Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

Death of a Serial Killer

Charles Schmid, Jr. was in the Arizona penitentiary, awaiting death for the murders of Gretchen and Wendy Fritz.

He attempted to escape once by hiding inside a hollowed-out exercise horse, but was found before he succeeded. He then used a fake suicide attempt to escape, which also didn't work.

In 1971, the state of Arizona temporarily abolished the death penalty, but Smitty was still in prison for fifty years, so he tried another escape, and briefly succeeded. He was spotted by a railroad worker who had gone to school with him and who noticed him because of a foolish yellow wig he'd donned as a disguise. He was returned to the prison.

Schmid changed his name to Paul David Ashley and turned to writing music and essays to keep himself busy. He tried reading Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment, but was puzzled by the way Raskolnikov, who had murdered two women, was plagued by guilt and remorse. He strutted around the prison as if he were superior to other prisoners, and two of them beat him up one day. He was found stabbed and lying in a pool of blood. He had a sucking wound in the right chest that did not respond to surgery. One eye had to be removed. In all, he had some twenty stab wounds to his face and chest.

On the tenth day after the stabbing, still in the hospital, Smitty began to fail. He was pronounced dead on March 30, 1975. At the request of his parents, he was buried in the prison cemetery.


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