The greatest crime of all Go to a prison and prisoners will give you a rundown of the worst of the worst criminals – those who kidnap, abuse and murder children. Attacks on these types of prisoners are common even today. In 1932 that was just as true.
Charles A Lindbergh No football star, sports star, or film idol held the appeal of ‘Lucky Lindy’. He was the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. In doing so he became an all-American hero. However heroes have to face being in the spotlight.
The Hero Worship Mobbed by the adoring public, media; home and abroad, Lindbergh looked for isolation, to be with his family. He spotted an isolated place from a flight in the air. He spent $50,000 on a mansion in the state of New Jersey
Setting the Scene Charles Lindbergh Junior was 20 months old, his parents were expecting another child soon. They were supposed to be going to Mrs Lindbergh’s parents 50 miles away, but Charles had a cold and decided to stay with the child along with the nurse Betty Gow, and the housekeeper couple.
Ransom Note Between 8-10pm on Tuesday 1 st March Junior was taken from his room. His room was on the first floor of the house. No fingerprints were found but a ransom note was – for $50,000. Lindbergh contacted the State police as the nearest town had no police!
Confusion Reigns The Police swarmed over the area. Kidnappings for money were a new crime and crime scene investigation was not a commonly used tactic. As the police walked around the house and gardens gone were the footprints that may have been there in the fresh snow that had lightly fallen! The police did find a couple of clues.
The Scene of the Crime Outside the House was a ladder that could be split into 3 sections making it easy to handle. On the ground underneath the ladder was a chisel. This showed the kidnapper was ready to force entry into the house.
The Ladder The ladder was a poor quality ladder. It appeared to have broke along the side.
Ransom Note Dear sir! Have 50,000$ redy 2500$ in 20$ bills 15000$ in 10$ bills and 10000$ in 5$ bills. After 2-4 days we will inform you were to deliver the mony. We warn you for making anyding public or for notify the polise the child is in gute care. Indication for all letters are singature and 3 holes.
Public Reaction The kidnapping of the ‘Eaglet’ was a shock. Letters of sympathy poured from across America, along with death threats and ransom notes trying to get money from the family. Announcing the kidnapping on NBC Radio caused a massive outcry of support.
The Gangster Connection Some Newspapers commented on the possibility of it being the work of Mafia Gangsters. Al Capone (in prison at the time) was horrified at the remark and offered $10,000 as a reward and said if he were released he and his henchmen would find the kidnapper! A national debate began. Do you free to a criminal to find one? The man that caught Capone said he was using it as an excuse to get out, once out he’d flee the country. Capone stayed in prison.
The Ransom Dr. John Condon, a retired Teacher said he was in contact with the kidnapper. He and Lindbergh went to a cemetery in the Bronx area of New York to hand over the ransom in Gold certificates. To ensure capture the numbers of the certificates had been recorded. Condon handed over the money and the kidnapper told him the child was in a boat in Massachusetts state coastline. Lindbergh personally flew all over the coastline – nothing!
Childs Body Found! In May 1932, a truck driver stopped on a road just a few miles from the Lindbergh house. He entered the woods to relieve himself. As he entered the woods he found a child’s badly decomposed body!
The Eaglet - Dead The pathologists said that death occurred from a fracture to the skull not long after the kidnap. The Media interest continued. Some reporters and photographers even took images of the body!
Kidnapper Caught! It took more than two years to ‘find’ the kidnapper. German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann was arrested and had over $14,000 of the ransom cash in his garage Within hours of the arrest the media, police and the public began to clamour for the death penalty! After the cash was found, another damning piece of evidence was located. The wood used in the creation of the makeshift ladder was cut from the attic of the Hauptmann residence! Eventually Condon identified Hauptmann as the man he paid the ransom to.
Innocent until proven guilty? To the media and public he was already guilty – why? He was German! The propaganda of World War One – baby killers etc made Germans look naturally evil enough to do the crime. He was an illegal immigrant who had a criminal past. To many he was guilty!
But was he innocent? Hauptmann said the money had been left there by another German who had gone back to Germany and had since died. Hauptmann’s wife said that on the night of the kidnapping he was at home with her. Did Hauptmann kill the baby – there was certainly enough evidence to say so at the time. He was found guilty and the death penalty was invoked. There are however many issues that cause a great deal of debate over the case.
Could it have been Lindbergh? Lindbergh had a lot of control over the case. He even managed to get the body cremated without an official autopsy! He had close relationships with the Governor and Prosecutor for the State. There is a lot of damning evidence to suggest that it was he and not Hauptmann that killed the child. Could he have killed his own son in cold blood?
Like what? The ladder was shoddily made – Hauptmann was a carpenter and would know how to make a ladder
Lindbergh Killer? Lindbergh had hidden the child before as a ‘joke’ on the mother! According to Lindbergh’s mother in law, his wife presumed this too was a joke. If we presume Lindbergh did it, he’d have 30 minutes to hide the body – within walking distance of the body’s location. The Body’s location is the wrong way to the Bronx!
What is the answer We don’t know! History is about questioning what people believe. – We won’t really know as the evidence doesn’t really exist to give us a good enough answer.