Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

Two Sisters

John Saunders, who left Tucson to join the Navy, was replaced by Richie Bruns as Smitty's closest friend. Paul Graff was gone as well, but would be back for a short stay. Richie told Smitty everything, began to imitate the way he dressed, and felt they were like brothers. He had served two terms in the reformatory at Fort Grant, got only as far as the tenth grade, and was generally a misfit. All four girls he had dated had dropped him because he was socially inept. He looked up to Smitty and Smitty allowed him in on his activities. He even told Richie about Alleen Rowe, but Richie was used to Smitty's stories and did not believe him.

In July of 1964, Smitty noticed a 16-year-old girl at a swimming pool near Speedway. She was blond and thin, the way he liked, and her name was Gretchen Fritz. Other boys told Smitty she was trouble for anyone who got involved with her, but that only interested him more. The day he saw her, he followed her home and saw that she lived in an upper class neighborhood in what seemed to him a mansion. Her father was a physician, a heart and chest specialist, and a board member of the Union Bank. Gretchen was a misfit in this family, with odd ideas. She scorned boys, she told a friend, and admired prostitutes for their ability to charge for what boys expected for free. One teacher called her a psychopathic liar, the headmaster at her private school recommended psychiatric treatment before suspending her, and a friend noted that she seemed psychotically jealous. She often cut classes to cruise Speedway, and was suspected in some minor crimes.

Smitty met her by going up to her house with a load of pots and pans, as if he were a traveling salesman. After playing out his act, he confessed that it was all a lie that he had concocted in order to meet her. She laughed, then cried, and then offered him a cocktail. He was thoroughly confused, but also aroused. It was the start of a fatal attraction.

Gretchen Fritz (right) and friends
Gretchen Fritz (right) and friends

As they got to know each other, Gretchen told Smitty that she was pregnant, her family did not love her, and her brother-in-law was involved in the Mafia. After they had sex, Gretchen assumed Smitty would leave her, but he told her he loved her. They started hanging out together as a couple, although Smitty had also given Mary French and another girl, Darlene Kirk, cheap engagement rings. He'd made each a false promise of marriage, although he really just wanted them to work and put their money in a bank account for his use. Darlene eventually gave the ring back, but she attracted Richie's devoted attention.


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