Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping


In May 1953, a freshly minted ex-con named Carl Hall happened to mount a barstool in St. Joseph, Mo., beside a stranger named Bonnie Heady.

The sun outside was high in the sky and the air was sweet with the approach of summer, but sunshine made people like Heady and Hall twitchy.

Bonnie Heady, mugshot
Bonnie Heady, mugshot
Heady, 41, had been around the block. She had a stubby build, a plump, round face, beady brown eyes, and a bit of a turtle chin. Her short, brown hair framed a pasty facethe complexion of a dedicated barfly.

Hall wasnt much of a looker, either, with prominent ears, puffy eyes and a flabby midriff. His rapidly receding widows peak made him seem older than 34. His hands were soft and doughy, the mitts of a man whod done nothing more strenuous in life than grip a highball glass or pool cue.

Carl Hall, mugshot
Carl Hall, mugshot
Hall and Heady were a pair by the time they staggered out of the Pony Express saloon in St. Joes Hotel Robidoux on that May day. They had at least three things in common: an unquenchable thirst, a lack of scruples, and an alcohol-diminished ability to think straight.

Theirs would prove to be a match made in hell.

Within four months, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady would put their heads together and commit one of the most inscrutable crimes imaginable.

They kidnapped and murdered a 6-year-old boy, then managed to extract a kings ransom from his wealthy father, a Kansas City Cadillac dealer.

They fled to St. Louis with their loot but without a clue what to do with it. Their post-ransom plan was so thin that they didnt even bring along a change of underwear.

Life on the lam amounted to a fleeting drunken bender. They were in custody less than 48 hours after grabbing the ransom cash. Ultimately, they would pay dearly for their crime.

And the fate of the kidnap ransom would become an embarrassing coda to their story and an obsession for FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover when $300,000 turned up missing after it passed through the hands of a rogue St. Louis cop.

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