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The Lindbergh Case - The Kidnapping

Charles Lindbergh made headlines around the world when he became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in his airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis. He completed this historic voyage in just two days, landing in France on May 21, 1927. Less than five years later, Lindbergh made the news again when he reported his firstborn child was kidnapped.

Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was born to Lindbergh and the former Anne Morrow on June 22, 1930. On March 1, 1932, when little Charles was just 20 months old and Anne was pregnant with her second child, the Lindberghs’ nurse noticed that her charge was not in his crib where she had left him two hours prior, at 8 PM. Neither Anne nor Lindbergh had little Charles with them, as the nurse quickly ascertained by checking with each of them.

Lindbergh went to his son’s nursery to investigate and found a white envelope lying on the radiator. He then alerted the police and searched the family’s property to see if he could find an intruder or perhaps little Charles himself. The police, as well as assorted members of the press, arrived at the Lindbergh mansion within an hour.

The police discovered a homemade ladder, broken into three sections, and several footprints, in the mud beneath the nursery window, which was located on the home‘s second floor. These clues of a possible kidnapping seemed to be confirmed when officers examined the envelope Lindbergh found in the nursery. The envelope contained a poorly written ransom demand. In exchange for $50,000, the writer promised the couple that little Charles would be safely returned to them, but warned them against notifying the police or media. Adjusting for inflation, this amount would be equal to over $620,000 in the year 2009. A “signature” of two circles and three dots closed the letter, which mentioned that all subsequent correspondence would contain this mark as well.

Several ransom notes followed the first, leading the investigation in different directions. A reporter photographed one note, and copies were sold to the public, who had become very interested in the drama unfolding in the Lindbergh home. Because the identifying mark of circles and dots was now public, the police would have difficulty telling genuine notes from the kidnapper apart from hoaxes. One ransom letter, which appeared to be real, noted that the ransom was doubled to $100,000, which equaled nearly $1.25 million in 2009, due to police involvement.

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