PG NewsPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions


Headlines by E-mail

Headlines Region & State Neighborhoods Business
Sports Health & Science Magazine Forum

Dormont police looking at bookstore customers

Trail grows cold in killing

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

By M. Ferguson Tinsley, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Fear crept into Dormont on a sunny afternoon.

On Friday, a visitor to Ann Schmidt's bookstore at 4:36 p.m. found her in the back room of the shop, her skull fractured. The coroner ruled the death a homicide.

County homicide Detective Regis Kelly rearranges flowers in a makeshift memorial outside The Book Rack in Dormont yesterday afternoon. The store's owner, Ann Schmidt, was beaten to death Friday, and Kelly was at the store yesterday collecting personal effects and additional evidence. (Matt Freed, Post-Gazette)

For more than six years, Schmidt operated The Book Rack on Potomac Avenue in Dormont, said her landlord James Grassman of Mt. Lebanon.

Allegheny County and Dormont police said they had uncovered little about the slaying by late yesterday.

"We've gotten descriptions of customers that were in her shop in the late afternoon [that day]," said Dormont police Sgt. Gary Scheimer. "Some of them we've been able to identify. Some of them we haven't. It just takes a lot of manpower and a lot of time to do this."

Scheimer said the department hadn't stepped up patrols, but businesses along Potomac are encouraged to call police if anyone in their business makes them uncomfortable.

"Everyone has a heightened sense of awareness," he said.

Since Friday, passers-by have left a mound of carnations, roses and mums in The Book Rack doorway. A gossamer sash lay taped to the window sill with the words, "May choirs of angels escort you into paradise," hand printed across it in Latin and English.

The homicide has the community reeling because murder was a stranger to Dormont for many years.

There had not been a homicide in the borough for almost 13 years. The last one, still unsolved, occurred July 22, 1989. Catherine Corkery, 22, was sexually assaulted, brutalized and burned, her body left in a back yard along Voelkel Avenue.

The immediacy of Schmidt's death had a few businesses along busy, tree-shaded Potomac Avenue panicking yesterday.

A woman at the Princess Photography Studio, next door to the bookstore, rushed into her shop, quickly shut and locked the door when a reporter approached her. A sign in the studio window said: "Customer, please knock." They were let in one at a time.

North across Espy Avenue at Mecs dentistry, two women also locked the business' door. They took Scheimer's suggestion and called Dormont police when they noticed a reporter jotting notes on a pad outside.

Don Campiti's Pizzeria, 1509 Potomac, kept the door swinging, however. At lunch, customers lined the counter waiting to pick up orders. Others chatted and smoked at tables.

Mark Mower, 26, a cook at Campiti's, said he remembered the smiling and friendly Schmidt.

"She comes in here all the time," he said. "She always orders half a pizza boat with pepperoni and a Pepsi. She ordered that about four times a week."

The pizza toppings sandwich served on a hoagie bun was her favorite. She usually came in between 2 and 4 p.m. Friday wasn't unusual, either, except when a green Kawasaki motorcycle parked in front of the pizza shop around 3 p.m., Mower said.

He said the rider wasn't from the neighborhood. Wearing a red, white and blue bandanna on his head, a goatee, a denim jacket and standing about 5 feet, 11 inches, the man dismounted the bike and walked in the direction of the bookstore. By 4 p.m. the man and the motorcycle were gone, Mower said.

He hadn't told police, because he'd forgotten the significance until it hit him yesterday morning. "But [the man] could've been going to the dentist's office," Mower added.

Others along Potomac said they are determined to keep their lives on an even keel despite the killing. They refuse to cower.

Marie Lies, 78, lives next door to the Book Rack. She had known and liked Schmidt since the book dealer opened up. Lies said the killing causes her more ire than angst.

"I'm more mad than anything," Lies said. "If I saw [the killer] I'd strangle him myself. If you want to rob someone, rob them. You don't have to beat them. I still can't believe it."

"The most uncomfortable thing is that it happened in broad daylight," said Michele Johnston.

Johnston, 30, is the shop manager at the Neon Connection, a sign shop two doors south of Schmidt's store. Her business was open and operating as usual.

"You can't let these people scare you," Johnston said. "You can't give in."

Schmidt's family declined comment. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. Bernard Catholic Church in Mt. Lebanon.

Anyone with information is asked to call county homicide at 412-473-1300.

bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy