By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
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"I suspect," she continues, "that [Schmitz] is not in that boat. Otherwise, there would be galleries trying to pick him up and show his work."
On the contrary, some gallery owners have made a point of avoiding Schmitz. "I met him once and instantly disliked him," says one owner. "I never saw his art and I never wanted to. He thought he was God's gift to mankind."
Still, Schmitz managed to give the appearance of never hurting for money or clients. He was generous to his artist friends, springing for drinks and dinners when they were just scraping by. Lunning suspects that Schmitz's ready cash came not just from his art, but from a trust fund. A source close to Schmitz attorney Larry Sather says Schmitz does have a trust fund and that it is managed by one of his uncles in Germany.
Since the Lopez incident, however, rumors of other, darker sources of income--namely, an alleged link to a cocaine ring--have come to light. "I've heard every rumor," says a former neighbor of Schmitz's, "but I've never seen him on drugs, and he never mentioned drugs to me."
Schmitz's and Breeden's names did surface peripherally during a major drug investigation conducted by Denver police. But the connection reportedly was so tenuous that investigators deemed it unworthy of pursuing. Schmitz denies using drugs.
Sometime after his marriage, Schmitz fell out of love with Scientology. "They say that people have implants in them so that their minds are different," Schmitz says of the religion. "They say they have the medicine and that they can cure you. Then they have you pay a fortune. And once you give them money, they never give it back."
However, Schmitz claims that he alone might be the only former member who has ever gotten his money back from the church. "When I said [Scientology] didn't do any good for me, I told them I wanted my $23,000 back," Schmitz says. "They're so sneaky, but I tricked them. I told them I went to a book auction and bought a book by [Ernest] Hemingway and that L. Ron Hubbard was a pre-owner. I told them I found a note inside the book that said, 'Ron, if you want to make a lot of money, start your own religion.' I told them, 'If you want it, give me my money back.'
"It worked," Schmitz continues. "They sent me the money right away. But I tricked them. There was no note."
"That's so much crap," says Deb Danos, director of special affairs for the Church of Scientology of Colorado. The story that Hubbard once said he started the religion to make money, she says, "has been picked up here and there by people opposed to the church." In fact, the tale is so widespread that a response denying its veracity appears on a church handout answering often-asked questions about Scientology.
Schmitz claims that his defection from Scientology had a price. His artistic mentor in Germany, he says, is still associated with Scientology and will no longer acknowledge his existence, nor will he discuss anything having to do with his former student. Schmitz chose not to divulge the name of his mentor to Westword, though presumably he is referring to Helnwein.
Schmitz's relationship with the church wasn't the only thing to suffer during the early Nineties: Carrie Schmitz left her husband in late 1993, taking with her the couple's two children, then aged two and four. She filed for divorce on February 18, 1994, the date of their fifth wedding anniversary.
For more than a year, court records show, Carrie Schmitz was uncertain as to whether she wanted a divorce or merely a legal separation. Two months after filing her initial petition for dissolution of the marriage, she asked that the request be changed to one for a legal separation. In March 1995 she asked that it be amended to a dissolution. The divorce was granted in May of that year.
The ordeal of divorce was apparently not made any easier by Peter Schmitz's handling of the situation. "[Schmitz] was unresponsive in terms of the dissolution proceedings," says Denver attorney Richard Bryans, who represented Carrie Schmitz in the divorce. "If we filed a paper, he would simply not respond." According to the case file, Peter Schmitz never retained an attorney and appeared in court only once, to argue that his child-support payments should be less than the $2,000 per month his wife wanted.
Although Carrie Schmitz told the court that her husband earned an average income of $8,000 per month in 1993, Schmitz testified that his income fluctuated wildly. He was ordered to pay $1,200 per month in child support. Carrie Schmitz didn't ask for alimony.
It was, according to Bryans and others, an acrimonious parting of the ways. In the months prior to the final decree, Carrie Schmitz told an old acquaintance that she had had a troubling marriage and a difficult divorce. And she expressed gratitude for her coming freedom.
"She left me with the impression that Peter was a loose cannon," says the man, who asks that his name not be used. "What I remember most about that conversation was that she said things had gotten really out of control with Peter, and that she had left, taken the children and cleaned up her life. I think it was an enormously painful episode in her life.