Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kidnapping and Murder of Brooke Hart

'My Boy is Gone!'

"Hart Boy Slain, Kidnapper Says," said the Washington Times. "Concrete Blocks Used in Hart Murder," was the headline in the Washington News on November 17. "Let Justice Be Swift!" said one San Francisco newspaper. "Seek Noose For Hart Killers!" said another. Everywhere, but especially in the southern California area, the media offered a non-stop barrage of sensational headlines that kept the public on the edge of their seats. Nowhere were the passions as high as in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties.

Federal agents continued to question the subjects throughout the night. "The sheriff and his deputy and the Chief of Police being merely onlookers," said one F.B.I report of the interrogation. It was later decided that both suspects undergo psychological tests to ascertain their mental state and prepare for a possible insanity defense. Dr. Frederick Proescher, Chief Pathologist from the county hospital supervised the exam. But when he tried to interview Thurmond in his cell about his actions during the kidnapping, he refused to cooperate. "My brother told me not to talk," he said, "I'd rather not say anything about it." Proescher later issued a report that both men were normal and displayed no signs of mental defects. The prisoners were transported back to San Jose and remanded to the County Jail on Market Street.

In the meantime, the Hart family was trying to accept the possibility that Brooke was probably dead. They consented to an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in which Alex Hart talked about his grief.

"My boy is gone!" he told the press, "Neither words, nor actions, either, can bring him back. Mrs. Hart is well. She is as well as can be expected. But she is confined to her room under care of physicians and nurses." Mariam and Aleese, Brooke's sisters were taking the news hard and declined to be seen in public. "They are well and very brave," Alex Hart said, "They are a great comfort to us during this difficult period." As he spoke, Hart walked among his flower gardens while the press followed behind him. "Everyone has been so kind," he continued, "and there is not a single member of this family who is not deeply appreciative of the consideration we have received."

Younger Jackie Coogan, in an early role
Younger Jackie Coogan, in
an early role

On November 13, a police search party turned up a white pillowcase floating in the waters off the Alameda County coastline. The item was brought to Sheriff Emig's office for further examination. It was known that one of Brooke Hart's close friends, child actor Jackie Coogan, had lost a similar pillowcase while he and Brooke were at a football game. Speculation was that it somehow wound up in Brooke's car and tossed into the bay by the kidnappers. Coogan was called in to view the item but denied it belonged to him. Word circulated around town that prior to dumping Brooke Hart into the sea, his kidnappers had placed a pillowcase over his head. To the public, it was very much like an execution.

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