Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. was born on June 22, 1930. The son of
Charles Lindbergh, the famed aviator, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the daughter
of a diplomat, Baby Charlie was destined for fame. But his parents could not
have imagined just how famous their baby would become, nor could they have
imagined the tragedy that would put him and themselves on the front pages of
Baby Charlie was suffering from a cold during the last weekend in February,
1932. On Tuesday, March 1, Charles and Anne were spending a quiet evening at
home in Hopewell, New Jersey. Betty Gow, Charlie's nurse, rubbed medication on
the baby's chest to relieve congestion. At about 7:30, Betty and Anne put
Charlie Jr. to bed. Betty and the Lindberghs went on about their separate
chores that night. At 10 p.m., Betty Gow made a horrible discovery -- baby
Charlie was gone.
Charles Lindbergh later recounted his initial reactions: "...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..."
The "strange-looking envelope" that Charles Lindbergh found on the window sill
contained a badly written ransom note:
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.
By 10:30 that night, radio news bulletins were announcing the story to the
nation. Nearly every newspaper in the country gave the story prominent
placement in their March 2 editions. Soon, sightings of the Lindbergh baby were
coming from all quarters: California, Michigan, Mexico. None turned out to be
Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf of the New Jersey State Police was officially in
charge of the investigation, but Schwarzkopf, the father of 1991 Gulf War
leader U.S. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, willingly ceded major responsibility
for the investigation to Charles Lindbergh. But running a kidnapping
investigation was no job for an amateur. Lindbergh's inexperience allowed for
major errors -- footprints near the house were trampled and pieces of evidence
were handled by a variety of people assembled at the compound. Other blunders
Command headquarters were established in the Lindbergh's Hopewell home, and
Lindbergh let it be known that he had appointed an intermediary to deal with
the kidnappers. But others -- acting independently -- were vying for the job
of go-between. On March 9, 1932, John F. Condon, a 72-year-old retired teacher
and coach from the Bronx, called the Lindberghs claiming that he had made
contact with the kidnappers. Condon had written a letter to the Bronx Home
News offering to act as an intermediary between Lindbergh and the
kidnapper. The day after his letter was published someone purporting to be the
kidnapper contacted him. Condon, operating under the alias "Jafsie," was
allowed by Lindbergh to try to contact the kidnapper. A series of graveyard
meetings took place. Condon came to refer to the kidnapper as "Graveyard John."
On April 2, the ransom money was delivered by Condon to Graveyard John while
Charles Lindbergh waited in a nearby car. Graveyard John gave Condon a note
supposedly revealing the baby's whereabouts. The note led Lindbergh and Condon
in search of a boat called the Nelly, "between Horseneck beach and Gay
Head near Elizabeth Island." No boat and no baby were found. Lindbergh had been
Then, on May 12, 1932, 72 days after the kidnapping, the decomposed body of a
baby was found in the woods near the Lindbergh house. The child had been dead,
probably due to a fractured skull, since the night of the kidnapping. Two days
later Charles Lindbergh identified his son's body by examining its teeth. The
kidnapping investigation was now a murder investigation.
Serial numbers from the money used to pay the ransom had been carefully
recorded, despite Lindbergh's initial reluctance. The first bill surfaced in
New York only three days after the ransom was paid. Over the next two years
more and more would appear. Slowly the authorities moved forward.
Finally, on September 19, 1934 police arrested Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a
German-born carpenter. A search of Hauptmann's home yielded fourteen thousand
dollars of the Lindbergh ransom. He claimed to be holding it for a friend,
Isidore Fisch, who had since died. Despite his pleas of innocence, Hauptmann
was indicted in October 1934 for the murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr.
The "Trial of the Century" got underway in the small town of Flemington, New
Jersey on January 2, 1935. Sixty thousand people -- reporters, novelists,
movie stars, and society matrons -- crammed into tiny Flemington. The town had
one hotel and one bar to accommodate some of the biggest names in journalism,
Walter Winchell, Fanny Hurst, and Damon Runyon among them. Hauptmann was
defended by Edward "Big Ed" Reilly, a flamboyant attorney who was reputed to
have seen his better days. Both Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh were called
as witnesses. Charles testified that he recognized Hauptmann's voice from the
night that he and Condon had delivered the ransom money to the cemetery. When
Hauptmann took the stand he denied all involvement with the crimes. He went on
to say that he had been beaten by the police and forced to alter the way he
wrote so that his handwriting matched that found in the ransom note. Testimony
ended in early February of 1935. Following 11 hours of deliberation, the jury
found Hauptmann guilty of murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to
death. At 8:44 p.m. on April 3, 1936, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was put to death
in the electric chair. Right up to that moment doubts about Hauptmann's guilt
existed. Appeals were made all the way to the Supreme Court. None were
successful. The Governor of New Jersey himself voiced doubts about the
Following Hauptmann's death, some reporters and independent investigators came
up with numerous questions regarding the way the investigation was run and the
fairness of the trial. Questions were raised concerning issues ranging from
witness tampering to the planting of evidence. Twice during the 1980's, Anna
Hauptmann sued the state of New Jersey for the unjust execution of her husband.
Both times the suits were dismissed.
photos courtesy of New Jersey State Police