For more than three decades, the Livingston family endured the agonizing uncertainty surrounding the disappearance of Allen Livingston in 1993 when he was just 27 years old. His mother always harbored a suspicion that he had fallen victim to Herbert Baumeister, a suspected serial killer from Indiana. This week, the family finally found the closure they had sought for so long.
The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office announced that Livingston’s DNA had been successfully matched to a sample from human remains discovered on Baumeister’s Fox Hollow Farm estate. The case, which originally unfolded in 1996, had initially identified eight bodies on the property, but the technology of the time couldn’t ascertain the identities of the other remains.
Eric Pranger, Allen Livingston’s cousin who had initiated the reopening of the case the previous year, shared the emotional rollercoaster that the news brought: “Hearing about Allen was a little roller coaster of feelings. We’re happy because we got closure and we were able to identify him, but sad because we had to relive it a bit.”
Investigators have reason to believe that Herbert Baumeister frequented gay bars as a means to entice men to his residence and subsequently harm them. He has been linked to the disappearances of at least 16 men since 1980. Tragically, he took his own life in July 1996 at the age of 49, preventing investigators from questioning him, leaving families like the Livingstons in the dark.
Over the years, Sharon Livingston, Allen’s mother, had lost hope of ever finding her son, often met with a lack of new information whenever she inquired about his case. Nevertheless, she held steadfast to a “mother’s intuition” that her son’s remains were at Fox Hollow Farm. When the case was reopened, she provided a DNA sample to the coroner’s office. Last year, her urgency to find her son grew as she battled a cancer diagnosis, expressing her hope to obtain closure before her passing.
Now, she has those remains. On Monday, Hamilton County Coroner Jeff Jellison made the call to inform her that her son had been identified. Among the first batch of 44 sets of remains submitted for DNA testing, a leg bone from Allen Livingston was discovered.
Reflecting on the unusual coincidence, Jellison commented, “What are the odds that of our first identification from 10,000 pieces of bone would be to that family that made the initial call?”
Yet, the identity of other individuals from these remains remains uncertain. Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist from the University of Indianapolis, has been pivotal in identifying which sets of remains hold the most potential for generating a DNA profile. Advances in DNA technology have enabled the use of minute samples of skeletal materials, offering far more precise results compared to the rudimentary methods of the past.
However, some remains still pose significant challenges in terms of identification, particularly those that were damaged or destroyed before recovery, some as small as a fingernail.
In addition to Allen Livingston, four other DNA profiles were identified from the same batch of remains, yet without reference samples from family members, they cannot be matched to missing persons.
Encouraging other families who experienced similar disappearances between the 1980s and mid-’90s, Jellison, Latham, and Pranger urge them to provide samples. Pranger noted, “It’ll keep your mind from wondering where your loved one really is. Instead, you’ll have solid proof that they’ve been found.”
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All the remains are carefully preserved in a secure evidence room at the University of Indianapolis’ Anthropology and Archaeology Department, where they have been stored for the past 27 years. This first identification is seen as a crucial milestone, affirming the correctness of their investigative approach and inspiring renewed determination to uncover more answers. As Jellison puts it, “Now it’s time to get our nose back to the grindstone, because we know now that we can produce some results.”