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The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Case
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The Baby's Body
Timeline of Events
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The Lindbergh estate
Lindbergh's estate was the primary crime scene of the kidnapping – scene at which the original criminal act took place. On arrival, the police searched the house for any kind of physical evidence. Upon entering the room, it was noted that the nursery window was open, and looked to be where the kidnapper entered the room. On the window ledge was a ransom note with poor grammar and spelling. Lindbergh allowed no one to touch it until police arrived. Traces of mud were found on the floor of the nursery. Footprints were found underneath the window to the nursery but they were impossible to measure after everyone had trampled the scene (FBI, 2010). No blood stains or fingerprints were found in or outside the area where the baby was kidnapped. Fingerprint experts arrived around midnight but did not find any prints in the nursery, or on the note, but there were about 400 partial prints on the ladder (Epstein, 2010).
The purpose of fingerprinting is to find any latent fingerprints, which are made by a deposit of oils or perspiration that are invisible to the naked eye. These prints can then identify who was in the room, or touched certain objects, linking the kidnapper to the crime scene. Once the police conducted the search inside the house they began searching the outside premise as well. This is when they found the home made ladder approximately 70 feet from the house in some bushes. After examining the wall under the nursery window, they were able to determine the spot in which the ladder was placed during the kidnapping. In addition, next to the ladder prints under the window they found a carpenter's chisel. During the initial investigation statements were obtained from the household and estate employees. None of which gave them any leads to the possible kidnapper.
A photo of the baby's nursery where no substantial DNA was recovered. There were also no fingerprints of any kind in the entire room.
The police missed a fundamental step in relation to the crime scene. Their error could have potentially caused damage to evidence (and most likely did). Upon arrival, the police did not secure the crime scene, nor did they control or log who went in and out of the house. The police and media both trampled through the house without documenting or collecting evidence first, which resulted in contamination/destruction of physical evidence. Muddy footprints were found below the nursery window, but police neglected to secure this and take measurements or make plaster casts for them – which in turn renders them useless to convict a suspect (Auito 2010).
The first officer arriving on the scene should have taken steps to preserve and protect the area. In addition, they did not properly photograph the crime scene or the evidence. Minimal photos were taken, and were very general. Therefore, evidence was lost and not properly recorded.
What Was Done Properly
Upon finding the ransom note, Lindbergh did not allow anyone to touch it (Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias 2010). In doing so, he is preserving any potential fingerprints that may be on it. Although none were found, it was smart of him to take this precaution.
The police also searched the perimeter of the house to locate evidence. As a result, the ladder and chisel were both found. If the police had not conducted a thorough enough search of the grounds, the evidence, which led to Bruno Richard Hauptmann's conviction, may have not been found.
A command centre is a “secure site outside the boundaries of a crime scene where equipment is stored, tasks are assigned, and communication occurs.” (Saferstein 2009, p. 41). Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf set up a command post in Lindbergh's three-car garage for the purposes of the investigation.
Using Today’s Techniques
Preserving The Crime Scene
Police today immediately tape off a potential crime scene to preserve the evidence it may hold
Once the first officer arrived on scene, he should have closed off the boundaries with yellow police tape. The tape acts as an indicator to outsiders not to enter the roped-off area. Since it was a kidnapping, this would include the house and yard. The yard is also crucial to include in case any evidence to or from the offender was transferred as he fled the house. Locard's Principle of Exchange states that when two objects come in contact with one another materials are exchanged between them. In this case, the media was a problem with interfering in the investigation. They should have been removed from the area to preserve the evidence, instead of being free to roam the area. As well, an accurate log of who enter and exits the scene is important to record; furthering the validity of the investigation when it comes to a trial.
Once these steps have been taken, the lead investigator should do a walk through. This is an initial survey of the scene to gain an overview in order to formulate a plan for processing the scene. Following the plan, a search for evidence should have been conducted. An appropriate method for inside the house would have been a line/strip search pattern. This method requires one or two investigators who walk in straight lines across the crime scene. For outside the house, an appropriate method would be the quadrant/zone search pattern. According to this method, the crime scene is divided into smaller sections and allocated team members search each section thoroughly. This search method is good for covering a large area, so it would work well in the outside area.
section for in-depth information on fingerprinting techniques. Newer techniques may have uncovered latent prints in the nursery, or surrounding crime scene that were missed during this investigation.
Film Photographing Techniques
The scene should have been photographed in its unaltered condition. First, overview photographs need to be taken, which include the entire scene and surrounding areas. Photographs need to be taken at different angles to show all the walls and points of entry and exit. The next set of photographs should be medium range, including the 'centre' of the scene. In this case, it would be the area in which the baby was kidnapped; the crib. Lastly, close up photographs need to be taken. These photos show greater detail of individual objects of evidence, and need to be done with and without a scale. This includes the muddy foot prints, the ladder, chisel, and ransom note.
Today forensic techniques are much more advanced than what they were in 1932, when the kidnapping occurred. The processing of the Lindbergh residence would have been done more efficiently with the new technologies and knowledge. Potentially, the case could have been solved sooner, and with less controversy if the police had properly processed the crime scene. For instance, if the mud foot prints under the nursery windows were properly measured, they could have been compared to shoes to make a further connection to the suspect. This case lacked in making a lot of connections with evidence to Hauptmann. The only viable piece of evidence retrieved at the house turned out to be the ladder. Which as we now know, led to his conviction.
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