Author talks region’s missing person, murder cases

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Author Jim Baumgratz speaks during a Warren County Historical Society program held at the Warren County Courthouse on Wednesday night.

There’s a deep fascination for some with missing persons and murder cases.

A program put on by the Warren County Historical Society highlighted some of the region’s stories of that nature from an author who has spent years piecing the stories together.

Jim Baumgartz spoke at the county courthouse Wednesday night.

Baumgratz, who resides in St. Marys, said he’s been fascinated by these stories since the 1970s when his dad would share the legends with him.

He started writing in earnest a few years ago and his most recent book – “Missing in the Pennsylvania Wilds – was published last September.

As he dug into county court records throughout the region at each county’s prothonotary’s office, he learned that “what my dad told me was kinda true.”

His first book highlighted 25 murder cases in Elk Co., which he wrote in 2018.

While he stresses that his writing is based on court documents, he did say that he hears from relatives of the victims – and perpetrators – involved in the accounts he prepares.

“(They) tell me where I was wrong and where I was right,” he said.

In all, he said there are 600 homicides that he’s researched “in courthouses all over the place.”

As his interest grew, so did his geographic focus – a book on McKean County cases in 2021 and then expanding to the PA Wilds region.

“There’s some pretty interesting and infamous murders in the area,” he said.

He’s also started devoting time to researching missing persons cases.

One that he shared on Wednesday was a hunter from Tidioute that disappeared in Forest County. He was found half-eaten in 1876. Now Baumgratz said no one has ever been killed by an unprovoked black bear and the eastern mountain lion supposedly went extinct the year before.

“They do kill people,” he said. “They still do out west.”

The scene in Forest County, he learned, indicated some fight with an animal and said that he assumes the man was killed by an eastern mountain lion.

One of the murders he highlighted out of Warren County included a young man named Gustafson. A pair of brothers – Mike and John Pipik – were charged but both acquitted because prosecutors “couldn’t tell or prove which brother did it” while both denied involvement.

“The people of Warren here didn’t like it,” he said, noting that they were subsequently charged and convicted on aggravated assault charges.

“It was pretty much a kangaroo court (that) convicted them,” he claimed.

“A lot of these ones… I can tell you what happened,” Baumgratz said, but noted that there are some cases without any logical explanation.


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