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Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping: How the Mystery Broke America's Heart (FPD CASE VAULT)

The Mystery of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Broke America's Heart
Source: Underwood & Underwood/Corbis

Fearless pilot Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne lost their 20-month-old son Charles Jr. when the baby was kidnapped from his second-floor bedroom and held for $50,000 ransom.

Aug. 12 2023, Published 3:06 p.m. ET

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All-American hero Charles “Lucky Lindy" Lindbergh's baby boy was snatched from his crib on March 1, 1932, launching what is arguably the most famous manhunt of the 20th century.

In the frantic immediate aftermath of the kidnapping at their remote Hopewell, N.J., home, the 30-year-old pilot and his wife Anne discovered a chilling ransom note above a radiator - confirming their worst fears.

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The Mystery of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Broke America's Heart
Source: Everett Collection

Charles Jr. was kidnapped from his second-floor bedroom

Riddled with spelling mistakes and overall bad English, the letter demanded $50,000 in return for 20-month-old Charles Jr. Within an hour, cops swarmed the area looking for any clues that might lead them to the missing tot, who was nowhere to be found.

As time passed, the boy's family was besieged with offers of support from total strangers aghast over the tragedy suffered by the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Mystery of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Broke America's Heart
Source: Alamy; AP Photo

Charles Lindbergh, Jr.; The $50,000 ransom note


Crime experts, politicians, astrologers, handwriting analysts and even jailed mob boss Al Capone got into the act. In the weeks that followed, two more ransom letters arrived.

In April, the case looked like it would come to a successful conclusion when someone provided instructions for delivering the ransom in exchange for information about where the boy could be found. But the lead turned out to be bogus. A month later, America was stunned by the news that the child's body had been found in a shallow grave a few miles from the Lindbergh mansion. His skull was crushed. He'd been murdered the night he disappeared.

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The Mystery of the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Broke America's Heart
Source: Bettmann/CORBIS

A pistol and $860 linked to the Lindbergh case were found in a specially carved wooden plank stashed in Bruno Hauptmann's New Jersey garage; Bruno Hauptmann

Some armchair investigators then theorized Lindbergh himself had killed his son because the boy was mentally disabled. Meanwhile, the hunt for the killer stalled until Sept. 18, 1934, when a marked bill from the ransom turned up at a gas station and led to German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann.

Despite flimsy evidence, the 34-year-old carpenter was convicted. Protesting his innocence, he was executed on April 3, 1936. But many are still convinced Hauptmann was framed.


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