Did Hauptmann really kidnap the Lindbergh baby?

From what I’ve heard of the case, I’ve always thought that he did. Is there any real evidence to suggest either that he didn’t or that someone else did? I also thought that the baby might have died in the fall, and was not actually “murdered.” What was the evidence on that? If it was an accidental, even though it took place during a kidnapping, the death penalty seems a little extreme.

There are good cases to be made both for and against Hauptmann’s involvement. I’m on the fence, myself, though I believe that at the least, he had knowledge.

That said, given that he was convicted, the death of anybody during the commission of a felony is murder, and the death penalty was appropriate given the laws and mores of the time.

I’ve always thought that the amount of time it took to find the baby’s body was odd. The cemetary where it was found had been searched repeatedly. How could it have been overlooked? Was Hauptmann the actual kidnapper, or merely a con artist, trying to pick up dough? The fellow who arranged the ransom in the first place was pretty shady, & cops of that (or any other) era were occassionally ready to “tweak” the evidence to make it fit. A rush to judgement & a trial in the Media adds to the likelyhood of that.

Years ago i read Ludovic Kennedy’s The Airman and the Carpenter and ever since I have assumed that Hauptmann’s story was the truth and that he was just a scapegoat.

His last letter to the governor and last statement befor execution were convincing:

Your Excellence:
My writing is not for fear of losing my life, this is in the hands of God, it is His will. I will go gladly, it means the end of my tremendous suffering. Only in thinking of my wife and my little boy, that is breaking my heart. I know until this terrible crime is solvet, they will have to suffer unter the weight of my unfair conviction.
I beg you, Attorney General, believe at least a dying man. Please investigate, because the case is not solvet, it only adds another death to the Lindbergh case.
I thank your Excellence, from the bottom of my heart, and may God bless you,
Bruno Richard Hauptmann

I am glad that my life in a world which has not understood me has ended. Soon I will be at home with my Lord, so I am dying an innocent man. Should, however, my death serve for the purpose of abolishing capital punishment—such a punishment being arrived at only by circumstantial evidence—I feel that my death has not been in vain. I am at peace with God. I repeat, I protest my innocence of the crime for which I was convicted. However, I die with no malice or hatred in my heart. The love of Christ has filled my soul and I am happy in Him.

His story about the cash was very fishy. I have little doubt he was *involved, * but he might not have been the actual kidnapper.

I guess you mean Isidor Fischy.

Given the tenor of this thead so far, I don’t think the OP has a specific answer.

Moved from GQ to GD.

The body wasn’t found in a cemetary. It was found in a wooded area about two miles from the home by a truck driver taking a leak. It’s surprising the body was ever found.

IIRC from a Lindbergh bio I read a couple of years ago, the evidence against him was (and help me out here, folks):

  1. The ransom cash, identified by serial numbers, was found in his garage, less an amount that matched what he was shown to have spent on household goods in the meanwhile. He was unemployed, however.
  2. One leg of the handmade ladder found at the scene exactly matched, by species, grain and nail hole pattern, a missing section of board cut from his garage floor.
  3. The chisel found at the scene matched the only empty spot in his carpenter’s toolkit.
  4. The ransom note matched his odd handwriting and characteristic misspellings.
  5. The initials and phone number of an intermediary who had volunteered to help the Lindberghs were written on his wall. The 2 men had never met.
  6. His voice matched the voice on the phone that Lindbergh and the intermediary were called by to arrange the ransom dropoff.
    I think there was more, but that should be enough.

Against that, we have his own and his wife’s insistence of innocence, unfortunately not backed by any exculpatory evidence whatsoever. His wife didn’t even know his real first name, much less have an alibi for him.

The question ought to be why so many people were and are convinced of his innocence.

My take from reading various sources on the case (including “The Airman and the Carpenter”) is that Hauptmann was involved in the kidnapping and that he was framed for it by a sleazy prosecution. A lot of people have seemingly decided that since the prosecution used faulty/improper means to help gain a conviction, he must be innocent, which does not follow from the untainted evidence (including passing kidnap money and having a phone number for a ransom go-between scrawled in his closet, which he unconvincingly tried to explain away as something he must have accidentally written there while reading a newspaper account of the case).

As to his letter to the governor, it is sad - but it is not at all unusual for convicted felons to make appeals based on the idea that “the guilty man is still out there”.

The Lindbergh baby wasn’t found in a cemetery. His body was found in a wooded area off the side of the road 4.5 miles from the Lindbergh home.

Hauptmann was caught after he bought gas and paid with a gold certificate, one of the ransom bills whose serial numbers had been published. Over $14,000 of the ransom money was found hidden between the wall joists of Hauptmann’s garage. (Hauptmann claimed it was left to him by a business partner.)

An array of handwriting experts testified for the prosecution that the handwriting in the ransom notes and in Hauptmann’s handwriting matched. The defense presented only two handwriting experts who testified (weakly) to the contrary.

Some of the lumber used in constructing the kidnapper’s ladder found outside the Lindbergh home was an exact match of lumber missing from a rafter in Hauptmann’s attic. Not only in the type and size and grain, but the cut edges and nail holes aligned.

The death penalty argument made by the prosecution in the Hauptman case was both tortured and ingenious. The state couldn’t really prove intent, since there appeared to be a broken rung on the ladder and it’s entirely possible, maybe even probable, that the baby died in an accidental fall. So instead of intentional murder, the state argued under the “felony murder” doctrine, saying that the death, even if accidental, happened during the commission of a felony. The problem was that New Jersey was a common law state, and kidnapping was a misdemeanor at common law. The Lindbergh case was actually the event that caused most states to reclassify kidnapping as a statutory felony.

So, the state instead tried Hauptman for felony murder committed during burglary, the burglary being…the theft of the baby’s pajamas, which the baby just happened to be wearing. Seriously. The defense argued on appeal that there was no showing of an intent to burglarize pajamas, and that there was no intention to permanenetly deprive the owners of the property, since the pajamas were mailed back to the Lindberghs with a ransom note. Neither argument worked, and Hauptman was executed for accidentally killing a baby while stealing its clothes.

Was Hauptmann Guilty?

From what I’ve read by FBI profile John Douglas and other writers on the subject, there is no way Hauptmann could have pulled this off alone. If he was the one who was the literal kidnapper, there were still people out there who needed to be prosecuted. However, there is also a chance he was framed by the actual kidnappers that he probably knew. Here is what I know and believe (correct me if I’m wrong I don’t mean to consider myself an authority):

  1. There seems to be little doubt that the board used for the ladder came from Hauptmann’s attic. It would be very difficult to fabricate this part of the evidence. It would have meant police would have had to rebuild the actual latter using boards from Hauptmann’s attic without anyone noticing or caring. So we have to ask, “who had access to that attic besides Hauptmann”

  2. Handwriting analysis are not the best way to completely decide one’s guilt. As you go back in time, the tests only get flimsier.

  3. It is very condemning that Hauptmann had 1/3 of the ransom and then lied about knowing it was there, especially since he spent some of it. But think about what you would do if you had possession of ransom money. You’d probably launder it because everyone knows its going to be marked. Sell it some other guy for a slightly lesser price maybe? The rest of the money was never recovered, btw.

  4. They never did find intruder finger prints in the nursery, but there were fingerprints on the ladder. It seems unlikely someone would keep putting on and taking off their gloves. Also, from the dynamics of the building it seems unlikely that one man could climb in a window take a baby and then climb back out with the baby. It has been commonly suggested someone from inside handed off the baby…someone such as a maid?

  5. The kidnappers knew that the Lindberghs would be staying an extra day at Hopewell. The only people who knew this were the Lindberghs and their staff. This also points towards it being a semi-insider job. There was the one made, Violet I think it was that changed her alibi a few times (saying she couldn’t remember the name of her date nor the movie she saw) and eventually committed suicide during the investigation.

  6. A journalist later admitted to planting the phone number of “jafsie” on the inside of Hauptmann’s closet.

  7. Hauptmann was not recognized by “Jafsie” or Lindbergh who both saw “cemetary john” in person… so who was cemetary john???

I personally find this case to be one of the most fascinating in history. Right up there with Jack the Ripper and JonBenet. If anyone knows anything else they would like to share either for or against the guilt of Hauptmann, let me know!

I was in junior high, now middle school, at the time of the trial. I think the evidence is that Hauptman was guilty of the kidnapping. Whether he acted alone or with an accomplice or two isn’t clear. However I certainly don’t see a death penalty justification. With anyone’s child but Lindberg’s there would have been no possibility of a death sentence.

If the crime had occurred just prior to our entry into WWII when Lindberg was under a big cloud the result would have been quite different.

Do we actually have the journalist on record as admitting this? Or is this allegation second-hand, i.e., hearsay, which would not be admissible then or now?

In any case, the issue is inconsequential. Whether Hauptmann wrote Dr. Condon’s telephone number or not, he repeatedly admitted that he wrote Dr. Condon’s address in the same place.

In addition to the above, Hauptmann had a long criminal history in his native Germany, including if I recall correctly, previous kidnappings.

No allegations of kidnapping in Hauptmann’s past. From Crime Laboratory:

I remember many years ago a tv show that put forth the theory that Lindberg killed the baby accidentally, and someone from his household knew Hauptmann and framed him. The y went to his house and retrieved his ladder then planted some money in his house.

sounds pretty far-fetched, but they sure made it sound plausible. It was probably on Fox.

But Hauptmann never claimed the ransom money was planted. He said it was given to him by a business associate.