The Pied Piper Couldn't Hold His Tongue – 5/31/1964

History |


Standing at 5-foot, 3-inches, it is reported that Charles Schmid tried to compensate for his short stature by wearing oversized cowboy boots that were stuffed with rags. Schmid regularly bragged to his friends about his sexual exploits and was a well-known pathological liar. He frequently told girls he had terminal illnesses and that he had associations with the mafia. He managed to earn the sympathy of girls by lying to them that he had leukemia. He also lied about having awful foster parents, almost being sold into slavery and helping sick siblings. 

Throughout high school, Schmid seemed strange. He often dyed his hair and wore makeup. He also gave himself an artificial birthmark on the face. In front of parents, he was able to ‘wear’ a convincing face and was known to be courteous towards mothers, who mostly considered him a gentleman. Even though he had clashed with the law a few times, there was nothing serious apart from a few eccentricities.

At the age of 22, Schmid, together with his two accomplices, Mary French and John Saunders, executed the murder and disappearance of a fifteen-year-old girl, Alleen Rowe. On May 31, 1964, the accomplices enticed Rowe out to the desert where Schmid raped her before hitting her head with a rock. They both took turns in digging a shallow grave that was to be used to hide Rowe’s body. Earlier in the night, Schmid had allegedly narrated to his friends his urge for killing. “I want to kill a girl! I want to do it tonight. I think I can get away with it!” Those were his words.

The three perpetrators cunningly convinced police officers that Rowe’s disappearance was a runaway case. They managed to come up with convincing excuses, and the police seemed to believe their story. Both the police and the public thought Rowe had run away since there was no evidence to suggest otherwise. However, a majority of Tucson teens were aware that the threesome had been involved in the killing; sadly, no one was bold enough to come forth.

Another girl, who had been secretly dating Schmid, disappeared mysteriously the following year. 17-year-old Gretchen Fritz disappeared alongside Wendy, her younger sister. At this point, Schmid had become a cold-blooded murderer who would not resist the urge to brag about his killings. He had enlisted Richard Brun to help him bury the bodies of the two sisters after he took away their lives in the desert. 

Later, he bragged about killing four people. The fourth person is not confirmed, but if there was someone, it was a boy that he killed before he met Alleen Rowe. Bruns soon became worried that Schmid was going to kill his girlfriend. He decided to inform the police – three months later - about Schmid’s last murder: the two girls.

The trial that followed the revelation gained national attention as an example of the impairment of virtue and moral principles of the 1960s teens. Shcmid was found guilty and sentenced to death, but he was lucky when the Supreme Court invalidated most death sentences in 1972. Later the same year, Schmid escaped from prison, but he was captured a few days later. He was known as the Pied Piper of Tucson. 

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