Southern California had Charlie Manson.
Ceres had Steven Lawrence Schmidt.
That's the summation of an Idaho writer who is researching material for a book on one of the worst people to ever call Ceres home.
When author Dewey Treat contacted me inquiring about past Courier articles on Schmidt, I remembered the name. He was the career criminal who on Feb. 26, 1998 was trying to break into a duplex at 2714 Whitmore Avenue with accomplice Kenneth Michael Duckett. Officers Howie Stevenson and Trenton Johnson responded to a call placed by a resident reporting someone trying to break into his residence. Duckett, 28, was killed when he charged officers with a knife and reached for a waistband gun and was shot.
Schmidt was arrested by Officer Greg Yotsuya after he tried to escape by jumping the fence into the backyard of a Casa Verde residence. Schmidt was found with two hand guns, a machete and several knives. Based on how heavily armed the two men were, police believe Schmidt and Duckett had a mission to kill the occupant.
Schmidt was 48 years old when his days as a criminal nightmare came to an end. He was sentenced the following year under the Three Strikes law and is today in Folsom Prison.
"It seems that the more I learn of this person, the more I tend to shake my head in disbelief," said Treat.
Treat knew about Schmidt since he was born and raised in Ceres where he attended Walter White Elementary School and graduated from Ceres High in 1963. Dewey's mother, Edna Treat, used to work at Hendy's Drive-In on the old 99 Highway at Fourth Street/Hackett Road. A retired construction project manager, Treat moved to Idaho in 1996 and has since taken up writing. A website notes that he is trying to write "a mystery novel that has been bouncing around in my head for years."
The subject, of course, is Schmidt.
Schmidt's evil side apparently was fostered at an earlier age. One well-known resident of Ceres - who shall remain anonymous - told Treat about Schmidt growing up at 2132 Sixth Street. Accounts say Schmidt's mother, Josephine, died in the late 1970s or early 1980s. His father was reportedly not around much and was either a carpenter or an auto mechanic.
Once Schmidt talked a 10-year-old neighbor girl (the daughter of Hendy's Drive-In owner Bill Henderson) to place an apple on her head and he would shoot it off with a bow and arrow. Treat is convinced Schmidt intentionally aimed at her forehead where the arrow struck. Apparently the arrow did not penetrate her skull and the girl escaped serious injury.
We know that in the 1960s, his teen years, Schmidt was abusing drugs. His sister Sally reportedly died of a drug overdose in her early 30s.
Steve Schmidt graduated from Ceres High School in 1966.
The sordid tales abound. Likely a psychopath, Steve was said to have tortured a litter of kittens and setting them on fire. For sport Steve would shoot out neighbors' windows with a B-B gun.
Once he supposedly rolled up next to a carload of teenage girls in the Fosters Freeze parking lot and boldly asked if any of them wanted to have sex, to which one woman volunteered. The woman, now 65, bragged about the incident to Treat.
Things grew far worse. Schmidt was convicted of robbing a Hughson grocery store.
Schmidt was 23 when he was arraigned on May 20, 1973 for the stabbing murder of Thomas L. Guzman, 24, at the family ranch in December of 1972. Blood stains in the home led police to believe the alleged drug dealer - known as "The Rocket Man" - met with foul play. The murder was not revealed until a road grader unearthed his body on April 7, 1973. Schmidt was arrested five days later.
Apparently he didn't serve in prison long enough.
On March 6, 1979 Schmidt was charged with kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery and auto theft. Schmidt accosted two ladies, Opal McGathy and Deborah Schooley, at the Silver Saddle Bar (now a store at the southwest corner of Richland and Evans). The two women were abducted at gunpoint but later broke free. Schmidt was arrested at the corner of Glenwood and Beachwood. Charges were dropped against the second suspect, William Wartham, because of insufficient evidence.
Treat said there are indications about Schmidt being involved in or responsible for the death of a transient at the Modesto Municipal Golf Course next to the Modesto Nuts stadium. The victim was stabbed to death with a flag-marker pole.
Seeing how he is still in his research phase, Treat would appreciate any first-hand experiences of persons who grew up or ran around with Schmidt. I can put him in touch with anyone who has some insight for his new book, "Kill The Messenger."
If anything, it's hopeful that someone can shed light on the situation- whether it was bad parenting or drugs or what - that made his life go so terribly wrong.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org.