Hans Schmidt (priest)

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Father Hans Schmidt.jpg
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Hans B. Schmidt (1881[1] – February 18, 1916) was a Roman Catholic priest convicted of murder, and the only one to be sentenced to death in the United States.

Background[edit]

Born in the Bavarian city of Aschaffenburg[1][2] and ordained in Mainz in 1906,[3]:54 Schmidt emigrated to the United States in 1909,[3]:55 where he was assigned to St. John's Parish in Louisville, Kentucky. There, a rift with another priest resulted in Schmidt's transfer to St. Boniface Church in New York City.

Murder[edit]

While serving in New York, Schmidt met Anna Aumüller, the attractive housekeeper for the rectory who had recently emigrated from Austria. Despite his subsequent transfer to a church in a distant area of the city, Schmidt and Anna continued a secret sexual relationship. It was later revealed that they were married in a secret ceremony of dubious legality, which Schmidt performed himself. However, after discovering that Anna was pregnant, Schmidt slashed her throat on the night of September 2, 1913, dismembered the body, and threw the pieces into the East River.[2][4]

Trial and execution[edit]

Once the body was discovered, a police investigation led to Schmidt and he was arrested and charged with the murder. A media circus spectacle ensued, comparable to those caused by the Scott Peterson and Mark Hacking cases of a later era, as the New York papers competed against each other with an ever greater degree of sensationalism regarding the case. After feigning insanity during his first trial, which ended with a hung jury, Schmidt was eventually convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. On February 18, 1916, Schmidt was executed at Sing Sing Prison; he remains the only priest ever executed for murder in the United States.

Other possible crimes[edit]

Apart from killing his young, pregnant "wife," further investigation revealed that Schmidt had a second apartment where he had set up a counterfeiting workshop.[2][5]

Authorities also suspected Schmidt of the murder of nine-year-old Alma Kellner whose body was found buried in the basement of St. John's church in Louisville, Kentucky, where Schmidt had previously worked. The body had been burned but authorities suspected the killer had initially tried to dismember her. The janitor, Joseph Wendling, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder based on circumstantial evidence and bloody clothing found at his house.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Gado, Mark. 2006. Killer Priest: The Crimes, Trials, and Execution of Father Hans Schmidt. Westport, CT: Greenwood, p. 5.
  2. ^ a b c "Approached a Physician with His Plan to Get Insurance, Faurot Discovers.". New York Times. September 23, 1913. Retrieved 2010-01-10. Hans Schmidt, the suspended Catholic priest who murdered Anna Aumuller and attempted to make counterfeit money, intended to commit a series of murders for the purpose of defrauding life insurance companies, according to Inspector Faurot. 
  3. ^ a b Polenberg, Richard. The World of Benjamin Cardozo: Personal Values and the Judicial Process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  4. ^ http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DEcbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=R0kEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6305%2C4854125
  5. ^ "Detectives Find Complete Outfit in Rooms Rented by Slayer of River Victim.". New York Times. September 16, 1913. Retrieved 2010-01-10. Dr. Ernest Arthur Muret, a dentist of 301 St. Nicholas Avenue, was arrested at midnight last night by Inspector Faurot and several detectives on the charge of running a counterfeiting plant with Hans Schmidt, the curate of St. Joseph's Church on West 125th Street, who was arrested early Sunday morning for murdering Anna Aumuller, parts of whose dismembered body were found in the Hudson River. 
  6. ^ KELLNER SLAYER GUILTY. - Joseph Wendling, Charged with the Girl's Murder, Gets Life Sentence., at the New York Times; published December 4, 1910; retrieved August 6, 2014

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]