The Pied Piper of Tucson kills his first victim - 1964

May 31, 2013 - 0 Comments


Charles Schmid

by Michael Thomas Barry

On May 31, 1964, 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 dubbed “The Pied Piper of Tucson” 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. On May 31st Schmid decided to murder Alleen Rowe, a high school student living with her divorced mother. Schmid's girlfriend Mary French had convinced Rowe to go out with Schmid's friend John Saunders, but Schmid had intended all along to murder Rowe, in order to know what it felt like to kill someone. Schmid and his friends took Rowe to the desert, where Schmid and Saunders murdered her and the three buried her body.

One of Schmid's many girlfriends was Gretchen Fritz, daughter of a prominent Tucson heart surgeon and community leader. Schmid confided to Gretchen that he had murdered Alleen Rowe. There were also rumors that Fritz knew of an earlier, unsubstantiated murder that Schmid supposedly committed. When Schmid decided to break up with Fritz, she threatened to use the information against him. Schmid strangled Gretchen Fritz and her sister Wendy on August 16, 1965. Schmid then confided to his friend Richard Bruns that he murdered the sisters and showed Bruns the bodies, which had been buried haphazardly in the desert. Bruns became increasingly afraid that Schmid was going to murder his girlfriend. Ultimately, Bruns went to police and told them everything he knew about the murders. Schmid was arrested and his trial gained national attention as an example of the depravity of young people in the 1960s. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. When the state of Arizona temporarily abolished the death penalty in 1971, his sentence was commuted to 50 years in prison. In the following years, Schmid made a few failed escape attempts, finally succeeding on November 11, 1965 with another triple murderer, Raymond Hudgens. They held four hostages on a ranch near Tempe, AZ for a time, then separated, and were finally recaptured and returned to prison. On March 10, 1975, Schmid was stabbed 47 times by two fellow prisoners and died 20 days later.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

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