Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Schmid: The Pied Piper

'Smitty' — An Unlikely Don Juan

His best friend was Paul Graff, who was sent to the reformatory at Fort Grant Industrial School for a hold-up that resulted in a man's death. Paul eventually moved in with Smitty. During that time, Smitty was involved with several girls (one of whom was married), taking singing lessons, and practicing the guitar.

Another Fort Grant graduate who Smitty befriended was Richie Bruns. He'd been arrested for breaking probation, and once out on his own, spent his time drinking and indulging in petty thefts, which landed him for another stint at Fort Grant. Smitty met Richie through Paul and the three of them hung out together.

When Smitty was 21, he found out he was adopted and his foster mother gave him the name of his real mother. When he located her, according to his account, she told him, "I didn't want you when you were born, or even before you were born, and I don't want you now. Get out." She then slammed the door in his face. This treatment seemed to affect him, but he kept his feelings mostly to himself. At least that's what he conveyed to Richie.

It was difficult to tell with a guy like Smitty, since many of his stories were calculated to create an impression rather than disclose the truth. He often had more than one girlfriend at the same time and even proposed marriage to several of them simultaneously, taking money from them in return for the promise that he would take care of them. He managed to get them into bed by telling fantastic stories about how deprived he was or that he had some form of cancer and did not have long to live. Often all he had to do was tell jokes to make them laugh and throw in a few outrageous compliments. He even used salt to make his eyes tear up so he could convince a girl that he was overwhelmed by the privilege of being with her.

Girls were playthings to him, and the way they fell for every line, it was no wonder he showed them no respect. He once even told a girl that he had murdered a young man who had killed his girlfriend in a car accident, cut off his hands and buried him in the desert. Little did he know how this tall story foreshadowed what he was about to do—and there was some doubt later that he'd actually made it up. He once claimed four murders, which indicated that this might have been the first.

What seemed to intrigue people most about Smitty—girls and boys alike—was his freedom. He did whatever he wanted and his daredevil ways made him seem larger than life. At least, he thought so. Most of what he did had exhibitionist qualities designed to make people notice him and possibly even to try to stop him from putting himself in danger. But the activities that most appealed to him, such as motorcycle racing and skydiving, were those that pushed him right into death's face. "I truly wish I could have been a great surgeon," he once said, "or philosopher or author, or anything constructive." However, he could never quite focus on anything but loud music and animal passion with "a hint of cruelty." To him, those activities were just more sensible. Or perhaps they were just easier. In any event, with girls falling into line and even fighting over him, why apply himself to anything else?

 

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