Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

The Arrest

Smitty was working in the front yard of his house on November 10 when the cops came up to arrest him. He thought at first that the men in the car that was slowly circling his block were the Mafia. He went inside and they came in after him. As they took him out his front door, he called to his young wife to get his mother. Katharine Schmid would take care of this. One officer returned to the house to search it, but Smitty's mother blocked him and demanded a warrant. Then she called a lawyer.

Back at the police station, Smitty heard the tapes of Richie spilling the beans. They brought Richie into the room in the hope that having him confront Smitty would get a confession. The two young men glared at each other and Smitty said, "I know why you're doing this." Nevertheless, Smitty protested his innocence and said he would prove it at the trial. They booked him for two murders. At the booking, they asked him to remove his boots. He was reluctant to do so, and when he did, he was several inches shorter. Photographers from the press crowded in and he sat down, refusing to stand for them. The contents of the boots filled two shoe boxes with folded up rags, flattened beer cans covered with more rags, and pieces of cardboard.

Smitty was held without bail until the hearing, set for December 13. The police got a warrant to search Smitty's house, looking for a guitar without a string, which they did not find. Then one officer flew to Connecticut to pick up John Saunders and another went to Texas to get Mary French. After she was told that Smitty had married, she gave a detailed statement. Saunders, too, confessed, but maintained that Schmid had done the actual killing. When taken to the murder location, he was unable to locate the grave. Likewise, Mary could not help, although the search turned up two rusty hair curlers. Norma Rowe identified them as belonging to her daughter. An intensive search was begun, including a crew of high school students. The area was dug up every which way, but to no avail. Sheriff Burr believed that a hurricane in September of '64 might have washed the bones to another location. County Attorney Norman Green said that he would proceed, with or without a body. There was precedent and he would exploit it.

At the preliminary hearing, Saunders pleaded guilty to first degree murder. Mary French agreed to plead to lesser charges, and both were to testify for the state against Schmid. On November 30th, Smitty was bound over for trial in Superior Court. John Saunders was sentenced a week later to life in prison, eligible for parole in seven years. Mary French was charged as an accessory to murder and with concealing and compounding a felony. She would be eligible for parole in four to five years. Schmid's trial for the murders of Gretchen and Wendy Fritz was scheduled for February 15, 1966, and the state would go for the death penalty. He would stand trial for the murder of Alleen Rowe on March 15, also a death penalty case.

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