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The story of serial killer Charles Schmid may have fallen into obscurity, but it’s one of the creepiest true-crimes. Here's what we know.

‘The Pied Piper of Tucson’: True crimes of a child murderer

The story of serial killer Charles Schmid may have fallen into obscurity, but it’s one of the creepiest true-crime tales in recent American history. Between 1964 & 1965, Schmid murdered two teenage girls and one young woman in Tucson, Arizona. Schmid was donned The Pied Piper of Tucson by a Life magazine reporter who covered his case in 1966.

An unrepentant child murderer, Charles Schmid knew how to charm & seduce young women – hence his nickname. The Pied Piper of Tucson seemed motivated by vanity & curiosity to commit these heinous murders. Schmid’s true crime case would go on to inspire movies, short stories, and songs. 

Fast cars and young women

A high school drop-out, Charles Schmid survived off his parents’ $300 a month allowance, spending his free time hanging out around Tucson’s Speedway Boulevard. Schmid was athletic & attractive, albeit a bit of a loner. When he wasn’t picking up girls or drinking with his friends, Schmid worked on his car and motorcycle.

Despite being in his early 20s, Charles Schmid hung around a much younger crowd. Schmid often dated high school girls, wooing them with his fast car and slick hair.

The man with many masks

Charles Schmid did a good job disguising himself. Schmid was popular around Tucson, but few people knew about the dark thoughts he harbored.

What’s so spooky about this true crime story is that Charles Schmid literally altered his physical appearance in order to look younger & taller. Schmid stuffed his boots with newspapers and cans. Schmid even wore make-up, painted a fake mole on his face, and used a clothespin to stretch his bottom lip out a la Elvis Presley.

Deaths in the desert

On May 31, 1964, Charles Schmid took high school student Aileen Rowe into the desert with his friend John Saunders and his girlfriend Mary French. While French sat in Schmid’s car, he murdered Rowe with Saunders’s help. Schmid, French, and Saunders buried Rowe in the desert.

Over a year later, on August 16, 1965, Charles Schmid murdered his current girlfriend, Gretchen Fritz, and her middle school-aged sister Wendy Fritz in the desert. Schmid had confided in Gretchen about Aileen Rowe’s murder, and he was worried she would turn him into authorities.

Ultimately, it was Charles Schmid’s friend Richard Bruns who informed investigators about the murders after Schmid showed him the bodies of Gretchen and Wendy Fritz, which Schmid buried in the desert.

A crime of curiosity

During his trial, Charles Schmid stated he murdered Aileen Rowe just to know what it feels like to kill someone. Schmid was found guilty of all three murders in 1966. Investigators did not locate Rowe’s body until 1967.

Although originally sentenced to death, Charles Schmit’s sentence was commuted when Arizona temporarily abolished the Death Penalty in 1971. Schmit was killed by two fellow inmates on March 10, 1975, at the age of 32.

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