishment records relate to women who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. In Victorian England, for example, almost 20% of prisoners were female. This collection may be a surprising place to discover more about female ancestors.

NEWSPAPERS: Our collection of historic newspapers makes for a great research companion to our crime records. If you discover an ancestor in our crime records, be sure to search the newspapers for additional details. Arrests, court appearances and sentences would have all been covered in the local press.

LAWBREAKERS ABROAD: Findmypast’s international records include some fascinating collections for tracing your criminal ancestors. There are over 20 million Irish court and prison records to explore, as well as extensive crime, convict and transportation resources from Australia.

Thank you to FindMyPast for these helpful hints.  I have not had problems finding my Fallen Acorns.  Now that you have these tips, you will have more luck in finding your black sheep.  Prepare yourself.  You might uncover some stories that you wish you hadn't.  Take it with a grain of salt.  Our ancestors were not perfect.  Neither are we.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The In-Laws Become Out-Laws: the case of Mike Dugmanics

In the middle of Missouri, there's a town called Rolla.  You might know it as the home base of the Missouri University of Science and Technology.  Years ago, it was an area of farms and fields and large acreage along with small hamlets tucked in between.  The 1930s was a particularly hard time for those in the middle of the nation.  So much depended on their ability to hold down jobs, pay bills and keep up with the necessities.  Thankfully, the nation pulled through.  But as the nation started to gain strength, there were still those who languished behind.

The Dugmanics family settled in and around Rolla, having immigrated from Hungary in the early 1900s.  Everything seemed fine.  Joe and Mary were living with their family in a modest home.  Mary suffered from a rhuematic illness.

images.google.com, free images, memorial day


It was Memorial Day, 1938. The Dugmanics family had prepared a nice meal. Mary and Joe were playing host to Joe's brother, Mike, for the holiday.  The family set the table at 1:30 in the afternoon, and then called everyone into the dining room. Mary, 58, had been playing the accordion in the front room.  Mike passed a corner of a room on his way to the dining room where he picked up a rifle.

Upon entering the dining room he saw Mary, his sister-in-law.  He raised the rifle and shot her through the head, just below the temple.  The bullet exited the other side of her head at the same spot.  Mary's optic nerves were damaged, and she had become totally blind.  She was tended to by her family and medical persons, and taken to the Rolla Hospital.

bloodhounds, free images.google.com


Mike exited the house and left on foot.  The police came to look for him and brought bloodhounds.  But they were unable to find him.  Two days later, his brother Frank alerted family that Mike was at his home, just 4 miles away from Joe's house.  The sheriff and state troopers arrested Mike there.

Friends of the family were interviewed to find out what might have caused Mike to assault his sister-in-law.  It was reported that at one time, Mike was heard to have said that if Mary were his wife, he would shoot her to put her out of her misery from her rheumatic affliction.

Mike was charged with felonious assault with intent to kill.  But family said that Mike was really never quite right.  He, in fact, was a bit odd.  The States Attorney said that an examination of Mike would take place to determine if he could be considered mentally ill.  If that was  the case, he would be committed to a State Institution.  Mike waived a preliminary hearing and could not post the $5000 bail.

Missouri State Hospital for the Insane, Fulton, Missouri, image.google.com

Mary did survive her injuries. Mike was committed to the Missouri State Hospital in Fulton, Missouri, diagnosed with psychosis.   Joe recovered from the shock of it all, but passed away just two years later at age 64, in 1940, from cancer of the throat..  Mary survived him, until September 1952, passing of senility and having severe arthritic deformity and gangrene in both legs.  Mike lived out his years at the State Hospital  doing laundry work until July 1952, where he passed from pneumonia.

Frank, the remaining brother, lived until age 80, when he committed suicide in a tool shed next to his home by shooting himself in the head with a 12 gauge shotgun, in November of 1959.

There's a lot of pain in this family.  Let's hope that they all rest in peace.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Street Gutter Corpse: Clifford M. Hicks, Attorney at Law

A young 28 year old attorney, with a sordid past, and questionable friends, was murdered in the spring of 1927. The assailants were found, after the police put just about every thug through the interrogation grind.

Clifford Hicks, partner of the firm Major, Hicks and Turner, of St. Louis, Missouri, had been found on a lonely roadside just outside the city limits. Judge Sam Hogdon rode his horse on early Sunday morning, along Watson Road, where he spotted the body laying face up.  It had been riddled with bullets. He contacted the coroner and the deputies arrived shortly to identify the deceased as Clifford Hicks. He had been shot six times and the only items on his body were a watch and some letters and papers. Nearby residents were questioned, and they reported hearing gun shots around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. A pair of women's gloves were found about 100 feet away from the body.  Mud on the gloves matched the type of mud on the shoes of the corpse.

free images.google.com, Insurance Policy


 Clifford and his brother, Glenn, were partners in an insurance brokerage business.  Glenn was mentioned as the beneficiary in several life insurance policies on his brother, Clifford.  With all the totals of the policies gathered, Glenn was expected to reap over 365 thousand dollars upon the death of his brother.  Some of the policies taken out in 1923 went through beneficiary changes from the original script, all naming Glenn as the beneficiary.  Glenn Hicks, along with two others, Harry Bostleman and William Davis,  both ex cons, were arrested for the murder of Clifford Hicks.

free images.google.com

Clifford Hicks reported that he had been held up and robbed of $5,200 on April 29th, just two days before he was found murdered. The day that Hicks was killed, he had updated his will naming his brother Glenn the executor of his estate without bond and sole beneficiary. Mrs. Hicks told of her husband's nervous ways since he had been robbed.  He sat at home in the dark every evening after the robbery, telling her that "these guys are after me", often with tears in his eyes.  Mrs. Hicks was an expectant mother, so her husband did not want to alarm her by telling her any more about his fears. She said that he had taken a pistol with him when he went to Sunday school, which scared her.  He told her that he felt he needed it for protection. He told his wife that he had been repeatedly threatened. They had made plans to go to the Ozarks to get away for a few days.  However, that trip never happened.  He went to his office on Saturday in the morning, and that was the last time she had seen him. Mrs. Hicks could not believe that her husband's younger brother would murder her husband. Glenn told her that $200 thousand dollars of insurance was to be put in a trust for her by him.  He said that he could handle the money much better than she could.  Sure.

 The office secretary and stenographer, Miss Ida Sinnwell, was questioned by the police.  Clifford Hicks seemed to be looking over his shoulder a lot, and he told her that he might be killed by gangsters one day. She said that on the Sunday morning of the murder, Glenn Hicks phoned her to come to the insurance office. At about 7:30 a.m., he told her that Clifford had been found dead. The body had not been found until around 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Glenn could not explain how he knew his brother was dead before the body had been discovered.

On that Sunday morning, Glenn Hicks had entered into his brother's office when he met with Miss Sinnwell. He had taken, destroyed and burned a number of papers from the office files. After being arrested, he told the police, "I know it looks bad for me, I guess I am in for it now". No kidding.  He handed a farewell letter supposedly written by Clifford to his widow.  His note contained information that he had been threatened three times. Mrs. Hicks and her sister were together when Glenn Hicks and Davis came to her home to give her the note, saying that Clifford told him to give it to her in the event that he was reported missing or found dead.  He and Davis stayed at the Hicks home until 2:00 a.m., then left for the office, with plans to take some of Clifford's papers. It was reported that Clifford also left farewell letters addressed to his law associate, and his bank president.  The contents of these notes were not disclosed to the public. The bank president, Mr. Crain, was told by Glenn Hicks that his brother had completed a list of pall bearers to be attending his funeral. What?

free images.google.com


Police probed into the background of Clifford Hicks.  Apparently he had been involved with William Davis, who had stolen railroad bonds in Ohio, and proceeded to sell them with the help of Hicks, who was using an assumed name.When it comes to the street robbery of Mr. Hicks, he was carrying over $5,000, said that he was on his way to make a deposit, and was accosted by two men, he could not identify.  He said at one time that the money belonged to the trust company, and he filed for reimbursement of the cash from the insurance company.  Yet, he told another officer that the money belonged to himself, not the trust company.

Mr. Hicks had heavy financial debts. He apparently booked two hotel rooms on that Saturday at different hotels in the city, and registered under false names.  Records showed that he made numerous telephone calls from both rooms. He had an appointment to meet with Mr. Crain at the Page Bank, but did not show up.  Instead he was seen lunching with a woman at the Elks Club, a woman with no identity.  The waiter from the club said they stayed at the venue from 12:30 until about 2:30.  He said the woman was about 35, dressed in black and had brown hair. Hicks had his briefcase open on the table and was showing this woman a life insurance policy. He got up from the table to phone his wife, he planned to come home for dinner that evening.  But he returned to the Elks Club after a brief walk, about 6:30 p.m. and remained there talking with the mystery woman until about 8:30 p.m. The Club employees said they saw them leave together at that time.

Clifford Hicks was a director of the Page Bank until April 20th, when the bank was held up.  He resigned because he said the robbery looked strange. He was badly in need of cash.  He first said the $5200 taken from him was his own, and not insured.  Late he said that it belonged to the St. Louis Finance Corporation.  He was treasurer of this entity, and put in an insurance claim on the money. The claims agent had many questions, and Hicks was evasive with his answers.

Glenn Hicks, the younger brother, said he was at his own home entertaining a Sunday school group until about 9:30 p.m. on that Saturday night.  He took a phone call from his brother's wife who was worried about Clifford, who had not come home for dinner.  Glenn headed over to his brother's home about 10:00 p.m.

The sister of Mrs. Hicks, Anne Betts Walton, told police that Mr. and Mrs Hicks were dinner guests at her home on Thursday evening before his death.  He was acting very nervous, pulling down the window shades in her home and telling of being threatened.  They went for a drive, with Clifford driving Anne's car.  He was acting as if someone was following them while he drove, and tried to speed up to evade anyone tailing them.

In mid May of 1927, a brunette woman and a known gangster friend of Glenn Hicks were taken into custody for questioning.  Neither were identified by the police, and no report was divulged from their interrogation.

In June of 1927, many insurance companies charged fraud in the case of Clifford Hicks and his many life insurance policies.  Petitions charged that policies were obtained fraudulently by concealing that he was engaged in questionable, irregular and illegal business practices.  He was also found to be misappropriating his own funds belonging to others, and he engaged in businesses with felons and lawbreakers. He procured insurance upon his own life from many companies in large sums, and could not have been able to meet the premium payments with the known legitimate source of income.

So, what was the REAL story of Clifford Hicks?  You tell me.





Friday, January 20, 2017

Stella Christoff : Murder With A Smile

Here is a cheery little story about a teenager in downstate Illinois, Madison County....Edwardsville, to be exact.


images.google.com, free images

Mr. Nelson Voss, a USPS mail carrier was murdered...his body found in Silver Creek, just outside of Edwardsville.  He had been shot.  On July 13, 1933, a farmer was making a tour of the pasture area to check fencing conditions since his cattle had managed to slip through and off of his property.  While walking past the creek side where a small bridge made a crossing at a lonely, secluded, seldom traveled road, the farmer made the shocking discovery.  He had toured the area once in the morning, but upon his second time that day, about noon, the body was more visible.

Voss was last seen delivering mail at a small farm just a half mile from the place where his body was found in the creek.  He was a young 25 year old substitute mail carrier.  A full life ahead of him. An area farmer said he was cutting hay when he saw Voss stop at his mailbox at the end of the drive.  He just delivered the mail and moved on, just like any other work day. The farmer stated that he did observe an automobile pass down the road at about 10 a.m. that morning, but did not notice any other vehicles, other than the  Voss car.  Residents of the area noticed that their mail had not been delivered on July 13th, which was unusual as the day passed.  Voss used his own automobile to  deliver letters.  He was known to be fairly prompt with his deliveries each day, and the rural residents had grown used to his schedule.

Officials were summoned to the scene as the news of the found body spread through the county.  The Coroner determined the cause of death as a gunshot wound. Mr. Voss had been shot in the back, near the shoulder blade area. In his pockets only 8 dollars were found.  Nothing seemed to have been taken from his clothing.  Detectives and local police scoured the area to look for clues as to what may have taken place at the site.  Empty shells from a .22 caliber rifle and a shotgun shell were found. Mr Voss owned a shotgun, but the Sheriff said he did not believe it had been fired recently after a careful examination of the gun. A pocketknife was also found at the scene, and was handed over to the Sheriff after a quick examination by the Coroner. It showed signs of having been sharpened many times, but was very dull at this examination.  It seemed to be a very cheaply made knife, probably costing less than a dollar.  The handle was of plastic, black and yellow in color. Members of the Voss family were shown the knife, and none of them had seen this knife previously, so it probably did not belong to Mr. Voss.

The Coroner and the Sheriff with detectives came up with a scenario as to what had happened on that morning in July.  If they were to believe that the knife and guns were involved, there must have been three men involved in the murder.  After examining the car belonging to Mr. Voss, they assumed that the murders were laying in wait for the postman.  They must have parked their car on the bridge, not allowing Mr. Voss to cross, and perhaps surrounding his car, forcing him to exit and become their victim.  Detectives examined the mail that was still in the Voss car.  The letters were filed in order of delivery, and no sign of torn or empty envelopes were found.  Perhaps it was a robbery of the mailman hoping to steal money from the mail, but again, they really had no confidence in that theory. Residents of the area were asked to keep track of expected mail and report when and if something expected did not arrive that month. The right side door was left open on the Voss car, with no sign of damage from a forced entry. A shotgun with shells were found on the front seat.

Persons from all over the township were curious about the murdered man.  They crowded in their cars with friends and neighbors to get a closer look at the site where Mr. Voss had been found.  Some had traveled over 10 miles, and nearby farmers walked or rode their horses and mules to get a first hand experience of the area.  They had their own theories about how Mr. Voss met his end. Everyone agreed that the perpetrators must have been very familiar with the secluded area.

After returning to the idea of checking on missing mail, it was determined that the postage stamp and coin change pouch was missing from the satchel the belonged to Voss.  Also, two packages were missing, according to the mail inventory of Voss's deliveries to be made that day.  The local Postmaster was instrumental at supplying necessary records to support this information.

A man who boarded in a shed on the Christoff farm had a trunk. Frank Stroak said that it was seldom opened in his room.  Upon opening it one day in late July, he and a cousin of the Christoff family  found the packages and the missing stamp and coin pouch.  He said that two local girls were seen playing in and around this trunk in the past weeks. So, the conclusion was that the girls must have placed the items in this trunk.  The girls were rounded up and questioned.  They were sisters, Stella and Sophia Christoff.  Their father, brother and cousin were jailed as the coroner was still putting this case together. The girls denied having taken the packages and pouch from the slain mail carrier.

Stella, age 17, finally admitted that she had shot Nelson Voss in the back.  She and her sister were roaming the area of the creek, hunting for squirrels.  She said that Nelson Voss saw them walking near the road and pulled his car off to the side.  The girls were each carrying a gun.  Stella had the 12 gauge shotgun and little Sophia carried a .22 caliber rifle.  Stella said that Voss approached them and said he wanted to show the girls the right way to shoot squirrels.  Stella said she told the mail carrier to keep away and get back into his car.  They did not want his help. She continued her story, stating that Voss grabbed her arm, and told little Sophia to go home.  Voss then tried to force himself on Stella, squeezing her body and attempting to kiss her.  After he let her go, he started toward Sophia.  Stella said she shot Voss in the back, fearing that he might try to overtake her younger sister.  She said that he tumbled to the ground, rolling toward the edge of the creek. She confessed that she took the rifle from Sophia and shot him again as he lay still.  She had her brother's knife with her, and said that she had dropped it on the ground before leaving the area. Sophia, giggling, confirmed the story.  There seemed no remorse from either girl.  The other members of the Christoff family were released from custody. Young Sophia did not actually shoot Voss, and she was released due to her young age.  The Sheriff had his case. A warrant charging murder was issued against Stella Christoff. She was held at the Edwardsville jail.

Fast forward to November of 1933, where the murder trial of Stella Christoff is scheduled for the Edwardsville Circuit Court.  Prior to her court date, Stella seemed very confident.  She laughed and joked with reporters who were able to visit and interview her. She told them that she could not understand why she was being jailed.  In her opinion, she did nothing wrong. Photographers were able to take photos of her, and she loved the attention.  They posted their photos in the St. Louis Star Times, among other publications, and gave her the headline, She Faces Murder Charge With A Smile. After 4 months in jail, her appearance began to change.  She no longer had her tanned skin and bumps and bruises from working on her father's farm.  Her hands were well manicured and her nails were polished.  Her hair was regularly washed and curled.  The jail matrons seemed to really like Stella so they afforded her the luxury of being well taken care of.

Stella had a famous cellmate.  Lillian Chessen, known for having been involved in the August Luer kidnapping case, was jailed at the Edwardsville center while she awaited her trial and eventual conviction.  She look a special interest in Stella, and often made suggestions to the jail matrons as to how the "doll"up the young inmate. Stella also gained 15 pounds while she was incarcerated.  She was eating so much better than she ever had while living on the family farm.  She was rosy cheeked and very, very pretty. She had taken a real interest in working jigsaw puzzles, and often asked for new ones to work on while she waited for her trial date.
images.google.com, free images


On Monday, November 13, 1933, the trial began.  The jury was selected and the State Attorney announced that it was going for the death penalty in this murder case. Of course, Stella appeared in a beautiful fashion of a blue dress, bows, hat and high heeled suede shoes with stockings.  Her hair was bobbed and curled under her hat. She wore a bit of makeup and her fingernails were painted pink. On November 14th, in late afternoon, the case was given to the jury.  Stella had held the shotgun that she used to kill Voss for all to see in the courtroom.  She stood up, and at the urging of the defense attorneys, she held the gun exactly as she remembered...but this time she pointed the muzzle at the jury members.  Yikes!  She said she didn't want to kill him, but she just wanted to get away from him before he could hurt her or her sister. She told the court full of spectators that she wasn't really sorry, but wished she had not done it, now that she had to spend the last 4 months in jail.

The prosecutors were curious if she would tell the same story as she had in the past.  She seemed to stick to the same tale, where Voss said he wanted to show the girls how to shoot squirrels.  She refused his help and asked him to leave, when he approached her and tried to force himself on her.  This time she said she slapped him.  When she said he had started for her sister, she shot him.

Sophia, the young sister, was asked why she didn't tell anyone about the murder.  She said  that she and Stella had agreed that they needed to keep quiet about the whole thing. Sophia admitted that she was the one that took the parcels from Nelson Voss.  They were in his car.  She went on to say that she opened the packages at home and found some clothing articles, which she buried in a field on their farm.  She was afraid that someone would recognize the items, so she buried them.

 The prosecutors said they thought that Voss was murdered because the girls were robbing the mail carrier of his parcels. He continued to say that Mr. Voss, a young mail carrier on duty that one fateful day offered to help the girls.  They were afraid of him, probably did not like him, and had plenty of opportunity to run from him.  Instead, they killed him in cold blood and have no regrets.

Stella spent the next day sitting on a couch in her jail cell, munching on candies and apples while the jury hashed over the case.  She seemed stoic and not worried that she could be handed the death penalty. As November 15th came to a close, the jury still had no verdict ....until... 5 p.m.

On November 16, the jury entered their decision.  Stella Christoff was convicted of manslaughter, which carries a sentence of one to fourteen years.    She was taken back to her cell, and she told the matron that she did not understand what it meant to be convicted of manslaughter.  They told her that with good behavior, she would probably be released.  She smiled and said she could be good for a year.
images.google.com, free images

The jurors were not going to discuss their deliberations.  The defense attorney said he would move for a new trial.  Meanwhile, Stella, still smiling, was taken to the Women's State Prison in Dwight, Illinois.

In 1937, Stella was denied parole by the State Board of Pardons.  The members declared that the theft of the mail packages from the car of the slain mail carrier, Nelson Voss, was enough to deny her parole.  They suggested another 5 years of incarceration. Stella remained an ideal prisoner at Dwight.
A portion of the contents of  the mail packages was recovered from the Christoff farm.

Stella remained in the prison through 1940, at the age of 23, as a single, white, female.

She married Sterling Hogue, who passed away in 1978. Stella passed away on 13 June 2001 at the age of 85.  She is laid to rest at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Glen Carbon, Illinois.

Newspaper stories can be found about this murder case on various websites.