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 ERIC HENDRICKS MILTON LINDGREN X390 COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM

“[Hendricks] didn’t want strangers in the house,” says a man who met Lindgren online and went over to the house for sexual encounters with him. Over a grilled cheese sandwich at a Bob Evans restaurant in the Heartland Crossing complex, “Rick,” a 45-year-old who prefers not to use his real name and who lives nearby with his mother and works the graveyard shift at a distribution center for a well-known company, shared transcripts of several instant-message conversations he’d had with Lindgren throughout 2008. Mostly banal (“I have an acorn squash in the oven so we can eat in about an hour,” Lindgren tells Rick before a hookup, with Rick responding, “I’m having fish but thx anyway”), they don’t mention any of the incidents, like the cut wires or the "fags" note, preceding the murders.

But the last chat, dated September 21, just a few weeks before the men were killed, gives pause: Lindgren and Rick, who were always looking for places to hook up other than 9160 Middlebury Way so as to avoid Hendricks, discussed meeting at the home of another, unnamed sex buddy of Lindgren’s -- someone who, Lindgren wrote, is “into a little kink like light bondage” and who “has tied me up a few times and then mostly sucked me and did a little cbt” (short for cock-and-ball torture). The casual revelation suggests just how much risk Lindgren was perhaps willing to take when it came to meeting other men.

According to Hendricks’s sister-in-law Sharon, not all visitors to the men’s home were unknown to Hendricks. She remembers visiting the two at a time when her brother-in-law was jealous and peeved that Lindgren was temporarily housing some young gay men who needed a place to stay. “I thought they were likable young guys who were down on their luck,” she says.

That combination of generosity and perhaps sexual interest on Lindgren’s part, plus maybe a semi-obligatory complaisance on Hendricks’s part, created the perfect setting for an affable, mild-mannered, middle-aged stranger named Michael Brown to nudge his way into the men’s lives sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. Those interviewed believe that Brown met Lindgren online and said he was a doctor who had transferred from Colorado and needed a place to stay until he got his own place and his Indiana medical license set up. “[Brown] said to [my housemate and me], ‘If either of you have a [medical] problem,’ to let him know,” says Bev Marker, who lived across the street from Lindgren and Hendricks. “I didn’t get bad vibes from him.”

Tags: Crime

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