Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Kay Letourneau: The Romance That was a Crime

Scandal of the Second Family

On one Free For All, Mary Schmitz made an impassioned plea for the importance of marriage and the family on the program – just a few weeks before a sex scandal involving her husband broke.

John Schmitz
John Schmitz
It turned out that John Schmitz, champion of traditional morals and family values, had been having a longtime affair with a former student of his named Carla Stuckle.  What's more, he had fathered two out-of-wedlock children with her.

The second family of John Schmitz became public knowledge because Carla was suspected of having abused or neglected her first child by John, a boy she had named John George. 

Carla Stuckle, then 43, phoned her adult daughter from a previous marriage, Carla Larson, to tell her of some distressing news about John George, then an infant.  Stuckle wept as she told her that the little boy's penis had been injured and would require surgery.  "I took him to the doctor," Carla Stuckle sobbed.  "He said the baby has a hair wrapped around his penis and it had been there for some time."

"Oh, my God!" Larson shouted.  "Don't you ever bathe him?  How could this have happened?"

"I don't know," said her mother.

Later, Stuckle called her daughter with more bad news.  The surgery had gone well and John George would suffer no lasting damage. But Stuckle wasn't being allowed to take the baby home.

Bits of hair or other fibers often get trapped in babies' diapers and can cause infections and other ills.  But at least one physician treating John George had become convinced that the boy had had a hair deliberately wrapped around the organ.  He would recall it as being "tied in a square knot."

Child abuse investigators went to Stuckle's home.  Still caring for her second child by Schmitz, a daughter named Eugenie, the woman appeared worn and frazzled.  She had diabetes and worked long hours in two different jobs to support her youngsters in addition to caring for them.  She answered all the questions that investigators put to her until they started asking about the children's father.  She did not want to drag him into this.

"Until we find out and get this thing all done," a detective told her, "you're going to jail.  Chances are you'll never see your son again. . . ."

"Well, it's John Schmitz," she said.

"John Schmitz," repeated the flabbergasted officer.

"John Schmitz, the state senator," she calmly stated.

Detectives thought the woman was almost certainly lying.  Perhaps she wanted to make trouble for the outspokenly pro-family politician.  Maybe she was deluded.  But they had to check it out.

A detective took the politician aside at a John Birch Society meeting. "Well, is it your son?" the officer asked, after explaining why he was there.

"Yes, he is," Schmitz replied, "but I do not and will not support him financially.  It is her responsibility to take care of him."  He said he knew nothing of the hair on the boy's penis or how it happened.

Soon the second family of John Schmitz made headlines throughout the country. His political career was over.  So was his wife's stint as a political commentator.  However, their marriage survived.  The couple separated for a period, then reconciled.

Investigators concluded there was not enough evidence to charge Stuckle with child abuse or neglect.  John George was returned to her care. In 1994, Stuckle died from complications from the diabetes that had long ravaged her.  John George was 13, his sister, 11.  John Schmitz had no desire for custody of his two youngest children.  The famous psychic Jeanne Dixon, who was a close friend of Mary Schmitz, took them in.  When Dixon died in 1997, the children became wards of the state and went to an orphanage.

In the shadow of this scandal, Mary Kay took her father's side.  She told friends of hers that her mother was a cold person and denied her father the affection he needed and deserved as a husband.  When talking about it, she would comment, "She drove him to it."

She did not allow herself to become obsessed by the scandal swirling around her beloved father.  She had her own life to live and she was enjoying it as a college student at Arizona State University.  There she continued her party-animal ways.

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