Friday, May 12, 2017

MANHATTAN - The Church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family

The Church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family at 405 W 125th Street
Built in 1860 and once known as the Church of St. Joseph (German)
Amazing to think this was once a German neighborhood....
On the night of September 2, 1913, a priest named Hans Schmidt, an assistant at St. Joseph of the Holy Family in Harlem, murdered his lover, Anna Aumueller, in her sleep, dismembered her body and threw the pieces into the Hudson River.

Schmidt was arrested and confessed to murder on September 14, 1913.  Among other things, he told Detective Faurot 
  • that he was ordained at St. Augustine's Seminary in Mainz, Germany on December 23, 1904
  • that he had previously been assigned to parishes in Louisville, Kentucky and Trenton, New Jersey 
  • that he had been an assistant to Father Braun, rector of St. Boniface at Second Avenue and Forty-seventh Street, where he met the victim
  • that he left St. Boniface in November 1912 and became an assistant to Father Gerard H. Huntmann at St. Joseph's on 125th Street
  • that he killed Aumueller because he loved her.  "I loved her, and sacrifices should be consecrated in blood."
Father Luke J. Evers, chaplain of the Tombs prison in lower Manhattan, visited with Father Schmidt that same day and received contradictory information.  He was told
Anna Aumuller
  • that Schmidt was not ordained in Mainz and that the bishop there didn't like him
  • but that he received his ordination from St. Elizabeth of Hungary herself on December 24, 1906
  • that the bishop of Mainz had him arrested and imprisoned in Munich, with the reader's understanding that he had impersonated a priest
  • that he was ordained at the age of 18, which Father Evers knew was impossible--and which contradicted his own 1906 date as he was born in 1881
  • that he and Aumueller had been issued a marriage license and that he officiated at a marriage ceremony for himself and the victim
  • that St. Elizabeth told him to sacrifice Aumueller

Although Father Evers believed that Schmidt may have studied for the priesthood, he did not believe that Schmidt had ever been ordained.

This may come as a disappointment to all of those who sensationally label Schmidt a killer priest (Sorry, Mark Gado, see right), but  Schmidt was a Killer Former Priest.  Almost not a priest at all ever.

Only days after the murderer was caught, Bishop A. McFaul of the Diocese of Trenton made public a letter from himself to  Schmidt. This is his response to Schmidt having performed a marriage ceremony without the proper diocesan dispensation in Trenton: 
"You are hereby notified to leave this diocese immediately. It is evident that you are wanting in common sense and, therefore, I do not desire to have anything more to do with you."

It was noted that the diocesan authorities at Trenton suspected that Schmidt's credentials had been forged.

Arriving around the same time was a cable to Vicar General Moody of the Diocese of New York from the Bishop of Mainz stated that

"J. Schmidt, born at Aschaffenburg, priest of Diocese of Mainz, ordained 1907.  Ran away from Mainz because of attempted frauds and arrest by police.  Declared insane by court and discharged. Suspended by Bishop for acts and presenting falsified document regarding studies he pretended to have made.  Then left the diocese." 

Schmidt hung the jury in his first trial, but on February 5, 1913, he was found guilty of murder in the first degree.  

At 5:52 a.m. on February 18, 1916, a conspicuously calm Schmidt went to the electric chair, his last words being "I send a hearty goodbye to my mother, especially.  My last thought is of her.  Goodbye, all friends."

Murder room on 3rd floor of 68 Bradhurst Avenue
Building no longer there
We will never know why Schmidt did any of the things he did.  There is a possibility that he killed a little girl in Louisville named Alma Kellner in 1909.  He was a counterfeiter.  He posed as a physician under various names.

It is possible that he attempted to perform an abortion on Anna Aumueller that ended in her death. While in the death house up at Sing Sing, Schmidt wrote to District Attorney Whitman, "I should have told the truth in the first place...Anna died from the results of a criminal operation, which was instigated by me.  I did not murder her and am not guilty of murder in the first degree."


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 15, 1913
The New York Times, September 15, 1913
The Sun, September 15, 1913
The New York Times, September 16, 1913
The New York Times, February 6, 1914
The Ithaca Journal, February 12, 1914
The Evening World, April 24, 1914

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating story...not sure the truth would've set him free..but he never knew what might've happened if he'd been honest. He was a scoundrel all around anyway--got what he deserved.