It seems that for whatever reason, Toledo has had many strange connections to Cuba. (I’ll cover some of those in a future posting). But one of those Cuban connections involves a young woman from Toledo by the name of Patricia Schmidt. It appears that she moved to Cuba, in the 1940’s as an exotic dancer(stripper), who took the stage name of “Satira”. She was only 21 at the time and became a sensation – not just as a dancer, but as a defendant in a high-profile murder trial. The young Toledo native was accused of cold-blooded murder in the shooting death of Chicago lawyer and playboy, John Lester Mee aboard his yacht “Satira” in Cuba.
The story of Patricia Schmidt began in Toledo where she was raised as the daughter of a well-known druggist, John Schmodt who worked for many years in east Toledo. The family however lived in West Toledo on Belmar Street and Patricia attended Devilbiss High School in graduated in 1943. She had reportedly been an honors student in her junior and senior years. Shotrly after her mother passed away, she decided to take a new track in life. She moved to Chicago and began dancing as an exotic dancer is this is where she met John Mee, a lawyer, poet and former commander of a Navy PT boat. Her agent in Chicago at the time, convinced her to move to the Caribbean and to take her dancing act to that region the world. At 21, she departed the cold climate of the Midwest for the warmer climes of Cuba and Jack Mee soon followed. Soon they were living together on Mee’s makeshift yacht and she would tell the Cuban court during the trial that she became intimate with Mee and they became lovers. Then in January of 1947, she testified that a few weeks after she move din with him, she learned that Mee was a married man and it wasn’t long after that their relationship would begin to sour. She also alleged that she wanted to leave the yacht, but that Mee held her as a captive aboard the yacht for another six weeks until April of 1947 when she says they had a violent argument one night which ended when she shot Mee in the neck with his .22 caliber handgun. He died eight days later. During the trial, she re-enacted the shooting in emotional and dramatic detail for the three-judge panel, pleading self-defense, and the all-too-eager photographers who helped spread this Toledo woman’s story and face around the world. Evidence was also shown during the trial of scratches and bruises on her body that she claims were inflicted by Mee whom she alleged to have sado-masochistic sexual fetishes. Some court observers predicted that the young Toledo woman might be acquitted, but she was not. Instead she was convicted and given a 15 year prison sentence.
According to Time Magazine…“In sentencing Cootch-Dancer Schmidt to 15 years for manslaughter (TIME, Feb. 2), the judges had chided her for “appearing nude on the deck of [Mee’s] yacht like a nymph,” and for “swimming naked in [Havana] Bay.” Said Toledo-born Satira: “They just don’t understand our customs.”
But Satira would not serve anything close to that term. Instead, after considerable legal intervention and personal pleas from friends in Toledo and elsewhere, Patricia Schmidt got a pardon from the Cuban President. She ended up serving only about 17 months of that 15-year term in a women’s prison in Cuba until October of 1948. Within hours, after the pardon, she returned to the United States and did fly back to Toledo to see her family.
One of the side notes to the story is that, according to an article in the Toledo Blade, her fourth grade teacher from Hamilton School Toledo, Mrs. Irene(Tilly) Wasserman, made a personal plea to the court for Schmidt’s release. Her parents also went to Cuba several times before and during the much publicized trial.
The case of this young Toledo woman seemed to have the right “sex-appeal” for yesterday’s news editors. It became a nearly international incident at the time and Toledo’s petite “Satira” was the “star”. A Google search shows that the story was carried in great detail in papers in Chicago and Miami and Los Angeles. The Toledo Blade covered it, but not with front page bold headlines, but mostly in respectable three graph stories buried deep within its pages. One can only wonder how the story would be covered today.
Little is known about Patricia Schmidt’s life after her brief bout with fame, but some newspaper accounts indicate that she began dancing again in the U.S. under name of Satira and was, for a few years, able to exploit her fame in the Cuban murder affair, but apparently not for long. I have been unable to find anything printed about Patricia “Satira” Schmidt much beyond the early 1950’s. So I am only left to wonder what ever happened to this Toledo “star” and just how and when she fell from the sky.
If you know anything about this story and what ever happened to Patricia Schmidt, I’d love to know the follow-up.