Finding your baby missing in the night has to be an indescribable feeling, especially when you are already being looked at through a microscope by the public. This is just what happened to Charles Lindbergh and his family.
Who was Charles Lindbergh?
Charles Lindbergh first became known when he was the first aviator to fly solo across the transatlantic. He flew his plane, Spirit of St. Louis, in 1927. After his famous flight, he was idolized by Americans and Europeans alike. He flew all around the world, making public appearances. During his trip to Mexico, he met Anne Spencer, the daughter of Dwight W. Morrow, who was the American ambassador in Mexico. They soon married, and he taught her how to fly as well. They flew all around the world, traveling together as his fame grew.
Charles Lindbergh became known for other things as well, such as inventing an artificial heart and his advocacy against American involvement in World War II. However, he is most commonly known for the kidnapping of his son, Charles Jr.
The Kidnapping and Ransom
On the night of March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh Jr. was taken from his home in Hopewell, NJ. He was 20 months old at the time. The nurse had come to check in on him around 10:00 PM and discovered his crib empty. She quickly alerted his parents of the discovery. They came in to find a ransom note demanding $50,000 to be delivered to an unknown location.
When the police arrived, they found footprints and a makeshift wooden ladder. It had been used to get to the second floor. Just a half-hour after the discovery of the missing child, news stations were already covering the story.
The investigation was being led by the New Jersey State Police. Colonel H. Schwarzkopf took the head of the case. They were also being assisted by Dr. John F. Condon, who acted as a middle man between Lindbergh and the kidnapper. Eventually, Condon met with the kidnapper, who referred to himself as “John.” They met several times before their final meeting on April 2, 1932. During this meeting, the $50,000 ransom was delivered.
Condon was then given a note that claimed the boy was on a boat named “Nellie” that was located on the coast of Massachusetts. However, the boat was never found.
On May 12, 1932, over two months after Charles Jr. went missing, his body was discovered. A truck driver had come across the remains partially buried about four miles from where Charles Jr. went missing. Upon autopsy, the coroner concluded he had been dead for two months. This evidence suggested the kidnapper never intended to return the boy safely.
This case was not like any other for a multitude of reasons. The Depression had an effect on the events that took place. In 1933, an executive order was put in place, saying all gold certificates should be returned to the treasury. A gold certificate is a note that gold owners could hold instead of actual gold. However, $40,000 of the ransom money the Lindberghs paid was through these gold certificates.
The serial numbers on the gold certificates that had been given to the kidnapper were recorded and given to all New York City Branch offices. They were now on looking for these gold certificates that were ordered to be turned in.
Who Kidnapped the Lindbergh Baby?
The case got a huge break when one of the offices discovered a gold certificate included in the ransom. It was then traced to a man who fit the description of the man giving the notes in the kidnapping. He had used the note at a gas station, which caught the attention of the attendant. The attendant wrote down the license number on the bill just to be safe.
These clues led the investigators to Bruno Richard Hauptmann. When they searched his home, they also found $14,000 of the ransom money, a makeshift ladder, and the phone number of John Condon. The notes in the ransom were compared to the known handwriting of Richard Hauptmann. They were found to be a match.
On September 19, 1934, Richard Hauptmann was arrested. The trial began on January 2, 1935, in Flemington, New Jersey. Over 60,000 people watched the five-week-long trial. The jury then found him guilty of the first-degree murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr. He was put to death by electric chair on April 3, 1936.
Due to the circumstantial nature of this case, many people don’t think they caught the right guy. There was no concrete evidence linking him to the crime. I personally think he played a big part in the crime, but I do wonder if he was the only person involved.
What do you think? Did Richard Hauptmann really kidnap the Lindbergh baby?
Charles Lindbergh. (2020, February 5). Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://www.biography.com/historical-figure/charles-lindbergh
Lindbergh Kidnapping. (2020, March 18). Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/lindbergh-kidnapping
The Lindbergh Kidnapping. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/kidnappings/the-lindbergh-kidnapping/