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1930s & Earlier / Lindbergh Kidnapping Case 1932
One of the most famous criminal cases in American history was the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr., son of the famous aviator. On March 1, 1932, sometime between 8 and 10 p.m., the toddler was snatched from his upstairs nursery at the Lindberghs' still-under-construction retreat home near Hopewell, New Jersey. A note in badly written English was found on the window sill. It demanded $50,000 in ransom for the safe return of the child. A crude homemade ladder was also found leaning against the house. There were few other clues. The case took an odd turn when a 72-year-old good samaritan named John F. Condon took out a newspaper ad volunteering to act as an intermediary to negotiate with the kidnappers. His offer was accepted but neither Lindbergh nor Condon immediately informed the police for fear of putting the child's life in danger. Eventually the money--much of it in rare gold certificates--was paid to a man in a cemetery but the child was not returned. Shortly afterward a child's body was found in a wooded area not far from the Lindbergh home. It was badly decomposed and was identified as the Lindbergh child based on a slight deformity on its right foot. The child had died from a severe skull fracture. Eventually Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant with a criminal record in his homeland, was tracked down for spending one of the gold certificates at a gas station. About $15,000 in ransom money was found in his house. Planks from his garage matched the wood used to make the crude ladder. Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence, claiming he was only holding the money for a man named Isador Fisch who had returned to Germany and died there. Hauptmann said he only began spending the money after learning of Fisch's death. Hauptmann was tried, found guilty, and executed in 1936. There is little doubt that Hauptmann was somehow connected with the kidnapping, but there are lingering suspicions that he was assisted by someone who knew the routine and the goings-on at the Lindbergh household. The Lindberghs were not even supposed to be at their Hopewell home on the night of the kidnapping. The kidnapper(s) also had to know precisely when and where the boy would be left unattended.