Inge Baumbach did not like to take flowers from her garden.
It was in his nature to protect everyone and everything in his life, including the plants in his garden. Thus, his fiancée at the time will not forget the one time he gave her a handful of flowers.
“I never asked him, but he gave me cut flowers and he thought it was awful,” SaraLynn Mandel recalled. “I think that was the sweetest thing.”
Mandel and Baumbach never married, but they remained close over the years. Then, in March, his body was found face down in a Malibu parking lot. Mandel does not know how he died. Law enforcement provided few details.
Mandel fights for answers. She is the closest Baumbach had to his family in the United States.
Baumbach was a native Swede who immediately fell in love with the Southern California climate when he arrived in 1993. He then went into business as a landscaper, taking advantage of the perpetual warmth of the Golden State.
Mandel recalled their life together, how he helped raise his two sons who are now adults, when they lived on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, how he always built a new fence every time they moved in in a new house.
He helped her through a divorce and she helped him become an American citizen.
Three months ago, Baumbach got ready in his Venice apartment and went to Trancas Canyon Nursery. The garden store sits in the back of a strip mall with rustic barn-style storefronts, a Starbucks, a market, and a modest yard just off the Pacific Coast Highway.
He did not plan to buy gardening supplies or plants, but would spend the night at the property as a security guard.
It was March 28, his 58e birthday.
The next morning, a nursery worker found Baumbach lying face down in the parking lot. He was pronounced dead by emergency officials, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The county coroner recorded her death as the day her body was discovered.
Mandel wonders if he really died alone on his birthday, if he was attacked, or if he tripped and fell.
“There are so many scenarios, but I think it’s safe to say we won’t know. And that’s, I was trying to think, is that good or bad?” Mandel asked. dead on the job trying to protect people.”
Although he was born on the Swedish island of Gotland, Baumbach was decidedly American. He boasted that he was from the land of the Vikings, but declared his love for his adopted home in California.
His son, Mathias Johansson, remembers another father in California. He and his younger brother, Oliver, visited Baumbach from Sweden, and they noticed how calmer their father seemed.
“Even as a child, I could tell he was happier in the United States,” Johansson said.
“He was by no means perfect, but he was always ready to help those in need, even if he was in trouble himself,” Johansson said in a phone interview from Lund, Sweden. “Even though he felt down at times, he would try to make you happy, and he would do that for strangers too, not just family.”
Baumbach did not often call in sick at work and often covered his colleagues’ shifts. The Swedish army veteran liked working as a security guard in the United States because it was the closest he told Mandel he could ever become to becoming a forces officer. of the order.
“There are people like we all know, from other countries, who love our country so much,” Mandel said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Baumbach suffered blunt force trauma to his upper torso. Investigators are looking for the driver of a car that was in the parking lot before his body was discovered.
Lt. Vincent Ursini said it does not appear he was attacked. A coroner’s report on Baumbach’s official cause of death is pending. His employer, Cornwall Security Services, did not respond to requests for comment in early June.
“Even if he was in an upscale neighborhood, it doesn’t matter, because the risk to security guards is still great,” Baumbach’s former colleague Terrence Crump said. “It’s always dangerous.”
Crump said he cried when he heard his friend and colleague had died on the job. The two worked together years ago as security guards. Although they later worked for different security companies, they stayed in touch.
Their last conversation was a phone call. They talked about starting their own business and what they plan to do in the future.
“We were just dreaming about it,” Crump said.
Before coming to the United States and watching over the affluent neighborhoods and movie studios of Southern California, Baumbach watched over his family in Sweden.
“One of my earliest memories, like when I was 5 years old, or something like that, I remember there were kids taunting me while jogging outside,” Richard Baumbach said. , Baumbach’s younger brother. “I came home and told my brother and he said, ‘There’s no one else alive who can help you.'”
Then he came out and beat the bullies.
“He was four years older than me and I was always his little brother,” Richard said.
But their last conversation was a fight.
Their mother, Inger Baumbach, was upset by something Richard had said and she confided in her eldest son about her frustration. Just as he did for his younger brother when they were children, Baumbach jumped to their mother’s defense, lashing out at Richard on the phone from America.
“When you live so far away and hear a story, it’s very important to confirm it,” Richard said of the misunderstanding. “And we never did that. I sort of expected that we would follow that later.
Mandel said she and Baumbach disagreed on many things later in life, including politics. He bragged about having voted for former President Trump and often mocked progressives and liberals on social media.
But his stubborn nature translated into a kind of warmth that made others feel protected, Mandel said. She hopes to raise funds to send to Baumbach’s mother in Sweden, but she knows that will be little comfort in the face of so many unanswered questions.
Mandel said Baumbach talked about fighting at work, but he would regard them as minor scuffles. In a December 2020 Facebook post, however, he wrote about a “violent encounter” at work.
“It’s amazing how young people underestimate us older guys,” Baumbach wrote. But then he stopped publishing about his work and, in the weeks before his death, wrote about football and heavy metal music instead.
Mandel doesn’t know exactly what happened to him the night he died. She has theories, she says, but she expects solid answers from the final autopsy report.
“He was friendly to everyone and treated everyone the same unless they threatened him or those close to him,” Mandel said.
Mandel and Baumbach bonded over their love of animals, like the newborn foal they found entangled in a tree at the back of their property in Westlake Village and named Calypso. They also bred a Doberman named Oden. She said she planned to spread Oden and Baumbach’s ashes in Hawaii, where he had hoped to retire.
“We had our differences, but I miss him and I’m so sad that he died at 58 without being able to spend the rest of a longer life on the sand and in the water of Hawaii,” said Mandel.
Richard does not want to dwell on his brother’s last moments or his absence. The last image he has of Baumbach is of him on the ground in the yard, trying to screw on a sprinkler head and getting frustrated.
“I will keep that in mind. That memory,” Richard said.
As for Mandel, she doesn’t have to look far to find reminders of Baumbach.
She just has to look in her garden. He planted succulents there, and they stubbornly linger there.
Los Angeles Times