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1930s & Earlier / Hans Schmidt - Murdering Priest
Father Hans Schmidt, a handsome Catholic priest originally from Germany, is the only person from his profession ever to be executed in American history. Born in Bavaria in 1881, Schmidt immigrated to the United States in 1909. He was first assigned to a church in Louisville, KY, but a dispute with a fellow priest prompted his relocation to St. Boniface Church in New York City. He quickly gained a reputation of being a fiery orator whose sermons often warned about the temptations of the flesh. Anna Aumuller, an attractive Austrian housekeeper employed by the rectory, caught his eye. The feeling was mutual. Contrary his vows of celibacy, Schmidt became sexually involved with Anna. It was later discovered the two were secretly married in a service of dubious legal standing performed by Schmidt himself! Anna became pregnant shortly thereafter. Schmidt realized this development would be the end of his priesthood, so he slit Anna's throat on September 2, 1913, dismembered her body, and dumped the pieces into the Hudson River. Nevertheless, the victim was identified because parts of the body had been wrapped in monogrammed linen that Anna had specially ordered. Confronted with this evidence, Schmidt confessed to the murder but attempted an insanity defense. It resulted in one hung jury but he was convicted in a second trial. Schmidt went to his death at Sing Sing Prison's electric chair on February 18, 1916. Police later found that Schmidt had another criminal enterprise: a secret apartment well stocked with counterfeiting equipment. Worse still, it was discovered that a nine-year-old girl had been murdered at Schmidt's former church in Louisville and the body--which the killer had tried to dismember--was buried in the church's basement. The church's janitor had been convicted of the crime, however.