May 31

This Day in History

Crime

May 31, 1964:

A killer who can't keep his mouth shut

Fifteen-year-old Alleen Rowe is killed by Charles Schmid in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona. Earlier in the night, Schmid allegedly had said to his friends, "I want to kill a girl! I want to do it tonight. I think I can get away with it!" Schmid went on to kill three other teenage girls before being caught by police.

Constantly trying to compensate for his short stature, Charles Schmid wore oversized cowboy boots stuffed with rags to boost up his natural 5-foot, 3-inch stance. He was also a well-known pathological liar, telling girls that he had terminal diseases and that he had connections to the mafia. To his friends, he constantly bragged about his sexual exploits.

When Schmid was 22, he enlisted John Saunders and Mary French to assist in killing Alleen Rowe. They lured the girl out to the desert where Schmid raped her and then smashed her head with a rock before they each took turns digging a shallow grave in which to bury her. Providing alibis for each other, the threesome allowed police to write off Rowe's disappearance as a runaway case. Most of Tuscon's teen community had already heard rumors that Schmid, Saunders, and French were responsible, but no one came forward.

The following year, 17-year-old Gretchen Fritz, who had been secretly dating Schmid, disappeared, along with her younger sister Wendy. Schmid, who had killed the sisters in the desert, couldn't resist telling someone, so he enlisted Richard Bruns' help in burying the bodies. Schmid went on to kill two other teenaged girls. He later bragged about killing four people, but if there was a fourth, it was a teenaged boy that he killed before he met Rowe. When Bruns soon began to fear that Schmid would kill his own girlfriend, and he therefore told the police about the Fritz murders about three months later.The subsequent trial gained national attention as an example of the depravity of young people in the 1960s. Schmid was convicted and sentenced to death, but he survived because the Supreme Court invalidated most death sentences in 1972. Later that year, he escaped from state prison, only to be caught a few days later.

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