‘I, a Squealer’ gives the other side of the Pied Piper Murders of Tucson
The mid-1960s cases are part of Tucson’s rich history, leading to the publishing of a book almost 50 years later
Tucson, 1966: Charles Howard Schmid Jr. is convicted of first-degree murder for killing Gretchen and Wendy Fritz.
1967: He pleads guilty to second-degree murder for the death of Alleen Rowe.
"I, a Squealer," written in 1967, is the story of the man who turned Schmid in: his friend, Richard Bruns.
Soon after the crimes, Bruns who was 20 years old at the time of the conviction, wrote a manuscript about his experience with the murders.
The manuscript was tossed aside by Bruns, as he wanted to forget his past, only to be published about 50 years after the original writing.
Bruns had a ninth-grade education and had only read a handful of books, according to his daughter Lisa Espich, who was fascinated when she came upon the manuscript around a decade ago.
Bruns later went on to get a teaching degree from the University of Arizona but struggled with his involvement in this case.
“I knew my father had this involvement in the cases. I knew that he was the one that went to the police,” Espich said. “Nobody really talked about it, and it wasn’t a conversation in our family.”
When Espich got a hold of the manuscript, she took it home. After reading it, she urged him to get his story out there.
“I felt that he should share this,” Espich said.
At first, Bruns showed no interest in the book. He thought it had gotten thrown out over the years.
His daughter continued to dive into the lost story of her father, and as she had publishing experience, she took lead on trying to get her father’s story out to the public.
“People are going to be able to read whatever is out there about the case,” Espich said. “I felt that his side of the story should be part of those resources."
Bruns still showed no interest in the release of his manuscript until anniversary specials began airing on the news. Then, Bruns started to change his mind.
It started with The Tucson Citizen running an article about the anniversary of Schmid’s death, with a follow-up by KGUN 9 doing a segment on historical cases in Tucson.
The one that really bothered Bruns was the airing of a "Pied Piper of Tucson" episode on the show "A Crime to Remember."
“My dad would vent to me how certain things wouldn’t be right,” Espich said. “'A Crime to Remember' really bothered him because there were things that always portrayed my father in a very exaggerated way.”
Convinced by his daughter, Bruns agreed to get his book published.
Bruns is the kind of author who, while glad to get his story out there, doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, according to his daughter. He refuses to read the book and keeps a level of privacy by taking a hands-off approach to the publishing.
After Espich started putting the story together, she reached out to different crime writers about their opinions on the book.
“We have 25 testimonials for the book, and most of them are well-known crime writers,” Espich said.
She was able to get F. Lee Bailey, a former criminal defense attorney, to read the book and offer a testimony. Bailey worked on the Sam Sheppard cases, which were the base of the film The Fugitive.
Espich’s contribution, besides the publishing and marketing aspects, was the appendix section, which updates the reader on events after Bruns wrote the manuscript in 1967.
“So, at the end of my dad’s book, it ends with Schmid going to prison, but there are so many things that happened with the cases after,” Espich said. “I knew it was important to update the readers.”
Espich said she appreciated how much she learned about the cases from diving into them and focusing on publishing to keep up her father’s legacy.
"I, a Squealer: The Insider’s Account of the 'Pied Piper of Tucson' Murders" by Richard Bruns will be featured at the Tucson Festival of Books in March of 2018.
“What I want to gain from this is ... [to] help shine a light on who my father really was and let people read things from his perspective and possibly leave him with more of a positive feeling when he looks back to the past,” Espich said.
The book can be ordered on www.iasquealer.com, which also features reviews, a trailer and more information on the author and the publisher.
The Tucson Festival of Books will be March 10–11 from 9:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. "I, a Squealer" looks to hit shelves in February.
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