On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month old son of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was abducted from his crib from the top floor of their home.
His corpse was found on May 12 by a truck driver on the side of the road. In September of 1934, a German immigrant was arrested for the murder. The trial lasted from January 2 1935 to January 13 1935. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He maintained his innocence until the very end, filing every appeal in the process, but was executed by the electric chair in 1936.
The story was dubbed "the biggest story since the Resurrection" in the media and it remains one of the most well-known true crime cases in the United States. His death brought about the Lindbergh Law, which made transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime.
THE KIDNAPPING AND THE INVESTIGATION
At 7:30pm on Marcy 1, 1932, Charles realized his son was missing after their nurse noted that he wasn't with his mother. He went into his room and he was gone.
They found a ransom note in an envelope on the windowsill, and the baby's blanket. They called the police and a lawyer, and the police were on the scene in 20 minutes. The Hopewell Borough Police and the New Jersey State Police worked together to search the area, but did not find any usable fingerprints on the ransom note or in the child's bedroom.
The ransom was littered with spelling errors, and said:
Dear Sir! Have $50.000 redy $25 000 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 [Symbol to right] and 3 hohls
News of the kidnapping spread quickly, with many people converging upon the Lindberg's large estate, destroying any potential for footprint evidence. Charles believed that figures in organized crime were involved, and he used his influence to sway the direction of the investigation.
President Herbert Hoover was notified of the kidnapping a day after, and though kidnapping was a state crime with no grounds for involving the feds, they announced that the entire Department of Justice would be cooperating with local police to find the baby.
New Jersey officials announced a $25,000 reward, and the family offered another $50,000 - over 1 million in today's currency, which was even more of an incentive as it was during the Great Depression.
They received many ransom notes in the mail, one asking for more money than the first. They used a man named John Condon to be the intermediate between the family and the kidnappers, who reminded them not to involve police. He met with him once, unable to see him, and asked for proof that he had the baby.
Later, the kidnappers sent them the baby's sleeping suit by mail with a 7th ransom note. Condon then placed an ad in the mail that said, "money is ready. No cops. No secret service. I come alone like last time."
The ransom money was in a custom made wooden box, which they hoped would be easy to track down later. He gave the man $50,000 in dollars that were to be withdrawn from circulation soon so using the money would draw attention. In return, he told Condon that the baby was in the care of 2 innocent women.
THE BODY AND THE KILLER ARE FOUND
Months later, with little progress made on the case, a delivery truck driver pulled over about 4.5 miles away from the Lindbergh home to relieve himself and found the body of a toddler. He immediately notified police.
The baby's cause of death was a blow to the head. His skull was fractured, and his body was decomposed and chewed on by animals, removed from the semi-grave dug for him.
After this, they assumed that the killer may have known the family, and suspected Violet Sharp, a household servant their families worked with. She had given conflicting testimony as to her alibi, and seemed nervous and suspicious during interviews. Before her 4th interrogation, she committed suicide by drinking potassium cyanide. Her alibi was confirmed after her death, and it was assumed she committed suicide because of the stress of losing her job and the repeated interrogations and intense questioning.
After a lot of time with no luck tracking the ransom money, a bank teller on September 18, 1934 noticed one of the gold certificates given to the kidnapper that was no longer in circulation and it was confirmed to be part of the $50,000 given to the kidnapper. The man was tracked to a gas station, and the license plate belonged to Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant with a criminal past back in his home country.
He was arrested, interrogated, and beaten at least once. He claimed that the money was left to him by a friend who had died, but he kept the money because his friend owed it to him before his death.
In addition to having the ransom money, he also had a sketch of a ladder from the Lindbergh's home and a section of wood, which was a key piece of evidence. He also had the phone number and home address of John Condon.
TRIAL AND EXECUTION
Hauptmann was charged with capital murder and thus received the death penalty. It was considered the trial of the century.
Evidence included the $20,000 of ransom money that was found, and handwriting that matched the ransom note, corroborated by 8 different handwriting experts. He said he had Condon's address because he wrote it down while reading about the case in the paper.
Though he had no job or source of income, he had a lot of expensive items and even sent his wife on a trip to Germany. He was also identified as the man the money was given to.
His wife was called to testify in his favor, but she was not able to support his claim about where the shoebox from his late friend was, saying she had never seen it there.
He was convicted on February 13, 1935, 85 years ago today.
He turned down a large offer for a newspaper confession before his death. He also turned down an offer to switch his sentence to life-without-parole in exchange for a confession at the last minute. He was executed a little bit over 4 years after the kidnapping in the electric chair. His wife fought to clear his name until her death in 1994.
In the 85 years since he was convicted, many people have had issues with the investigation, alleging that witness tampering and evidence planting took place.
Many people have many theories as to what happened, from an organized crime ring to a prank gone wrong from the father himself. Shoddy police work and poor evaluation of the crime scene have left many wondering if the man who was executed for the baby's murder really did it.
Despite the murder taking place nearly 90 years ago, the case remains one of the most famous true-crime cases in the U.S. and beyond, and like many cases, there may always be questions about what truly happened.