Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bait and Switch: The Cannibal Crimes of Joachim Kroll

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Hermann Schmitz
Hermann Schmitz

He let three years go by and then on August 22, 1965, he approached a couple making out in their Volkswagen near a lake outside Duisburg.  Twenty-five-year-old Hermann Schmitz was with his girlfriend, Rita (other sources give the name Marion), when Kroll used his knife to flatten a tire to draw Schmitz out.  Then he pounced, stabbing Schmitz several times directly in the heart.  While spying on them, he'd apparently decided to disable Schmitz as a way to get at Rita, since he was not in the habit of killing males and his attack had been so abrupt — indicative of acting on opportunity.  However, rather than being helpless, the girl reacted immediately, jumping into the driver's seat to honk the horn in a steady plea for help and to stomp on the gas.  She nearly hit Kroll and managed to frighten him away.  She thus survived what Kroll had intended for her, as he fled into the woods.  Despite the girl's description, no one developed leads for Schmitz's killer.

Kroll may have been spooked by this near-capture, as he apparently kept a low profile for another year (at least according to his confession), but his next victim would have tragic repercussions.  Other child killers had started up in the area as well, which made tracking a single murderous deviant even more difficult for the police.

Ursula Rohling
Ursula Rohling

On September 15, 1966, also near Duisburg, the body of twenty-year-old Ursula Rohling was found in some bushes, strangled.  She had been dead for nearly two days, stripped from the waist down and provocatively posed.  Since she had been with her boyfriend the evening she had been killed, eating ice cream, suspicion fell on him.  He claimed that they had come together to discuss wedding plans that evening, and after parting to go their separate ways, he had watched her walk toward the very park where her body had been left.  The strain on this young man was so great from the humiliation of being a suspect, the loss of his fiancé in such a violent manner, and pressure from police that he threw himself into the Maine River.  Kroll later admitted that this victim had been his, describing how he had met her in the park, talked with her, and then dragged her into the bushes, where he choked and raped her.  The act so excited him that when he returned home, he used his inflatable doll to masturbate.

However, thanks to him, Rohling's boyfriend died as well.  Because he'd been falsely accused, his demise was a terrible side-effect of Kroll's devious work.  In fact, thanks to the way the police had treated him, residents of the area had ostracized him, but all he'd done was treat his girl to ice cream.  None of this meant anything to Kroll.  He cared only about what fed his craving, so he continued to prowl the area, and within three months he struck again.


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