As we've become aware of over the years, some members of the Priesthood are no strangers to controversy, with many of them making national headlines for some very wrong reasons. However, it's not often that you learn about a Priest who was actually...a convicted murderer. Yes, you read that correctly. Although the events I'm about to recap for you happened well over 100 years ago, it's still crazy to think that a Priest was both convicted of murder AND executed for his crimes! The story of Hans Schmidt's rise and demise is a juicy one, trust me.
In 1881, Hans Schmidt was born in Germany to a Protestant father and Catholic mother. Unfortunately for Hans, both sides of his family had a long history of mental illness. Growing up, Schmidt had a strong religious devotion, along with promiscuity of a bisexual nature and a deep fascination with blood and dismemberment. Some of his relatives recounted that they had found Hans beheading two of his parents' geese; he also apparently kept the severed heads in his pocket. If you recall from our discussions on True Crime & Chill, we've mentioned that people who kill animals tend to be more prone to become serial killers.
As a child, Hans was often found visiting the local slaughterhouse on a regular, if not daily basis; while there, he would attentively watch the death and dissection of farm animals with rapt fascination. Later on, in 1905, Schmidt was arrested for forging diplomas for failing students. He was supposed to be imprisoned for his crimes, but Hans' father hired a lawyer who arranged for the charges to be dropped under the premise of a mental defect.
When Hans pursued Priesthood, virtually everyone he knew had doubts with his decision, concerned with his moral and mental abilities to serve as a Catholic Priest. Despite what his friends and relatives said, however, Hans continued to pursue his goal. On December 23rd, 1904, Hans Schmidt was ordained by Bishop Kirstein of Mainz. In a conversation with a psychiatrist years later, Schmidt stated that he didn't like to talk about the night he was ordained. Hans explained that, in his mind, he was ordained by St. Elizabeth of Hungary; Hans was praying at his bedside when he claims she appeared and simply told him "I ordain you to the priesthood." Schmidt continued to explain that he was made fun of a lot for what people believed to be the strange and different ways he went about doing things. He supposedly justified this by saying that "God speaks to different people in different ways."
Upon beginning his Parish assignments, Hans was involved in various scandals such as the alleged molestation of altar servers, having affairs with several women and consorting with prostitutes. Additionally, the way Schmidt would hold Mass and the eccentric sermons he constantly delivered became the subject of many complaints from parishioners. After the Diocese of Mainz parted ways with Schmidt in 1909, he decided to emigrate to the United States. Upon his arrival, Schmidt was assigned to St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Following an argument with the senior Pastor, however, he was sent to St. Boniface's Church in New York City. While there, Schmidt met Anna Aumüller, a housekeeper at St. Boniface's Rectory. In a conversation with psychiatrists, Hans claimed he'd received a message from God to "love" Anna. The pair began a secret relationship; around the same time, however, Hans was also in the midst of a homosexual affair with a New York City dentist named Ernest Muret, whom Hans claimed to love more than Anna.
Schmidt was later transferred to St. Joseph's Church in Manhattan, New York, where he continued his relationship with Anna. It was revealed that the pair were married in a private ceremony that Hans performed himself, that he wrote their names on a marriage certificate and even told Anna he would leave the priesthood for her. Later, during a sexual encounter, Hans told Anna that he'd received a message from God telling him to sacrifice her, to which Anna replied "You’re crazy!” However, Hans continued to repeat himself, informing Anna that God had commanded this of him. To further complicate things, not too long after this incident, Anna informed Schmidt that she was pregnant with his child.
On September 2nd, 1913, Schmidt went to the apartment he shared with Anna and performed the following acts: he slashed her throat while she slept, drank her blood, raped her as she bled to death, dismembered her body and threw her remains into the Hudson River from aboard a ferry. Afterwards, Schmidt returned to St. Joseph's Church to hold Mass and administer Holy Communion. When some of Anna's remains washed ashore at Cliffside Park and Weehawken, New Jersey, detectives discovered a price tag on the pillowcase in which they'd been stored. The New York City Police Department was able to trace the buyer who arranged for his purchase to be delivered to a third story apartment at 68 Bradhurst Avenue, where Schmidt lived. After an unsuccessful 3 day stake out, detectives decided to break into Schmidt's apartment, where they found large amounts of dried blood on the walls and a large bloodstained knife. Police then found Schmidt sleeping in the Church parlor and, upon awakening, he yelled "I killed her! I killed her because I loved her!"
During his first trial, Hans Schmidt claimed insanity, which resulted in a hung jury. Schmidt was eventually convicted of first-degree murder, however, and sentenced to death by electric chair. After several unsuccessful appeals, on February 18th, 1916, Hans Schmidt was put to death, executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison. To this day, Hans Schmidt remains the only Roman Catholic Priest to be executed for murder in the United States.