Fake Priest Who Slew Girl A Real Jekyll-Hyde
Bogus Priest, Slayer of Girl, Was a Forger and Man of Disguise
Schmidt Carried Out His Priestly Duties in Daytime and at Night Went Out to Keep Company With Women.
Had a Plate to Make Counterfeit $20 Bills.
Plans are already under way in the District-Attorney’s office to fight from the start the insanity defense which will be advanced in the case of the bogus priest, John Schmidt or Hand Schmidt, the self-confessed slayer of Anna Aumuller. Without a doubt Schmidt will attempt to evade the death punishment by acting like a demented man.
The District-Attorney’s assistants and the police who have worked on the case admit that Schmidt is a criminal pervert, but claim that he deliberated carefully in his plans for the murder of the woman, that he exercised the judgement of a sane person in disposing of the body without detection and that he knew the consequences of his act before and after the commission of the crime.
Schmidt’s excuses for his actions are framed persistently along religious mania lines. But he never showed any trace of religious mania to his clerical associates and others who knew him previous to his arrest.
Wanted to Destroy All Evidence.
Inspector Faurot expects to be able to show that Schmidt had planned to return to the scene of his crime in Bradhurst avenue and remove the traces of the butchery as soon as the excitement attending the newspaper publicity had died away.
A remarkable case in real life of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is revealed in the arrest of Schmidt. Posing as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, he was at heart a degenerate with no moral sense.
Investigation shows that Schmidt was ordained a priest in Germany, but was suspended by his Bishop four years ago for criminal offenses. Supposedly, his suspension obliterated him from the priesthood – at least the German church authorities thought that they had ousted the recreant clergyman.
But Schmidt, without saying anything to parents or friends, came to this country. He brought with him forged papers indicating that he was still in good standing. Besides, he had seals of the Bishop of Mainz, which he used on papers as he found it necessary to continue his forgeries.
His Associates Had Suspicions.
While his credentials were never suspected, his associates in the clergy were suspicious of his education, although he cleverly him from most of them the morbidly criminal side of his nature. He made his appearance early in this country in Louisville, Ky., where he studied for a time, not attempting there to exercise any of the functions of a priest.
In December, 1910, Schmidt, who had located in Trenton, N. J., was banished from the diocese by Bishop James A. McFaul. Schmidt has performed a marriage without the proper diocesan dispensation.
“More than that,” said Bishop McFaul to-day, “I considered him mentally deranged and otherwise incapable. I wrote him as follows:
” ‘You are hereby notified that you must leave this diocese immediately. It is evident that you are wanting in common sense and, therefore, I don’t care to have anything more to do with you.’ ”
Schmidt came from Trenton to New York, and despite the fact that he had just been banished from the diocese of Trenton, he was taken into the Church of St. Boniface, at Forty-seventh street and Second avenue, as a curate. There he met Ann Aumuller and there took up the double life he found quite easy in the teeming city.
Equipped With False Whiskers.
The better to carry on his Mr. Hyde existence Schmidt equipped himself with wigs and false whiskers and various other forms of disguise. It is believed that the flat he rented in Bradhurst avenue under the name of Hans Schmidt for the purpose of doing away with Anna Aumuller is not the only habitation he had outside the parish house where he lived as a priest.
Strangely enough, his forged credentials and his false representations were never questioned in this archdiocese. An inquiry directed to the Bishop of Mainz, whose signature appeared on Schmidt’s papers, would have brought forth the facts about him, as is shown by developments since his arrest for murder.
Mgr. Lavelle gave out at the palace of Cardinal Farley this afternoon the following copy of a cablegram received from the church authorities at Mainz, Germany, relative to the standing in the priesthood of Schmidt:
John Schmidt was born in A…berg, Germany. A priest of the diocese of Mainz, ordained in 1907. Ordained a chaplain in 1909. Was away from Munich because of attempted frauds. Arrested by police, declared insane and discharged. Suspended by his bishop for this and also for presenting falsified documents with regard to studies he pretended to have made.
Officialis of Bishop of Mainz.
Priesthood Served as a Cloak for Him.
In the absence of inquiry as to his previous career Schmidt gave full play to his perverted bent in New York. He found the priesthood a veritable cloak of armor for his operations.
In the guise of a priest he went to St. Joseph’s Church, at One Hundred and Twenty-five street and Morningside avenue, and, despite the fact that he had not been connected with any church for five months, his forged papers got him a place as a curate – one of four assistants to the pastor. In violation of his vows and of the rules of the Church, he celebrated mass, performed marriages, baptized children, heard confessions and performed the other offices of a man in holy orders. He conducted himself in these activities before the pastor and congregation as a man of holiness and sanctity.
But in the night time, when the pastor was asleep, Schmidt sneaked out of the rectory of the church, divested of the habiliments of his ostensible calling, and prowled after women in the streets of Harlem. He deceived Anna Aumuller, a servant in the rectory of the Church of St. Boniface, at Forty-seventh street and Second avenue, performed a mock marriage ceremony with her last February and killed her in a flat at No. 68 Bradhurst avenue when he was tired of her. In his confession to the police and the District-Attorney are revolting details of his life showing that he possessed a dual personality.
While Schmidt’s confessions, his identification by George Sachs, a dealer on second hand goods, as the man who bought the pillow slip in which portions of the body were wrapped, and the various documentary evidence found in Schmidt’s trunk and in the Bradhurst avenue flat make a complete case against him, it was not until noon to-day that the police established the corpus delecti.
Legally Identified by Girl Who Shared Room.
This was done by the identification of the remains in the Morgue by Anna Hirt of No. 202 East Eighty-fifth street, who was a servant in the rectory of the Church of St. Boniface up to Nov. 22, 1912. and for some time shared a room with Anna Aumuller.
Miss Hirt was brought to Police Headquarters by detectives. She said she could identify the body, the pillow slips and the clothing.
“Anna,” said Miss Hirt, “had a brown mark on her bosom which I could recognize. Her night dresses were tucked six inches at the bottom. The letter ‘A’ embroidered on the pillow slips was drawn by me, and I did some of the embroidery and can identify the stitches. I also can identify the clothing found in the flat.”
Miss Hirt was taken to Volk’s morgue in Hoboken. She found the brown spot on the bosom of the dead woman, and the night dress in which part of the body was wrapped was found to be tucked up six inches just as Miss Hirt had said. She identified the pillow slips and the embroidery.
Although there is little hope of finding the head, which is probably at the bottom of the river, Inspector Faurot and Coroner Feinberg consider that the legal identification of the sections of the body found in the Hudson as fragments of the remains of Schmidt’s victim has been made.
Remnant of Body May Have Been Shark’s Prey.
Permission has been obtained for the removal of the sections of the body from Hoboken to the Manhattan Morgue, at the foot of East Twenty-sixth street. A perfunctory inquest will be held on Hoboken on Thursday. Following this the formal inquest will be held in this city. It is not likely that more of the body will be recovered. In view of the fact that a piece of the right leg of Miss Aumuller was found on the beach at Keansburg, N. J., several days ago, it is recalled that a shark, killed about that time at Deal, was cut open. In the belly of the shark was found part of a woman’s leg, and it is supposed that this was part of the dismembered corpse of Anna Aumuller, swept by the tide from Fort Lee.
Coroner Feinberg and the police are of the opinion that Schmidt’s confession, while it encompasses all the details of the murder and the dismemberment of the remains, is not complete in covering the events previous to the night of Sept. 2. They believe that Schmidt, some ten days before he killed the girl, was instrumental in a criminal operation
During the last week in August the foetus of a male child, five months old, was found in Fort Washington Park, near the foot of West One Hundred and Eighty-second street. From information gained from the autopsy held in Hoboken on the fragmentary remains of the woman’s body the police that this prematurely delivered child was that of Schmidt and Anna Aumuller.
Since his confinement in the Tombs Schmidt has given evidence of insanity. As to whether he is really insane or is cunningly planning to escape the electric chair there is a difference of opinion. Warden Fallon, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Wright and others who have talked to Schmidt say they think he is a dangerous maniac, and have arranged to keep him under constant surveillance.
Coroner Feinberg is of the opinion that Schmidt is feigning insanity. He says that the supposedly apparent evidence of Schmidt’s mental infirmities have progressed since his arrest and bear the marks of a well-ordered and cunning attempt to set up a defense against the crime of murder in the first degree.
“When I questioned him yesterday,” said the Coroner, “he was wonderfully coherent in his statements. His story was consecutive and fitted each section to the other, with scarcely a break. He does not know, he said, just where he bought the paper in which the remains were wrapped, and he couldn’t remember whether or not he wrapped the parts of the body in five or six packages.
“But there was no confusion in his mind on these points. He simply said he didn’t remember, explaining that there were details that had not fastened themselves in his mind.
Dr. Frank A. McGuire, the Tombs physician, who subjected Schmidt to a physical and mental test to-day, refuses to commit himself as to the murderer’s mental state. He has put the man under observation and will make his report to the District-Attorney.
District-Attorney Whitman is to be at his office on Wednesday. By that time the case will be ready for the Grand Jury. Coroner Feinberg will hold an inquest as soon as the Detective Bureau notifies him that the evidence has been assembled in shape for presentation.
Schmidt Believed to be Degenerate Like Young.
The facts gathered by the police tend to show that Schmidt is a degenerate of the same type as J. Hooper Young who killed Anna Pullitzer in a flat at Fifty-eighth street and Sixth avenue, packed her body in a trunk and threw the trunk into a swamp on the Jersey meadows back of Hoboken.
It is believed that the authorities of the Archdiocese were getting ready to take some action in the case of Schmidt, who appears to have been an impostor as a priest, although he studied for the priesthood in Germany.
Alphonse J. Koelble, a lawyer, was engaged by Schmidt to-day, but Mr. Koelble says Schmidt has no defense. Koelble’s defense will be insanity.
“There is no doubt that the man is crazy,” said the lawyer, “from a long conversation with him I should say that his state of mind is associated with neurasthenia.
“I have known him about two years. He used to attend lectures on Socialism that I delivered in Harlem, and while he was not a professed Socialist he was interested in the doctrines.
“I was asked by some of the parishioners of St. Joseph’s yesterday to communicate with Schmidt and ask him if I could be of any assistance. I wrote him a note and he sent me a note in reply, asking me to call at the Tombs.
“I met him in the reception room for counsel. He walked up to me, held out his hand and said:
“God and Abraham Know,” He Asserted.
” ‘Well, there isn’t much to say about this. God in his own time will clear it up. People will never understand it. God and Abraham know why I killed her. Policemen tell me that they question my right to say I am a priest. It is too bad, but I am a priest. I hold a double office of priesthood.’
“I took a morning paper out of my pocket,” said Mr. Koelble, “and showed it to him. He pushed it away.
” ‘Why should I look at the papers?’ he asked. ‘I know more about this matter than the reporters. I know every detail of the case.’
“I turned the paper over,” Mr. Koelble continues, “and showed him a picture of Anna Aumuller. Then he showed the only trace of emotion during my visit. He took the paper and kissed the reproduction of the photograph of his victim.
” ‘I married her,’ said Schmidt to me. ‘I performed the ceremony myself as I had a right to do. I was commanded to marry her by St. Elizabeth my patron saint.’
“I asked him why he killed Anna Aumuller. He replied: ‘What is the use of talking about it? She is dead and I killed her. People will not understand. Now they say I am insane. Why do they try to make me out a crazy man? Dr. Maguire, the Tombs physician, came into my cell this morning and questioned me as he would question an insane man.
” ‘I don’t need an attorney, but you may act for me. However, I don’t want you to do anything until you get a message from God and Abraham.
Shows No Fear of Death in Electric Chair.
“I told him of his rights,” said Mr. Koelble. “I told him they couldn’t use his confession against him. He said he didn’t care whether they did or not. I asked him if he knew that the penalty of the crime was death. He said the prospect of death didn’t worry him. I mentioned the electric chair, but he didn’t seem to pay any attention.”
Mr. Koelble said he asked Schmidt if there had ever been any insanity in his family. Schmidt replied in the negative, but added, after consideration, that one of his uncles in Germany had committed suicide a few years ago. Schmidt told Mr. Koelble that he had no desire to talk to newspaper reporters, because he had told all he knew about the murder of Anna Aumuller and didn’t purpose to talk about anything else.
When Schmidt was admitted to the Tombs yesterday he was taken to a cell on the fourth tier. To-day, that he might be more accessible to the police and the District-Attorney’s staff, he was transferred to a cell on the first tier. There was another prisoner in this cell – another murderer – and by a peculiar coincidence his crime is of the same character as that of Schmidt.
Schmidt’s cellmate is Frank Messemer, a painter, twenty-seven years old. On May 14 he stabbed his wife, Anna, to death in their home at No. 462 East Sixty-ninth street. He was carrying her body to the roof [of] the building to dismember it, wrap it up in bundles and carry it away when he was observed and the police were notified.
Crime Has Created Consternation in St. Joseph’s Parish.
Mr. Koelble said that, so far as he knows, Schmidt is utterly friendless, save for some feelings of pity for him by some members of St. Joseph’s parish.
The crime of Schmidt has created consternation in St. Joseph’s parish not only because of its horrible nature, but because of the revelation attending its discovery that Schmidt was probably not qualified to fulfill the duties of a priest. A cable dispatch from Mainz, Germany, states that he was suspended from the priesthood by the Bishop there, turned up later in Munich, was arrested for frauds and was discharged as a weak-minded person. Then he came to this country. The Bishop of Mainz did not know that Schmidt was exercising the offices of the priesthood in the United States.
Inquiry in the parish of St. Joseph’s to-day establishes that several of the parishioners were displeased by the actions of Schmidt. He was unpopular with his three fellow curates, because of his habits, but appears to have had the confidence of the aged pastor Father Huntman.
Schmidt would sneak out of the parish house at odd hours of the night clad in the garb of a layman. He was accustomed to absent himself when he should have been on duty to answer calls from the sick. His mind was abnormal and he was in the habit of talking about murders and crimes at the dinner table.
He often referred to the case of Clarence V. T. Richeson, the Boston clergyman who murdered Avis Linnell. Schmidt maintained that Richeson was not guilty because he loved the girl. His conversations along these lines filled his fellow curates with disgust, but he was allowed to perform the duties of his office without interference. He solemnized marriages, performed baptisms, heard confessions, said matins and administered the sacrament of Holy Communion. It is a question now if the marriages and baptisms were legal or have the authority of the church. There is a record of all those ceremonies in the parish house.
A search of Schmidt’s trunk to-day showed that he possessed many disguises. There was also evidence found to show that he probably engaged in the illicit practice of medicine with reference to the condition of women. Among the articles found in the trunk was an engraved copper plate, from which could be taken the impression of one side of a $20 bill.
The priests in the parish house can not recall the movements of Schmidt on the night of Sept. 2, the date of the murder. His confession shows that he killed the girl at midnight and worked until daylight cutting up her body. His absences from the parish house were so frequent that this occasion did not cause comment.
But after Sept. 2 the priests noticed a great change in Schmidt. He was nervous to a degree. He could not eat. He had been a great reader of the newspapers, but after the discovery of the first piece of the body of his victim in the river he did not look at a newspaper. The other priests mentioned the mystery in his presence, but he never could be brought to say a word about it.
His fellow curates, not suspecting that he had anything to do with the case or the woman whose dismembered body had been thrown into the Hudson, persisted in mentioning the case. They wanted to draw from him some expression of opinion, but were unsuccessful.
During the period following Set. 2 Schmidt lost from fifteen to twenty pounds. He was almost a physical wreck when the detectives arrested him Saturday night.
Illicit Medical Practice May Have Been Part of Career.
Schmidt became a curate in St. Joseph’s Church in October last. He brought to Father Huntman a letter from the Rev. Father Braun, pastor of St. Boniface Church, at Forty-seventh street and Second avenue, where he had been a curate for several months previous to May, 1912. Where he spent the time from May, 1912, when he left St. Boniface’s Church, until October of the year, when he appeared at St. Joseph’s is not known to the police.
It is believed that during that period he was engaged in the illicit practice of medicine. In his effects were found roughly printed cards reading: “Dr. Emil Molliere, Assistant Surgeon Municipal Woman’s Hospital, Paris, France. Representative of Chemical Hygienic Manufacturing Company, Denmeralle, France.”
These cards, in connection with chemicals and medicine found in his trunk, indicate to the police that his perverted nature led him into an attempt to establish himself as a doctor. Probably finding himself unable to make a living, he went back into the priesthood, learning of a vacancy in the staff of four curates attached to Father Huntman’s church.
Father Huntman refused to make any statement to-day. He believed implicitly in the genuineness of the credentials presented by Schmidt. A busy man, and along in years, the pastor did not pay close attention to his young curate and it is now established that Schmidt deceived him from the moment of his entrance into the parish.
Belief that Schmidt forged credentials from Germany is borne out by the discovery that he had in his possession a seal carrying the episcopal imprint of Bishop Kierstein, of Mainz, Germany, another seal used to stamp papers passing through the hands of the Bishopric of Mainz and the seal of the College or Mainz, in which he said he was educated for the priesthood.
Excited Suspicions of Fellow Priests in Parish.
The curates of St. Joseph’s were suspicious of Schmidt from the start. They noted that he was unfamiliar with the duties of a priest and they often caught him in contradictions in his conversations about his college days in Germany, his ordination to the priesthood and his career in this country. But he was well grounded in theology and general scholarship and a fluent conversationalist in Latin and Greek. His clerical associates tried to overlook his moral defects as evidence of over-developed genius, but lately his habits had become such as to scandalize, not only the curates, but members of the congregation who met him in Harlem at all hours of the day and night, dressed as any of the young men who frequent the streets.
Schmidt, when he went to St. Joseph’s, was assigned to a confessional in the southeast corner of the church. A plate containing his name was nailed over the confessional door. Within an hour after Schmidt’s arrest Saturday night, one of the priests went into the church, pried off the nameplate over Schmidt’s confessional and destroyed it.
Schmidt was caught as the result of careful, skillful detective work. The detectives trailed him by a pillow case bought from Sachs, the second-hand furniture dealer. They located the Bradhurst avenue flat he had rented under the name of Schmidt, traced the girl through letters and photographs found there, and finally landed Schmidt, who probably thought himself safe.
But the detectives in bringing their work to a successful conclusion uncovered an astonishing admixture of cunning and carelessness. The man who went to the trouble to disguise himself to rent a flat gave his own named to the janitor and also to the man from whom he bought the few pieces of furniture he put in the new home for the girl, whom he claims he married, “performing the ceremony himself” after he had obtained a marriage license at the City Hall here last February.
He spent hours scrubbing the floor and then left clots of blood in the corners. he took the precaution of dropping the head into the river first to insure concealment of his victim’s identity and then left several pictures of her and scores of her letters in the flat.