Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

The Wrong Confidante

Richie reluctantly dug a shallow hole while Smitty dragged Gretchen's body further down the wash. They buried it, but left Wendy's corpse where it lay. Then Smitty told Richie to wipe off Gretchen's shoe to clean it of prints, so Richie did that. He then removed the shoe from Wendy's leg and threw it into the desert. Smitty told him he was in it now as deeply as Smitty was.

The next day they discovered that the FBI had visited Smitty's parents and had left. Then the Mafia took him to San Diego where he attempted without success to contact a boy that Gretchen had mentioned meeting. He showed photos of Gretchen around the beach, playing out the facade, but was arrested for impersonating an FBI agent. His mother rescued him and he went home.

However, he was not home free. Richie had gotten the idea that a girl he liked, Darlene Kirk (one of Smitty's cast-offs), was on Smitty's hit list. He began to patrol her house to protect her and to keep other boys from approaching her. When the screen door was cut, her father suspected him, but he suspected Smitty. He hung out at all hours, even hiding in trash cans, until people began to be afraid of him. Darlene's father tried to run him off with an air rifle, but he told the man to go ahead and shoot. It would end his suffering.

Around this time, Smitty went out with a fifteen-year-old girl named Diane Lynch, who weighed all of 87 pounds. Smitty took one look at her and decided she was "just my size." For her part, Diane fell in love. On their first date, Smitty asked her to marry him, and she said, "Okay." He took to wearing a plaster patch on his nose, claiming he'd broken it. He was still wearing it, along with his make-up and fake mole, when he married Diane in Nogales on October 24, 1965.

Ritchie Bruns
Ritchie Bruns

Richie couldn't believe that Smitty had just forgotten all about the dead girls. His own guilt manifested in an increasingly bizarre mania to watch over Darlene. When he made some threats, he was arrested and sentenced to leave town for three months, in the hope that he would get over his infatuation. He went to live with his grandmother in Ohio, where he quickly broke down and confessed everything. The Tucson police flew him back to show them the location of the bodies. He told them about John Saunders and Mary French as well. They found the skeletal remains of the Fritz sisters, bits of clothing, a shoe, and wisps of hair. It was time now to confront the killer.


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