Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thriller Thursday - River Murder Traced to Priest

 

River Murder Traced to Priest Who Confesses


Is Rev. Hans Schmidt, Assistant at St. Joseph's, Harlem, Victim a Servant Girl.


He Lived a Double Life

Went Through Marriage Form with Anna Aumuller, Killed and Dismembered Her.

Traced By Pillow Case

To Apartment They Shared, Where He Slew Her in Her Sleep in the Night.

Full Proof of The Crime

Confronted in His Parish House Slayer Breaks Down and Tells All - Suicide Plan Frustrated.


The Rev. Hans Schmidt, assistant pastor of St. Joseph's Church, at 405 West 125th Street, confessed early yesterday morning in the rectory of that church to Inspector Faurot and Detective Cassassa that he was the murderer of the young woman parts of whose dismembered body have been found on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. The murdered woman was Anna Aumuller, 21 years old, a servant who had been employed at St. Boniface's Church, Second Avenue and Forty-seventh Street, where Schmidt had been a priest. She was killed and dismembered shortly before midnight on Sept. 2 in an apartment on the third floor of an apartment house at 68 Bradhurst Avenue. The priest and the girl had obtained a marriage license in this city on Feb. 26 of this year, and Schmidt told the detectives that he officiated at a ceremony which was intended to unite himself and the young woman. He had given her a wedding ring, which he took from her finger after slaying her.

In his confession Schmidt said that he had frequently posed as a physician under various names. Inspector Faurot said that evidence was found in his room to show that he was interested in the sale of preparations familiar in criminal medical practice.

His Motive Uncertain.

The Rev. Father Luke J. Evers, Tombs Chaplain and pastor of St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church in City Hall Place, interviews the prisoner in the Tombs last night. He said that, when asked why he had killed the young woman, Schmidt replied:
"I loved her. Sacrifices should be consummated in blood."

The only reply Inspector Faurot and Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy could get from Schmidt when they asked his motive for killing the girl was: "I loved her."

Schmidt refused to say whether she had threatened to expose their relations. While he talked freely about the manner in which he had committed the crime and attempted to conceal the traces, he displayed extreme reluctance to discuss his motives.

Anna Aumuller was born in a small German village, and had been in this country for five years, working at several addresses in New York as a maid. Her only known relative in America is Robert Igler of 428 East Seventieth Street, a boatman in Central Park.

Schmidt's confession bore out the statement of County Physician King of New Jersey that the woman had given birth prematurely to a child shortly before she was murdered. Schmidt refused to tell whether he had been guilty of malpractice.

Schmidt's Account of Himself.

According to his own account of himself Schmidt was born in Aschaffenburg, Germany, in 1881. He attended public schools in that city until he was 12 years old, and then went to Mainz, where he attended college. At the age of 18 he enrolled in St. Augustine's Seminary in Mainz, and on Dec. 23, 1904, was ordained by Bishop Kestein of that institution. He was then assigned to St. Elizabeth's Church in Darmstadt, where he remained for six months. Next he was assigned to a village church in Burgel.

After being in poor health for a year, according to Schmidt, he came to this country on the North German Lloyd Line. After a short time in this city he went to Louisville, Ky. In 1909 he was connected with a church in Trenton, N. J. In December, 1910, he became assistant to Father Braun, rector of St. Boniface's Church, at Second Avenue and Forty-seventh Street. Here it was that he met Anna Aumuller.

In November, 1912, Schmidt left St. Boniface's Church and became an assistant to the Rev. Gerard H. Huntmann, rector of St. Joseph's Church in 125th Street. Schmidt was connected with this church when he committed the murder, and he continued in the exercise of his functions up to the time of his arrest yesterday morning.

It could hardly be said that Schmidt was even under suspicion up to the time that Inspector Faurot and Detective Cassassa introduced themselves to him in the office of St. Joseph's rectory on Saturday shortly before midnight. The shudder and appearance of alarm, however, that passed over the man when he learned who his visitors were, amounted almost to a confession, according to Inspector Faurot.

Pillowcase the Clue.

The pillowcase in which the upper part of the torso of the murdered body was wrapped furnished the clue which brought about the arrest and confession of Schmidt. When this was fished out of the Hudson on Sept. 5, a tag was found attached to it bearing the name of the Robinson-Roders Company of Newark and the figures "89" written in pencil. The books of the Robinson-Roders Company showed that only twelve pillows of this size and pattern had been manufactured, and that all twelve had been sold to George Sachs, a furniture dealer at 2,768 Eighth Avenue. Sachs had all but two of these in his stock. One was traced to a woman who was found to know nothing of the crime.

Inspector Faurot obtained from Sachs a list of all the pillows which he had sold since last March, when the twelve pillows were purchased from the Robinson-Roders Company. There were nearly forty pillows on the list, and these were carefully traced by Detectives Bennett and Charlock from the Prosecutor's office in Hudson County, Lieut. O'Neill of the East 152d Street Station, and several detectives from Headquarters.

There was an item in Sachs's books of the sale on Aug. 25 of two pillows, a chair, bedsprings, and a white enameled bed for a total of $12.68. All these had been delivered to 68 Bradhurst Avenue. Lieut. O'Neill, who was assigned to follow this clue, learned from Carlton Brooker, Superintendent of the building at 68 Bradhurst Avenue, that this furniture had been moved into a four-room apartment on the south side of the third floor in the rear.

The apartment had been engaged in the name of Hans Schmidt on Aug. 25, the day that the furniture had been purchased from Sachs. Schmidt had told Brooker that he was engaging the apartment and furnishing it for a young woman, a relative of his, who was soon to be married.

It was last Monday that the detectives first visited 68 Bradhurst Avenue. Since that time Inspector Faurot has kept men watching the place day and night. During these five days no one visited the apartment. This circumstance aroused suspicion more and more, and when other clues had been investigated and one by one proved false, Inspector Faurot grew impatient and on Saturday night decided to break into the apartment.

The Apartment Entered.

Accompanied by Lieut. O'Neill, Detectives Cassassa, McKenna, and Thomas Horan and Stenographer O'Connell, Inspector Faurot entered the apartment at 6 o'clock on Saturday night with a key obtained from the Superintendent of the building.

A glance about the flat was enough to convince them that the murder had been committed there. There was a dark stain on the green wall paper of the room in which the bed lay and another stain on the floor of the hall between the bedroom and bathroom. The stain on the floor had been almost effaced by scrubbing. A new scrubbing brush was found in the sink in the kitchen and six cakes of soap on the drain board beside it.

The springs lay on the white-enameled bed, by the mattress, pillow and bedding had been removed. The only furniture in the apartment besides the bed was a single cheap wicker-bottomed chair, a refrigerator and a stove in the kitchen. The refrigerator and stove came with the apartment.

There were two trunks, a steamer trunk and a small zinc trunk. On the small one lay a tin box and a small wooden box which had contained a package of paper. There were opened first and emptied of fifty or sixty letters written to Anna Aumuller at various addresses. Some of the letters were several years old and quite a number were in German. There were also a good many postal cards.

When they opened the large trunk the detectives found on top of a heap of women's clothes a butcher knife fifteen inches long and a large hand-saw. The knife had been recently ground on a stone and both had been scoured.

Beside the knife and saw, nothing was found in the two trunks but a woman's wearing apparel. There were three worn suits of dark material, several calico working dresses and a number of waists and undergarments.

Several pocket handkerchiefs were found, on each of which a small "A" had been embroidered. These bore a startling resemblance to the initial on the pillow-slip in which the lower part of the torso of the murdered woman had been wrapped.

In the kitchen were found six empty ginger ale bottles, a sack of granulated sugar, part of a loaf of bread, a bread knife, a glass water pitcher, and two drinking glasses. In the cupboard there was also a glass inkwell and a glass stamp-moistener. The refrigerator contained nothing except an empty milk bottle. In a closet were hung a blue calico working dress, a black waist, and a black dress. The only man's garment in the apartment was a dark gray coat hanging in the bathroom. Sewed in an inside pocket was the name "A. Van Dyke."

Traced to the Rectory.

Inspector Faurot parceled the letters out among the detectives to be read for the names and addresses of persons who might be acquainted with the girl. Most of the letters appeared to be from women and from relatives in Germany. None threw any direct light on the murder, so the detectives picked out three addresses where the girl had worked, and set out to learn what they could about her from these places. They went first to places on Sixtieth Street and on Seventieth Street. Inspector Faurot said that little was learned about the girl at these two places. He declined to name the families with whom she had worked as a servant.

The third place was the rectory of St. Boniface's Church, on Forty-seventh Street and Second Avenue, where the detectives saw the pastor, the Rev. J. S. Braun. He said that the girl had entered his employ on Dec. 10, 1912. Shortly after this Father Braun and his sister made a trip to Europe, leaving the rectory in charge of a housekeeper who had trouble with the girl and discharged her. After the return of Father Braun in May, Miss Aumuller again applied for a place. She remained there till Aug. 31, when Father Braun discharged her, he said, because he was not satisfied with her way of life.

Inspector Faurot questioned Father Braun at length about the girl's friends and habits. When he learned that there was a priest named Hans Schmidt connected with the rectory while the girl had been there, Inspector Faurot remembered that the same name was given by the man who had engaged the apartment at 68 Bradhurst Avenue. When he learned that Schmidt was then connected with St. Joseph's on 125th Street, the Inspector promptly closed the interview and started for that address in his automobile.

"We were still bothered by the fact that no one in a priest's garb had ever appeared at the apartment," said Inspector Faurot yesterday. "We were by no means certain that Schmidt was implicated. It seemed rather unlikely, as a matter of fact. We expected, however, that Schmidt would know something about it, especially if it was he who had rented the apartment."

Inspector Faurot, Detective Cassassa, and Stenographer O'Connor left the automobile and went up the steps of St. Joseph's rectory a few minutes before midnight. They rang the bell several times before the door was answered by a priest. It was explained that the three visitors had come on an important mission to see Father Schmidt. The priest showed them into a small office of the rectory and went away to call Schmidt. In about five minutes the man came slowly down the steps and entered the hall, dressed in priest's attire. He hesitated a moment when he reached the bottom of the steps, and then walked into the office.

Faurot Faces Schmidt.

Inspector Faurot jumped to his feet walked toward him, and said:
"Father Schmidt, I am Inspector Faurot and there are Detectives Cassassa and O'Connor."

The nervous shock Schmidt experienced convinced the detectives that they were at the end of their search for the murderer. The priest threw up his hands as if to clasp them over his face. A strong effort of will overcame this gesture and he pressed his hands tightly over his breast. The he nodded and waited, with his body trembling, for Inspector Faurot to say more.

"We are looking for the murderer of Anna Aumuller." said the Inspector.

A second shudder passed over the man but he nodded again and remained silent.

"Did you know the girl?" asked the Inspector.

"No." said Schmidt slowly, looking from side to side as he spoke. "I do not recall the name."

After Schmidt had several times denied knowing the girl, Inspector Faurot pulled from his pocket a photograph of the girl found in the apartment, and thrust it suddenly before the priest's eyes, exclaiming:
"What? You didn't know that woman?"

Schmidt recoiled and hid his eyes with his hands. Inspector Faurot kept the photograph before him, insisting that he should look at it. The priest took his hands away from his eyes and stared at the picture. Then he shook his head, denying that he knew the girl.

Inspector Faurot put more questions to him about the girl and about the apartment at 68 Bradhurst Avenue, The priest shook his head or answered in the negative each time, but finally, when the questions revealed how much the detectives knew, he sank into a chair and began to weep. Inspector Faurot placed his hand on the man's shoulder and told him to brace up.

"Don't lose your nerve." urged the Inspector. "Brace up and tell us the truth. You murdered Anna Aumuller. We know all about it. Now, control yourself and tell us the truth."

"Yes, I killed her." said Schmidt at the end of a fit of weeping. "I killed her because I loved her. I am guilty and I am ready to pay the penalty."

After this admission Schmidt's reticence was at an end, and he was ready to go into the most complete detail regarding his deed. He was averse to discussing his motive and would only repeat, when questioned about it, that he loved her.

After he had described the crime, Schmidt rose to his feet and said he wished to go to the bathroom.
"Search him." ordered the Inspector.

Schmidt submitted while the two detectives went through his clothes. In an outside pocket they found a razor, which Schmidt had clasped in his hand when he stood up.

After this had been taken away from him, Schmidt told the Inspector that when he was awakened he feared that men had come to arrest him and that he had put a razor in his pocket before coming downstairs. If he had seen men in police uniform in the office, he said, he would have cut his throat before a word was said to him.

Inspector Faurot then ordered Schmidt to dress in civilian clothes and detectives watched him while the priest made the change.

Schmidt admitted his relations with the young woman while he was a priest and she was a domestic servant at St. Boniface's rectory. He told how he and the girl had obtained a marriage license in February and he had performed the marriage ceremony. Schmidt told the police that he considered this a legal marriage and that he had officiated at it himself because he would be expelled from the church if the fact became known.

Resolves to Kill Her.

The young woman had lived in the apartment, Schmidt said, after she lost her place on Aug 31. It was on about that day, he said, that he had finally resolved to kill her. He then purchased the butcher knife and saw at the store of Stern & Co., dealers in second-hand machinery, at 116 Centre Street, directly opposite the Criminal Courts Building, where Schmidt in all probability will be tried for murder.

He took the knife and saw with him to his room at the rectory and kept them there two days. Armed with these weapons, he went shortly before midnight to the apartment at 68 Bradhurst Avenue. He told Inspector Faurot that he turned on the electric light in the bathroom only so that the sudden illumination would not rouse the girl, whom he knew to be sleeping in the next room.

"She never knew what happened," Schmidt said.

With the knife, found later, Schmidt cut the woman's throat. Almost immediately after inflicting the death wound, he carried her into the bathroom, placed the body in the tub and proceeded to dismember it with the knife and saw. He cut the body into seven pieces, severing the head first. Then he removed the arms and severed the trunk. The legs were next amputated at the hip and severed again below the knees.

Physicians who examine parts of the body have agreed that the dismemberment was expertly done. When the detectives questioned Schmidt about this, he said that he had studied surgery for several months in Germany.

Most of the precautions taken by Schmidt in attempting to cover the evidence of his crime had been planned in advance. Before the murder he had provided himself with a spool of milliner's wire and with several sheets of tar paper.

Schmidt wrapped up the head in a sheet and blanket, but before he had placed the wire and tar paper around it it occurred to him that it might be well to weight it with a rock. He made a trip to a vacant lot on 144th Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, where several large pieces of New York schist were lying about.

Takes Body to the River.

It was some time after midnight when Schmidt left the place with the bundle under his arm. He took the crosstown car at 125th Street, he told Inspector Faurot, rode to Riverside Drive, and took the Fort Lee ferry. He stood on the rear end of the boat until it was half way across the river. Assuring himself that no one was near enough to see him through the darkness, he dropped the bundle overboard.

This was on the morning of Sept. 3, and three or four times before daybreak Schmidt repeated this. Each time he went first to the vacant lot and carried away a rock. Then, returning to his apartment, he made up a new bundle, carried it to the Fort Lee ferry, and dropped it overboard.

Schmidt could not tell the police how many times he had done this on the morning of Sept. 3. At any rate there were several pieces remaining, and these he disposed of in the same fashion on the night of the same day. He used up all the sheets and blankets on the bed, as well as the pillow and pillow-slip in which two parts of the body were found wrapped.

Schmidt regarded it was dangerous, he told detectives, to leave the blood-stained mattress in his room. On this account he rolled it up and carried it under his arm after nightfall on Sept. 4 or 5 to the vacant lot where he had picked up the rocks. With some burning papers he set fire to it where he had previously ripped it open with a knife.

A number of children gathered around him curiously, he said, while he was setting fire to the mattress, and when it began to burn brightly a large crowd collected in the lot and looked on. At the same time in another part of the lot several hundred persons were sitting under a small circus tent listening to the words of evangelists, preaching under the management of the Evangelical Committee at 541 Lexington Avenue.

Schmidt led Inspector Faurot and the detectives to this lot, showed them where he had found the rocks and where he had burned the mattress. A large part of it only scorched by the flames lay scattered about the ground.

The day after the mattress had been destroyed Schmidt spend hours scrubbing the floors of the apartment to remove traces of blood. He had intended, he told the detectives, to pack the trunks and remove them, so that no evidence would remain. He began to be afraid, however, that persons in the apartment were watching his movements. On this account, he stayed away a day or two and in the meantime the discovery was made of the torso floating in the Hudson. The publicity the case received after that day frightened him so much that he did not dare to return to the building.

The whole conversation which passed between the detectives and their prisoner after his arrest early yesterday morning was taken down by Stenographer O'Connor. At the same time Inspector Faurot began to round up witnesses. The first was Carlton Brooker, from whom Schmidt had rented the apartment. When Brooker arrived at the West 152d Street Station he found five men lined up against the wall. Without hesitation he identified Schmidt as the man who had taken the apartment. Brooker said that Schmidt had paid $5 down, and that the rental was to be $19 a month.

Before taking their prisoner to Headquarters, the Inspector and detectives visited his room at St. Joseph's rectory. Here they found among his personal belongings an opal ring and a gold wedding ring. Both of these, Schmidt said, he had given to Miss Aumuller and removed from her fingers after killing her.

Passed as a Surgeon.

In Schmidt's wardrobe was a woman's coat matching a skirt found in the flat. The keys to the apartment in Bradhurst Avenue and the rental receipt were also in his room. But what interested them more then all these and opened a new field for investigation were business cards bearing this inscription:

Dr. Emil Moliere, formerly Assistant Surgeon of the Municipal Women's Hospital, Paris, France. Representative of the Chemical Hygienic Manufacturing Company.

There were 500 of these cards. Schmidt said that he had sometimes described himself as Dr. Emil Moliere and that the cards were for his own use. Schmidt also admitted that he had described himself as a physician under various other names.

A number of bottles of medicine were found in the room. These, the detectives learned from Schmidt, were manufactured by a company in which he was interested, and their use was condemned by law. A number of certificates of stock in corporations manufacturing patent medicines were also discovered in the room.

Inspector Faurot said last night that he had questioned Schmidt about his pretenses of being a physician and about his interest in drug preparations intended for illegal use. The Inspector refused, however, to tell whether in his confession Schmidt had accused himself of criminal medical practice.

"There are some very important questions to be investigated concerning this case," said Faurot. "Schmidt was reluctant to talk about his remedies and his medical cards and stock. There may be much more to be said about this later."

Schmidt said that the name of Moliere, which he had taken in posing as a physician, was his mother's name. He declined to tell Inspector Faurot whether he had masqueraded as a doctor during the time that he was attached to a church.

It was about 5 o'clock yesterday morning when Schmidt was finally locked up at Police Headquarters. There he was subjected to an examination of two hours by Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy. Before it ended Schmidt signed his name to a short confession. At noon the prisoner was taken before Coroner Feinberg.

Inspector Faurot yesterday had most of the contents of the apartment at 68 Bradhurst Street removed to Police Headquarters. The letters written in German to Miss Aumuller have not been translated and it is expected by this means to learn something about her past life, about which very little is known at present.

In his statement to Assistant District Attorney Murphy, Schmidt said that his mother and father were living, and that he had several brothers and sisters in Germany. Most of them, he said, are in his native town, Aschaffenburg, Germany.

While Inspector Faurot, Assistant District Attorney Murphy and several detectives made a minute examination of the apartment yesterday afternoon a crowd of 3,000 persons gathered in front of the place and reserves from the West 152d Street Station were called out.

The crime, to which Schmidt has confessed was revealed on Sept. 5, then Mary Bann of Woodcliff, N. J., saw a brown bundle floating in the Hudson River near an abandoned dock on the New Jersey side, opposite Ninety-sixth Street. The bundle contained the upper part of the torso of the murdered woman.

On Sept. 7 the lower part of the torso was found in a bundle at the water's edge on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, near Weehawken. The two parts of the body were taken to the Hoboken Morgue, awaiting identification.
The police were thrown off the trail three times by persons who erroneously identified the remains. The first was Peter Sternemann, an aged millinery salesman, now under observation at the psychopathic ward of Bellevue Hospital. He was sure that the body was that of his daughter Ella, until she was found to be living on Long Island.

The second claimant of the body was Casper Jaanen of 303 West Thirty-third Street, a waiter. He identified the body as that of his wife, but the following day it was learned that she was alive and well in Havana.

The third was Francis Day of 206 Union Street, Brooklyn, who on Thursday said that the murdered woman was his sister Antoinette. The mother and two sisters of Antoinette Day, however, viewed the body on the following day and made an affidavit that it was not she.

River Murder Traced to Priest Who Confesses, The New York Times, 15 September 1913.