Bruno Richard Hauptmann (November 26, 1899 – April 3, 1936) was a German carpenter sentenced to death and executed for the abduction and murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of famous pilots Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The Lindbergh kidnapping gained international infamy, and has become known as "The Crime of the Century."
Discharged before the war ended, he was unable to find work as a carpenter and he, with another veteran, burglarized three homes and robbed two women at gunpoint. He was caught and sentenced to five years, of which he served four in the prison in Bautzen. Not long after he was released, he was charged with another crime, but escaped from prison by walking out an unguarded door.
He tried to illegally enter the U.S. by stowing away on a ship, but was discovered and returned to Germany twice. On his third attempt in November 1923, he used a disguise and a stolen identification card and managed to enter. In 1925 he married Anna Schoeffler, a fellow German immigrant. The couple lived in a house in the Bronx and had one son. Hauptmann worked as a carpenter.
The kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. occurred on the evening of 1 March 1932. A $50,000 ransom was paid, but the infant was not returned. A corpse identified as the boy's was found on 12 May 1932 in the woods four miles from the Lindbergh home. The cause of death was listed as a very severe blow to the head.
More than two years later, on 18 September 1934, a $10 gold certificate from the ransom money was discovered; it had a license plate number written on it. Gold certificates were rapidly being withdrawn from circulation; to see one was unusual and, in this case, anything attracted attention. The New York license plate belonged to a dark blue Dodge sedan owned by Hauptmann. Hauptmann was arrested the next day and charged with the murder.
The trial attracted wide media attention and was dubbed the “trial of the century.” Hauptmann was also named "The Most Hated Man In The World." The trial was held in Flemington, New Jersey and ran from 2 January to 13 February, 1935. Col. Henry S. Breckinridge was Lindbergh's lawyer throughout the case and acted as intermediary in the ransom negotiations, assisted by Robert H. Thayer. (On discovering his child missing, Lindbergh phoned Breckinridge before calling the police.)
Evidence produced against Hauptmann included $14,590 of the ransom money that was found in his garage, a hand-made ladder supposedly used in the kidnapping (which matched wood and carpentry equipment found in his home), and testimony alleging handwriting and spelling similarities to that found on the ransom notes. Eight different handwriting experts were called to the witness stand where they pointed out similarities between the words and letters in the ransom notes and in Hauptmann's writing speciments.
Hauptmann was positively identified as the man to whom the ransom money was delivered. Other witnesses testified that it was Hauptmann who had spent some of the Lindbergh gold certificates, that he had been seen in the area of the Hopewell estate on the day of the kidnapping, and that he had been absent from work on the day of the ransom payment. Hauptmann denied his guilt, insisting the box found to contain gold certificates had been left in his garage by a friend, named Isidor Fisch, who had returned to Germany in December 1933, and died there in March 1934. Taking the witness stand, Hauptmann claimed that he found a shoebox left behind by Fisch one day which Hauptmann stored on the top shelf of a kitchen broom closet, and one day discovered the money which, upon counting it, contained $40,000, and since Fisch owed him around $7,500 in business funds, Hauptmann claimed the money for himself.
Hauptmann's defense lawyer, Edward J. Reilly, called Hauptmann's wife, Anna Hauptmann, to the witness stand to corrobroate the Fisch story. But upon cross-examination by chief prosecutor David T. Wilentz, she was forced to admit that while she hung her apron every day on a hook higher than the top shelf, she could not remember seeing any shoebox as described there. Later, rebuttal witnessed testified that Fisch could not have been at the scene of the crime, and he in fact had no money for medical treatments when he died in Germany of tuberculosis. Various witnesses called by Reilly to put Fisch near the Lindburgh house on the night of the kidnapping were discredted in cross-exmination with incidents from their pasts which inclued having crimminal records or mental instability.
When the trial ended, Reilly in his closing summerisation argued that the evidence against Hauptmann was entierly circumstantial for no reliable witness had placed Hauptmann at the scene of the crime, nor his fingerprints were found there on the ladder, or on the ransom notes or anywhere in the nursery. But Hauptmann was convicted anyway and immediately sentenced to death.
New Jersey Governor Harold G. Hoffman secretly visited Hauptmann in his death row cell on the evening of 16 October 1935 with Anna Bading, a stenographer and fluent speaker of German. Hoffman urged the other members of the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, then the state's highest court, to visit Hauptmann.
Despite Governor Hoffman's evident doubt as to Hauptmann's guilt, Hoffman was unable to convince the other members of the Court of Errors to re-examine the case, and on 3 April 1936 Hauptmann was executed in Old Smokey, the electric chair at New Jersey State Prison. Hauptmann had requested a last meal consisting of celery, olives, chicken, french fries, buttered peas, cherries and cake. Reporters present at the execution reported that he went to the electric chair without saying any last words, but other reports later said that he was vehemently protesting his innocence.
After the execution, Hauptmann's widow, Anna, applied for and received special permission that was required to take her husband's body out of state, so that it could be cremated at the U.S. Crematory, also called the Fresh Pond Crematory, in the Maspeth neighborhood of Queens, New York. The memorial service there was religious (two Lutheran pastors conducted the service in German), and private (under New Jersey law public services were not permitted for felons, and Hauptmann's wife had agreed to this as a condition of receiving her husband's body) and was attended by only six people (the legal limit under New Jersey rules) but a crowd of over 2,000 gathered outside anyway. Hauptmann's widow had planned to return to Germany with the ashes.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, the case against Hauptmann has come under serious scrutiny. For instance, one item of evidence at his trial was a scrawled phone number on a board in his closet, which was the number of the man who delivered the ransom, Dr. Joseph F. Condon. A juror at the trial said this was the one item of evidence that convinced her the most, but a reporter later admitted he had written the number himself. It is also alleged that the eyewitnesses who placed Hauptmann at the Lindbergh estate near the time of the crime were untrustworthy (including one legally blind man who had claimed to have seen Hauptmann entering the Lindbergh home), and that neither Lindbergh nor the go-between who delivered the ransom initially identified Hauptmann as the recipient. It has been alleged that the police beat Hauptmann and intimidated other witnesses, and some claim that the police planted or doctored evidence such as the ladder. There is also proof that the police doctored Hauptmann's time cards and ignored fellow workers who stated that Hauptmann was working the day of the kidnapping. These and other findings prompted J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI to question the manner in which the investigation and trial were conducted. Hauptmann's widow campaigned to have her husband's conviction reversed until the end of her life.
The television show Forensic Files on Court TV asked modern forensic scientists to reexamine two key pieces of evidence against Hauptmann. Kelvin Keraga concluded that the ladder used in the kidnapping was made from wood that had previously been part of Hauptmann's attic. Three forensic document examiners, Grant Sperry, Gideon Epstein, and Peter E. Baier, Ph.D., working independently of each other, all concluded that Hauptmann had written the ransom demand.
For more than 50 years, Hauptmann's widow, Anna, fought with the New Jersey courts to have the case re-opened without success. In 1982, the 82-year-old Anna Hauptmann sued the State of New Jersey, various former police officers, the Hearst newspapers who published pre-trial articles insisting on Hauptmann's guilt, and the former prosecutor David T. Wilentz (then 86-years-old), for over $100 million in wrongful-death damages. She claimed that the newly found documents proved misconduct by the prosecution and manufacture of evidence by government agents, all of whom were bias against Hauptmann because he happened to be of German ethnicity. In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court refused her request that the federal judge considering the case be disqualified because of judicial bias, and in 1984 the judge dismissed her claims.
In 1985, over 23,000 pages of Hauptmann-case police documents where found in the garage of the lgate Governor Hoffman, along with 30,000 pages of FBI files not used in the trial which would have placed reasonable doubt to Hauptmann's guilt. Anna Hauptmann again appealed to the Supreme Court to clear her late husband's name and that he was "framed from beginning to end" by the police looking for a suspect. Among her allegations was that the rail of ladder taken from the attic where they used to live in 1935 was planted by the police, and that the ransom money was left behind by Isidor Fisch who was possibly the real kidnapper. In 1990, New Jersey's governor, Jim Florio, declined Mrs. Hauptmann's appeal for a meeting to clear Hauptmann's name.
Stephen Rea also played Hauptmann in a 1996 HBO movie entitled Crime of the Century, and Anthony Hopkins played him in a sympathetic light in The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976). In 2002, The Opera Theatre of St. Louis produced Loss of Eden, an opera about Hauptmann and the kidnapping. The Armstrong kidnapping case in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express was inspired by the tragedy as well. Writer Jen Bryant wrote a book in 2004 about the case called The Trial.
The rescue heard 'round the world: the year 1936 was eventful for news hounds: The King was having an affair with an American divorcee and would abdicate the throne. Civil war had broken out in Spain. German troops violated the Treaty of Versailles and occupied the Rhineland. Bruno Hauptmann was executed for kidnapping and killing the Lindbergh baby. And then there was the mining disaster in Nova Scotia that became.(Moose River, Nova Scotia)
Aug 01, 2002; Sixty-six years ago the village of Moose River, Nova Scotia, became the centre of world attention as millions of people across...