Detective Raymond C. Schindler and the Smith Case Part 1

About the Raymond C. Schindler and the Smith case, account of the crime, biography of the detective.


The Crime

In New Jersey's Asbury Park, in early 1911, 10-year-old Marie Smith went to school one morning and didn't return. Her body was found the following afternoon in some bushes. She had been smashed over the head with a heavy object, sexually assaulted, and strangled with her own stocking. There were no clues, no murder weapon, no footprints.

Enter the Detective

At 23, prospecting for gold in northern California, Raymond Schindler lost his small grubstake. He arrived penniless in San Francisco on Apr. 19, 1906, the day after the earthquake. Eventually he found work with an insurance company, investigating damage done by the earthquake. Schindler was so thorough in his research that he was later appointed to a federal team investigating the corrupt practices of San Francisco city government. When this investigation was brought to a successful close, the head of the team opened his own detective agency and asked Schindler to head the New York office. Two years later, Schindler formed his own agency.

A large, muscular man, Schindler was wildly creative and utterly thorough, a combination that quickly earned him an international reputation. The Marie Smith case, one of Schindler's earliest, is still considered a work of art.

The Chase

The search for the child's attacker led to the home of Thomas Williams, a black man who neighbors said "had been in trouble before." Williams's only alibi: "I stopped to drink from a bottle of whiskey I had with me and I fell asleep." The public cried for vengeance, but the case was too pat for Sheriff Clarence Hatrick. Secretly, lest the citizens outraged with Williams become uncontrollable, Hatrick hired Schindler to investigate.

Posing as a credit company investigator, Schindler quietly compiled information about the Smiths' neighbors; he eliminated all but one of them as suspects. He would have dismissed a young German, Frank Heideman, as a suspect too, except that Heideman had been in the U.S. for only two years. Schindler left nothing to chance. In checking with German authorities, he discovered that Heideman had been arrested for child molesting. When the charges were dismissed, Heideman had immediately sailed for the U.S.

Schindler also planted one of his men as a prisoner in the cell with the accused Williams. Several days of conversation between the two men convinced the black investigator that Williams was innocent. With no evidence, Schindler's only hope was somehow to trick Heideman into confessing to murder. For this, Schindler masterminded a plot worthy of Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

The Hound of the Baskervilles provided inspiration for an outlandish plan, but it backfired on Schindler. The florist who employed Heideman and owned the house where he boarded kept a large dog. Schindler's strategy was to cause the dog to howl all night until Heideman broke. Schindler's detectives threw rocks at the dog for a week, but Heideman didn't break; he moved to New York to get away from the howling dog and enjoy a night's sleep. Or so he told his friends.

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