What Happened To The Lindbergh Baby, Who Was Kidnapped In 1932?

First the young son of a famous aviator was stolen from his nursey. Then, came the ransom notes. 

By Gina Tron

Police say that the chances of finding a missing person are greatest during the first 48 hours after their disappearance. After that, their case starts to grow cold. Sometimes the missing person is presumed dead. At other times, theories develop that keep their loved ones guessing — and hoping. This is true of Maura Murray, who disappeared 13 years ago after emailing her college professors that she was taking time off due to a death in the family. Turns out, there was no death. Oxygen’s The Disappearance of Maura Murray,” premiering Sept. 23 at 8:15/7:15c, sheds light on unexplored leads.

It was often referred to as the “crime of the century.” Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. was the son of the famous aviator by the same name and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The 20-month-old was kidnapped at around 9:00 p.m., on March 1, 1932, from his nursery on the second floor of the Lindberghs’ New Jersey. The baby’s nurse discovered that the baby was gone. A ransom note demanding $50,000 was found on the nursery window sill. Traces of mud were found on the floor and a ladder was found outside the window, which had seemingly been broken during the ascent or descent into the nursery. No fingerprints were left at the scene.

A second ransom note was received by Colonel Lindbergh on March 6, 1932. The note, postmarked from Brooklyn, increased the demand to $70,000.  John F. Condon, a retired school teacher wrote a letter to the Bronx Home News offering $1,000 if the kidnapper turned the baby over to a Catholic priest. A note that claimed to be from the kidnapper, also postmarked from Brooklyn, stated that Condon should be the intermediary between him and the Lindberghs. Colonel Lindbergh approved of the request, assumingthat the notes were genuine. He gave Condon $70,000 in cash as ransom, and Condon began discussing payment logistics through newspaper columns, using the code name “Jafsie.” Soon after Condon received a message in person, delivered by a taxicab driver, who claimed he had received it from an unidentified stranger. The note stated that another note would be found beneath a stone at a vacant stand, 100 feet from a subway station exit. Sure enough, there was a note under the stone, which ordered Condon to meet a man who called himself “John,” at a cemetery. Condon met with “John” who provided the baby’s sleeping suit as a way to prove he had the child. The suit was delivered to Colonel Lindbergh, who confirmed it belonged to his son.

When Condon gave “John” the money at a later meeting, “John” handed instructions to find the kidnapped child. It stated that he could be found on a boat named “Nellie” near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Several searches for the baby near Martha’s Vineyard were unsuccessful.

While the meetings between “John” and Condon were going on, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover stated that the organization would be involved in finding those responsible for the crime. Previously, kidnapping was considered only a local crime.  

On May 12, 1932 two months after the Lindbergh baby went missing, a baby’s body was found four and a half miles from the Lindbergh home by a truck driver. The head of the partly buried, decomposed baby was crushed. There was hole in the skull and some of the body parts were missing. A Coroner’s examination showed that the child had been dead for about two months, and that the child died after a blow to the head.  It was positively identified as Charles Lindbergh, Jr.  Authorities theorized that the kidnapper may have accidentally dropped the boy while climbing down the ladder.

Two years later, in September 1934 a man in a Dodge sedan pulled up to the gasoline pumps at a service station in upper Manhattan. To pay for his gas, the driver reached into his inside coat pocket and to pull a gold certificate, which had been pulled from circulation over a year earlier.

The attendant thought it was suspicious, meaning he figured he could be a counterfeiter, so when the driver left, he jotted down the car’s license plate number. After the service station deposited the certificate, a bank teller was also alarmed. The bill was connected to the $70,000 ransom paid to the kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh Jr. The bank notified federal investigators, who tracked the bill down to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a carpenter named who lived in the Bronx. Hauptmann was arrested the next day. Police found $13,750 of the ransom money hidden inside a dirty oil can, which stuffed in a package inside a wall and buried beneath the garage floor in a jar inside his garage. Handwriting experts claimed his handwriting matched that of the scrawlings on the ransom notes.

Hauptmann denied having anything to do with the missing baby. He instead claimed he had been given the money by a deceased business partner and that he is merely scared of inflation. His neighbors said they noticed that Hauptmann suddenly stopped working in 1932, which Hauptmann chalked up to Wall Street money. Mind you, this was during the Great Depression.

sensational trial followed, and Hauptmann was convicted of kidnapping and murder in 1935. But, some theorists aren’t convinced. One prevalent theory maintains that Hauptmann couldn’t have acted alone. Another blames Lindbergh himself.

[Featured Image: Getty Images]

[Other Photos: FBI]

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