Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lindbergh Kidnapping

The Ransom Bills Appear

The first gold notes from the ransom money surfaced shortly after the delivery of the ransom on April 2, 1932. By that fall, a quarter of a million booklets listing the serial numbers of the ransom bills had been distributed. Attempting to get the country's financial house in order, President Roosevelt, shortly after assuming office, ordered that all gold or gold certificates valued at more than one hundred dollars, had to be turned in by May 1, 1933. Lieutenant Finn, who was keeping a large map to indicate where the bills were turning up, hoped that the presidential order would make the gold bills from the ransom cache more conspicuous.

On May 1, 1933, $2,980 of the ransom gold notes was turned in to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City. The deposit slip for the exchange of the currency was signed by J.J. Faulkner. No description of J.J. Faulkner or his whereabouts could be found by Finn and his colleagues. With the exception of one author's claim to have identified J.J. Faulkner, he remains an unresolved element of the case.

From time to time, ransom bills turned up on a slow but regular basis. Finally, on September 15, 1934, a gas station manager, Walter Lyle, had written the license plate number on a ten-dollar gold certificate used to buy 98 cents worth of gas. He remembered the purchase and the driver of the car. When he was handed the gold certificate, he stared at it. "What's wrong?" asked the driver. "That's good money." He spoke with a German accent. Lyle said that he hadn't seen a gold certificate in quite some time. The driver said, "No. I have only about one hundred left." As the car drove away, Lyle, thinking that the bill might be counterfeit, wrote down the license plate number. The license plate was for a blue, 1930, four-door Dodge whose owner lived at 1279 East 222nd Street, the Bronx. The registration also indicated that the owner was German-born, thirty-five, and a carpenter. His name was Richard Hauptmann.

Richard Hauptmann
Richard Hauptmann

Hauptmann had entered the United States illegally in 1923, then he was twenty-three years old. In Germany, he had served in World War I at the age of seventeen, and shortly after the war he was imprisoned for robbery, served part of his sentence, and escaped. In one of his robberies, he had used a ladder.

All indications were that he was a skilled at his occupation. After arriving in the United States, he married a German waitress, Anna Schoeffler, in 1925. They had a son in 1933, named Manfreid, after the famous German aviator, the "Red Baron." He played the mandolin, traveled, and was well liked by members of the German-American community in the Bronx. In late spring, 1932, Hauptmann ceased being a carpenter, and became an investor in stocks.

The police staked out his apartment and Hauptmann was arrested as he drove away. Lieutenant Keaton examined Hauptmann's billfold and found a neatly folded twenty-dollar gold note. It was a Lindbergh bill. Returning to the Hauptmann apartment, the police noticed that he glanced again and again towards the garage that his landlord had allowed him to build. He was asked if that was where he had hidden the ransom money. He said, "I have no money." Later, the garage was dismantled, board by board, and over $14,000 of the ransom money was found hidden between the wall joists.

Hauptmann was interrogated, possibly beaten, and maintained that the money had been given to him by Isador Fisch, a business partner, before Fisch had departed for Germany in December, 1933.

Later, Insp. Lewis J. Bornmann of the New Jersey State Police discovered a missing rafter in Hauptmann's attic that corresponded to one of the uprights of the kidnap ladder. Koehler confirmed that the missing length of lumber matched, even to nail holes, the bottom section.

Hauptmann was asked to provide samples of his handwriting.

During this period, Lindbergh, in disguise, listened as Hauptmann repeated the words of "Cemetery John." Over two years after he had first heard the voice in the cemetery say, "Hey, Doctor," Lindbergh identified Hauptmann's voice as the one he had heard.

After being indicted for extortion in New York a device to hold Hauptmann in custody Hauptmann went before the grand jury in New Jersey, so that he could be indicted and then extradited. At the grand jury proceedings, Lindbergh testified to the voice. Attorney General David Wilentz, representing New Jersey, brought a number of police witnesses, as well as Osborn, the handwriting expert. An extradition hearing was then held in New York. Wilentz called many of the same witnesses, including a neighbor of Lindbergh, Millard Whited, who testified that he had seen Hauptmann near the Lindbergh estate a few days before the kidnapping. Judge Hammer, presiding in the extradition hearing, ruled that Hauptmann would be extradited to New Jersey, specifically to the Hunterdon County seat, Flemington, New Jersey, where he would be tried for the kidnapping and murder of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr.

In a seven-car, two-motorcycle caravan, Hauptmann was taken from his New York jail cell to the Flemington jail, which was at the back of the courthouse. It was ten o'clock at night. The streets around the courthouse were teeming with people, and the area was lighted with flares.


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