The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax
Who Helped Hauptmann
by Edward Dean Sullivan Inside Detective Magazine May 1935
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This complete vintage article was retyped and contributed to the LKH Forum
by Philip Migliore
photos on this page are from the collection of Sam Bornstein
Hauptmann's Arrest Record & Fingerprints (pdf)
A brilliant writer on crime subjects, Mr. Sullivan is widely known as the author of Rattling the Cup on Chicago Crime, The Snatch Racket and Chicago Surrenders. In this penetrating article on the Hauptmann trial he brings out vital points which have never before been published.
In his death cell in the state prison at Trenton, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, sentenced to die for the slaying of the infant Charles A Lindbergh Jr has had ample time for bitter introspection. Frantically questing for a new trial, awed by the tremendous cost of a transcript of 1,300,000 words of court record which is required for an appeal,
he must at some time have remembered thirty three of those words which he wishes he might never see or hear again. Eight of the words especially, for they are what made him what he is today --Convict NO. 17,400 under sentence of death.
When Attorney General David T. Wilentz of New Jersey was concluding his brilliant summation of that adroit and unusual prosecution which sent Hauptmann headlong toward his doom, he lapsed for a moment into the vernacular of the streets.
He paused in his notably literate address, looked directly at the jury of Hauptmann's peers, and said: "WE GOT THE FELLA THAT GOT THE DOUGH!"
THE CONSCIENTIOUS JUROURS WERE ONLY TOO EAGER TO FIX UPON ONE FACT IN THIS perplexing case that they could believe beyond a reasonable doubt. They were positive Mr. Wilentz spoke the truth . Likewise observers were the unsummonded jury of 120,000,000 Americans intently following every move in the tiny Flemington courthouse.
Hauptmann got the money; if not all, nearly all.
In most debates a pass into the vernacular is not only a natural practice, but an orator's trick as well, in stating the very essence of contention, the incontrovertible fact. And here was a fact that Mr. Wilentz had proved conclusively. With those eight democratic words uttered and absorbed, the fiery prosecutor presently washed his oratorical hands of the case with this "I've done by duty. You must do yours. You must find this man guilty of murder in the first degree if he participated in this crime. Participated! It doesn't matter if fifty of sixty assisted him in the crime."
There may have been more important words uttered in the effort to send Hauptmann to his death, but intense study of the entire evidence does not reveal them. Even Justice Trenchard's charge, objected to in thirty specific items as a whole by the defense, provided no such direction for the jurors as the impressive fact that Hauptmann had that money, and the inference that anyone involved in any way in this plot was guilty of murder.
Even then, with
all but $1429 of the ransom accounted for through Hauptmann; with the best
handwriting experts of the country positively asserting that he wrote all the
ransom notes; with his identification both as the man who took the $50,000 and
the man who sent the slain infant's sleeping suit to Dr Condon,
and a note which matched the ransom notes to the Condon home; with Condon's telephone number Hauptmann's writing on Hauptmann's wall,
and with the foremost wood expert in the world asserting that the ladder was in part constructed out of a board taken from the Hauptmann attic--with all of this, summed up by the rare ability and eloquence of Wilentz, the jury remained out for eleven hours and twenty-three minutes!
The gist of the statements made by jurors since the trial is that a finding of guilty with a recommendation assuring a life sentence could have had within ten minutes after the jury deliberations began.
There was no question about Hauptmann's participation in this crime, so far as the jury was concerned. But since they were hearing evidence on a charge that Hauptmann, alone, had entered a house intent on burglary and had killed a child in the commission of that felony, they were loath to fix the supreme penalty upon him in view of the somewhat questionable evidence regarding his actual presence near the Lindbergh home, or in the Sourland area, or even in New Jersey. That Hauptmann could, alone, choose the right time go to the right window and steal the child without interrupting,
was a baffling premise.
But even eleven hours of argument, coupled with the nature of the crime and the certainty of Hauptmann's financial participation s resulted in the sentence of death for "Public Enemy No. 1 of the World" in the
"Crime of the Century".
The fact is that this group of peers felt that Hauptmann had accomplices, or an accomplice. What that accomplice or those accomplices actually did, will be hard to learn unless Hauptmann confesses.
There is a world curiosity on the subject and it is violating no specific confidence to say that this curiosity expended not only into the ranks of the prosecution. but into the defense forces as well
No well-informed person who covered Hauptmann's Trial for the press, or who has any first hand knowledge of intangible elements surrounding actual provable facts in the case believes that Hauptmann accomplished his infamous crime entirely unaided.
For twenty five years I have covered criminal cases and trials as a newspaperman in New York, Chicago and Boston. Nothing is more obvious that the fact that some of the most vital clues to the trend of a case or its solution, so far as common sense in concerned, never reach the ears of a jury. In this case those who had Hauptmann's fate to decide obviously had doubt's only about whether the German machine gunner had slain the Lindbergh baby single handed. And that's what they were judging him on, properly speaking.
Surely they would have suffered further qualms had they heard Hauptmann, following what he knew to be a masterful arraignment of him by Wilentz and what he believed to be an unfair charge to the jury by Justice Trenchard. Sweating fuming in his cell while awaiting the return of the verdict. Hauptmann was beside himself with hate and fear. He mumbled futile threats and abuse. Suddenly he whined:
"Well I won't go alone."
That was ll. But it was a lot, coming from that tight jaw!
Some thought he meant his wife and child would follow him in death.
In his mood such a statement would have been ridiculous. Further, Hauptmann realized that his tired helpmate, Annie, had heard much in that trial that no one but sworn and believable witnesses could have proved to her. Aside from his romantic interest, it is quite likely that one of the most likely considerations she had ever received from this man, in the matter of gifts or money, took on the aspect of weak virtue indeed when she learned of the fortune he had had, even as she heard the chain of evidence connecting him with a terrible crime.
What was her own reaction to the evidence piled up against this steel man whom she had thought she knew? It took nothing short of a sentence of death to put this hard working patient and easily deceived wife on a basis of equality, so that she could ask demands. When she went to see him in the Flemington Jail the moment she could get permission after he had been sentenced they were ostensibly left alone-- but what she had to say was plainly heard:
"Richard, do you want to say anything to clear your soul? Were you there, Richard? Do you know the others? Did you do this?
Hauptmann looked about cautiously, then at her coldly and intently:
"Anna,, he said in metallic voice, "I have nothing to tell I have told the truth"
He was Annoyed......
If Hauptmann confesses it will not be to his patient Anna Nor will he in my opinion, ever confess for a reason I will set forth. During his trial when he was apparently greatly upset about the fate of his wife and child, Hauptmann was offered $75000 to make a full confession for a newspaper organization further during the trial the prosecution attorney were repeatedly called upon to deny a persistent rumor that he had been offered a life sentence if he would confess his crime and name his accomplices In both instances he almost regretted his profound innocence according to himself.
Let's theorize on why there is no percentage in Hauptmann confessing anyway after many years of criminal investigation observation of criminals and familiarity with major kidnaping cases, I am completely convinced that Hauptmann was the complete boss of the crime.
The egotist is not the underling in any mob. He is the master plotter. He wrote the kidnap notes and retained the bulk of the money. In criminal circles persons of Hauptmann's type are killed off like flies. If you're a know it all in a gang, you either it's leader or a corpse, very shortly. So if Hauptmann named anyone, it would merely be an aide in a plot which he himself directed. That would not help Haputmann.
Said Wilentz , flaying Hauptmann"
"He's stronger than that than all of us here, put together. He's the ego of egos. He's the all-powerful. He's steel from the heart out. He's bossed the State lawyers, as he has his own defense lawyers. I tell you he's strong and vile."
Furthermore he is alley - smart if ever I saw a criminal who was. Don't ever imagine that he would have written those notes in his topsy turvy spelling and trick expressions if his accomplices were not either more uneducated that himself, or--and this is important--did not fully understand the deed in which they were taking part.
It is entirely possible that someone aided Hauptmann with out realizing it But he also had the active aid of at least one person. At least one aide had to know that Hauptmann wanted to get into the Lindberg house.
Of course, Edward J Reilly, Chief of the defense forces propelled theories which would make this case a rival of the fated tomb of Tu Ankh Amen in the matter of death by contact. Ollie Whateley, the late butler of the Lindbergh home, Violet Sharpe, former servant at the Morrow home, and Isidore Fisch, who went home to Germany to die- all were grist to the mill of an orator who started without a leg to stand on and fought gamely in the face of overwhelming odds
Reilly did say something of genuine interest and here it is "Now is it possible for any man I do not care who he is seventy five to one hundred miles from Hopewell, to know everything about Col. Lindbergh's home"? He mounts that ladder until he was thirty six inches below this window sill He put back two shutters with a gale blowing.
This man has to take himself by his two hands reaching three feet gripping the window sill and with no knowledge of what may be inside and any fool would know that a Col. in the US Army would have a gun somewhere around to put a bullet into your heart but nevertheless he pulls himself up and gets into such a position that he can shove the window up.
He is now five feet from that rickety old ladder yet he sees himself into a dark room about which his is entirely uniformed crosses the room to a crib he had never seen in his life and then swings himself out of the window with a twenty five to thirty pound baby in his arms swings himself in the darkness to the top rung of that ladder three feet below the window shelf is able to turn with the child in his arms and come down that rickety old ladder alone. There was a dog there, but he did not bark.
You may be sure Reilly's discussion of that performance coupled with the fact that none of the five hundred fingerprints found on the ladder was Hauptmann's contributed to the long and argumentative delay preceding his conviction. If Hauptmann ever worked with an active accomplice and I am absolutely sure he did - he needed one that night.
He had an aide either at the top of that ladder or at the bottom of it. That ladder was a weak reed indeed to be out in a gale with alone on the night of tremendous and ghastly adventure.
From the outset of the Lindbergh tragedy both rumor and actual evidence put accomplices with the near Bruno Richard Hauptmann in the hideous developments which have brought him to his present plight.
When DR. J.F. Condon made a preliminary rendezvous with the kidnaper at Woodlawn Cemetery,
prior to the payment of ransom he took with him his friend Al Reich, a one time pugilist. Reich remained waiting in his car while Condon a pretty game old coot walked on the actual point of meeting while his conference with the abductor was in progress a second conspirator took up a position halfway between the car and the conference and looked nervously from one point to the other, but never elsewhere Obviously he was a lookout.
In this entire case one of the strongest elements in securing a conviction was confidence in the integrity of Col. Lindbergh and members of his family. So there is not escaping Col. Lindbergh's testimony before the Bronx County Grand Jury, following the ransom payment, regarding an accomplice of the kidnaper who conferred with Condon on the night that the ransom money was passed.
District Attorney Foley of the Bronx questioning him said there has been talk in the papers in fact very often all kinds of stories one of the which a grand juror refers to.
Did you see anyone with a handkerchief which was dropped on the occasion of paying over the ransom money? To which Col. Lindbergh replied:
Yes I did. Shortly after I parked the car in front of the florist shop Dr Condon got out and found the note under a stone near the table in front of the flower shop according to the direction in the previous notes.
He returned to the car with that note and as he was reading it a man walked by the car coming from the direction in which the car was pointed as he passed the car or during the time he was near enough to be seen clearly he covered part of his face with a handkerchief and looked first at Dr Condon and then inside the car at me.
Then he went on walking down before Dr Condon returned from having made the payment this same man came running on the other side of the street on the cemetery side. He stopped or paused when he reached Whitmore street looking first back at the car and then in all directions.
Then he walked rapidly passed the car again this time on the opposite side of the street going in the opposite direction He covered his face with his handkerchief; but on passing blew his nose very loudly and threw the handkerchief with a quick gesture into an open lot
A juror asked:
Was that the man that got the money
Mr. Foley replies:
This man was there only to watch
The persistent juror asked:
I mean the position of this man was different from that of the man in the cemetery.
Mr. Foley turned to Col. Lindbergh
This man was outside the cemetery?
and Col. Lindbergh said:
Incidentally that thrown handkerchief was found and
analyzed and revealed that it's owner suffered from sinus trouble. Hauptmann is
not so afflicted.
In commenting on this man before the grand jury Col. Lindbergh said: I feel sure he was one of the actual group of kidnapers or connected with them Then a little later he added I also heard a voice from the cemetery calling Dr. Condon's name. Further questioning brought out the fact that the voice in the cemetery was a distinctly foreign voice and that the Col. felt sure that he could recognize an identical voice if he were to hear it.
"It would be very difficulty for me to sit here and say that I could pick a man by that voice,"
he added at the trial. However, having heard Bruno Richard Hauptmann call "Hey Doctor," Col. Lindbergh became certain that Hauptmann was the very man who had called. But in the anxiety of the prosecution not to confuse the issue there was no mention or inquiry regarding the man with the handkerchief. If it could have been Hauptmann, why not add it to the testimony against him? If it was not Hauptmann, why not say so?
In addition to the foregoing evidence showing that Hauptmann had accomplices the Department of Justice has a definite and permanent indication that there was an Italian aide early in the case. A telephone conversation between Condon and Hauptmann was recorded on a phonograph disc by federal operatives. Jafsie asked Hauptmann exactly who ... (rest coming soon!)
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