Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kidnapping and Murder of Brooke Hart

Vengeance in San Jose

Charles Lindbergh Jr., victim
Charles Lindbergh Jr., victim

The Lindbergh baby kidnapping of 1932 had a profound impact on the nation in several ways. Charles Lindbergh was one of the most famous people in the world. If even his child could be abducted from a guarded, secluded estate in New Jersey, how could any average parent feel secure? During the 1920s and 1930s, a series of ransom kidnappings terrified the public and created a climate of fear that was very real. In 1933 alone, there were eight high-profile abduction cases nationwide, including William Hamm, from the beer producing family, who was freed after paying $100,000 ransom. In addition, the Great Depression had radically transformed the social, economic and cultural heart of the nation. These were hard times in America. The nation's streets were full of idle, desperate men, unable to provide even the most basic needs for their families. Though the Prohibition Era had ended in 1933, it helped to create an atmosphere of anger and lawlessness that dominated the media's attention for a decade. Almost every day, newspapers were filled with stories of criminal mayhem. Crime was up; confidence was down. And worst of all, things didn't look well for the future.

Map: San Jose, California
Map: San Jose, California

In the tranquil city of San Jose, California, Alex J. Hart ran a profitable retail business, called L. Hart and Son Company, for generations. The Harts were a true American success story; a Jewish immigrant family who came to the United States with nothing in their pockets and through hard work and sacrifice built a new and better life. The youngest son, Brooke Hart, 22, was the heir apparent to take charge of the family business. He was young, ambitious and expected to become the leader of the next generation of Harts. Unfortunately, his family's wealth also made him a prime target for kidnapping. In November 1933, Brooke Hart was abducted in broad daylight just yards away from his father's store.

It would be the first step for a city's rapid descent into madness and murder.

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