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1930s & Earlier / Leopold and Loeb murder case 1924
One of the most despicable murder cases in the twentieth century was that of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, residents of suburban Chicago, who murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924. Their motive: They wanted to kill for the thrill of it and commit the perfect crime. Both Leopold, age 20, and Loeb, age 19, were exceptionally brilliant students who considered themselves intellectual supermen. On May 21, 1924 they lured Bobby Franks (a distant relative of Loeb) into a rented car. Franks was bludgeoned with a chisel and suffocated with a sock. His body was dumped into a culvert in Gary, Indiana and doused with acid to make identification difficult. The culprits mailed a typed ransom note to Franks' parents indicating that Bobby had been kidnapped. However, Franks' body was found before any ransom could be paid. Also found near the body were a pair of eye glasses that fell from Loeb's pocket during the crime. The glasses were almost unique--only three pairs had been made by a certain optician--and they led the police to Loeb. The two young men, who were reputedly homosexual lovers, were questioned and their alibis discredited. Each eventually confessed his involvement in the crime, but insisted the other was responsible for the actual murder. They were brought to trial for murder and kidnapping. Their lawyer, the famous Clarence Darrow, entered pleas of guilty in order to avoid a jury deciding the twosome's fate--which likely would have been a death sentence. Instead Darrow argued with a judge to spare his guilty clients from the death penalty. Darrow gave a rousing 12-hour oration that spared his clients' lives. Instead Leopold and Loeb were each given life sentences plus 99 years. Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936. Leopold was pardoned in 1958 and died of a heart attack in 1971. Bobby Franks, often forgotten by history, remains 14 years old forever.