Deadly Priest

3/15/2009

On February 18, 1916, Father Hans Johannes Schmidt earned the dubious distinction of becoming the only priest to be executed for murder in the U.S.

September 5, 1913, two young men walking along the Jersey shoreline of the Hudson River came across a package floating in the water. Overcome with curiosity they retrieved the package and opened it. Inside was the lower torso of a body that had been severed at the waist. The next day, further downriver, a second package was found containing the upper portion of the headless body wrapped in a pillowcase monogrammed with the letter A.

Physicians who performed the autopsy determined the body to be that of a young woman and the she had given birth prematurely right before she was murdered.

The detectives traced the tag on the pillowcase back to the manufacturer which led them to an apartment on Bradhurst Ave in Manhattan. Once they entered the apartment the police were convinced that this was where the murder had occurred. There were bloodstains on the wallpaper and floor which someone had struggled to remove by scouring them. There were two trunks in the apartment and which were opened to examine the contents. Inside were letters addressed to an Anna Aumuller, woman's clothing and several small handkerchiefs embroidered with the same letter A that was found on the pillowcase. The detectives also discovered a butcher knife and a large handsaw that had been scrubbed clean. They learned that the apartment had been rented by Hans Schmidt for a female relative of his who was to be married soon.

Reading through the letters the detectives were able to find her last place of employment, St. Boniface's Church. Anna Aumuller was a 21-year-old German immigrant who had worked as a servant in the church's rectory until she was discharged because of her questionable life style. It was also learned that a priest named Hans Schmidt had been assigned to the church at the same time Aumuller was employed there. It was further learned that Schmidt had been assigned to St. Joseph's after leaving St. Boniface's.

Upon arriving at St. Joseph's the detectives were led into a small office to wait for Father Schmidt. When he entered the office the lead detective, Inspector Faurot, introduced himself and his partners as homicide detectives. The look of shock and sheer terror on his face convinced them that they would have to search no further for their murderer.
Psychopathic personality disorder is described as one who derives immense gratification from criminal, sexual, or aggressive behaviors. Someone who is incapable of feeling guilt, remorse or empathy for their actions. Father Schmidt was a poster child for psychopaths.

As a child, Hans Schmidt became obsessed with Catholic rituals. Known as the little priest, he immersed himself in his role, right down to a homemade altar, complete with cassocks and collar fashioned for him by his mother. She was off the deep-end too when it came to religious fervor. Along with his religious conviction he developed an intense perversion for becoming sexually aroused at the sight of blood. Many afternoons he would be seen at the nearby slaughterhouse where cows and pigs were killed and prepared for the local butchers. He would sit for long hours mesmerised by the bloody mutilation of these helpless animals. Before long he had indulged in his own private slaughtering ritual. However his prey were not destined for the butcher shops.

During his trial the evidence presented against him threw Father Schmidt's authenticity as a priest in to question. He was ordained into the Catholic priesthood in 1906 at the Mainz seminary in Germany. The ceremony supposedly took place at night to the exclusion of all others. In 1909 Schmidt was suspended from the priesthood for forging fraudulent educational credentials. He was arrested and barely escaped punishment because he had been declared insane by the courts.

With his career as a German priest in shambles, Hans Schmidt beat a hasty retreat. With financial help from his father and monies he had extorted from elderly parishioners he fled to America.

During the search of his trunk, the police had uncovered forged diplomas and recommendations which Schmidt used to establish a connection with the Catholic Church upon his arrival to America. Also found among his possessions were business cards bearing the name Dr. Emil Moliere. Upon questioning Schmidt admitted that he often posed as a surgeon and that he had indeed studied medicine at one time.

Father Schmidt enjoyed playing roles. He gained a perverse pleasure in the suffering of his victims and showed no remorse for the pain he caused. If it is to be believed he was suffering from insanity and was in no way responsible for his actions. Personally, I believe he attempted to use the insanity defense to his advantage. Unfortunately for him his plan backfired. He had escaped punishment once before because the court had declared him legally insane and he bet that the jury would reach the same conclusion when he went on trial for the murder of his "wife". Even his confession to the police was staged. He pretended to be racked with remorse as he spun his bizarre tale of marriage, murder, and dismemberment when in truth he had no remorse for the horrific crime he had committed. He definitely lost the coin toss this time. He went on trial twice with the first trial ending in a hung jury. In his second trial however, he was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death. On February 18, 1916, Father Hans Johannes Smith met his fate with "Old Sparky".

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