Famous Home Break-ins: Charles Lindbergh Jr.

The kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. became known as the crime of the century. On March 1, 1932, the 20-month-old infant son of aviator Colonel Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh disappeared from his crib. The abduction occurred at approximately 9 pm in their New Jersey home; however, his parents did not realize he was missing until an hour later. A ransom note demanding $50,000 was found in the sill of the child's second-floor window. A ladder was also discovered outside the window along with a set of footprints in the earth below. The crime highlighted the need for better security during the early 20th century, even by America's wealthiest residents. Limited forensic skills and lack of technology also proved to complicate rescue attempts. The set of footprints discovered were not measured for size. No blood, fingerprints, or other forensic evidence were discovered at the scene. The limited resources of the early 20th century not only proved to result in a lack of home security, but also greatly hindered the investigation's progress. While Charles Lindbergh Sr. was a wealthy man and well connected, all attempts to recover his child alive failed. Over time, more ransom notes arrived at the house, along with parcels carrying Charles Lindbergh's Jr.'s clothing. On May 12, 1932, the grisly discovery of a child's partially buried body was discovered approximately 4 miles from the Lindbergh estate. The body was positively identified as that of Charles Lindbergh Jr.

As Charles Lindbergh Sr. was a well-connected man, he had enlisted the help of others to help coordinate with the kidnappers how the ransom would be paid. Retired school principal, Dr. John F. Condon, agreed to help. He was involved in several meetings with a man who went by the name of "John," as he tried to negotiate the ransom's payment in exchange for the child. The exchange never took place, but Dr. Condon was certain he would be able to recognize the man he had met with.

In total, the Lindberghs received thirteen ransom notes, with the price of the ransom fluctuating. The terms and conditions of how the ransom would be paid also continued to change. The last ransom note was received shortly before Charles Lindbergh Jr.'s remains were found. Even though there was a lack of modern day resources, such as security footage from video cameras, soil or DNA testing, information obtained from the ransom notes proved invaluable in the case. The second ransom note was sent from Brooklyn, New York, and this information helped track down the person who would ultimately stand trial and be sentenced to death for the crime, Bruno Richard Hauptmann.

The Charles Lindbergh Jr. kidnapping caused many in the area to take steps to increase their own security measures. Systems were rudimentary during the early 20th century and there was not much available. The way the kidnapping occurred resulted in many questioning whether it was an inside job. Some looked upon household staff with increasing scrutiny and suspicion. Did the kidnapper or kidnappers have someone on the inside who helped arrange for the kidnapping? Did something go awry with the kidnapping and extortion plot that resulted in the child's murder? Without the assistance of security or surveillance footage from the night of the crime, or a confession, it would never be determined whether the kidnapper had help from the inside.

There were thousands of leads in the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Handwriting analysis from the ransom note led investigators to conclude the abductor was of German nationality. The description of "John," provided by Dr. Condon, as well as accounts of their meetings together helped authorities create a suspect profile. Money offered for the ransom was later tracked down, leading authorities to Hauptmann. On Sept. 26, 1934, Hauptmann was indicted for extortion. He was indicted on Oct. 8, 1934, for murder. On Jan. 3, 1935, Hauptmann's trial began. On Feb. 13, 1935, he was found guilty on both charges. Bruno Richard Hauptman was electrocuted for the murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr. on April 3, 1936.


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