On This Day

Charles Lindbergh Jr., Lindbergh baby, Lindbergh baby picture
Associated Press
A 1932 picture of Charles Lindbergh Jr.

On This Day: Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped

March 01, 2011 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famed aviator, was stolen from his crib. After a national search, the child was found dead.

Lindbergh Baby Stolen From Crib

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Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. was the first child of celebrity couple Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, herself an accomplished aviator.

On March 1, 1932, nurse Betty Gow put 20-month-old Charlie to bed at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Lindbergh home near Hopewell, N.J.; when she went to check on him at about 10:00 p.m., she discovered that the crib was empty.

Charles Lindbergh recalled his reaction when he saw his son was missing: “I went upstairs to the child's nursery, opened the door, and immediately noticed a lifted window. A strange-looking envelope lay on the sill. I looked at the crib. It was empty. I ran downstairs, grabbed my rifle, and went out into the night.”

Lindbergh could not find the intruder or his son. When he opened the envelope, he found a ransom note reading:
“Dear Sir,
Have 50,000$ redy 25000$ in 20$ bills 15000$ in 10$ bills and 10000$ in 5$ bills. After 2-4 days will inform you were to deliver the Mony.
We warn you for making anyding public or for notify the Polise the child is in gut care.
Indication for all letters are singnature and 3 holds.”

Local and state police were called to the home. They found muddy footprints and a ladder used to gain access to the nursery. However, the footprints could not be measured, and there were no fingerprints in the room.

Instantly an impregnable wall of interrogation, prying eyes and blue steel was thrown around New Jersey's borders as city police and State troopers of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania began stopping cars at all bridgeheads, ferries, and at the mouth of the sub-Hudson Holland Tunnel,” wrote Time. “By morning a gigantic posse of police, troopers, U S. Department of Justice operatives, Coast Guardsmen, American Legionaries, Quiet Birdmen, civilians was combing an area from Boston to Baltimore. There had never been such an intensive search party since Booth shot Lincoln.”

The Search for the Lindbergh Baby

The Lindberghs engaged in negotiations with the kidnapper through John F. Condon, a 72-year-old retired teacher from the Bronx who offered to act as an intermediary. Condon and the kidnapper communicated using messages in the newspaper and notes delivered by strangers.

On March 12, Condon met with the kidnapper, who identified himself only as “John,” in a Bronx cemetery. Condon asked for proof that the kidnapper had young Lindbergh; he received the child’s pajamas in the mail days later.

On April 2, Condon again met the kidnapper and delivered a $50,000 ransom. The kidnapper said the child was on a boat in Martha’s Vineyard, but a search of the boat turned up empty.

On May 12, the body of a toddler was discovered on the side of a highway several miles from the Lindbergh home; the body was identified as Charles Jr. a day later. The toddler had been dead for about two months, having been killed by a blow to the head.

The Investigation and Trial

The FBI became involved in a national search for the kidnapper. The authorities tracked the ransom money by using the serial numbers on the bills. In September 1934, police arrested Bruno Hauptmann, a German immigrant, after discovering that he was in possession of about $14,000 of the ransom money. Hauptmann claimed that he had received the money from a friend who had since passed away, but he was indicted in October 1934 for the child’s murder.

Hauptmann’s trial, dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” attracted more than 60,000 “reporters, novelists, movie stars, and society matrons” to the small town of Flemington, N.J., when it began on Jan. 2, 1935, according to PBS.

The prosecution presented the fact that Condon’s number was found written on the wall of Hauptmann’s apartment and contended that Hauptmann’s broken English accounted for the numerous misspellings in the ransom notes. The most important witness was Condon, who testified that he believed that “John” was Hauptmann.

At the conclusion of the one-month trial, the jury found Hauptmann guilty of first-degree murder. He was executed on April 3, 1936.

Biography: Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly a plane non-stop across the Atlantic on May 20, 1927, when he flew “The Spirit of St. Louis” from New York to Paris. After the ordeal of his son’s kidnapping, he and his wife moved to Europe to escape the press coverage.

After accepting an award from Nazi leader Hermann Goering, Lindbergh drew criticism for being a Nazi sympathizer. Nevertheless, he worked with American aviation companies during World War II and participated in bombing raids against the Japanese.

After the war Lindbergh worked with the Air Force and Army Air Corps as a consultant. He also became a passionate environmentalist. He died in August 1974 of lymphoma.

After the death of Charles Jr., Lindbergh and his wife had another five children together. In 2003, it was revealed that Lindbergh had also fathered five children with two German sisters, Brigitte and Marietta Hesshaimer. A 2005 book alleged that he had two other children with a German secretary, raising his total number of children to 13.
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