Hans Schmidt illegally married, impregnated, and then brutally murdered and dismembered his mistress. For that crime, he was eventually executed via electrocution, and to this day is the only Catholic priest ever executed in the United States. Turns out, the murder he was caught for was only the tip of the iceberg.
Long before The Boston Globe shined a spotlight on an endemic pattern of child molestation in the Catholic Church, the wrongdoings of the clergy often went unnoticed or unpunished.
Except for Hans Schmidt. In the early 1900s, he became the first, and only, priest to be executed in the United States.
His acts were bloody, his list of crimes was long, and his entire tale was laid out for the public by a press eager to show that even trusted religious leaders are capable of being monsters.
The Illegal, Self-Performed Marriage That Led To Murder
Hans Schmidt was an unusual child. He was born in the German town of Aschaffenburg in 1881 and had an eerie childhood habit of spending his afternoon watching the cows and pigs be processed through the local slaughterhouse.
He was also entranced by Roman Catholic rituals and played priest with a homemade alter. These two childhood passions would eventually converge in an unsettling way.
A 25-year-old Schmidt was ordained in Germany in 1904. He spent the next four years serving in Germany, but disputes with his higher-ups led to a relocation. It was only the start of his pattern of confrontation and relocation.
In 1908, he was transferred to St. John’s Parish in Louisville, Kentucky. Schmidt bumped heads with Catholic leaders in Louisville, and he was forced to relocate to St. Boniface Church on the east side of Midtown Manhattan.
But he wasn’t the only recent addition to St. Boniface at the time: a young Austrian housekeeper named Anna Aumuller had recently been hired to keep shop.
Schmidt and Aumuller then began having an affair. However, Schmidt’s pattern of relocation continued on and he was moved to St. Joseph’s Church in West Harlem. One possible reason for the transfer is that the church found out about the affair, and looked to keep the news from getting out. But distance couldn’t stop the two lovers.
On February 26, 1913, Schmidt married Aumuller in a secret ceremony that he performed himself. Of course, Catholic priests are banned from getting married, let alone have sexual affairs.