Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

A Secret Confession

Both Richie and Smitty were questioned relentlessly by William Helig. He believed that Schmid knew more than he was telling, and it seemed that he did. Initially, Smitty had told Richie that the girls had driven off in Gretchen's car to run away. Richie had seen the car drive by his house around midnight on the night they disappeared. He'd given it no more thought, glad to have Gretchen gone, until he dropped over to Smitty's one day. Smitty calmly mentioned that he supposed that Richie knew what had happened to Gretchen. Richie said, no, he didn't. So Smitty admitted that he had killed both girls himself, right there in his house where they were sitting. This was not the first time that Richie had heard such a thing from his buddy. Smitty had once talked about killing Alleen Rowe with John Saunders. Richie had not really believed that story, since he was used to the two of them making up tales to outdo each other's "badness."

But Smitty was serious. He had strangled them both and put their bodies in the trunk of the car and left them out in "an obvious place" because he just didn't care any longer. But he did add, "Each time it gets easier." It's likely that those murders, too, would have gone undiscovered had it not been for an incident that shook Richie up, which led to the further unhinging of his mind and an increased paranoia about Schmid's psychopathy.

One day a group of men known as the "Tucson Mafia" paid a visit. They put pressure on Smitty and Richie to tell them about the missing girls. Since Smitty had told the detective that he thought Gretchen had run off to San Diego, they were prepared to take him there to search. They advised him to be ready. They picked him up and took him to meet a man he called Charles "Batts" Battaglia.

They then insisted on questioning Richie, who was afraid they had found the bodies. He, too, was taken to meet a group of men, and then dropped back off to think about what had been said. Richie said they should call Paul Graff, who advised Smitty to call the FBI. Which he did, oddly enough.

When he failed to get through to someone to whom he could speak, he suggested they go bury the bodies to make sure no one found them. Richie still did not take him seriously, but accompanied him to a former drinking spot. Smitty got out, grabbed a shovel, and walked around. Then he called Richie over. By that time, Richie knew from the smell that there was indeed a body out there. He went to where Smitty was kneeling over a black form lying out in the open and was told that this was Gretchen. She was badly decomposed and her legs had been tied together with a rag. Wendy was not far away, but all Richie could make out was a black mound with part of a leg and foot sticking up out of the sand.


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