Helmuth Emil Max Schmidt, a.k.a. "American Bluebeard", was a German murderer, robber, con artist and suspected serial killer active in several U.S. states. He is an example of a "bluebeard"-type killer.
Not much information about Schmidt's early years is disclosed, other than he settled in the U.S. in 1913 in an apparent escape from military service in his native country Germany. He eventually met a woman named Anita, whom he would later marry and have a daughter named Gertrude with her. At some point in the early 1900s, Schmidt married several other women and robbed them of thousands of dollars, most likely for financial reasons. He then apparently started his killings soon after, allegedly starting with Anita, who disappeared at their Lakewood, New Jersey, home. Schmidt then allegedly killed Margaret "Greta" Darsch, a woman who posed as Anita for some time after Anita's disappearance, before fleeing to Detroit, Michigan, with Gertrude. There, he met Helen Teitz, whom he married.
In his time at Michigan, he killed his only confirmed victim, Augusta Steinbach, whom he robbed of $500 and her jewelry, and also apparently strangled to death 28-year-old Irma Pallatinus, his housekeeper and alleged mistress. On April 23, 1918, police investigating Steinbach's disappearance were persuaded by Steinbach's coworker Agnes Dominie to investigate Schmidt. They stormed into his "murder plant" and arrested him, Helen, and the then-18-year-old Gertrude; the latter two would end being cleared of any involvement in the crime and released. At the residence, police found evidence of other victims. Schmidt confessed to cremating Steinbach's body, but insisted that she committed suicide instead. Later that day, he crawled under the iron bed of his prison cell, lifted it, and brought it down upon himself, crushing his skull and effectively committing suicide. It was later revealed that Detroit Sheriff O.H.P. Greene had burned papers relating to the case before committing suicide as well. Pallatinus' remains were found buried under the cement in the basement of Schmidt's house at a later date.
Schmidt's targets were young, poorly educated, single women immigrating to the U.S. All of them were lured in with matrimonial advertisements he posted in newspapers using aliases, which all claimed he was wealthy. He then brought his victims to his home where he would suggest the idea marrying them. He killed a majority of his victims by poisoning them, though Irma Pallatinus was killed by strangulation with an unspecified object. He would then take any items they had on them. All of the victims were lured over to so-called "murder plants", which included crematoriums that was used to cremate the victims' bodies.
- c. 1914, Lakewood, New Jersey: Adele Ulrich Braun (robbed of $3,500 only)
- c. 1916, Chicago, Illinois: Unnamed victim (robbed of $2,000 only)
- Unspecified date: Detroit, Michigan: Helen Schmidt (née Teitz) (bigamously married)
- Unspecified date: New York City, New York: Unnamed victim (bigamously married)
- March 1917, Royal Oak, Michigan (disappeared): Augusta Steinbach (poisoned; killed for her $500 and jewelry)
- Unspecified date: Anita Schmidt (possibly; was poisoned)
- Unspecified date: Margaret "Greta" Darsch (possibly; his alleged mistress; strangled with an unspecified object)
- Scmidt is suspected to have killed as many as 40 or more additional women.
- Judging by the high number of possible murder victims, it could also be possible Schmidt might have had numerous other bigamous marriages.
On Criminal Minds
While Schmidt has yet to be directly mentioned or referenced on the show, he appears to have been an inspiration for The Roycewoods ("Mosley Lane") - All were serial killers (Schmidt is suspected) that cremated at least one victim and disposed of their ashes. Anita's M.O. and Roger's habit of sprinkling the ashes onto roses seem to come from this. It's also interesting to note that Schmidt's first wife was named Anita, and that Helen Schmidt was briefly suspected of being an accomplice, which appear to be nods toward Anita Roycewood.
- Chronicling America newspaper articles on Schmidt
- About.com article about Schmidt
- Murderpedia's article about Schmidt
- Robert Keller's blog article about Schmidt
- The Shocking Story of Helmuth Schmidt: Michigan's Original Lonely-Hearts Killer (2013)
- ↑ A term meaning a male serial killer who marries a spouse, murders her, and repeats this process, for a number of reasons