The Gruesome Crimes Of Hans Schmidt, The Only Catholic Priest Ever Executed In US History

Published April 22, 2016
Updated February 7, 2021

The Gruesome Murder Of Anna Aumuller

Anna Aumuller's Apartment

The location of the apartment Aumuller was murdered at in northern Manhattan. Image Source: Google Maps

Hans Schmidt and Anna Aumuller’s secret came to a gruesome end in 1913, when Schmidt was 31 and Aumuller was 21. Aumuller told Schmidt that she was pregnant, and he knew that his days as a priest would be over if word got out that an allegedly celibate Catholic priest had married and impregnated a woman.

On September 2, Schmidt slashed Aumuller’s throat with a 12-inch butchers knife in an uptown Manhattan apartment he had rented for her. He then sawed off her head with a hack saw, and then sawed her body in half. He wrapped each section in a newspaper from August 31, put her lower body in one of her pillowcases that had a monogrammed “A” on it, and attached a large piece of gray-green schist to each of the body parts.

Then, Hans Schmidt took the pieces of Anna Aumuller and dumped them in the Hudson River. He counted on the schist he had gathered in Manhattan to sink the body to the bottom.

Three days later, two kids on the New Jersey side of the Hudson came across the upper torso of a woman. Three miles downriver in Weehawken, New Jersey, the lower section of Aumuller’s body was found, still wrapped in the pillowcase with the schist tied to it.

Even though the body was found in New Jersey, the evidence was given to the New York Police Department. Schist, the type of rock most available to Schmidt in Manhattan, is extremely rare in New Jersey.

An autopsy of the body parts told the police they were investigating the murder of a woman under 30, around 5-foot-4-inches tall and between 120 and 130 pounds. The autopsy also revealed that the woman had prematurely given birth shortly before she was murdered.

The NYPD turned to their best piece of evidence (aside from the body): the monogrammed pillowcase. It was a distinctive enough monogram for the police to trace it to a specific company, and the company kept detailed business records. The records for the “A” pillowcase led to Aumuller’s apartment.

The landlord told the officers that a Mr. Hans Schmidt had rented the apartment for a female relative two weeks prior. He then led the officers into the apartment, which was still a bloody murder scene.

The walls and floor were splattered with blood stains, despite a scrubbing brush and six bars of soap by the sink. Schmidt had found better luck cleaning the blood off of the butcher’s knife and handsaw, and had hidden them inside of a trunk. In another trunk, letters addressed to Aumuller mentioned Schmidt and his employment at St. Joseph’s. The trunk also had handkerchiefs with the same embroidered “A” as the pillowcase.

Killer Catholic Priest

Story from the Tribune on September 15, 1913. Image Source: Genealogy Quest

Lead detective Inspector Faurot and his partner went to St. Joseph’s to question Schmidt about the blood-stained apartment rented in his name. Within minutes, he confessed to the marriage and murder of Aumuller, claiming “I loved her. Sacrifices should be consummated in blood.”

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.