Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thriller Thursday - Priest Cut Body of Girl Into Bits

 

Priest Cut Body of Girl Into Bits

Father Schmidt Confesses He Killed Young Woman While She Slept and Threw Parts in River.

"I Loved Her," He Moans

Victim of Butchery Was Anna Aumuller, a Servant in Parish House of Church to Which He Was Attached as Curate.

Arrested at St. Joseph's

Detectives Trace Murderer Through Pillow Slips and Find That Liaison Ended in Death - Weeps Over Picture and Makes Move Toward Suicide.

Father Hans Schmidt, alias "A. Van Dyke," a curate of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, at No. 405 West 125th street, was arrested at 3 o;clock yesterday morning, charged with the murder of the woman whose dismembered body was found in the Hudson River last week.

The victim was identified as Miss Anna Aumuller, a young woman who was employed as a servant in the parish house of St. Boniface Church, at 47th street and Second avenue, to which Father Schmidt formerly was attached.

Father Schmidt was arrested in the parlor of the parish house of St. Joseph's Church, where, after half an hour of grilling by Inspector Faurot and Detectives Cassassa and O'Neill, he broke down and admitted he committed the crime, the police officers say. He was taken over the scenes covered in his story and added many details to his confession. At the West 152d street station he was identified by the agent who rented a flat to him. He was taken to Police Headquarters.

After another examination there he had a formal hearing before Coroner Feinberg, who remanded him to the Tombs, without bail, under a charge of homicide in the case of Anna Aumuller.

Father Luke J. Evers, chaplain of the Tombs, after an hour's talk with the imprisoned priest in the afternoon, said the self-confessed murderer had told him he had killed the girl because his patron saint had so ordered it.

"I asked Schmidt why he had murdered the girl," said Father Evers. "He said, 'I was commanded by my patron, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, to offer a sacrifice. Like the sacrifice of Abraham, it mush be one of blood. So I killed Anna Aumuller, and after I had done so drank some of the blood in order to consummate the sacrifice.'"

Bundles Dropped from Ferry.

The scene of the murder, which, as the detectives told of it, was a butchery of a most revolting nature, was a third floor rear apartment in the house at No. 68 Bradhurst avenue. It was committed a few minutes before midnight on September 2, and the dismembered portions of the body, some of which were found later at different places along the shores of the Hudson River and bay, were carried one at a time by the murderer from the Harlem flat to the Fort Lee ferry, from which they were dropped into the river, weighted with stones.

So far as a motive was concerned, the police last night admitted that their talks with Father Schmidt produced nothing more definite than his repeated assertion when questioned as to his motive:

"I loved her."


Inspector Faurot was convinced, however, that fear of discovery and exposure was the ruling motive, and that Schmidt thought to end his liaison and his fear of the exposure of it, which would end his career as a priest.

As the story of his confession was given out by police, the priest's intrigue had progressed so far that no ordinary means would suffice to end it. He knew the girl when she was a servant in the parish house of St. Boniface's where he was a curate. He continued his relations with her when he went to St. Joseph's, and she remained at the rectory of St. Boniface's Church, and finally he placed her in an apartment, where for a very short time he continued to visit her.

Meanwhile the priest and the girl obtained a marriage license at the City Hall - this was dated February 26, 1913 - and, according to the police version of the confession, Father Schmidt said he performed a marriage ceremony himself.

Whether the priest misled the young woman into the belief that she was legally married to him or not, the police established the fact that she was an orphan, whose brothers and sisters are all in Hungary, and with no nearer relative in this country that a cousin, who had not seen anything of her for more than a year.



Flat Rented for Murder.

Partly by reason of the very brief period which elapsed between the time when Father Schmidt rented the Bradhurst avenue flat for her and the time of the murder, and partly because of the scantily furnished condition of the rooms, the police were convinced that the priest did not intend to live with her there, but established her there solely for the purpose of providing a place for the murder.

The murder itself, according to the police story of Father Schmidt's confession, was abnormal in its brutality. According to this story, he bought a long-bladed butcher's knife and an ordinary carpenter's saw, kept them in his room at the rectory for several days, and then on the night of September 2 went to the flat.

He found the young woman asleep, cut her throat so viciously that he almost severed her head from her body, and, while the body was still warm, dragged it to the bathroom, where he proceeded immediately with the work of dismemberment.

Anna Aumuller left her employment in the parish house of St. Boniface Church on August 31. Father Schmidt rented the flat in Bradhurst avenue on August 25 and paid $5 deposit. On August 28 he paid the other $14 of the $19 a month rent asked for the four rooms and on that day moved in a few pieces of furniture.

The young woman, a few days under twenty years old, told Father John S. Braun, the pastor of St. Boniface, that she was going to get married. To a fellow servant, Annie Hirt, she confided that she intended to marry an artist, Alexander Borgen, who lived in a small city in Ohio. Detectives who were told this story by a Tribune reporter began an investigation with the idea that it might furnish another motive for her murder, in that if her story to the Hirt girl was true the priest might have feared discovery of his liaison by the man she was going to marry and subsequent exposure for himself.

While Father Schmidt insisted that he was a regularly ordained priest and was able to furnish a complete story of his life, education and service as a priest, both in this country and in his native Germany, the church authorities of this diocese and of Trenton, N. J., whence he came to New York, threw doubt upon the authenticity of his story of having been ordained.

May Be Impostor as Priest.

Monsignor Lavelle, after hearing a report from Father Francis J. Sullivan and Father Luke J. Evers, who went to see Schmidt in the Tombs, said they could not learn from him any specific details as to when and where he was ordained a priest, and that it was rumored that he had been arrested in Munich, Germany, as an impostor on the complaint of a priest.

Bishop McFaul, of the Trenton diocese, said Schmidt was connected with the New York diocese and served in Trenton at St. Francis's Church only in the temporary absence of the Rev. Dr. Rathner.

The detective work by which the murder was traced down to the point where the police felt justified in confronting Father Schmidt with the crime goes to make up one of the most careful pieces of such work with which the department has been credited.

It began with the pillow slips, one of which was found wrapped around the first part of the victim's torso found in the river. The manufacturer, in Newark, provided the name of a Harlem dealer, George Sachs, and Sachs was able to give the police the names and addresses of the purchasers of the twelve such pillow slips be sold.

Ten of these pillow slips were traced by the police, and the two remaining sales were made by Sachs to Hans Schmidt to be delivered at No. 68 Bradhurst avenue. For four days Inspector Faurot had that apartment house watched for the occupant of the third floor rear flat, but Schmidt's work was done and he was gone before the vigil started.

Before 1 o'clock yesterday morning Faurot with his detectives went to the Bradhurst avenue flat determined that inasmuch as no tenant had been seen either entering or leaving the flat since the guard was set they would break in.

Detective Cassassa was sent up the fire escape, and after gaining an entrance through the window he went through the flat and opened the door to let in Inspector Faurot, with detectives O'Neill and Horan. They found evidence of the crime almost immediately, in the shape of a long-bladed butcher's knife and the carpenter's saw, which had not been thoroughly cleaned of blood.

They picked up also two pictures of Anna Aumuller, some underwear similar to that on the torso found in the river, a man's coat of a mixed gray material, in the pocket of which was a card inscribed "A. Van Dyke"; a portion of a spool of millinery wire, similar to that found on the bundles containing the dismembered parts of the victim's body; a receipted bill, showing that Hans Schmidt bought from George Sachs, No. 2762 Eighth avenue, one white enamel bed, one mattress and two pillows and pillow slips, for which he paid $12.68, and two trunks, in one of which were found a number of letters addressed to Miss Aumuller at St. Boniface's Church, 47th street and Second avenue.

Letters Signed "Hans."

Some of these letters were signed "Hans," and others, more formal, with the full name of "Hans Schmidt," and through these letters the trail led straight to the identification of the victim and the apprehension of the priest who is charged with the murder.

Just after 1 o'clock yesterday morning the police automobile containing Inspector Faurot and his detectives whizzed over to St. Boniface's Church parish house, where Father Braun immediately identified the photographs of Miss Aumuller. Faurot asked where Father Schmidt might be found, and Father Braun directed him to St. Joseph's Church parish house, at No. 405 West 125th street.

At 2 o'clock in the morning the police automobile stopped at the St. Joseph's Church rectory, and a few minutes later Father Huntman let in the officers and went upstairs to send Father Schmidt down.

Father Schmidt came into the parlor of the rectory, from which he was to go out a few minutes later a prisoner charged with murder, clad in his clerical vestments. Faurot's first questions he parried with skilful denials, and said he did not even know Miss Aumuller and that he did not rent a flat in Bradhurst avenue or anywhere else. He went too far, however, in his sweeping denials and involved himself in contradictions both of his own stories and of the evidence the police had previously gathered in the flat.

That evidence, incidentally, disclosed the strangest mixture of the professional criminal's careful destruction of evidence, combined with the amateur and first offense criminal's utterly neglectful attitude toward evidence, which a big murder mystery has ever offered in this city.

The blood of the victim, which apparently splattered all over the floor and walls of the little hall connecting the bedroom with the bathroom, was carefully cleaned from floors and walls, except in the corners. The body, so brutally dismembered, was carefully removed and the mattress burned, but the telltale letters and photographs were left behind.

The results of the murder were cleared away with almost scrupulous care, but the tools, which bore testifying finger-prints, were left behind. All in all, it was a curious mixture of supreme carefulness with utter carelessness, and these contradictions gave the detectives the basis for a grilling which, they say, Father Schmidt was not able to combat for very long.

Manner Becomes Callous.

When the break came and he began to tell the story of the murder, the police say, he came near to a collapse, but once over the brink of confession the priest talked freely, and as the story progressed his manner became callous.

According to the detectives, he shocked even their case-hardened nerves with the brutal frankness of detail with which he described his actions. When he went to the flat on the night of September 2, the detectives say, he found the young woman asleep, and murdered her with a powerful slash across the throat.

The detectives last night said that Schmidt, in his second version of the murder story, at Police Headquarters, told them that he tasted the blood of the victim.

Along this line, Inspector Faurot, whose years of experience as an instructor in Bertillon methods and as a student of facial characteristics of criminals qualifies him as an expert, said that Father Schmidt's face offered a contrast in itself of the sublime and the bestial, if viewed from different angles.

This peculiarity, Faurot said, was a different proposition from the usual one of facial characteristics being governed by mood, because the contrast in Schmidt, ha said, was always present. Coroner Feinberg, who examined the priest at Police Headquarters, described it technically as an "asymmetrical" face.

The details of his revolting story, completed as it was by his police examination in the parlor of St. Joseph's rectory, at the flat in which the murder was committed and in the open field where he burned the mattress, were repeated yesterday morning at Police Headquarters with Coroner Feinberg and Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy present.

It developed in this subsequent examination also that Schmidt rented a room in a neighborhood near the church where he went to change his clothes. When he left the rectory he was, of course, dressed in his clerical vestments. But when he went to the flat which he rented for the Aumuller girl he would not risk the conspicuousness of his priest's garb.

In the flat the police found several hundred cheap cards on which the following inscription was printed:
"Dr. Emil Moliere, Assistant Surgeon, Municipal Woman's Hospital, Paris, France. Representative of the Chemical Hygienic Manufacturing Company. Demeraile Freres."

Father Schmidt's pedigree, as taken at Police Headquarters, gave his age as thirty-two; born in Germany; occupation, priest, and married. His height is only 5 feet 2½ inches, but he is a well developed man with powerful arms. His skin, hair and eyes are dark, but his face when he appeared at Police Headquarters yesterday was sallow.

He has performed the duties of his priesthood with equanimity since the murder as before.

Coroner Feinberg was lavish in his praise of the work of Inspector Faurot. He said that neither Scotland Yard nor Paris had ever surpassed it.

"Every step of discovery of this revolting crime," said the Coroner, "pointed anywhere but to the cloisters of a church, and Inspector Faurot deserves great credit for the careful way in which he worked out the case."

Goes to Sleep in Tombs.

Father Schmidt was put in Cell 139 at the Tombs, and, according to the guards, he calmly went to sleep on the cot in the cell almost as soon as he was locked in.

Father Gerard Huntman, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, held the usual Sunday night service last night. The church was crowded. No reference whatever was made by him to the crime. Outside the church there was a big crowd looking up at the rectory and discussing the case.

Policemen detailed there kept the throng moving. Men of the West 152d street station formed police lines in front of the apartment house in Bradhurst avenue, which were continued all of yesterday and last night.

In America Six Years.

To the story of the murder and the associations which led up to it, the story told at Police Headquarters added the following biographical details:

Schmidt was born in Bavaria in 1881. When twelve years old he went to a college at Mainz, Germany, and remained there until he was eighteen, when he entered a seminary at St. Augustine, Germany. He was ordained to the priesthood on September 23, 1904. His first assignment was at St. Elizabeth's Church, Darmstadt, Germany, where he served six months. From there he went to Burgel-on-Main, and was out of the priesthood a year on account of illness.

He came to this country in 1907, going to Louisville. From there he was transferred to Trenton, N. J., and from that city came to St. Boniface's Church in 1910. He was connected with St. Boniface for two years, leaving it to go to St. Joseph's.

Priest Cut Body of Girl Into Bits, The Tribune, 15 September 1913, page 1, column 3, and page 2, column 1.