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Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping


Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping The kidnapping of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr Abduction of the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping

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

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.

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The Crime
  • At 800 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 930 p.m., Col. Lindbergh heard a noise
    that made him think some slats had fallen off an
    orange crate in the kitchen.
  • At 1000 p.m., Gow discovered that the baby was
    missing from his crib.

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.

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

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
  • 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.

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
  • 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.

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.

Investigation cont.
  • The brief, handwritten letter was riddled with
    spelling mistakes and grammatical irregularities
  • Dear Sir! Have 50000 redy 25000 in20 bills
    15000 in 10 bills and10000 in 5 bills After
    2-4 dayswe will inform you were to deliverthe
    Mony.We warn you for makinganyding public or
    for notify the PoliceThe child is in gut
    care.Indication for all letters
    aresingnatureand three holes.

(No Transcript)
Investigation cont.
  • Without spelling and grammatical errors, the
    message reads
  • Dear Sir Have 50,000 ready 25,000 in20
    bills, 15,000 in 10 bills and10,000 in 5
    bills. After 2-4 days,we will inform you of
    where to deliverthe money.We warn you about
    makinganything public or notifying the
    police.The child is in good care.Indication for
    all letters are asignatureand 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.

(No Transcript)
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.

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  • 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.

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
  • 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
  • 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.

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
  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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
  • 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

(No Transcript)
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
  • 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

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
  • 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.

(No Transcript)
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.

(No Transcript)
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
  • 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
  • Condon and Lindbergh both testified that
    Hauptmann was "John". Another witness, Amandus
    Hochmuth, testified that he saw Hauptmann near
    the scene of the crime.

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(No Transcript)
  • 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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