Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thriller Thursday - U. S. Agents Search Schmidt Evidence


U. S. Agents Search Schmidt Evidence

Expect New Clues in Materials at Counterfeiting Plant of Priest and "Dr." Muret.

Latter Now Under Fire

Detectives Seek a Link Between Him and River Murder - Schmidt Admits All Charges.

Complaints were drawn yesterday by Capt. John J. Henry of the New York district of the United States Secret Service, charging Hans Schmidt, the priest who killed and dismembered Anna Aumuller, and his friend, Ernest Arthur Muret, a pseudo dentist of 301 St. Nicholas Avenue, with having possession of the means of making counterfeit money. The entire counterfeiting plant in the apartment at 516 West 134th Street was seized and carried off by the police and Secret Service men.

Muret insisted yesterday that he was an innocent man. He said that he knew nothing of the coining, except that the priest, whom he blamed for all his troubles, was a man of a great deal of mechanical skill, combined with criminal instincts that might readily lead him into making imitation money.

The pseudo dentist denied that there were any printing presses, engraving plates, or bond paper in the apartment in 134th Street when he visited it. The new prisoner was willing to admit, however, that he was interested in photography, and he visited the apartment often to do fine camera work.

Schmidt was willing to let Muret's plea of innocence stand. The priest in his cell yesterday told Father Evers that the guilt rested alone with him for the counterfeiting as well as for the murder of the girl.

Inspector Faurot, however, gave little attention to Muret's statement or Schmidt's endorsement of it. Word was received yesterday from Meriden, Conn., that Muret, under the name of George Miller, had bought a small press there on July 3 of this year and ordered it shipped by express to 516 West 134th Street. No type was purchased with the press. When Muret was arrested a letter was found in his pocket, addresses to Dr. George Muret by the Chelsea Press, notifying him that the price of ink rollers for the Excelsior press was $1.25.

The Secret Service agents were unable to learn yesterday whether any counterfeit bills had been finished and put into circulation. Chief William Flynn of the United States Secret Service, who was on a visit here from Washington yesterday, said that several ten and twenty dollar counterfeit "yellowbacks" had been discovered recently, and that is would be known to-day whether they could have come off the press in the apartment in 134th Street.

Thinks Two Are Related.

Inspector Faurot, who noted the strong resemblance in face and build between Schmidt and Muret at the time of Muret's arrest early yesterday morning, made a detailed comparison to-day of the features of the two men, and asserted confidently that the two men were cousins or brothers.

"I have questioned Muret," said Inspector Faurot, "at length regarding his remarkable resemblance to Father Schmidt. He would have me believe that this is a mere coincidence. I have devoted much of my life to the study of methods of identification. I went abroad last year to study identification by the facial features, as it is practiced by the police in France. This is the most perfect method in the world. It is as certain as the taking of finger prints.

"when I first saw Dr. Muret I observed that the resemblance was more than a coincidence. I have a firm belief, fixed deep in my mind, that these men are related. There is, unquestionably, some blood connection. I have a strong suspicion that Father Schmidt and Muret are brothers. I am convinced that it will be established very soon that they are closely related - cousins, at least."

A circumstance that supports this theory was the possession both by Schmidt and by Muret of Business cards introducing "Dr. Moliere." In the course of the long questioning of Schmidt on the night of his arrest he told Inspector Faurot that his mother had been Gertrude Moliere.

Muret told the police that he was born in Chicago and educated in this country until he went to Berlin in 1903 to study medicine. Muret's German accent in speaking English, according to the police, is too strong to have been acquired by a short residence abroad. Little is known of Muret's past, but it was learned yesterday that he had said he was born in Hamburg. A few weeks ago Muret, who was suffering from earache, was treated by Dr. Alfred Michaelis of 5 West Ninety-first Street. His German accent was noticed by Mrs.Michaelis, and in reply to a question from her he said: "Yes, I was born in Hamburg."

Would Testify Against Schmidt.

Muret denied emphatically that he was related to Schmidt, and the priest, with equal vehemence, disclaimed kin with Muret. Muret denied that he had ever seen the murdered girl, Anna Aumuller. He said he believed that Schmidt had killed her in cold blood and that he would be pleased to testify against Schmidt, if called upon to express his opinion on the priest's sanity.

"Schmidt was one of the cleverest men I ever knew and one of the shrewdest," said Muret to Inspector Faurot.

Schmidt admitted yesterday to Father Evers, the Tombs chaplain, that he had had a part in setting up the counterfeiting plant. The prisoner nodded affirmatively.

"Yes." he said. "God gave me the plates. I acted under inspiration."

"Why did you do such a thing?"

"There are so many poor people in the world." replied Schmidt."There are so many who are sick and in dire need. I was going to helm them. I wanted to better their condition. Half the money I was going to devote to the poor people of the United States and the other half to the poor people of Germany."

Schmidt then said that it was he, not Muret, who had posed as Dr. Emil Moliere. He explained to Father Evers that he had acted under inspiration in pretending to be a physician.

"There are so many poor and miserable people in the world." said Schmidt. "It would be better if fewer were born. My mission was to prevent children from being born to a life of misery."

Father Evers said yesterday that he still believed that Schmidt was not a priest, in spite of evidence that he had been ordained in Germany and suspended from the priesthood.

Imposition Possible.

"Many instances have occurred in Germany and other European countries," said Father Evers, "of the impersonation of a priest after his death. Sometimes, when a priest has died in an obscure village, his credentials are stolen. The news of his death does not travel far, and the imposter succeeds with the dead man's credentials in obtaining a connection with a church. I think that something of this kind has occurred in this instance. I do not believe this man in the Tombs is the Hans Schmidt who was ordained a priest.

"I am going to send a photograph of this man to the parents of Hans Schmidt in Aschaffenburg, Germany. If they say it is a photograph of their son, then I will believe it. In the meantime I remain in doubt."

Schmidt has at different times given the first name of Hans, John, and Johannes. John Schmidt is signed on his marriage license, Johannes Schmidt is the name given him in the papers acquitting him of fraud on the ground of insanity in a court in Munich, and Hans Schmidt is the name he has signed to his letters and other papers while a priest in this city.

Dispatches from Aschaffenburg yesterday said that Schmidt's criminal career had begun in early manhood when he resorted to forged certificates to get a degree. He was arrested for that offense, but discharged as weak-minded and irresponsible. Schmidt's propensity to forge led Inspector Faurot to believe that the plan of equipping a counterfeiting plant might have originated with him.

When the warrants charging the priest and Muret with counterfeiting are issued to-day by United States Commissioner Hitchcock, they will be served on the Warden of the Tombs, who has the custody of the two men. Muret is at present held only on the charge of violating the Sullivan law in keeping a revolver on his premises.

Mass of Evidence Found.

Capt. Henry of the Secret Service said yesterday that four detectives were on the case for the Government, and that they had seized a large quantity of evidence in trunks and bureau drawers in the flat of Muret and Schmidt on West 134th Street. Capt. Henry himself will go over this to-day. He said last night that a great deal of evidence of importance had been found, and that the Government owed the New York police a debt of gratitude for raiding the plant. Both Capt. Henry and Inspector Faurot refused to say yesterday whether is was suspected that Schmidt and Muret had confederates, or whether additional arrests were expected.

A representative of the Grand Paper Company at Dalton, Mass., called yesterday at Police Headquarters and saw pieces of the paper on which the counterfeit bills were printed in the apartment on 134th Street. He said the paper was "Strathmore parchment," manufactured in 1911, as the trademark showed, and distributed in this city by J. Linde & Co. in Beekman Street.

In the Harlem flat Inspector Faurot found a score of negatives, showing that the counterfeiters had taken photographs of $5, $10, and $20 bills. The Inspector, who is an expert photographer himself, said that the camera was of unusual workmanship and was capable of taking a picture of United States currency without losing the slightest detail. On the other hand, he said that the engraving tools were of the type which an amateur, rather than an expert engraver, would work with.

According to Chief of the Secret Service William Flynn, Schmidt and Muret resemble and nearly answer the description of two men who have recently passed counterfeit $20 bills in Boston and New Haven and smaller places in the vicinity of those two cities. The government agents have in their possession thirty-five of the bills passed in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In the majority of cases the counterfeits were given to bartenders of saloons.

"The bills of which I speak," said Chief Flynn, "were made by a photo-mechanical process. Two pieces of paper, printed separately, were pasted together after silk threads had been distributed between them. The work was not done entirely on the printing press. The bills were finished in pen and ink. The job was deftly done, but nevertheless the bills were not the kind that would deceive persons expert in handling currency. In the cases of bartenders and other uninitiated in detecting bad paper, they passed muster easily. Only men who have acquired the 'feel' for bogus paper would detect these counterfeits.

"These bills may have been run off in the Harlem flat. That questions will be determined finally to-morrow."

Capt. Henry said yesterday that the indications were that no counterfeits had been completed in the Harlem flat. Creditors of Muret said yesterday that the pseudo dentist had appeared short of funds for some time.

Muret's Telephone Calls.

The report of Muret's arrest for counterfeiting was of great interest to Dr. Alfred Michaelis of 5 West Ninety-first Street. Muret owed a bill to Dr. Michaelis for treating him for ear trouble. This ran on for several weeks. About two weeks ago, however, Muret began to ring up Dr, Michaelis and to promise payment in a day or two.

"I may have been embarrassed temporarily," said Muret over the telephone to Dr. Michaelis, "but I am expecting to get a good deal of money in very soon now, and you won't be kept waiting for more that a day or two for your money."

The call sheet at the Alpha, 301 St. Nicholas Avenue, where Muret carried on his illegal dental practice, showed that he had telephoned several times to 1532 Morningside, the number of the rectory of St. Joseph's Church on West 125th Street, to which Hans Schmidt was attached as a curate. The last time Muret called up Schmidt on this telephone was Sept. 6, the day when the finding of the upper part of the torso of a woman in the Hudson River was published for the first time. He had not used that telephone before in calling up Schmidt since Aug. 1.

The detectives believe this goes strongly to show that Muret knew of the murder and dismemberment of the girl, and that he telephoned to warn Schmidt of his danger. It throws light also, according to the detectives, on the hurried destruction by fire of most of the half-completed bills, which was evidently the work of a man who scented the danger that the police might soon be on his trail.

Inspector Faurot said that he would be in a better position this afternoon to say whether Muret had a part in killing or performing a criminal operation on Anna Aumuller.

"A twelve-year-old boy," said Inspector Faurot, "saw a woman and a tall man walk out of the apartment at 68 Bradhurst Avenue, where Schmidt murdered the woman. The boy said the man was taller than Schmidt. To-day he will be taken to the Tombs to see Muret, who is several inches taller than Schmidt. The boy will also be asked whether Bertha Zech, the servant of Dr. Muret, was the woman he saw visiting the apartment."

A number of obstetrical instruments and books on gynecology and other medical subjects not connected with dentistry, were found by police yesterday in Muret's dental office. Secret Service Agents P. A. Rubano and Morris Manasse, who searched Muret's effects yesterday, found a postal card dated May 23 bearing a picture of Napoleon with the printed inscription: "Impossible is a word only found in a fool's dictionary."

On the other side in ink was the message: "Let us hope that our children may have rich parents." It was signed "Hans."

Emerick Becha, the janitor of the West 134th Street apartment, said that Muret entertained woman in his office at late hours, and that on one occasion a young girl, who was having dental work done, ran out of Muret's office and said that he had put his arms around her.

Assistant District Attorney Murphy was interested yesterday to learn that the call sheet at the apartment house showed that on Aug. 11, Muret had telephoned to Franklin 2304, the District Attorney's office. An unsuccessful effort was made yesterday to learn what business the pseudo-dentist had in the Criminal Court building.

Defines Schmidt's Insanity.

Alphonse G. Koelble of 29 Broadway, counsel for Schmidt, said yesterday that the specific form of insanity his client was suffering from was dementia praecox.

"We have no money to employ alienists," said Mr. Koelble, "but I am certain that any competent commission will agree upon Schmidt's mental disease. My talk with him yesterday convinced me that this was the case. The was before I knew his history. After learning of his acquittal in Germany on the ground of insanity, and after reading that he had at various times been considered weak minded by the church authorities, I do not see how any one can contend that he is in his right mind.

"I tried to learn from Schmidt what he had done during the three months from the time he left St. Boniface's till he received a position at St. Joseph's. He said he could not remember, but thought he was over in New Jersey most of the the time. I got a sharp denial when I asked him if the report was true that he had been a real estate speculator."

Muret was held in $5,000 bail in the Harlem Court when he was arraigned before Magistrate Krotel for violating the Sullivan law. The bail was not furnished, and if it had been, Muret would have been immediately re-arrested by Secret Service men on the charge of counterfeiting. Muret, who had been studying law with a correspondence school in Chicago, showed in answering questions that he knew what was best for a man in his situation.

"Muret knew just what questions to answer and what not to answer," said Inspector Faurot yesterday. "I asked him a number of questions which almost any other prisoner would have answered. He was remarkably shifty for a correspondence school lawyer."

Warden Fallon of the Tombs yesterday ordered that Thomas J. Messmer, the wife-murderer, who has been Schmidt's cellmate, should be transferred to another cell, and that Schmidt, who is regarded as dangerous, should remain by himself. Messmer told the authorities yesterday morning that he had spent the night in terror of his life. He became frightened Monday night at Schmidt's answer to the question why he had killed Anna Aumuller.

"I killed her," said Schmidt, "because I loved her."

Then he caught Messmer by the hands and added: "I love you, too."

Messmer freed himself and jumped to the far end of the cell, drawing the conclusion from these words that his own life was in danger. During the night he begged guards to remain within the cell if Schmidt became violent.

On the recommendation of Inspector Faurot, Commissioner Waldo late yesterday afternoon conferred honorable mentions and commendations on four detectives and a traffic patrolman who were active in clearing up the murder mystery. These were Detectives James O'Neill, Frank L. Cassassa, Richard M. McKenna, and John J. O'Connell, and Policeman Thomas H. Horgan of Traffic Squad A.

U. S. Agents Search Schmidt Evidence, The New York Times, 17 September 1913