The Ransom Money

The Kidnapper of Baby Lindbergh demanded that a ransom of fifty thousand dollars be paid. In ransom letters, the kidnapper left direction for Lindbergh to have twenty-five thousand in twenty dollar bills, fifteen thousand in ten dollar bills and ten thousand in five dollar bills ready and that further instructions would be received within two to four days. The money was put together and placed in a handcrafted wooden box that would be unique and easily identifiable.
A copy of a ten dollar gold certificate

The money itself was comprised of gold certificates – a form of currency at that time – that were to be withdrawn from circulation by the government shortly after the incident. It was of the hope that any individual in possession of a large number of gold bills after they were taken off the streets would draw attention. In addition, the serial number of each gold certificate was recorded for identification of the tickets upon their use which was a smart technique (FBI, 2010). Back in the 1930’s there would have been no computerized means of tracking bills and it would have had to have been completed by hand.

Once the ransom money was ready, the go-between person John Condon placed an ad in the local paper stating that the money had been prepared and that he was ready to meet alone with the kidnapper(s) at a place of their choice and that there would be no police or secret service involvement. One month from the date of the kidnapping, Condon received a letter stating that the kidnapper(s) were ready to receive payment and detailed further instructions.

On the night of the meeting, Condon and Lindbergh drove all over Manhattan under the kidnapper(s)’s direction and ended up in St. Raymond’s cemetery; Lindbergh observed from a distance while Condon entered the cemetery to make the exchange. The kidnapper accepted the money and gave Condon another letter with the supposed whereabouts of Baby Lindbergh on the local docks in the care of two females who were uninvolved in the crime (FBI, 2010). The piers were rigorously searched but the baby was not located and Lindbergh was forced to admit that they had been scammed.

The suspected kidnapper was said to be of lower to average intelligence level, evident from the various ransom notes. If the police had been involved in the exchange, it would have been unlikely the individual would have been aware of their presence. Condon and Lindbergh made a huge mistake keeping the exchange from the police as they may have aided in the successful apprehension of the suspect or have collected further evidence from the scene of the exchange; there may have been trace evidence from the suspect left behind in the cemetery that could have given police an indication of where the suspect came from or about the suspect themselves (Forensic Files). They would have also been able to process the letter that was given to Condon in the cemetery. Instead, Lindbergh and Condon were left with no money, no help, no leads and only quick glimpse of the kidnapper.

After the discovery of the body on May 12, 1932, there were no further leads and hope was diminishing, so police turned to tracking the serial numbers from the ransom money. Police created and distributed a pamphlet that listed the range of the serial numbers of the bills in question. This information produced information on a few bills that popped up around New York, but no information on the individual(s) who cashed them in was recorded (FBI). Police never conducted any analysis on the bills recovered.

On May 1st, 1933 there was an executive order released for any individuals in possession of any gold certificates to turn them into a bank for money; if you were to be found in possession of the gold certificates after this date you were held criminally responsible and could be punished via a fine of $10,000 or up to ten years in prison. Prior to this deadline, $2990 in gold certificates matching the serial number were turned into a local bank, but the bank attendants were busy due to the deadline and did not notice the serial numbers until after the individual left the bank. Luckily, the suspect had filled out a required form and gave the name J.J. Faulkner and a corresponding address. Police attended the address but no one with the name of Faulkner had resided there for many years; the address was a fake.

Upon further investigation, it was discovered that a woman by the name of Faulkner had lived there in 1913 but moved after she married a German; they had two children together who were both married. The family was questioned and upon hearing the men in the family speak, Condon stated that one of the individual’s voices was similar to the individual from the cemetery. By the time police followed this lead, the male had killed himself (Fleming, 2010).

At this point, police should have asked the family for finger print identification to eliminate the deceased individual or to determine if this person was indeed the kidnapper. In addition, investigators should have compared the writing on the certificate form to that of the numerous ransom notes. This may have been their killer and they followed up on that lead.
Bruno Richard Hauptmann, convicted and executed for the kidnapping and murder of baby Lindenberg

In July of 1934, a ten dollar gold certificate from the ransom money was discovered by a bank in the Bronx. It was traced back to a deposit from a gas station in Upper Manhattan. The gas station attendant had written down the license plate of the person cashing in the certificate as was company policy. Police tracked the license plate to Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant living in the Bronx. When Hauptmann was arrested, he had a $20 gold certificate from the ransom money on his person and close to thirteen thousand hidden throughout his house. Hauptmann claimed the certificates were left to him from a business partner who had passed away earlier that year (FBI, 2010). The original wooden box the ransom money was exchanged in was never located and Hauptmann was never questioned about it.

Investigation Hauptmann’s House

Upon the investigation of Hauptmann’s home, many pieces of evidence were located by police. An apparent sketch of a collapsible ladder similar to the one used in the kidnapping was found. Jim Condon’s telephone number and address was found written on a closet wall in the house; whether this handwriting matched Hauptmann’s or the ransom notes is unknown. Hauptmann did admit to police that he wrote the information down himself, but this was after hours of interrogation and at least one severe beating (FBI, 2010). Finally a piece of wood from the attic of the apartment matched the wood used to construct the ladder in the kidnapping. The wood matched but police were unable to confirm whether his fingerprints were found on the ladder. Why after two years since the kidnapping did Hauptmann have these items still in his possession? Was he not smart enough to dispose of them or where they planted by police in order to build their case and close the investigation?

Hauptmann denied his guilt throughout the investigation

Hauptmann's Trial

Hauptmann was tried in front of a Judge and jury in a trail that last 31 days in New Jersey. The jury deliberated for eleven hours at which point they found Bruno Richard Hauptmann guilty and sentenced him to death by electric chair. Hauptmann sustained that he was innocent from the time that he was arrested until he was put to death. Hauptmann was offered a life sentence instead of death if he confessed to the murder but he refused. He was also offered ninety thousand dollars for his confession at one point throughout the trial that was to be given to his family, but he once again stuck to his claim of innocence (Fleming, 2010). If he actually committed the crime and was guilty of the offence, what did he have to lose by admitting it? Hauptmann was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence and a number of witness testimonies. Many individuals sat on the witness stand and testified that they had seen the man before the courts in a number of locations related to the kidnapping and murder; it is not possible that they could positively identify Hauptmann, but the testimony was accepted and Hauptmann was found guilty (Forensic Files). One of the individuals who testified against Hauptmann stated he saw him near the Lindbergh residence but the individual was declared legally blind. On April 3rd 1936, Hauptmann was electrocuted.

To this day, many forensic scientists and police investigators are under the belief that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was innocent and that he fell victim to police and their need for closure a case. There was too much circumstantial evidence and police made too many mistakes; crime scenes were contaminated, evidence lacked and was not always connected or was destroyed and there was a great potential for the falsification of evidence (Forensic Files). In addition, there were two individuals who had come forward claiming that they were responsible for the kidnapping, but police never took their accusations seriously, nor did they ever look any further into these persons (FBI, 2010). Whether Bruno Richard Hauptmann was actually guilty will never been known, but the real question is why he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt when there seems to be so much unknown.