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Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping The kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr.

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Presentation on theme: "Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping The kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping The kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr

2 Abduction of the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The toddler was abducted from his family home in East Amwell, New Jersey on the evening of March 1, 1932. Over two months later, on May 12, 1932, the body of Charles Lindbergh, Jr., was discovered a short distance from the Lindberghs' home. A medical examination determined that the toddler had a "massive fracture of the skull", which was determined to be the cause of death.


4 The Crime At 8:00 pm on March 1, 1932, the nurse-maid, Betty Gow, put 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh, Jr., in his crib. She then proceeded to pin the blanket covering him with two large safety pins so as to prevent it from moving while he slept. At around 9:30 p.m., Col. Lindbergh heard a noise that made him think some slats had fallen off an orange crate in the kitchen. At 10:00 p.m., Gow discovered that the baby was missing from his crib.

5 The Crime cont. She in turn went to ask Mrs. Lindbergh, who was just coming out of the bath, if she had the baby with her. After not finding Charles Lindbergh, Jr., with his mother, the nurse-maid then proceeded down stairs to speak with Lindbergh, who was in the library/study just beneath the baby's nursery room in the southeast corner of the house.

6 Crime cont. Charles Lindbergh then proceeded up to the nursery to see for himself that his son was not in his crib. While surveying the room, he discovered a white envelope had been left on the radiator that formed the window sill. Lindbergh proceeded to locate his Springfield rifle and search the rest of the house looking for intruders. Within 30 minutes, the local police were on route to the house, as were the media and Lindbergh's attorney.

7 Crime cont. There was a single distinguished footprint and indentations discovered a short time later just below the window in the mud due to the rainy and blustery conditions that day and into the evening. After the authorities arrived on the scene and began to search the immediate area surrounding the house, a short distance away in a cluster of bushes were found three sections of a smartly designed but rather crude-looking ladder.

8 The Investigation First on the scene was Chief Harry Wolfe of the Hopewell police. Wolfe was soon joined by New Jersey State Police officers. The police searched the home and scoured the surrounding area for miles. After midnight, a fingerprint expert arrived at the home to examine the note left on the window sill and the ladder. The ladder had 400 partial fingerprints and some footprints left behind. However, most were of no value to the investigation due to the surge of media and police that were present within the first 30 to 60 minutes after the first call for help.

9 Investigation cont. An odd twist to this investigation is that during the fingerprint discovery process, not a single fingerprint was found in the room — none from Mr. and Mrs. Lindbergh, none from the baby, and none from Betty Gow. Getting any solid evidence outside the house proved to be virtually impossible. The ransom note that was found by Lindbergh was opened and read by the police after they arrived.

10 Investigation cont. The brief, handwritten letter was riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical irregularities: “ Dear Sir! Have 50000$ redy 25000$ 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 Police The child is in gut care. Indication for all letters are singnature and three holes.”


12 Investigation cont. Without spelling and grammatical errors, the message reads: “ Dear Sir: Have $50,000 ready — $25,000 in $20 bills, $15,000 in $10 bills and $10,000 in $5 bills. After 2-4 days, we will inform you of where to deliver the money. We warn you about making anything public or notifying the police. The child is in good care. Indication for all letters are a signature and three holes.” There were two interconnected circles (colored red and blue) below the message, with a hole punched through the red circle and two other holes punched outside the circles.


14 Investigation cont. Word of the kidnapping spread quickly, and, along with police, the well- connected and well-intentioned arrived at the Lindbergh estate. Three were military colonels offering their aid, though only one had law enforcement expertise: Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police; Henry Skillman Breckinridge, a Wall Street lawyer; William Joseph Donovan (a.k.a. "Wild Bill”). Lindbergh and these men believed that the kidnapping was perpetrated by organized crime figures. The letter, they thought, seemed written by someone who spoke German as his native language. It should be noted that Charles Lindbergh, at this time, used his influence to control the direction of the investigation. They contacted Mickey Rosner, rumored to know mobsters. Rosner, in turn, brought in two speakeasy owners: Salvatore "Salvy" Spitale and Irving Bitz. Lindbergh quickly endorsed the duo and appointed them his intermediaries to deal with the mob. Unknown to Lindbergh, however, Bitz and Spitale were actually in cahoots with the New York Daily News, a paper which hoped to use the duo to scoop other newspapers in the race for leads in the kidnapping story.



17 Investigation Several organized crime figures — notably Al Capone — spoke from prison, offering to help return the baby to his family in exchange for money or for legal favors. Ideally Capone was offering assistance in return for being released from prison under the guise that his assistance could be more effective. This was quickly denied by the authorities. The morning after the kidnapping, President Herbert Hoover was notified of the crime. Though the case did not seem to have any grounds for federal involvement (kidnapping then being classified as a local crime), Hoover declared that he would "move Heaven and Earth" to recover the missing child. The Bureau of Investigation was authorized to investigate the case, while the United States Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Immigration Service and the Washington, D.C., police were told their services might be required. New Jersey officials announced a $25,000 reward for the safe return of "Little Lindy". The Lindbergh family offered an additional $50,000 reward of their own. The total reward of $75,000 was made even more significant by the fact that the offer was made during the early days of the Great Depression.

18 Investigation Cont. A few days after the kidnapping, a new ransom letter arrived at the Lindbergh home via the mail. Postmarked in Brooklyn, the letter was genuine, carrying the perforated red and blue marks. Police wanted to examine the letter, but instead Lindbergh gave it to Rosner, who said he would pass it on to his supposed mob associates. In actuality, the note went back to the Daily News, where someone photographed it. Before long, copies of the ransom note were being sold on street corners throughout New York for $5 each. Any ransom letters received after this one were therefore automatically suspect. A second ransom note then arrived by mail, also postmarked from Brooklyn. Ed Mulrooney, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, suggested that, given two Brooklyn postmarks, the kidnappers were probably working out of that area. Mulrooney told Lindbergh that his officers could surveil postal letterboxes in Brooklyn, and that a device could be placed inside each letterbox to isolate the letters in sequence as they were dropped in, to help track down anyone who might be tied to the case. If Lindbergh, Jr., was being held in Brooklyn by the kidnappers, Mulrooney insisted that such a plan might help locate the child as well. Mulrooney was willing to go to great lengths, including organizing a police raid to rescue the baby. Lindbergh strongly disapproved of the plan. He feared for his son's life and warned Mulrooney that if such a plan was carried out, Lindbergh would use his considerable influence in efforts to ruin Mulrooney's career.Reluctantly, Mulrooney acquiesced. The day after Lindbergh rejected Mulrooney's plan, a third letter was mailed. It too came from Brooklyn. This letter warned that since the police were now involved in the case, the ransom had been doubled to $100,000.

19 John Condon aka "Jafsie" During this time, John F. Condon, a retired school teacher in the Bronx, wrote a letter to the Home News, proclaiming his willingness to help the Lindbergh case in any way he could and added $1000 of his own money to the reward. Condon received a letter in care of the Home News purportedly written by the kidnappers. It was marked with the punctured red- and-blue circles and authorized Condon as their intermediary with Lindbergh. Lindbergh accepted the letter as genuine and, at the time, neither man seemed to know that copies of the first mailed ransom letter were being sold by the hundreds. By then, a great many people must have known the "signature" required to forge a letter from the kidnappers. Following the latest letter's instructions, Condon placed a classified ad in the New York American: "Money is Ready. Jafsie". (Jafsie was a pseudonym based on a phonetic pronunciation of Condon's initials, "J.F.C.") Condon then waited for further instructions from the culprits.

20 investigation A meeting between "Jafsie" and a representative of the group that claimed to be the kidnappers was eventually scheduled for late one evening at Woodlawn Cemetery. According to Condon, the man sounded foreign but stayed in the shadows during the conversation, and he was thus unable to get a close look at his face. The man said his name was John, and he related his story: he was a "Scandinavian" sailor, part of a gang of three men and two women. The Lindbergh child was unharmed and being held on a boat, but the kidnappers were still not ready to return him or receive the ransom. When Condon expressed doubt that "John" actually had the baby, he promised some proof: the kidnapper would soon return the baby's sleeping suit. The stranger asked Condon, "... would I burn [be executed], if the package [baby] were dead?" When questioned further, he assured Condon that the baby was alive. Lindbergh had insisted that Mulrooney not be informed, and so "John" was not followed by police after the meeting. The New York Police were by now aware of the "Jafsie" newspaper advertisements and wanted to know who the mysterious Jafsie was, but Lindbergh refused to say anything. On March 16, 1932, John Condon received a package by mail that contained a toddler's sleeping suit, which was sent as proof of their claim, and a seventh ransom note. Condon showed the sleeping suit to Lindbergh who identified it as belonging to his son. After the delivery of the sleeping suit, Condon took out a new ad in the Home News declaring, "Money is ready. No cops. No secret service. I come alone, like last time." One month after the child was kidnapped, on April 1, 1932, Condon received a letter from the purported kidnappers. They were ready to accept payment.

21 Payment of the ransom The ransom was packaged in a wooden box that was custom-made in the hope that it could later be identified. The ransom money itself was made up with a number of gold certificates that were to be withdrawn from circulation in the near future. It was hoped that anyone passing large amounts of gold notes would draw attention to themselves and help aid in identifying the abductors. It should also be noted that while the bills themselves were not marked, the serial number of each bill was recorded. The next evening, Condon was given a note by cab driver Raymond Perrone, who said he had been paid by a man to deliver the note. This note was the first in a series of convoluted instructions that lead Condon and Lindbergh all over Manhattan. Eventually, they were sent to St. Raymond's Cemetery. Condon met a man he thought might have been "John" and told him that they had been able to raise only $50,000. The man accepted the money and gave Condon a note. Lindbergh, who saw the man only from a distance, had insisted the police not be informed of the meeting, and the suspect got away without being followed. The note given to Condon stated that the child was being held on a boat called the Nelly at Martha's Vineyard. The child was supposedly in the care of two women who, according to the note, were innocent. Lindbergh went there and searched the piers; however, there was no boat called the Nelly. A desperate Lindbergh took to flying an airplane low over the piers in an attempt to startle the kidnappers into showing themselves. After two days, Lindbergh admitted he had been fooled.

22 Discovery of the body On May 12, 1932, delivery truck driver pulled his truck to the side of a road about 4.5 miles from the Lindbergh home. He went to a grove of trees to relieve himself, and there he discovered the corpse of a toddler. Allen notified police, who took the body to a morgue in nearby Trenton, New Jersey. The body was badly decomposed, and it was discovered that the skull was badly fractured. The left leg and both hands were missing, and there were signs that the body had been chewed on by various animals as well as indications that someone had made an attempt to hastily bury the body. Lindbergh and Gow quickly identified the baby as the missing infant based on the overlapping toes of the right foot and the shirt that Gow had made for the baby. They surmised that the child had been killed by a blow to the head. Mr. Lindbergh was insistent on having the body cremated afterwards. Once the U.S. Congress learned that the child was dead, legislation was rushed making kidnapping a federal crime. The Bureau of Investigations could now aid the case more directly. In June 1932, officials began to suspect an "inside job" in that someone the Lindberghs trusted may have betrayed the family. Suspicions fell upon Violet Sharp, a British household servant of the Lindbergh home. She had given contradictory testimony regarding her whereabouts on the night of the kidnapping. It was reported that she acted nervous and suspicious when questioned. She committed suicide on June 20, 1932, by ingesting a silver polish that contained potassium cyanide just prior to what would have been her fourth time being questioned. After her alibi was confirmed, it was later determined that the possible threat of losing her job and the intense questioning had driven her to commit suicide. At the time, the police investigators were criticized for what some felt were the "heavy handed" police tactics used. Following the death of Violet Sharp, John Condon was also questioned by police. Condon's home was searched as well, but nothing was found that tied Condon to the crime. Charles Lindbergh stood by Condon during this time as well. [17] [17]


24 Tracking the ransom money A pamphlet was prepared with the serial numbers on the ransom bills, and 250,000 copies were distributed to businesses mainly in New York City. A few of the ransom bills turned up in scattered locations, some as far away as Chicago and Minneapolis, but the people spending them were never found. Gold Certificates were to be turned in by May 1, 1933. A few days before the deadline, a man in Manhattan brought in $2,990 of the ransom money to be exchanged. The bank was busy and no one could remember anything specific about the person. He had filled out a required form, which gave his name as J. J. Faulkner. The address supplied was 537 West 159th Street in New York City. When authorities visited the address, they learned that no one named Faulkner had lived there — or anywhere nearby — for many years. U.S. Treasury officials kept looking and eventually learned that a woman named Jane Faulkner had lived at the address in question in 1913. She had moved after she married a German man named Geissler. The couple was tracked down, and both denied any involvement in the crime. Though neither could be conclusively tied to the kidnapping, there were some curious facts that led authorities to suspect involvement: Geissler's son worked as a florist and lived about one block from Condon, while Geissler's daughter had married a German gardener. Condon again figured in the investigation: after hearing the three men from the Geissler family speak, Condon declared that Geissler's son- in-law, the gardener, had a voice very similar to "John", the man whom he had met in the cemeteries. The police followed up on this lead, but the gardener killed himself.

25 Capture of a suspect For thirty months, New York Police Detective Finn and FBI Agent Sisk had been working on the Lindbergh case. They had been able to track down many bills from the ransom money that were being spent in places throughout New York City. A map created by Finn recorded each find and eventually showed that many of the bills were being passed mainly along the route of the Lexington Avenue subway. This subway line connected the East Bronx with the east side of Manhattan, including the German-Austrian neighborhood of Yorkville. On September 18, 1934, a gold certificate from the ransom money was referred to Detective Finn and Agent Sisk. Although an executive order was issued on April 5, 1933, calling for all gold certificates to be turned in by May 1, 1933, under the penalty of fine or imprisonment, some members of the public held on to them past the deadline. As of July 31, 1934, $161 million in gold certificates were still in general circulation. The ten dollar gold certificate was discovered by a teller of the Corn Exchange Bank of the Bronx. It had a New York license plate penciled in the margin, which helped the investigators trace the bill to a gas station in upper Manhattan. The station manager, Walter Lyle, had written down the license plate number as per company policy, feeling that his customer was acting "suspicious" and was "possibly a counterfeiter". It was found the license plate number belonged to a blue Dodge sedan owned by Bruno Richard Hauptmann of 1279 East 222nd Street in the Bronx. Hauptmann was found to be a German immigrant with a criminal record in his homeland. When Hauptmann was arrested, he had on his person a twenty dollar gold certificate. A search by police of Hauptmann's home found $1,830 of the ransom money hidden behind a board. Another $11,930 was found in an empty can near a window in the garage.During the police investigation, the garage that Hauptmann built was torn down in the search for the money.


27 Capture of Suspect Hauptmann was arrested by Finn; he was interrogated, as well as beaten at least once, throughout the day and night that followed. The money, Hauptmann stated, along with other items, had been left with him by friend and former business partner Isidor Fisch. Fisch had died, on March 29, 1934, shortly after returning to Germany. Only following Fisch's death, Hauptmann stated, did he learn that the shoe box left with him contained a considerable sum of money. He took the money because he claimed that it was owed to him from a business deal that he and Isidor Fisch had made. Hauptmann consistently denied any connection to the crime or knowledge that the money in his house was from the ransom. In the search of his apartment by police, a considerable amount of additional evidence that he was involved in the crime surfaced. One item was a notebook that contained a sketch for the construction of a collapsible ladder similar to that which was found at the Lindbergh home in March 1932. John Condon's telephone number, along with his address, were discovered written down on a closet wall in the house. A key linking piece of evidence, a piece of wood, was discovered in the attic of the home. After being examined by an expert, it was determined to be an exact match to the wood used in the construction of the ladder found at the scene of the crime. This particular wood was also traced back to the saw mill where the lumber was processed in South Carolina. Hauptmann was indicted in the Bronx on September 24, 1934, for extorting the $50,000 ransom from Charles Lindbergh. [ Two weeks later, on October 8, 1934, Hauptmann was indicted in New Jersey for the murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr.Two days later, he was surrendered to New Jersey authorities by New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman to face charges directly related to the kidnapping and murder of the child.


29 The trial Hauptmann was charged with extortion and murder. Conviction on even one charge could earn him the death penalty. He pleaded not guilty. Held at the Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington, New Jersey, the trial soon became a sensation: reporters swarmed the town, and every hotel room was booked. In addition to Hauptmann's possession of the ransom money, the State introduced evidence showing a striking similarity between Hauptmann's handwriting and the handwriting on the ransom notes. Based on the forensic work of Arthur Koehler, the State also introduced photographic evidence demonstrating that the wood from the ladder left at the crime scene matched a plank from the floor of Hauptmann's attic: the type of wood, the direction of tree growth, the milling pattern at the factory, the inside and outside surface of the wood, and the grain on both sides were identical, and two oddly placed nail holes lined up with a joist splice in Hauptmann's attic. Additionally, the prosecutors noted that Condon's address and telephone number had been found written in pencil on a closet door in Hauptmann's home. Hauptmann himself admitted in a police interview that he had written Condon's address on the closet door. The defense did not challenge the identification of the body, a common practice in murder cases at the time designed to avoid exposing the jury to an intense analysis of the body and its condition. Condon and Lindbergh both testified that Hauptmann was "John". Another witness, Amandus Hochmuth, testified that he saw Hauptmann near the scene of the crime.



32 Conviction Hauptmann was ultimately convicted of the crimes and sentenced to death. His appeals were rejected, though New Jersey Governor Harold G. Hoffman granted a temporary reprieve of Hauptmann's execution and made the politically unpopular move of having the New Jersey Board of Pardons review the case. Apparently, they found no reason to issue a pardon. He was electrocuted on April 3, 1936, just over four years after the kidnapping.


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