Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leopold & Loeb

Bobby Franks

Bobby Franks
Bobby Franks

On Wednesday, May 21, 1924, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks walked home from school by himself. A car stopped and a familiar face appeared in its open window. Bobby got in the car raced away.

Around dinner time, Bobby had not come home nor had he contacted his parents, Jacob and Flora Franks. His brother Jack and his sister Josephine had no idea where he was. Perhaps he was playing tennis at the Loebs, Jack suggested. But when his father looked over at the Loeb's tennis courts, Bobby was nowhere to be seen.

While Flora called Bobby's classmates, Jacob contacted the headmaster of the school to find out if Bobby could have gotten himself locked in the school building. He called Samuel Ettelson, a prominent lawyer and friend, to determine what to do. Ettelson and Jacob searched the entire school building, but found no sign of Bobby.

Flora Franks & Samuel Ettelson
Flora Franks & Samuel Ettelson

While they were gone, Flora got a phone call. A man calling himself Johnson told her, "Your son has been kidnapped. He is all right. There will be further news in the morning." Flora fainted and remained unconscious until her husband and Ettelson came home.

At two in the morning, Jacob and Ettelson went to the police, but since none of the police officials that Ettelson knew were on duty at that hour, they decided to come back later that morning.

The Franks were residents of Kenwood, a wealthy neighborhood in Chicago. They lived quietly among the Jewish elite of Kenwood, but had not been accepted socially for several reasons. They had renounced their Jewish faith to become Christian Scientists. Jacob had made much of his money running a pawnshop, which didn't recommend them socially to the powerful Jewish executives, bankers and attorneys in the neighborhood.

The next morning, the mailman arrived with a special delivery letter:

"Dear Sir:

As you no doubt know by this time, your son has been kidnapped. Allow us to assure you that he is at present well and safe. You need fear no physical harm for him, provided you live up carefully to the following instructions and to such others as you will receive by future communications. Should you, however, disobey any of our instructions, even slightly, his death will be the penalty.

1. For obvious reasons make absolutely no attempt to communicate with either police authorities or any private agency. Should you already have communicated with the police, allow them to continue their investigations, but do not mention this letter.

2. Secure before noon today $10,000. This money must be composed entirely of old bills of the following denominations: $2000 in $20 bills, $8000 in $50 bills. The money must be old. Any attempt to include new or marked bills will render the entire venture futile.

3. The money should be placed in a large cigar box, or if this is impossible, in a heavy cardboard box, securely closed and wrapped in white paper. The wrapping paper should be sealed at all openings with sealing wax.

4. Have the money with you, prepared as directed above, and remain at home after one o'clock. See that the telephone is not in use."

It was signed George Johnson and guaranteed that if the money were delivered according to his instructions that Bobby would be returned unharmed.

Franks' home
Franks' home

While Jacob went to get the money, Ettelson called his friend who was chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department.

An enterprising newspaperman had been tipped off that there was a kidnapping involving the Franks' boy. He had also heard that a boy had been found dead in a culvert near Wolf Lake, a probable drowning victim. He relayed the description of the dead boy to Mr. Franks, who did not think it matched his son. Franks' brother-in-law went check it out.

When the telephone rang, "George Johnson" told Ettelson, "I am sending a Yellow Cab for you. Get in and go to the drugstore at 1465 East Sixty-third Street." Ettelson handed the phone to Jacob and the message was repeated. In the trauma of the events, both men immediately forgot the address of the drugstore.

The phone rang again. This time it was Jacob's brother-in-law. The boy that had been found dead in the culvert was Bobby Franks.


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