Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

Roots of a Serial Killer

Born to an unwed mother on July 8, 1942, the baby boy to be known as Charles, Jr. was adopted by Charles and Katharine Schmid, proprietors of a Hillcrest Nursing Home in Tucson, Arizona. Charles spent his childhood around Hillcrest and developed into something of a trickster. He was curious, bright, imaginative, courteous, and indifferent to others' expectations of him. He took a lot of chances and lived dangerously, without much interference from his parents. Charles soon grew to hate his foster father and they got into frequent arguments.

At school, he raced through assignments so he could be the first one done; he had little regard for learning. His one fear was to be left alone, so he did things to make people notice him. In high school, he excelled in gymnastics, but most of his grades were just above failing. He seemed unable to focus his intelligence to achieve within the educational structure. In 1960, he led the school to the State Gymnastics Championship, and then gave it up his senior year. He claimed to have had hallucinogenic or psychic power, seeing things in his mind before they occurred. For example, he could see himself winning and that helped him to achieve things in a shorter amount of time than his peers. "I'd shut my eyes and everything would seem logical, so I'd do it."

Just before graduating, Charles stole some tools from the machine shop, so he was suspended. He could have been re-admitted, but he never bothered. "I quit out of boredom," he said.  By the time he was 16, he was living in his own quarters on his parents' property and receiving an allowance of $300 a month. His foster parents left him to run on his own with a new car and a motorcycle. He spent much of his time on Speedway, picking up girls and drinking with buddies, although he tended to be a loner.

Smitty's house where the Fritz girls were murdered
Smitty's house where the Fritz girls were

His nickname was Smitty and he had a way about him that made kids feel that life could be exciting. Although he was odd, the girls seemed to go for him and he never had much trouble getting a date. He was using make-up to darken his skin and the Chapstick he applied was so thick it made his lips appear white. One friend noticed that the tiny mole he darkened on his cheek seemed to get larger and larger over time.

To finish the image, Smitty chewed on a toothpick, working it around in his mouth as he spoke, and sometimes he put a clothespin on his lower lip, presumably to give it a deeper droop. Smitty would just tell the dubious parents of any girl in whom he was interested that he dyed his hair and wore make-up because he was in a rock band. He'd act the part of a gentleman quite convincingly and they were often impressed by his courteous manner.

The oddest thing was his boots. He'd had them special-made according to his own design. They were black and laced all the way up the back, with a tall cowboy heel and pointed toes. These he would stuff them to make himself taller, although he didn't mind exploiting his bantam height to convince girls he'd once been crippled. That often made them pliable...and easy.


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