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Edward Arthur Schmidt, an 85-year-old Oskaloosa attorney, was beaten about the head and face and then stabbed to death in his Spartan-like basement law office on Thursday, January 13, 1972.
Schmidt had been stabbed in the chest four times in what officials believed was an attempted robbery, though police found $166.41 under a pile of papers on Schmidt’s desk and about $21,000 in cash in a safe in the next room.
The lifelong introverted and frugal bachelor, who practiced law in Oskaloosa for most of his life, left an estate valued at approximately $1.5 million. Few knew about the wealth he accumulated over the years by investments in stock, real estate holdings and savings, and even oil rights in 33 Oklahoma counties.
According to a Des Moines Register article written by Gene Raffensperger dated March 31, 1975, Schmidt’s closest blood relatives were a nephew and niece, and the only will officials were able to locate was one dated from 1917 where Schmidt, a Drake college of law graduate, had bequeathed $10,000 to Drake University College.
Glenn Upton, who claimed to be Schmidt’s only close friend, claimed otherwise and filed an affidavit after Schmidt’s death stating he’d witnessed a new will Schmidt had drawn up in 1962. Upton said Schmidt intended to leave the bulk of his estate to Drake University for a scholarship program.
Raffensperger wrote that since the 1962 will couldn’t be found, and since its existence invalidated the 1917 will, Schmidt died “intestate” — having no will.
That didn’t sit well with Drake University. Reported the Register:
Drake University filed a court challenge on the basis of a “lost-will” petition. The Drake action asked the court to declare valid the missing 1962 will and declare the University the principal beneficiary of Schmidt’s estate.
The Mahaska County District Court appointed Oskaloosa attorney Joe P. Crookham as administrator for Schmidt’s estate, and after three years Crookham filed the final report for court approval “in the matter of the estate of Edward A. Schmidt, deceased.” The Register listed the family heirs and the amounts each were to receive as follows:
Along with his claim seeking the original $150,000, Upton also entered into court records a 46-page journal where he’d documented every errand and service he’d performed for Schmidt for more than 28 years. Upton began documenting his “services” to Schmidt beginning in August 1934 and kept records up until Schmidt’s murder, according to the Register.
Expenses involved in closing the estate — which included federal and state taxes, bills, legal and administrator’s fees — already had taken about $644,000, according to Crookham’s report.
The Register also reported that Crookham was awarded $60,000 by the court as his fee for administrator, and the law firm of Garold Heslinga and Harold Heslinga was awarded $60,000 by the court for its service as attorneys for the estate.
The same Register article included a final note by Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Wayne L. Sheston, who said of Schmidt’s death:
“I’m sorry to say it is still an unsolved murder. I will work on it and I still follow up leads.”
Edward Schmidt may have basically been friendless, but the community in which he lived hasn’t forgotten him.
On March 18, 2011, Linda Lanphier contacted Iowa Cold Cases to say that while doing family genealogy, she’d looked up information regarding Ed Schmidt’s murder and then posted comments to some of her relatives (including a cousin who is an attorney) and friends on Facebook to get their input.
The question had been raised, Linda said, as to whether DNA had been done on the evidence or even kept.
Linda forwarded to Iowa Cold Cases the responses people posted about Schmidt, though said she didn’t include their names because she hadn’t asked permission to do so.
Linda’s e-mail with the comments follows:
One person wrote: “I remember him. Mr. Schmidt was an elderly frail gentleman, but I don’t remember him being small, per se, but I didn’t really know him. I didn’t think he had any family as it seemed there was little pressure to ever solve the murder. He lived by the Congregational Church and was murdered for his coin collection. The murder was never solved and the police questioned many of us who were teens at the time. It wasn’t the 60’s. It was more like 1972 and most of us thought it was a Penn student who left school right after the murder and lived next door.”
“The Chief of Police refused to retire at the time and the Sheriff had little, if any training. None of the rare gold coins were ever seen again as far as I know, which should have made the case solvable, in my opinion. I have always wondered if anyone has ever gone back and checked the evidence for DNA since it was before DNA testing was around.”
“Unfortunately, the crime scene was trampled by almost everyone remotely connected with law enforcement, so the contamination at the scene would add confusion.”
Another person wrote: “There was a rumor going around at the time that it was someone who was prominent in the community. I don’t remember this person’s name, though. Not sure if there was an obituary or not. Take a look at one of the old newspapers from the time. There may not have been one.”
(And from Linda): I have just a few notes from the local genealogical library to try to make a connection with the Schmidts in my own family. My maiden name was Linda Kay Crile (now Lanphier). I was born to Bernard E. and Norma H. Campbell Crile. My father’s father was Adam E. Crile and Adam’s mother’s maiden name was Etta Barbara Schmidt. Her father was Solomon Schmidt who was a German immigrant from Rucheim, Germany.
I couldn’t make a connection with Barbara (as she was called) Schmidt. There is always the possibility of a connection in Germany, but I could not find any mention of the place in Germany where Ed Schmidt’s parent’s immigrated from. I noticed on the small paragraph of Ed Schmidt’s obituary, he did not have a Lutheran or Catholic funeral service. This was a bit unusual for a first generation German-American. It would have been helpful for me to know which religion they might have been, also?
“It’s been interesting,” Linda told Iowa Cold Cases, stating she would continue to search for additional information.
Edward Arthur Schmidt was born September 12, 1886 to Henrietta (Mehlin) Schmidt and Henry David Schmidt in Nira, Iowa, Washington County. He had two sisters, Julia Schmidt Breeden and Tilla Schmidt, and two brothers, William and Alexander.
Schmidt was buried in Oskaloosa’s Forest Cemetery in the family plot.
If you have any information concerning Edward Schmidt’s unsolved murder please contact the Oskaloosa Police Department at 641-673-3201.