The Lindbergh Baby
The heartbreaking kidnapping and death of 20-month-old Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. has gone down as one of the most famous murders in American history.
On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh Sr., a famous aviator who achieved celebrity status when he flew solo across the Atlantic, heard a noise come from his kitchen that sounded like a wooden crate snapping closed. Just minutes later, the family’s nurse discovered that the Lindbergh baby was missing from his crib.
Lindbergh Sr. entered his son’s room and found a ransom note on the windowsill as well as a broken ladder outside of the window. The note demanded $50,000 in exchange for his son’s safe return.
Over the next three months, the Lindbergh family, with help from the FBI, desperately searched for the missing baby. Lindbergh Sr. even paid the enormous ransom request to his son’s kidnapper. The kidnapper, though, never held up his end of the bargain. Charles Lindbergh Sr. would never see his son alive again.
On May 12, 1932, more than two months after the Lindbergh baby first went missing, his tiny body was discovered dead just over a mile from his family’s mansion.
The boy had been dead for at least two months; it is believed that he died on the day that he was kidnapped. His skull had a hole in it and his bones had endured several other fractures. Some of the child’s body parts had even been chewed off. Animals, it appeared, had gotten to the body first.
In the end, the official culprit was identified as Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant with a criminal record. Hauptmann was caught after using some of the ransom money.
The media attention surrounding the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping and subsequent trial was chaotic. In what was dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” Hauptmann was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death. Hauptmann died in the electric chair on April 3, 1936.
The tragedy of the Lindbergh baby case pushed Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, which made transporting a kidnap victim across state lines a federal offense. The law is commonly referred to as the “Lindbergh Law.”