Charles Lindbergh was a famous pilot who flew across the Atlantic Ocean. He was considered a hero and newspapers wrote about him for months after his performance. However, he came back to the spotlight when his child, baby Charles was kidnapped. But how did it happen?

One night, the nurse of the family was surprised when she realised that the baby was not with his mother and he went missing. Charles checked the yard around the house and discovered footprints and that the kidnapper had used a ladder. After this realisation, he called the police. The footprints, however, were useless and the kidnapper used gloves. As a result, no fingerprints were found in the house either. Charles found a ransom note which demanded 50.000$ for the safe return of the child.

The investigation

The investigation team consisted of experts: a superintendent, a lawyer and a First World War hero. They supposed that the kidnapper’s mother tongue had to be German, based on the ransom note. Charles was so desperate that the family even turned to mobsters: they were asked to look around and to come forward with any information that could lead to the child. Some gangsters like Al Capone, who was in prison, offered useful information in exchange for his release but authorities refused to do that.

The president, Herbert Hoover also learnt about the crime. The FBI took over the case and started investigating while other authorities were also informed to stay alert. A reward was offered to those who could return the child safely.

Soon after the kidnap, the Lindbergh family received a second ransom note. The ransom money was raised to 70.000$ and the kidnappers wanted a well-known retired school teacher, John Condon to be the intermediary. John took the job and decided to follow the instructions written in the note: he met a mysterious person who told John that the baby was alive and he was held on a boat. To prove his claim, the family received the baby’s sleeping suit and asked them to deliver the money.

A terrible discovery

A few weeks later, two truck drivers stopped to urinate near Hopewell Township, not far from the Lindbergh family’s home. This was when they discovered something terrible: the fractured and decomposed body of the child. It seemed that his death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head. Charles wanted the body to be cremated.

A possible suspect, Violet Sharp was questioned. She was a maid and the family knew her quite well. During her interrogation, she was too nervous and anxious, without having a proper alibi. Later, however, her alibi was confirmed, after she had almost committed suicide.

Without a trace

In the meantime, John Cordon’s behaviour was sharply criticised: not only did he become suspicious, he tried to be in the spotlight and take advantage of the crime to get fame.

The tracking of the banknotes did not lead anywhere either. Banks, businesses, institutes were informed about the serial number but the money was spent in too many locations. However, a man took almost 3000$ with the right serial numbers for exchange to a bank in New York but the police could not track him down.

The suspect

Then a twist came. A bank teller noticed that the money used by a person belonged to the ransom money. Later, this person was put under surveillance and he was caught at a gas station. The action was not fruitless: the police found 14.000$ of the ransom money in his garage. The person was called Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant. The following night, Richard was beaten and interrogated: he claimed that the money had been given to him by his business partner, Isidor Fisch, who died in Germany earlier. According to Richard, Isidor owed to him – that is why he gave it to him. Consequently, Richard denied any involvement in this case.

The police searched Richard’s house and found a lot of convincing evidence though: there were sketches and wooden pieces of the ladder used for the kidnap. They also found John Cordon’s phone number.

The trial

He was soon indicted for kidnapping, murder and extorting ransom money and was moved to jail. His case went on trial where further evidence suggested that there had been similarities between the ransom note and his handwriting. The wood found on Richard’s attic and the wood of the ladder also matched, collaborating his being guilt. Richard’s could only come up with childish explanations.

There were more concerning signs: he was considered the person who took the ransom money. On the day of the delivery, he was missing from work and after a few days, he quit his job. Richard’s other excuse that the money came from his friend, Isidor Fisch, was also proved to be false: according to those people who were close to Isidor, he was a poor person and could not even afford to pay the rent of his room or his medical treatments.

The defence however argued that fingerprints were not found on the ladder or on the ransom notes.

After the trial, Richard was sentenced to death. During his time on death row, the governor of New Jersey, Harold Hoffman often visited him and became convinced that the kidnap was committed by more people, not just one and urged the police to continue the investigation. Despite his efforts, there was no legal action against his sentence. He was electrocuted in 1936.

In the following years, however, the fairness of the trial, witness testimonies, the evidence and the way of the investigation were questioned. His wife, Anna Hauptmann sued the state of New Jersey for the unfair trial but her suit was dismissed.

Theories

The incapability of defence, the origin of the ladder, Charles’s influence on the investigation later became suspicious parts of the story. After being examined, there was no fingerprint found on the ladder either questioning whether it was the right thing to execute him.

According to another theory, it was Charles Lindberg himself, who was responsible. Since the baby was disabled, he wanted him to be taken to Germany, giving him another life. According to another theory, he accidentally killed his son when they played together on the ladder and the baby fell, covering up the crime and accusing Richard of the invented kidnap.

spotlight – reflektorfény
kidnapper – emberrabló
superintendent – felügyelő
ransom note – váltságdíj felhívás
mobster – alvilági bűnöző
intermediary – közvetítő
blunt force trauma – tompa tárgy okozta ütés
commit suicide – öngyilkosságot követ el
behaviour – viselkedés
tracking – nyomkövetés
surveillance – megfigyelés
interrogate – kifaggat
consequently – következetesen
sketch – rajz
indicted for something – megvádolják valamivel
defence – védelem
witness testimony – szemtanú vallomás
dismiss – elutasít
incapability – hozzá nem értés
execute – kivégez

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