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The Lindbergh Case - Trial and Aftermath
Bruno Hauptmann was a 32-year-old German man who had illegally entered the United States as a stowaway on a ship nearly nine years before the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped. Hauptmann had a criminal record in his native Germany for robbery and burglary.
After Hauptmannís arrest in 1932, John F. Condon tentatively identified him as ďJohn,Ē the man to whom he had given ransom money for young Charles Lindbergh. Police also found $14,590 of the Lindbergh ransom money in Hauptmannís garage. Other evidence that seemed to tie Hauptmann to the case soon emerged.
The ladder found at the Lindbergh mansion was an important piece of evidence in the case. Investigators learned that during one of the robberies Hauptmann committed in Germany, he access the home by using a ladder. Wood technologist Arthur Koehler also identified one of the rungs of the Lindbergh ladder as being made of wood taken from Hauptmannís attic. Investigators also located a drawing of a ladder in Hauptmannís home.
Along with Condonís identification, other evidence existed tying Hauptmann to Condon. Inside a closet in Hauptmannís home, Condonís address and telephone number were written. The placement of Condonís contact information seemed to be an effort to conceal the fact the Hauptmann had it; otherwise, police surmised, he would have written it on paper.
Handwriting experts from the FBI compared known samples of Hauptmannís writing with the Lindbergh ransom notes. They found several points of similarity, including the written words ďdid,Ē ďourĒ and ďnot.Ē Other handwriting experts who studied the notes prior to Hauptmannís arrest agreed that the same person, someone of German heritage who had spent some time in the US-like Hauptmann-wrote the notes.
During the trial, Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence. He stated the box containing the Lindbergh ransom money was left in his garage by his friend Isidor Fisch, a fellow German who had returned to that country in 1933 and died there the following year. The defense argued that the case against Hauptmann was merely circumstantial.
Despite the defense arguments, the jury found Hauptmann guilty of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to death. The entire trial took just one month and ten days. After unsuccessful attempts to appeal the verdict or obtain clemency, Hauptmann was executed in the electric chair on April 3, 1936, at the age of 36 years old.
Over the years since Hauptmannís execution, doubts about his guilt have emerged. Some say evidence of Hauptmannís involvement was fabricated, while others also allege that evidence pointing to his innocence was covered up. Other suspects named as the possible killer include Lindberghís brother-in-law Dwight Morrow, Jr., Hauptmannís friend Isidor Fisch and Paul H. Wendel, a former attorney whose name was signed to a confession letter. Hauptmannís widow Anna fought to clear her late husbandís name until her own death in 1994, but never succeeded in having the case reexamined.
Content copyright © 2014 by Donna Johnson. All rights reserved.
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