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The Case That Never Dies

The Case That Never Dies: The Lindbergh Kidnapping

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    The Case That Never Dies
    Book Description:

    The Case That NeverDiesplaces the Lindbergh kidnapping, investigation, and trial in the context of the Depression, when many feared the country was on the edge of anarchy. Gardner delves deeply into the aspects of the case that remain confusing to this day, including Lindbergh's dealings with crime baron Owney Madden, Al Capone's New York counterpart, as well as the inexplicable exploits of John Condon, a retired schoolteacher who became the prosecution's best witness. The initial investigation was hampered by Colonel Lindbergh, who insisted that the police not attempt to find the perpetrator because he feared the investigation would endanger his son's life. He relented only when the child was found dead.

    After two years of fruitless searching, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant, was discovered to have some of the ransom money in his possession. Hauptmann was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Throughout the book, Gardner pays special attention to the evidence of the case and how it was used and misused in the trial. Whether Hauptmann was guilty or not, Gardner concludes that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of first-degree murder.

    Set in historical context, the book offers not only a compelling read, but a powerful vantage point from which to observe the United States in the 1930s as well as contemporary arguments over capital punishment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5447-1
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Lloyd C. Gardner
    (pp. 1-4)

    It couldn’t be true, could it? Edmund DeLong, a reporter for theNew York Sun, living in Princeton, New Jersey, put down the phone, and asked his wife, Bea, where the Lindbergh house was. He had to get over there and see what had happened, see if it was true. The man on the phone said the Lindbergh baby had been kidnapped! Bea could drive him. She had been there recently to tea, and knew the way along those country roads to the house where the colonel and Anne lived. DeLong was the first reporter there. Soon after he arrived,...

    (pp. 5-10)

    In May 1927 Charles Augustus Lindbergh astonished the world by being the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic from New York to Paris. When he finally landed at Le Bourget airport thirty-three hours after takeoff, crowds engulfed his plane,The Spirit of St. Louis, and “parts of the ship began to crack from the pressure of the multitude.” Lindbergh started to climb out of the cockpit. “But as soon as one foot appeared through the door I was dragged the rest of the way without assistance on my part … For nearly half an hour I was unable...

    (pp. 11-33)

    The telephone call late that Tuesday morning did not come as a complete surprise. Betty Gow knew the baby had taken ill with a cold over the weekend. The Lindberghs always returned to the Morrow estate on Sunday night or Monday morning. But this time Charles and Anne had decided to stay over at their new home near Princeton to see if their son’s cold would improve. It did—some—but now Anne had a cold, too. Between caring for the twenty-month-old and her own condition—she had just completed the Wrst trimester of her second pregnancy—she felt exhausted....

    (pp. 34-56)

    The morning after the kidnapping, Morris “Mickey” Rosner was testifying in a civil suit when he noticed Robert Thayer, a young attorney from Colonel William Donovan’s law firm, giving him a high sign. When Rosner finished, the lawyer was waiting outside in the corridor. He had already guessed what Thayer would say. Could he help the Lindberghs? “I told him that I could.”¹

    Rosner resembled movie star George Raft, and, like Raft’s movie characters, he lived a glamorous but precarious life, somewhere between society and the underworld. He often boasted about his connections. And Donovan, the future head of the...

    (pp. 57-87)

    At the time of the kidnapping, Dr. John Francis Condon was a seventy-one-year-old semiretired educator who had lived all his life in the Bronx, the “most beautiful borough in the world.” A familiar figure striding down the streets of his neighborhood in a three-piece black suit and derby, Condon would stop passersby to ask them if they knew the answer to his latest puzzle. He loved mathematical mysteries. An elementary school principal at P.S. #12, for nearly three decades, Condon organized a school fife-and-drum corps and marched at their head whenever there was a parade in the Bronx.

    Leading parades...

    (pp. 88-111)

    It was a dreary, dismal day—Friday, May 13. A crowd had gathered in front of the Trenton mortuary. Soon a familiar car appeared. A tall, hatless young man got out and pushed his way through the crowd to enter the mortuary. Although he had been assured that the largely decomposed body on the examining table was that of his son, Colonel Lindbergh demanded the sheet be removed so that he could see for himself. After a brief examination of the teeth and toes, he left the room in silence. “I am perfectly satisfied that is my child,” he told...

    (pp. 112-142)

    The credo of any police investigation is that the criminal or criminals always leave something at the scene and always take something away. In the Lindbergh case, the abductor had left a ladder and perhaps a chisel—though that was far from clear—as well as the first ransom note and some muddy smudges on the floor of the nursery. There were difficult questions about footprints outside. What had not been left, apparently, were usable fingerprints. And there was very little evidence of either entry or exit except the smudges and of course the empty crib. The child had been...

    (pp. 143-172)

    Walter Winchell loved to fan the flames of discord. It was meat and potatoes, or, in his case, ink and influence. But with Schwarzkopf and Hoover there was no need. They heartily disliked one another. As frustrations grew, so did the intensity of their animosity. President Roosevelt even got involved, calling Hoover to the White House for a little chitchat about where the Lindbergh case was going. The FBI director laid out the details in masterful fashion, not forgetting, of course, to point out that Colonel Lindbergh seemed to prefer the Treasury Department’s Special Intelligence Division to his own men....

    (pp. 173-198)

    Bronx district attorney Samuel J. Foley felt confidant he could break through the expressionless mask on Hauptmann’s face and obtain a confession. After nearly two days of police questioning, and a severe beating while handcuffed to a chair, the suspect still held out. Richard was brought into his office shortly after 4 a.m. on the morning of September 21, 1934. Now it was Foley’s turn.

    “I want to get this case cleared up once and for all,” began the young district attorney, who was almost the same age as Hauptmann. “It’s been a headache for over two years.”¹

    Hauptmann sat...

    (pp. 199-221)

    David Wilentz’s family had brought him to the United States as an infant from Russia just at the turn of the century. He was already famous in his home state for a special talent in political organization when Governor A. Harry Moore asked him to become attorney general. “He is 39,” theNew Brunswick Daily Home Newsbegan its description of the man suddenly put on the front pages of newspapers around the world, “small and alert, olive skinned, with sleek black hair and dark eyes of a gleaming softness. His manual gestures are deft, his facial expressions, not too...

    (pp. 222-242)

    Arthur Koehler had every reason to feel good about his work. After all, he had traced pieces of the ladder to a Bronx lumberyard a year before Bruno Richard Hauptmann’s arrest. Now if the police could find him the missing pieces of the puzzle, he would do the rest. “Congratulations on success so far,” he wrote to Captain J. J. Lamb. Concentrate your efforts now on rail 16. “That is the one that has the cut nail holes in it and has both edges dressed by a hand plane as if cut down from a wider board.” It “may have...

    (pp. 243-266)

    Standing before newsreel cameras in back of the jail, Edward J. Reilly pronounced himself well satisfied with the setting for the trial of the century. “I have found Flemington very friendly…. It is a beautiful town and its residents are congenial. I have been here only a short time but I know I should like to live here.” He had just come from seeing his client, Reilly went on, and found him “cool, calm, and collected and with the appearance of an innocent man.”

    Reilly also liked the Fisch story about how Hauptmann had found the ransom money spilling out...

    (pp. 267-297)

    “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” intoned the court crier. “All manner of persons having business with the Court of Quarter Seasons—Oyer and Terminer …, let them draw nigh and they shall be heard.” Outside the courthouse a colorless winter sun illuminated milling crowds of people anxious to glimpse even a coat sleeve or a hat on one of the rich and famous being ushered through the doors to their privileged seats. Judging by the number of automobiles barely crawling along the streets and strung out for miles along the roads leading into town, more than sixty thousand people had come...

    (pp. 298-320)

    “Intimate” knowledge of wood is a type of specialized training that police officials cannot be expected to have,” Arthur Koehler wrote after the trial, “but it serves to show how technical experts along various lines can often assist law enforcement agencies in tracking down and convicting criminals.”¹

    Koehler was too modest. Prosecutors found experts indispensable not merely because of the scientific work they performed, but also, perhaps even primarily, if they were frank about it, because they put an added burden on the defense financially. Judge Trenchard refused to allow Reilly or any other member of the defense to put...

    (pp. 321-357)

    The courtroom assembly had waited nearly a month for Reilly to call “Bruno Richard Hauptmann.” As he walked to the stand, he still seemed an enigma. What made this German carpenter tick? After Hauptmann’s direct testimony was over, Wilentz asked reporters if they noticed the absolute lack of feeling. “There was no change in his face or manner. When he talked about the Lindbergh child he talked as if he were discussing dollars and cents.”¹

    Psychiatrist Dudley Shoenfeld, however, had his own take on what drove Hauptmann to this heinous crime. Previously, he had believed the “singnature” revealed his homosexuality....

    (pp. 358-396)

    Shortly before midnight on January 15, 1936, the manager of the Hotel New Yorker knocked on the door of J. Edgar Hoover’s suite. New Jersey governor Harold Giles Hoffman was a guest in the hotel, explained Mr. Andrews, and had expressed a desire to have a confidential talk—that night—with the FBI director. Of course he could not refuse to see the governor of New Jersey, Hoover told Andrews. He would be glad to talk to him.

    A few minutes later the hotel manager was back with Governor Hoffman. Introductions made, he departed, leaving Hoover and his confidant, Clyde...

    (pp. 397-416)

    Three days before Christmas, 1935, Charles Lindbergh, his wife, Anne, and their three-year-old son, Jon, left New York on a freighter. By the colonel’s orders no one came to the dock to see them off. No other passengers were on the ship. As they left the harbor, Charles stood on the deck bareheaded and saluted the Statue of Liberty. When they arrived in England, they were beginning a very different life that would embroil Charles in the dark maze of prewar international politics.

    “After six months in England with nothing to do,” writes Anne’s biographer Susan Hertog, “Charles was once...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 417-462)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 463-466)
  23. Index
    (pp. 467-480)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 481-481)