Lindbergh baby kidnapping, part 2

The ransom note deciphered (Image from FBI)

Those nasty gremlins infiltrated my computer and removed the “part 2” mention at the end of last week’s column. My dear readers, I am sure, have been stressed, flabbergasted and frantic all week, waiting for the end of that terrible story retold from my copy of the Malone Evening Telegram of March 4, 1932.

The recap

The 20-month-old baby of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., was kidnapped from their home in Hopewell, New Jersey on March 2, 1932.

Col. Lindbergh was famous for being the first pilot to solo a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight, leaving Roosevelt Field in New York on May 27, 1927, and landing in Paris, France, 34 hours later. The plane was The Spirit of St. Louis.

Page 1 of The Malone Telegram was almost entirely about the kidnapping. The baby was taken from a second-story nursery of the Lindbergh home about 9 p.m. and discovered missing by the nurse at 10:30 p.m.

An anonymous caller to officials asked about immunity. Official statements revealed no clues or information. The Lindberghs published a lengthy appeal to the kidnappers that was issued by the governor of New Jersey, A. Harry Moore, with no results.

The rest of the story

From History.com, “Lindbergh baby kidnapped”:

“The Lindberghs were inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison. For three days, investigators found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000. [$70,000 in today’s buying power equals $1,343,867.15.]

“The kidnappers eventually gave instructions for dropping off the money and when it was delivered the Lindberghs were told their baby was on a boat called the Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. After an exhaustive search, however, there was no sign of either the boat or the child. Soon after the baby’s body was discovered near the Lindbergh’s mansion. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from home. The heartbroken Lindbergh’s ended up donating the mansion to charity and moved away.

“The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. The gas station attendant who accepted the bill wrote down the license plate number because he was suspicious of the driver. It was tracked to a German immigrant and carpenter, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found a chunk of Lindbergh ransom money.

“Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given it to him to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial was a national sensation. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong; the main evidence, besides the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann and the type of wood used to make the ladder [the ladder used in the second-story kidnapping].”

The trial

From www.pbs.org, “The Kidnapping”:

“The ‘Trial of the Century’ got underway in the small town of Flemington, New Jersey on January 2, 1935. Sixty thousand people — reporters, novelists, movie stars, and society matrons — crammed into tiny Flemington. The town had one hotel and one bar to accommodate some of the biggest names in journalism, Walter Winchell, Fanny Hurst, and Damon Runyon among them. Hauptmann was defended by Edward ‘Big Ed’ Reilly, a flamboyant attorney who was reputed to have seen his better days. Both Charles and Anne Lindbergh were called as witnesses. Charles testified that he recognized Hauptmann’s voice from that night that he and Condon [the go-between for the Lindbergh’s] had delivered the ransom money to the cemetery. When Hauptmann took the stand he denied all involvement with the crime. He went on to say that he had been beaten by the police and forced to alter the way he wrote so that his handwriting matched that found in the ransom note. Testimony ended in early February of 1935. Following 11 hours of deliberation, the jury found Hauptmann guilty of murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to death. At 8:44 p.m. on April 3, 1936, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was put to death in the electric chair. Right up to that moment doubts about Hauptmann’s guilt existed. Appeals were made all the way to the Supreme Court. None were successful. The Governor of New Jersey himself voiced doubts about the verdict.”

The Lindberghs’ murdered baby was their first; the couple then had five more children.


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