Crime: Secrets in the Sand

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To the bored, vacant-eyed teen-agers who hang out at the drive-ins and juke joints along Tucson's East Speedway Boulevard, Charles Howard Schmid Jr., 23, was known as a swinger. A well-muscled onetime state high-school gymnastics champion, Smitty always had wheels, money, tall tales and an inexhaustible supply of available girls' phone numbers.

Schmid went to bizarre lengths to build his image. He added 3 in. to his meager (5 ft. 3 in.) frame by stuffing rags and folded tin cans into his black leather boots. He dyed his hair raven black, wore pancake makeup, pale cream lipstick and mascara. As for the cash, which he got in a generous weekly dole from his mother, Schmid bragged to the boys that it came from smuggling cars into Mexico, to the girls that it came from women whom he had taught "100 ways to make love."

Skeleton Search. Last week, because of his pathological penchant for bragga docio, Schmid was in jail, charged with the murders of two daughters of a Tucson surgeon. Along with two friends — one a 19-year-old girl — he was also accused of murdering a third girl. Police, who had found the two sisters' skeletons on the desert, last week were still searching for the third.

The murders came to light when Richard Bruns, 19, told police that Schmid had shown him a grave in the desert outside Tucson in June 1964, a month after 15-year-old Alleen Rowe disappeared from her home. Last August, said Bruns, a few days after Gretchen Fritz, 17, and her sister Wendy, 13, had failed to return home from a drive-in movie, Schmid took him out on the desert again, showed him the Fritz girls' corpses—only one was even partially buried—and boasted that he had killed them. Acting on Bruns's story, Tucson police rounded up John Saunders, a 19-year-old high-school dropout who had moved to Connecticut, and Mary French, another 19-year-old dropout who was living with her family in Texas, brought them back and got their grisly stories.

Drive in the Desert. According to their statements, Schmid, who was dating Mary French, and Saunders were at Mary's house the night of May 31, 1964, when Schmid idly wondered if they could kill someone and get away with it. He suggested Alleen, a bright, pretty student who had once stood Saunders up for a date; the others agreed. Mary French persuaded the girl to go for a drive with them. She was taken about five miles into the desert, where Schmid and Saunders walked her down to a dry stream bed and hit her on the head with rocks until she died. Then, Mary related, Schmid walked back to the car, got a shovel from the trunk, and told her to follow him. She did, found Alleen face down and bleeding, and helped bury her.

Next day Mrs. Norma Rowe reported her daughter missing, gave police the names of Schmid, Saunders and Mary French as possible sources of information. The three were questioned repeatedly, but police finally became convinced that Alleen had simply run away from home—a not uncommon occurrence among teen-agers in Tucson's fast-growing, mobile society where few families stay long enough to put down roots.

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