The Lindbergh kidnapping involved the abduction of the son of world famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, Jr. Charles Lindbergh III was born on 22 June 1930 and kidnapped from his home on 1 March 1932. The kidnapping was the biggest story at the time, and the events surrounding the kidnapping and ransom demands were shambolic to say the least.
Many books and articles have been written regarding who was behind the Lindbergh kidnapping. Speculations over the real culprit have been rife. Although two ransom demands were paid, only one man was ever convicted and sentenced to murder. Bruno Hauptmann was executed on 3 April 1936 for the kidnapping and murder of the toddler.
Bruno Hauptmann never changed his plea of not guilty to the murder of the child. He was offered a last minute change of sentence to life imprisonment to confess to the murder, but refused. He was also offered $90,000 US dollars (USD) to confess by a newspaper. This was a huge sum at the time, which could have been used to take care of Hauptmann’s wife and child after his death, but Hauptmann would not change his plea and claimed he would not plead guilty to a crime he had not committed.
Evidence linking Hauptmann to a large portion of the ransom demand was valid, but the evidence as to whether or not he had any part in the Lindbergh kidnapping or murder was shaky to say the least. One of the witnesses who claimed Hauptmann had been at the ransom point was declared legally blind at the time. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents regarding the case that were declassified in 1990 have since been reviewed, and many experts claim that the court case was a blatant frame up.
There was also no real proof that the baby found dead in a wooded area was the Lindbergh baby. The baby’s doctor at the time said the body was so badly decomposed that he could not identify it. The only other piece of evidence linking Hauptmann to the Lindbergh kidnapping was the homemade ladder found outside the Lindbergh’s child’s window. Evidence at the time of the Lindbergh kidnapping showed that the ladder was made from the same wood found in Hauptmann's attic, but in 1985, a book by Ludvic Kennedy called The Airman and the Carpenter stated that the wood in the attic was a different thickness from the ladder.
The truth as to who was behind the Lindbergh kidnapping may never come to light. Many people were involved in the case at the time, including the New York underworld. While pursuing the possibility of an inside job, investigators questioned the Lindbergh’s housekeeper, Violet Sharpe. Sharpe lied about her whereabouts on the night of the kidnapping and eventually committed suicide.
The Lindbergh kidnapping was a case full of red herrings, false leads, and unreliable witnesses. It was also a media farce in which copies of the leaked ransom note were sold on the streets of New York for $5 USD. Until her death in 1994, Hauptmann’s widow professed her husband’s innocence.