On a windy winter night in 1932, a kidnapper crept onto the estate of Charles A. Lindbergh, climbed a homemade ladder, placed a ransom note on the window, and left with the baby of the most famous man in the world. The ransom was paid, but the child was found months later, dead in the woods near the house. A two year hunt for the murderer ensued. Arrested and charged was 35-year-old Bronx carpenter Bruno Richard Hauptmann. The purpose of this paper is to research what really went down during the crime of the century. Was all the evidence looked at? Were all the leads followed? Was the question correctly answered? Did Bruno Hauptmann really kidnap little Charles Lindbergh Jr.? It was an event that author H. L. Mencken called “The greatest story since the Resurrection.” Many questions were asked but maybe they were just not the right ones. The trial that followed created a world wide sensation that continues to this day. It was the Crime of the Century someone had dared to kidnap and kill the infant son of the world’s greatest hero!
What really happened? On May 12, 1932, seventy-three days after Charlie Lindbergh was reported missing, he was found dead by a truck driver. His body was lying in shallow grave and was covered by a pile of leaves. It was discovered four miles from the Lindbergh’s house in the woods surrounding the home. He had died from a skull fracture and, “according to the county physician who examined the body, had probably been dead since the night of the kidnapping. Nurse Betty Gow first identified the baby’s body as that of little Charlie.” (MONROE 36) Now that the bay had been found, the investigations entered a new phase. The New Jersey State Police no longer had to be concerned about the child’s safety. Now they could just concentrate on finding who kidnapped and murdered little Charlie. The police were kept busy for many months chasing down thousands of leads across the nation. The state of New Jersey offered a twenty five thousand dollar reward for the capture of the baby’s kidnappers. Over the next couple of months, the police intensely questioned the staffs of the Lindbergh and Morrow families as possible suspects. The police mainly concentrated on Betty Gow and Violet Sharpe, the maid. Nurse Betty Gow was the last person to have seen Charlie Lindbergh alive.” (Behn 122)The police questioned her and her boyfriend closely, finally concluding that the two had no part in the kidnapping. Violet Sharpe was a maid in the Morrow household. “When first asked by the police where she had been on the night of the kidnapping, Sharpe gave vague and inconsistent answers. On June 10, 1932, police telephoned Sharpe, to tell her they would be coming to ask her more questions. After the call, Sharpe committed suicide by taking cyanide, a strong poison.” (GIBLIN 32) Had Sharpe been involved in the kidnapping? The police finally said no, that Sharpe had nothing to do with this crime. The investigation into the kidnapping and murder of Charlie Lindbergh continued.
On April 2, 1932, a few days after the ransom payment was made, a break came. That day, some of the ransom money appeared at a bank in upper Manhattan, NYC. The money continued to appear but the bank employees could not remember who had brought in the money “ On September 18, 1934, a teller at a Bronx bank noted a ten dollar ransom bill with 4u-13-14 N. Y penciled in the margin (A gas station attendant had written the license plate number on the gold note thinking that it might be counterfeit.). This proved to be the license plate number for the owner of a dark 1930 Dodge car. The manager of the nearby gas station told the police that the customer, who spoke with a strong German accent, had bought the gas for his car with the ten-dollar bill. The New York Motor Vehicle Bureau traced the license number to Bruno Richard Hauptmann.” (MONROE 39).It took more than two years of following the trail of passed ransom bills to track down the man accused of the murder, a German-born Bronx carpenter, Bruno Richard Hauptmann. When he was arrested, Hauptmann he had over $14,000 worth of the ransom cash hidden in his garage. It was later discovered that a board cut from his attic floor was used in the ladder. Dr. Condon eventually identified Hauptmann as the man to whom he paid the ransom. Within hours of his arrest, press and police were clamoring for the death penalty for Hauptmann. “Who would believe Hauptmann? He insisted the money was left by one Isidor Fisch, a fur dealer he knew who had fled to Germany and died there. Who would believe Hauptmann's wife, Anna, who protested that on the night of the kidnapping she had been home with Hauptmann in the Bronx? Hauptmann was extradited to New Jersey On January 2nd, 1935, the spotlight fell on the century-old Hunterdon County courthouse in the little borough of Flemington for the Trial of the Century.” (http://www. lindberghtrial. com/html/trial. shtml)
The Trial was a long and agonizing period, Flemington, NJ in January 1935, is where Bruno Richard Hauptmann went on trial for kidnapping and killing the 20-month-old son of world hero Charles A. Lindbergh. Tons and tons of evidence was just pilling on poor Hauptmann such evidence as handwriting evidence, including the ransom notes, the ransom money found in Hauptmann’s garage. The handmade ladder left at the crime scene and you should also note his ability as a carpenter to have made it. The most substantial evidence was in the form of witnesses who testified that they had seen Hauptmann in the following places near the Lindbergh home just prior to the night of the kidnapping. Also at the cemetery where he had supposedly taken the ransom money. The prosecution has eighty-seven witnesses testifying during the trial. Some testified about the events during the time of the kidnapping and the ransom payment while others testified about seeing Hauptmann near the scene of the crime. Key Evidence was the ransom notes seven handwriting experts testified that Hauptmann had written all fifteen of the ransom notes, including the first one found in the nursery. The states’s handwriting experts produced many examples of Hauptmann’s writing. The prosecution wanted to prove that Hauptmann had written the ransom notes. He was walking on thin ice and was backed up against a wall and had to where to go or hide it was Hauptmann against the world, any bit of evidence was thrown at him.
The decision On the morning of February 13, 1935, Judge Trenchard began instructing the jury. Before the jury members left to deliberate, he told them that they were responsible for arriving at a verdict of guilty or not guilty. After about eleven and a half hours of deliberation, at 10:27 pm, a verdict was ready to be announced a nation turned its lonely eyes to this on single decision that will send shock waves through the country thus this was said “Guilty. We find the defendant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, guilty of murder in the first degree.” This ending a long journey from a road that never ends. “We do not yet know exactly what happened on the tragic night at Hopewell. Nothing but a confession or the turning up of new evidence can throw further light upon a mystery which has all along been one of the most puzzling in criminal annals.” The New York Times. The jury of eight men and four women took 11 hours to reach a unanimous verdict: guilty. Hauptmann later went to the electric chair at Trenton State Prison on April 2, 1936. Although the trial of the century ended in 1936, people still debate whether or not Bruno Richard Hauptmann was guilty. “Hauptmann himself predicted the aftermath of this trial, Hoffman of New Jersey, “They think when I die, the case will die. They think it will be like a book I close. But the book, it will never close.” (BEHN 54).