Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lindbergh Kidnapping


Partly at the urging of Ellis Parker, a detective with the Burlington County, NJ police, and partly from his own sense of political opportunism Governor Harold G. Hoffman took up the cause of Hauptmann. Attorney General Wilentz was widely believed to be his principal opponent in the 1936 election. Hoffman met with Hauptmann, secretly, in his prison cell. Within the limits of his authority which did not include clemency he gave Hauptmann a stay of execution. There were calls for his impeachment, but Hoffman persisted in his claim that he only wanted to see justice done.

The Electric Chair
The Electric Chair

Finally, since the Board of Appeals, of which Hoffman was a member, rejected Hauptmann's appeal, the execution date was set for April 3, 1936. It was carried out by Robert G. Elliott, the same executioner who had operated the electric chair in the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, nine years before.

On December 22, 1935, during the appeal process, Lindbergh and his wife and young son sailed for England, where Harold Nicolson had provided them with a house in Kent. After the verdict, the Lindberghs were inundated with hate mail, including death threats against their second son, with frightening attempts by 1930's paparazzi to photograph young Jon Lindbergh. The "exile" received mix reviews in the press, some editorials sympathizing with their plight, others excoriating the Lindberghs for leaving their homeland.

Just prior to the execution, Ellis Parker, along with his son and several accomplices, kidnapped a disreputable lawyer, Paul Wendel, forced him to confess that he had kidnapped and murdered the Lindbergh baby. Wilentz questioned Wendel, found that he had been coerced by Parker and his partners, and dismissed the entire "confession" as a travesty. Parker and his associates were sentenced to prison for kidnapping.


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