Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thriller Thursday - Arrest Dentist as Schmidt's Aid in Coining Plant


Arrest Dentist as Schmidt's Aid in Coining Plant

Detectives Find Complete Outfit in Rooms Rented by Slayer of River Victim.

Two Often Seen Together

Dr. Muret Traced by Receipts Found in Priest's Rooms - Woman Servant Also Held.

Dentist Makes Confession

Admits He Was Engaged in Coining and Asserts That Schmidt Bought Equipment.

It Is Shown That Schmidt Was Suspended and Had Presented Forger Credentials Here.

Part of Body Burned.

Charred Bone of Anna Aumuller and Bits of Pillow Case Found in Vacant Lot.

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.

The counterfeiting plant was found yesterday afternoon in a four-room apartment at 516 West 134th Street. Rental receipts for these premises were found in Schmidt's room at St. Joseph's rectory. Detective McKenna paid a visit to the place, with several color-printing presses, engraving plates, and cameras.

Find Bills Partly Printed.

A bundle of ten-dollar bills in the process of manufacture were found in the apartment. Only the first imprint had been made in red, and the bills had seemingly been put aside to dry, before successive impressions were made in other colors to bring the bills to the right shade. The number "A 1234567829 A" was on each bill. A copper plate engraving of a twenty-dollar bill was found in the room. No impressions had been struck from it.

The apartment had been rented in the name of George Miller by the priest. The superintendent of the building said that Miller, or Schmidt, had a companion in the work. From the description of the accomplice, Detective McKenna was able to trace Dr. Ernest Arthur Muret to his dental office at 301 St. Nicholas Ave.

There was no one in when the detectives called there early this evening. A search was made of the dental rooms, though, and much paper for making the counterfeit bills was found there. The detectives continued to watch the premises until shortly before midnight, when the dentist returned. He was arrested at once.

Doctor Admits Counterfeiting.

The prisoner admitted his counterfeiting operations and said that the priest had been his accomplice. Schmidt, he said, had furnished most of the money with which the expensive apparatus had been purchased.

He confessed to Inspector Faurot that he had never been licensed to practice dentistry, although he insisted that he had studied for two years in Berlin. He said that he had come to this country in 1903 and had obtained employment as an assistant to dentists whose names he refused to disclose. Early last December he rented the office which he then occupied at 301 St. Nicholas Avenue.

One of his first patients, he said, was Dr. Schmidt, who came to his early this year and had dental work done for which he paid $58. They became very friendly, and on June 3 the priest rented the flat for Muret under the name of George Miller. It was a four-room and bath apartment and the rent was $23 a month. A receipt found among Schmidt's effects put the police on the trail of this flat.

Mrs. Margaret Bowye, janitress, and Mrs. Margaret Rutledge, Superintendent, of the 134th Street apartment, identified Dr. Muret, when confronted with him, as the man who had been with the priest at the apartments.

The women identified a picture of Schmidt as a man who visited the dentist at the apartment, where they would stay together for several hours. Sometimes, they said, the dentist would be there for days at a time, and then he would be absent for a week. The men had purchased a stock of chemicals used for developing photographic plates and making steel engravings. The camera was specially constructed with powerful lenses for the purpose of reproducing bills.

Hold Servant as a Witness.

Bertha Zech, 21 years old, a servant, was held as a material witness. According to Muret she had been in his employ since last November. She obtained employment with him through an advertisement.

Detectives traced the man to the house in West 134th Street. Here, on the fourth floor, was a fully equipped counterfeiting plant. There were four rooms full of counterfeiters' tools, acids, and presses.

After tracing Muret to 301 St. Nicholas Avenue, Detective McKenna stood outside and waited until he came in. At midnight Muret arrived and Detective McKenna seized him. A search of his rooms revealed a loaded revolver, which was in his bureau drawer. In his possession also were several pictures of Hans Schmidt.

There was a dental sign over the door. This letter was found, which had been written recently:

Dr. George Muret
Dear Sir: Replying to your favor of the 8th inst., we beg to say that the price of ink rollers for the Excelsior press is $1.25. Hoping to receive your esteemed order, we are,
Chelsea Press.

Muret was taken by surprise when he was arrested. Then he became indignant.

Detective O'Neill found in a bowl in the apartment the burned edges of a $10 counterfeit bill which had undergone several impressions in the printing press. The number of this bill was "A12456782A."

Inspector Faurot was asked if Dr. Muret would be charged with being an accomplice of Father Schmidt in the murder of the Aumuller woman. He said:

"I will not be quoted as to that. I will say, however, that surgical instruments were found in the apartment on 134th Street and that there may be other charges than counterfeiting against the prisoner."

Dr. Muret told the police that Schmidt had done all of the actual purchasing of apparatus and supplies.

Inspector Faurot said last night that further arrests were to be made.

"I do not think that was a one-man shop," he said. "All four rooms were given over to workshop. The bathroom was used as a darkroom for developing the photographic plates, the kitchen for the storage of chemicals, the dining room as a drying room, and the parlor as the pressroom. In the bedroom were stored the supplies of paper for printing."

Muret bears a striking facial resemblance to Schmidt, and he was asked repeatedly if he and the priest were relatives, but he denied that there was any family connection. Muret is about six feet tall and weighs 145 pounds. He dresses fashionably and is of good appearance and address. He speaks French, German, and English perfectly.

Burned Part of Body.

Inspector Faurot announced last night that his detectives had discovered evidence that Schmidt had burned one of the sections of the leg of the murdered woman in a vacant lot in Macomb's Place, between 151st and 152d Streets.

"This tip was given to police," he said, "by an employee of a contractor named McKnight. On the night of Sept. 3 a man was seen walking into the vacant lot carrying a can and a large bundle.

"A few minutes later flames appeared in one corner of the lot. The man remained beside them, pouring on oil from time to time, when the flames seemed to be dying out. He continued to do this for nearly an hour.

"Detective O'Neill investigated this clue to-day. He found that the can with a little oil in the bottom had been left in the lot. Bits of pillow ticking were lying about. It was the same pattern as that in the pillow which contained part of the torso of the murdered woman.

"Finally Detective O'Neill found a fragment of charred bone six inches long. Both ends of the bone had been sawed off. In the middle was what seemed to be the knee joint. It was charred to badly, however, that this could not be ascertained definitely.

"In the debris left by the fire Detective O'Neill found part of a burned photograph. The only thing that could be made out in the picture was the head and shoulders of a man wearing a clerical collar who stood on the rear of a train of cars. The name "Frisco" appeared near the platform of the car on which the man was standing."

Had Forged Credentials.

Hans Schmidt, it was established yesterday, obtained his connection with Catholic churches in this country by the use of forged credentials. He was suspended from the priesthood in 1909 by the Bishop of Mainz, Germany, for obtaining a chaplaincy in the village of Buergel by presenting fraudulent documents concerning his educational qualifications.

The Bishop of Mainz, in a cable message to the Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, said yesterday that Schmidt had been arrested by the police in 1909 for frauds, and that he escaped punishment by being declared insane by the courts.

Soon after he was suspended Schmidt came to this country. In spite of the fact that his priestly function had been taken away, he succeeded, with the help of his fictitious credentials, in being assigned to serve as pastor of St. Francis's Church on Green Street, Trenton, N. J., during the illness of the pastor. Bishop James A. McFaul of the Diocese of Trenton made public yesterday a letter which he sent to Schmidt in December, 1910. The letter said:

You are hereby notified to leave this diocese immediately. It is evident that you are wanting in common sense and, therefore, I do not desire to have anything more to do with you.

The offense committed by Schmidt directly before his banishment from the Diocese of Trenton was that of performing a marriage ceremony without the proper diocesan dispensation, The diocesan authorities at Trenton suspected that many of Schmidt's letters were forged.

Bishop of Mainz Cables.

Father Luke Evers, chaplain of the Tombs, showed Schmidt yesterday this cablegram from the Bishop of Mainz:

Vicar General Moody, Diocese of New York.
J. Schmidt, born at Aschaffenburg, priest of Diocese of Mains, ordained 1907. Ran away from Mainz because of attempted frauds and arrest by police. Declared insane by court and discharged. Suspended by Bishop for acts and presenting falsified document regarding studies he pretended to have made. Then left the dioceses.
Bendix, Secretary, Bishop of Mainz.

When Father Evers asked Schmidt to comment on the telegram, the prisoner said:

"They believed the documents false, but they were given me by God."

A cablegram was received yesterday from Schmidt's native town of Aschaffenburg, Germany, saying that his parents and other relatives living there considered Schmidt abnormal morally, and that there were numerous cases of insanity in his family. In his twentieth year, according to this story, Schmidt underwent a strange transformation, and since that time was looked upon as unbalanced.

One of the papers which the detectives found last night among Schmidt's belongings was his discharge from custody in the Fourth District Court in Munich, Germany. This document showed that on Jan. 29, 1909, Hans Schmidt, charged with forging private papers and with frauds, had been acquitted for the reason that insanity experts testified that he was not responsible for his acts. The court ordered all his property to be returned to Schmidt and the costs to to be paid by the State. The papers showed that this had been ordered in a secret session of the court.

The dispatches showing that Schmidt's mental qualities have been called into question before was good news to Alphonse G. Koelble, a lawyer of 29 Broadway, who has been retained by Schmidt. Mr. Koelble said that, when his client was arraigned, he would ask for a commission of alienists.

Mr. Koelble is President of the German-America Citizens' League, and became prominent when he took a leading part in breaking up the peace meeting at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 12, 1911. At this meeting he led a number of German-Americans in a violent protest against the ratification of arbitration treaties with France and England.

Insane, Counsel Thinks.

"I am a German Catholic," said Mr. Koelble, "and I interested myself in Schmidt at the request of a number of German Catholic laymen who had been friendly to the prisoner. I have talked with the man, and am certain that he is insane. I do not see how any one hearing him talk could escape that conclusion."

Schmidt's lawyer thought yesterday that the prosecution might be unable to establish the corpus delicti. Only the torso and a part of the leg of the dismembered body have been recovered, and the only positive means of identification that the autopsy physicians found on the remains was the birthmark on the right shoulder. This has led to three erroneous Identifications and made it seem probable that the prosecution would have a great deal of difficulty in proving that the remains at the Morgue were those of Anna Aumuller.

This danger seemed so real to Coroner Feinberg and Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy yesterday that they planned to use Schmidt himself to establish the corpus delicti. Yesterday morning Lieut. Clinton Woods was sent over to take the body from the Hoboken Morgue to the Bellevue Morgue in this city. It was intended to take Schmidt from the Tombs to identify the body. Schmidt told Coroner Feinberg on Sunday that he would be able to make the identification.

When Lieut. Woods arrived at the Hoboken Morgue, however, Coroner Schlemm refused to permit the body to be taken away. Even though the crime had been committed in New York State, the laws of New Jersey, he said, required that an inquest should be held there because the body had been found there.

Schmidt has passively done whatever the police have requested of him, without making any effort to build up a defense for himself, unless the prosecuting authorities are right in believing that he is shamming insanity. Probably Schmidt would have done what he was told without demur if he were asked to identify the remains.

"I tried to impress upon him," said Mr. Koelble, "that his life depends on his following instructions, But he paid no attention to me. He will do nothing to protect his rights, and I cannot force him to obey me."

Girl Identifies the Body.

Without using Schmidt, however, the prosecution obtained an identification of the body which is believed to be Sufficient to establish the corpus delicti. Anna Hirt of 201 East Eighty-fifth Street, who was a servant in the rectory of the Church of St. Boniface, where Anna Aumuller had been employed, visiting the Hoboken Morgue. Before seeing the body she said there was a brown mark on the chest of the Aumuller girl. When she was shown the torso by County Physician G. W. King she pointed out the mark she had described.

"That is Anna," she said. "I could not be mistaken about that mark."

Miss Hirt did not remember seeing the blue birthmark on the dead woman's shoulder. The mark which Miss Hirt pointed out had not been noticed by the autopsy physicians and other authorities who had seen the body.

Coroner Schlemm said last night that he would hold the inquest on Thursday night. The only witness who will testify at this time will be surgeons, to show the cause of death; Miss Hirt, to identify the body, and detectives to tell of Schmidt's confession. It is believed that at the end of the hearing the body will be turned over to the authorities of this city. Coroner Feinberg will probably begin the inquest immediately, though he said last night that nothing would be determined upon until after the arrival to-morrow of District Attorney Whitman.

Mr. Koelble said yesterday that he would seek no delays, and would be ready for trial as soon as the State was. Mr. Koelble intimated that, in view of the doubtful mental state of his client, the best outcome might be his pleading guilty to murder in the second degree and receiving a sentence of life imprisonment. He said:

"If a lunacy commission comes unanimously to the conclusion that Schmidt is sane. I would be disposed to accept that verdict and give up the insanity plea. If there were a shadow of doubt in the commission's findings, however, I would undertake to prove him insane before a jury. I am sure, though, that a commission would declare him legally insane.

Replies of the Prisoner.

"When I asked him to-day if he wished to retain me as his lawyer, he said that he cared for no one to take up his case but Abraham. But finally he agreed to retain me until Abraham appeared for him."

"I told him that he faced the charge of first-degree murder and the electric chair. He simply looked at me wearily. Not a muscle of his face moved.

"Next I suggested to him that his friends thought he must be insane if he committed this act. The suggestion aroused him. He denied vigorously that there was anything wrong with him.

" 'That is absurd.' he said. 'If there is anything you can be sure of it is that there is no trace of insanity in me.'

"I asked him if an uncle of his had not committed suicide. He admitted that this was true, but said that his uncle was quite sane, and added that no member of his family had ever been insane. Then he talked to me for a while about the intended sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, and contended that he himself was under inspiration when he murdered the girl.

"I offered him one of the morning papers and asked if he wanted to read what it said about him. He shook his head. I read the headlines to him, but he showed no interest. Suddenly he leaned forward and took it out of my hand. A picture of Anna had caught his eye and he looked at it for a long time and then kissed it.

"I took this case largely to show that a sensational case like this can go through the courts, with justice to the defendant and justice to the people, and without scandalous delays. The trial will not be held up by any technical controversies, if I can help it. On the other hand, I wish to make sure that the man will have all his rights.

"I used to know Schmidt fairly well, having met his several times when I lectured at gatherings of German Catholics. I am acquainted with many who were his friends, who thought highly of him, and who were amazed beyond belief when they read of his crime and of the life he had been leading. Schmidt has not a cent, as far as I know, and no money will be raised for his defense. No church authorities were among those who asked me to interest myself in his case."

Schmidt's cellmate is Thomas J. Messmer, who on May 15 stabbed his wife to death at their residence at 219 East Sixty-ninth Street. The police surprised Messmer in the act of dismembering the body.

Schmidt ate with a hearty appetite the three meals which were sent up to his cell. He complained that his cell was cold until his lawyer procured more clothes for him from his room in the rectory of St. Joseph's.

Asked About Another Murder.

Another visitor Schmidt received yesterday was Father Evers, the Tombs chaplain. Father Evers asked him if he knew anything about the murder of Alma Kellner, a little girl, whose dismembered body was found in the basement of St. John's Catholic Church at Louisville, Ky., on Dec. 8, 1909, while Schmidt was in Louisville as the guest of the Rev. H. B. Westermann, pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

"No," said Schmidt. "I don't know anything about that. I never heard of her."

Dr. McGuire, the Tombs physician, examined Schmidt yesterday and said he would keep him under investigation for several days. He said he had already come to certain conclusions regarding the man's condition, but that he would say nothing till he examination was completed. Warden John Fallon of the Tombs and Deputy Commissioner of Correction Wright, after talking with the prisoner, said they were convinced that he was insane. Warden Fallon said that Schmidt appeared to him to be the most dangerous maniac ever confined in the Tombs.

Assistant District Attorney Deacon Murphy, Coroner Feinburg, and Inspector Faurot all expressed themselves yesterday as being strongly of the opinion that Schmidt was at least legally sane, even if he was under certain religious delusions.

"I talked to him for two hours yesterday," said Assistant District Attorney Murphy, "and I am convinced that his reason is not impaired. he talked consecutively, always replied directly to my questions, and never wandered. If a commission of alienists is asked for by his counsel the prosecution will probably consent to it. At the same time we will make a strong objection to the insanity defense at the trial.

"The trial will probably not take place for a month. The inquest will take some time. The confession which Schmidt made to myself and to Inspector Faurot are both admissible in evidence, and they will constitute the major part of the people's case."

Coroner Feinburg said that his long examination on Sunday of Schmidt convinced him that the man was sane. The fact, he said, that Schmidt was suffering from religious delusions at the time of the murder made no legal difference.

Holds His Marriage Legal.

The record in the Marriage License Bureau at the City Hall showed yesterday that Schmidt had changed his first name from Hans to John in making out the licenses. The lines for the date of the marriage and the name of the officiating clergyman, however, are left blank. There was no return of the officiating clergyman's certificate. Both Schmidt and Miss Aumuller wrote that the marriage was their first.

Schmidt told his lawyer yesterday that he believed the marriage to be a legal one. As a matter of fact, according to Mr. Koelble, their marriage was probably a valid one in common law, as the license, made out by both parties, was evidence of mutual consent.

Coroner Winterbottom went to the Hoboken morgue yesterday afternoon and made a second request for the body of the murdered woman. This was refused, however, by Coroner Schlemm, who insisted that the New Jersey law compelled him to keep the body until the inquest had been held.

After the cablegram had been received establishing that Schmidt had been suspended from the priesthood and had used forgery to gain a status in churches in this country, Mgr. Lavelle said yesterday:

"The man presented what seemed to be good recommendations, and we found a place for him, as we always try to do for men in his position. It was expected that he would not remain in this country. We had not taken any steps, however, to send him back to Europe.

"He was dismissed at Trenton for a technical offense. This was not held against against him, and a place was found for him here. No adverse reports had been made regarding him to me. If there had been an investigation would have been made at once."

The work of the detectives on the case was commented on yesterday by Police Commissioner Waldo, who said:

"Detective ability of a high order was shown in this case by Inspector Faurot and the men associated with him. Detectives Frank Cassassa, Richard McKenna, and James J. O'Neill. All are first-grade detectives. The only thing I can do to show my appreciation as head of the department of the effectiveness of the work done by these three detectives is to give them commendation, which will be of material aid to them if they stand civil service examinations in the future."

Arrest Dentist as Schmidt's Aid in Coining Plant, 16 September 1913, The New York Times.