The House at Heartland Crossing

When a male couple in their 70s were brutally killed in their Indiana home last fall, it seemed like a clear-cut hate crime. No one suspected that the killer might be a man whom one of the elderly victims had met while cruising online.

BY Tim Murphy

April 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

1026 HEARTLAND HOUSE X390 (AJ MAST) | ADVOCATE.COM

Press reports following the murders asserted that the men were lovers, and Lindgren’s daughter Shahannah Roudebush says they were. Neighbors and friends say the men’s relationship was affectionate but sexless and that much of it involved Lindgren caring for a largely housebound Hendricks. Hendricks, they say, rarely strayed from the second floor, staying up all night on the computer and sleeping all day, while Lindgren had the run of the first floor.

On the whole, the men seemed to complement each other, according to Sharon Hendricks, who says Lindgren was “totally nonjudgmental -- just a gentle, gentle man,” while her brother-in-law “could be acerbic and outspoken,” with observations about people that were often “dead-on.” The men shared a love of genealogy and spent hours online researching their respective family histories. Hendricks “was always looking for controversies to get the blood going,” says his brother, Steve, adding that Hendricks loved to ridicule people who didn’t believe in evolution. But Lindgren, Steve says, “didn’t join in -- he was definitely a true Christian.”

Everyone describes Lindgren as a stolid Minnesotan of German-Swedish stock; neighbors didn’t know Hendricks as well because his disability kept him largely at home. “He was a private individual and didn’t like to talk about things that much,” says Lindgren’s friend Kent, a paralegal who asked that his last name not be used. Lindgren’s reluctant coming-out bitterly divided his traditional Lutheran family back in Minnesota: His two brothers deserted him while his sister, Myrtle Brandvold, stuck by his side. “One of my other brothers would always go to the races in Indy,” Brandvold says, “and every year Milt would say to him, ‘Come stay with me,’ but he never would.”

Both Lindgren’s ex-wife and his daughter Maria Douglas cut him off completely, while his other daughter, Roudebush, who lives outside Indianapolis with her husband and young daughter, stayed close to her father, instead distancing herself from her mother and Douglas. Shahannah says that when her mother learned about the murders, “She said to me, ‘Well, he had it coming -- he deserved it.’ ”

As for Douglas, in an e-mail exchange with The Advocate she explained that her issue with her father wasn’t that he was gay but that he’d lived a double life behind his family members’ backs. “I asked my dad if he was gay and he said no,” wrote Douglas, now married with three kids. “He never apologized for the cheating, never admitted what he had done, and never owned up to who he was.” Mary Ellen Lindgren declined to talk about her ex-husband at length. “I feel terrible about what happened,” she says of the murders. “It’s just despicable.” But did she really say that they were inevitable, as Roudebush claims? Yes, Lindgren says -- because of her ex-husband’s secret trysts.

Those hookups continued in the home he shared with Hendricks. After coming out, Lindgren became a nudist and joined Bare Indy Boys, a gay and bisexual men’s group that meets monthly in members’ homes for nude potluck dinners. He also posed naked for art classes at the Indianapolis Art Center, where he was a favorite among the ladies who paint there, according to an instructor. A few times, says Kent, who met Lindgren through Bare Indy Boys, Lindgren hosted guys from the group for strip poker, being careful to keep things quiet so Hendricks, upstairs, didn’t hear.

Tags: Crime

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