LABELLE — Less than two days after Hurricane Ian made landfall with Florida, a missing person report came into the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office which quickly evolved into a homicide investigation.
Early Friday morning Sept. 30, 2022, a report of concern about a missing mother of two young children came to Sheriff Whidden who immediately responded and acted. The witness told Sheriff Whidden her friend, 39-year-old Katie Baunach, stopped by her residence on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, and stepped out for a moment leaving her two young children at approximately 9 p.m. Katie said she was going to run by her ex-husband’s house to pick up a few things and be right back. Katie had not returned, nor had the witness had any phone communication with Katie. Investigation revealed Ian and Katie Baunach had a contentious relationship involving domestic violence.
The ex-husband was identified as 43-year-old Ian Baunach of Ft. Denaud. Sheriff Whidden sent a marked patrol car over to the residence of Ian Baunach, where Katie Baunach’s car was located in the driveway. After several attempts to make contact with either Katie or Ian failed, the patrol deputy left. Approximately 45 minutes later the patrol deputy again arrived at Ian Baunach’s residence and found Katie Baunach’s vehicle had been moved and parked on the side of the road abandoned. The driveway gate was now locked to prevent any incoming traffic.
Detectives with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Unit and Major Crimes Unit quickly convened and drafted a search warrant for the residence of Ian Baunach, under suspicious exigent circumstances, to search for missing person, Katie Baunach. A call was placed to Ian Baunach as deputies approached his residence. Ian was seen pacing in front of his house and refused entry to the deputies. The driveway gate was breached and deputies with the SWAT team approached Ian and secured him without incident.
As detectives and SWAT members cleared the residence, they were unable to locate Katie Baunach. Deputies observed numerous things within the residence that led them to believe criminal activity had occurred. Detectives drafted a second search warrant seizing the residence and land as a homicide investigation.
Detectives spent four days with Crime Scene Investigators combing the residence and 5 acre parcel. Detectives discovered human remains at the residence/property of Ian Baunach. Detectives are not able to make an identification on the human remains at this time and are in the process of working with DNA testing.
Ian Baunach is being held at the Hendry County Jail with a $325,000 bond on unrelated charges.
This is still a very sensitive and active investigation and information is limited at this time to maintain the integrity of this investigation.
HCSO currently has detectives traveling to the State of Indiana and the State of Mississippi to further this investigation.
If you have any information about this murder or if you saw anything suspicious, please contact the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office at 863-674-5600 or you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477), where you may be eligible for up to a $3,000 cash reward.