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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eyes on the street broke historic abduction case

On May 22, 1927, aviator Charles Lindbergh, 25, flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop and landed in Paris, thereby inspiring a cult following unique in American history. The Lindbergh family lived quietly in central New Jersey. One evening, Charles Jr., their twenty-month-old baby, was stolen from his crib. The police were called and an intensive search for the kidnapper began. The New Jersey State Police, led by Colonel Norman Schwarzkopf, father of the Gulf War general, directed the search. The kidnapper contacted the family asking for payment of a $50,000 ransom.

Investigators recorded the serial numbers of the ransom money before the meeting. But the Lindbergh baby was not recovered. He was found dead on May 12, 1932, less than four miles from home. The case became an international sensation with massive media coverage continuing for years.

It was not until September 1934, when a vigilant gas station attendant received a 10-dollar bill that gave investigators a break in the case. When the attendant compared the bill to a police bulletin listing the serial numbers of the ransom money, it was a match. He noted the plate number of the vehicle reporting it to the police. It was learned that the car was registered to a Bruno Richard Hauptmann, 35, an illegal German immigrant who lived in the Bronx. Police immediately arrested Hauptmann. A search was conducted of his home where nearly $15,000 of the ransom money was found. Hauptmann was convicted of kidnapping and murder. He was executed at New Jersey State Prison in 1936.

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