Year
1932
Month Day
May 12

Kidnapped Lindbergh baby found dead

The body of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh’s baby is found on May 12, 1932, more than two months after he was kidnapped from his family’s Hopewell, New Jersey, mansion.

Lindbergh, who became the first worldwide celebrity five years earlier when he flew The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, and his wife Anne discovered a ransom note in their 20-month-old child’s empty room on March 1. The kidnapper had used a ladder to climb up to the open second-floor window and had left muddy footprints in the room. In barely legible English, the ransom note demanded $50,000..

The crime captured the attention of the entire nation. The Lindbergh family was inundated by offers of assistance and false clues. Even Al Capone offered his help from prison, though it of course was conditioned on his release. For three days, investigators had found nothing and there was no further word from the kidnappers. Then, a new letter showed up, this time demanding $70,000.

It wasn’t until April 2 that the kidnappers gave instructions for dropping off the money. When the money was finally delivered, the kidnappers indicated that little baby Charles was on a boat called Nelly off the coast of Massachusetts. However, after an exhaustive search of every port, there was no sign of either the boat or the child.

READ MORE: Inside the Capture of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapper 

On May 12, a renewed search of the area near the Lindbergh mansion turned up the baby’s body. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping and was found less than a mile from the home. The heartbroken Lindberghs ended up donating the home to charity and moved away.

The kidnapping looked like it would go unsolved until September 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up. Suspicious of the driver who had given it to him, the gas station attendant who had accepted the bill wrote down his license plate number. It was tracked back to a German immigrant, Bruno Hauptmann. When his home was searched, detectives found $13,000 of Lindbergh ransom money.

Hauptmann claimed that a friend had given him the money to hold and that he had no connection to the crime. The resulting trial again was a national sensation. Famous writers Damon Runyan and Walter Winchell covered the trial. The prosecution’s case was not particularly strong. The main evidence, apart from the money, was testimony from handwriting experts that the ransom note had been written by Hauptmann and his connection with the type of wood that was used to make the ladder.

Still, the evidence and intense public pressure was enough to convict Hauptmann. In April 1936 he was executed in the electric chair.

Kidnapping was made a federal crime in the aftermath of this high-profile crime.

Tags
terms:
Crime

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Teddy Roosevelt’s trip to San Francisco is captured on film

On May 12, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt’s trip to San Francisco is captured on moving-picture film, making him one of the first presidents to have an official activity recorded in that medium. READ MORE: 7 Little-Known Legacies of Teddy Roosevelt  A cameraman named H.J. ...read more

Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin

On May 12, 1949, an early crisis of the Cold War comes to an end when the Soviet Union lifts its 11-month blockade against West Berlin. The blockade had been broken by a massive U.S.-British airlift of vital supplies to West Berlin’s two million citizens. At the end of World War ...read more

Race car driver A.J. Foyt gets first pro victory

On May 12, 1957, race car driver A.J. Foyt (1935- ) scores his first professional victory, in a U.S. Automobile Club (USAC) midget car race in Kansas City, Missouri. A tough-as-nails Texan, Anthony Joseph Foyt, Jr. raced midget cars—smaller vehicles designed to be driven in races ...read more

Lyndon B. Johnson visits South Vietnam

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon during his tour of Asian countries. Calling Diem the “Churchill of Asia,” he encouraged the South Vietnamese president to view himself as indispensable to the United States and promised ...read more

Bob Dylan walks out on “The Ed Sullivan Show”

By the end of the summer of 1963, Bob Dylan would be known to millions who watched or witnessed his performances at the March on Washington, and millions more who did not know Dylan himself would know and love his music thanks to Peter, Paul and Mary’s smash-hit cover version of ...read more

Celebrated actress Katharine Hepburn is born

On May 12, 1907, Katharine Hepburn, who due to her performances in such films as The Philadelphia Story and On Golden Pond, will become one of the most celebrated actresses of the 20th century, is born in Hartford, Connecticut. The daughter of New England intellectuals who ...read more

American freighter ship Mayaguez seized by Cambodian navy

The American freighter Mayaguez is captured by communist government forces in Cambodia, setting off an international incident. The U.S. response to the affair indicated that the wounds of the Vietnam War still ran deep. On May 12, 1975, the U.S. freighter Mayaguez and its 39-man ...read more

Americans suffer worst defeat of revolution at Charleston

After a siege that began on April 2, 1780, Americans suffer their worst defeat of the revolution on May 12, 1780, with the unconditional surrender of Major General Benjamin Lincoln to British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton and his army of 10,000 at Charleston, South ...read more