Did Hauptmann Kidnap and Kill the Lindbergh Baby Part 1

About the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping, whether Bruno Hauptmann was guilty of kidnapping and murder, history of the case.

Did Hauptmann Really Kidnap and Kill the Lindbergh Baby?


On the night of Mar. 1, 1932, the infant son of world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped. Although Lindbergh met the ransom demand of $50,000, the child was not returned. Two months after the kidnapping, the decomposed body of a child identified as Lindbergh's son was found partially buried in woods near the Lindbergh home. The police followed thousands of leads with little success until in September, 1934, they arrested 36-year-old Bruno Richard Hauptmann, an illegal German immigrant who had served four years in a German prison on charges of burglary and highway robbery. In July, 1923, Hauptmann had stowed away on a ship bound for New York City. After his arrival in New York he obtained work as a carpenter, for which he had been trained in Germany. Hauptmann had no police record in the U.S.

Although Hauptmann protested his innocence, police had what appeared to be an airtight case against him. They matched his handwriting with that of the ransom notes and discovered nearly $15,000 in Lindbergh ransom money in his garage. Hauptmann said the money had been given to him by his former business partner, Isidor Fisch, who had recently died after his return to Germany. Hauptmann's story was not believed and he was charged with the murder of the Lindbergh child.

During his trail the state proved to the jury's satisfaction that Hauptmann had built the ladder used in the kidnapping and had written the ransom letters. In addition, Lindbergh identified Hauptmann's voice as that of the kidnapper, and several eyewitnesses testified that Hauptmann was the man who had negotiated the payment of the ransom and received the money. Although Hauptmann denied his guilt until the end, he was convicted of first-degree murder on Feb. 13, 1935, and electrocuted on Apr. 3, 1936.


In Scapegoat: The Lonesome Death of Bruno Richard Hauptmann (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1976), Anthony Scaduto provides illustrations of documents not presented during the court case and systematically dismantles the major pieces of evidence used in obtaining Hauptmann's conviction.

Police had matched Hauptmann's writing with that of the ransom notes, but Scaduto reveals that this was done largely on the basis of dictations made at police headquarters. Warning him that his writing would either convict or clear him, police forced Hauptmann to produce dozens of copies of the ransom notes over a 12-hour period. Using these forced writings, experts pointed to similarities between Hauptmann's writing and a few of the letters in the ransom notes, but they were unable to identify any of the numbers as having been written by Hauptmann.

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