think of priests as the bastions of the kindness of every community. Many priests are there to portray God’s will, and thus many of them act accordingly, helping their respective communities and acting as figures for many to look up to. Even so many priests take advantage of their positions for their own gain, looking at the community that they lead as cash cows or people they can easily manipulate.
Although many priests have been arrested due to such abuses of their community, none of them performed such egregious actions to result in a death sentence. This would be the case until 1916, when German-born priest Hans Schmidt would commit such atrocious acts of violence that he would be sentenced to death by electric chair.
Schmidt was born under the German Empire in the province of Bavaria. From the start of his childhood, both his Protestant mother and Catholic father could see that the young boy was unlike the other kids in their village of Aschaffenburg. Since his early years, Schmidt was obsessed with blood and gore as well as religion.
His parents recounted a story from Schmidt’s childhood when they found the young man with the decapitated head of two geese he mauled from the family farm. His love of blood and gore would even drive him to visit the local slaughterhouse on a nearly daily basis paying particular attention to the slaughtering process of the animals.
As he grew older, his interest in religion grew stronger, which led to Schmidt becoming a “self-ordained priest.” From him being ordained in late 1904 to 1909, Schmidt would become infamous within the Chrisitan community of Germany.
His promiscuity, shown through his sexual activity with prostitutes as well as the rape of altar boys, forced the mentally unhinged priest to move from community to community until no parish in Germany would take him. This pushed him to immigrate to America.
Even once he moved to America, Schmidt wouldn’t change. He had to move from his initial parish in Louisville, Kentucky, due to friction with a senior priest at the St. John’s Roman Catholic Church. As a result, he would be transferred to St. Boniface’s Church in New York.
Once in New York, Schmidt met the housekeeper of the priest’s housing, Anna Aumüller. An immigrant herself, Schmidt tried his best to seduce her, later claiming that God told him that he had to “love” Anna. The two would develop a sexual relationship during Schmidt’s stay at the church’s housing. At the same time, Schmidt also had a relationship with a man who worked as a dentist in the inner city, a relationship which, according to Schmidt, he enjoyed more than his relationship with Anna.
Even so, his relationship with Anna continued, and it is said that the two got married in a secret ceremony that he performed himself. Their relationship continued even after Schmidt was transferred to a church in Manhattan. Schmidt promised Anna that he would leave priesthood for her, a feeling which only became stronger when Anna revealed to Schmidt that she was pregnant.
The unhinged man could only hold a normal lifestyle for so long. According to court records of the trial, Schmidt began hearing commands from God loudly proclaiming that Schmidt needed to sacrifice Anna.
[Trigger warning ahead, gory description of Schmidt’s acts]
According to Schmidt, this voice kept getting louder and louder until 2 September 1913, when Schmidt decided to fulfill the will of the “voice of God.” That night Schmidt went to the apartment that the couple shared, where he slashed Anna’s neck while she slept. He then proceeded to drink her blood while having sexual intercourse with her bleeding body. After the act was done, he dismembered her and threw her body into the nearby Hudson River.
After a lengthy investigation which started with the price tag attached to the pillowcase in which the body was wrapped in, the police managed to trace the murder back to Schmidt. When the inspector burst into the accommodation of his new church, they found him sleeping. After waking up and seeing the inspector, Schmidt immediately cracked and declared:
“I killed her! I killed her because I loved her!”
Once caught, both Schmidt and his defense team tried to convince the jury that due to Schmidt’s mental state, he couldn’t be trialed as a sane man, and thus a death sentence couldn’t be handed out. Although Schmidt was faking his insanity, or at least exaggerating it, the jury seemed to be convinced. This worked in the first trial as it ultimately ended with a hung jury. Schmidt’s plan worked.
On February 5, 1914, his second trial occurred, and this time the jury wasn’t as easy to fool. After three hours of deliberation, a verdict was reached, and Schmidt was to be put to death by electric chair. Schmidt’s defense team tried to appeal the verdict.
While Schmidt’s team worked, he hijacked their effort. This was because in December 1914, while Schmidt was awaiting the date of his execution, he admitted that he faked his insanity for the trial.
That would be the last nail in the coffin for the crazy priest. Hans Schmidt would meet his fate on February 18, 1916, at Sing Sing Prison in New York, putting an end to his saga. To this day, Schmidt is the only Roman Catholic priest to have received the death penalty in the United States.