Charles Schmid, "The Pied Piper of Tucson" serial killer

Charles Schmid, “The Pied Piper of Tucson” Serial Killer

On the surface, Charles Schmid, just like many psychopaths, was good-looking, intelligent and well-mannered. He used lip balm, pancake makeup and created an artificial mole on his cheek. In his own eyes, he saw himself as Elvis Presley. He even stuffed his cowboy boots with newspapers and flattened cans to make him appear taller.

But shocking for the authorities and public was the fact he was able to murder 3 people, brag about it to his teenage followers long before authorities even started to suspect murder might be done – nobody spoke up.

Charles Schmid childhood

Charles Howard “Smitty” Schmid, Jr. was an illegitimate child adopted by Charles and Katharine Schmid. He had a difficult relationship with his adoptive father Charles, whom Katharine Schmid later divorced. When the adopted boy tried to hook up with his biological mother, she angrily told him never to come back.

Despite doing poorly at school, he was an accomplished athlete, he excelled at gymnastics and even led his high school to a State Championship. Just before his graduation Schmid stole tools from the school’s machine shop and was suspended. He never returned to school.

When he turned 23, he began living on his own. On his parents’ property with a new car and motorcycle. He even received an allowance, which he mainly spent on parties and picking up girls. He was able to sing and play a guitar. His peers admired him.

Charles Schmid at high school
Charles Schmid at high school

The murders

At one night, drinking with his girlfriend Mary French and a friend John Saunders, Schmid announced that he wants to kill a girl and he thinks he can get away with it. The victim was 15-year-old Alleen Rowe. He convinced his girlfriend Mary to ask Alleen, who was her neighbor and friend, to go on a double date with her.

They drove by a near desert, where Charles Schmid and John Saunders lured the girl to see a nice spot. There, Schmid raped and beat her to death with a stone, afterwards burying her body to a shallow grave. Schmid told his friend Saunders to rape her first, but he couldn’t do it. Mary French was waiting in the car, casually listening to the radio. There were rumors she was pregnant, carrying a Charle’s child, and it was her way to show she loved Charles.

One of many Schmid’s girlfriends was Gretchen Fritz, whom he confessed the murder of Alleen Rowe. When Schmid decided to break up with Fritz, she threatened to use the information against him. Schmid got angry and strangled Gretchen Fritz and her little sister Wendy, who was only 13 years-old and just happened to be at the wrong and at the wrong time.

Trial and capture

Schmid confided to his loner friend Richard Bruns that he murdered the sisters and showed Bruns the shallow graves. Bruns became increasingly paranoid that Schmid is going to murder his girlfriend. Eventually, he confessed his grandparents, who lived in Ohio, everything he knew about the murders, and flew back to Tucson to help with the investigation.

When Charles was put under an arrest, he was a different man. His behavior was bizarre, he was filthy, wore a bandage on his nose and exaggerated his birthmark. When the policemen questioned Charles, he didn’t answer to questions and was in a trance-like condition.

Charles Schmid during the arrest
Charles Schmid during the arrest
Charles Schmid during the arrest

In 1966, Schmid was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. At the time, the state of Arizona had temporarily abolished the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to 50 years in prison. Saunders and French agreed to testify for the state against Schmid and received lesser charges.

Schmid made few failed escape attempts from jail. Finally succeeding in 1965, he held 4 held four hostages in a ranch with another inmate named Raymond Hudgens. The men were captured and returned to the prison. In 1975, he was stabbed 47 times by two fellow prisoners and died 20 days later.

Informer Richard Bruns, who told police officers where they could find the bodies of the Fritz girls, who where murdered by Charles Schmid.
Informer Richard Bruns, who told police officers where they could find the bodies of the Fritz girls, who where murdered by Charles Schmid
Charles Schmid and his lawyer
Charles Schmid and his lawyer
Serial killers, Crime
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