On March 1, 1932 Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the son of the famous aviator, was kidnapped at 9pm, just 4 months prior to his 2 year-old birthday. He was taken from the second story nursery of the Lindbergh home in Hopewell, New Jersey. Betty Gow, the baby’s nurse discovered the child missing at 10 p.m. and it was immediately reported. A search of the home revealed a ransom note for $50,000 that was left on the nursery window sill.
Hopewell local police were notified and turned the case over to the New Jersey State police. While conducting a search of the nursery muddy footprints were found. The footprints were impossible to measure. The ladder the kidnappers used was broken where the two sections came together. It is thought that the ladder broke either entering or exiting the house. There were no blood stains or fingerprints found in the house.
The household employees were questioned and investigated. The Lindbergh’s asked their friends to communicate with the kidnappers. Their friends made boundless appeals for negotiations. They even contacted “underworld characters”, (mobsters?), in attempts to contact the kidnappers. A good many clues were followed-up, but turned up nothing.
Another ransom note arrived on March 6, 1932. It was postmarked in Brooklyn, New York 2 days prior. The monetary demands were increased to $70,000 in this second letter. A third ransom note was sent to the Lindbergh’s attorney. In it the kidnappers said they did not want to deal with intermediaries. Also on March 8, a retired school principal named Dr. John Condon offered $1,000 extra dollars in ransom in addition to an offer to be the intermediary. The fourth ransom note was sent to Condon and it agreed to let Condon be the go-between. This was also accepted by the Lindbergh’s.
On or about March 10, 1932, Condon received the ransom money and started negotiations through newspaper columns using the alias Jafsie. Two days later, March 12 at 8:30 p.m. after receiving a an anonymous call, Dr. Condon got another ransom note, delivered by a taxi cab driver who said that it was given to him by a stranger. The ransom note said that another note would be found beneath a stone in a vacant stand 100 feet from a subway station. The sixth note was discovered where they said it would be by Condon. Following the instructions from the newly discovered ransom note Condon went to Woodlawn cemetery where he talked to a man who identified himself as “John” about the payment of the ransom.
For the next few days Condon continued to advertise in the newspaper saying that he was willing to pay the ransom. On March 16, a seventh ransom note was sent along with the babies pajamas to prove identity. Condon continued his advertising in the paper. On March 21 another note was received insisting on “complete compliance” and bragging that the kidnapping had been planned for a year.
Betty Gow, the babies nurse found the babies thumb guard near the estate entrance on March 29th. The ninth ransom note, threatened to increase the ransom $10,000 more. On April 1, 1932 Condon received the 10th note that told him to have the money ready the following night. On April 2, a Condon got another note from a taxi driver who again , stated that an unidentified man gave it to him. This note lead to another note, the eleventh, that was found under under a stone outside a greenhouse in the Bronx, New York.
This last note told Condon to meet “John” again and the demand had been reduced to $50,000. The money was given to the stranger in exchange for the 13th note. Finally, this note said that the child could be found on a boat named “Nellie” near Martha’s Vineyard. The search for the baby was unsuccessful and it was repeated the next day, that second search was also unsuccessful.
Dr. Condon was sure he would be able to identify “John” if he ever saw him again. On May 12, 1932 the body of kidnapped baby was accidentally found 4 miles southeast of the Lindbergh’s home. The body was only partially buried 45 feet from the highway, near Mount Rose, New Jersey. The body was discovered by William Allen, a truck driver’s assistant. The head was crushed and there was a large hole in the skull, as well as some parts of the body missing. The body was positively identified and cremated in Trenton, New Jersey on May 13m, 1932. The corner’s report said the the baby died by trauma to the head and it had been dead for about 2 months.
On May 26, the New Jersey State police offered $25,000 for information leading to the capture of those responsible. On October 19, 1933 the FBI took over the investigation. Finally, on On September 15, 1934 a gas station attendant received one of the stolen $10 gold certificates. He wrote down the license plate of the man who gave it to him. The license plate belonged to Bruno Richard Hauptmann from Bronx, New York.
On September 19, Hauptmann was arrested when he exited his home. He was later identified by Dr. Condon and one of the taxi drivers. The FBI also matched up his handwriting to the handwriting in the ransom notes. In later 1934, Hauptmann was indicted and imprisoned. On February 13, 1935 Hauptmann was found guilty of murder in the first degree. The punishment would be death. And our story comes to a close on April 31, 1936 at 8:47 p.m. when Hauptmann was electrocuted.
Further reading: Autobiography of Values by Charles A. Lindbergh
The Case That Never Dies: The Lindbergh Kidnapping by Lloyd C. Gardner
Youtube video that goes over the story really well: