By: Briana Brownlee
HENDRY COUNTY, Fla. (WFTX) — A Florida bodybuilder accused of murdering his wife and burning her corpse days after Hurricane Ian waived his right to appear in court Wednesday.
This comes days after prosecutors said they’d seek the death penalty in this case.
43-year-old Ian Baunach is accused of killing Katie Baunach in Sept. 2022. His attorney told the court that he was still in federal custody and waived his right to appear and his right to a speedy trial.
Tuesday, Baunach was officially indicted on charges investigators said are connected to the death and disappearance of his wife.
Baunach’s next-door neighbor explained to WFTX how she saw Katie’s car parked right in front of the gate on Friday, September 30th. Neighbors and court documents reveal that Katie came to collect items from the home and never left.
“I just remember coming out of the back porch and I remember looking at my husband and saying who would be burning anything right now,” said a friend and next-door neighbor of the 39-year-old nurse. “Not even realizing until later, what I could have been smelling.”
The friend was still understandably emotional as she recalled the night that’s believed to be the night Katie was killed. According to police reports and court documents, investigators found the charred remains of Katie, a mother of two.
“It’s a heinous crime,” the friend said.
Heinous because investigators said they found bone fragments at the home and investigators believe Ian Baunach is in the center of it all.
Months before Katie’s death, prosecutors charged Ian with domestic battery by strangulation in a 2021 domestic violence case between the two in Lee County.
“I know she tried her best to stay in her marriage,” the friend said.
While still trying to wrap her mind around what happened to her friend who lived right next door to her for years, she told WFTX more about Katie.
“That’s the way she introduced herself, she brought over an apple pie,” the neighbor said. “She was a generous spirit and a good mama, she loved her children fiercely.”
Neighbors said Katie’s children live with other family members and, naturally, are struggling to handle their mother’s death.
Ian Baunach is set for his next court appearance on May 10th.
This story was originally published Feb. 22 by WFTX in Fort Myers-Naples, an E.W. Scripps Company.