New Jersey’s Lindbergh Kidnapping and Trial by Falzini & Davidson. A must for all who are interested in the Lindbergh kidnapping case and, for those who have doubts about Bruno Hauptmann’s involvement. This books is not a written story. Instead, it is a photographic diary that takes you through the crime, the investigation, the trial, the verdict, and the execution.
The first time that I heard about the Lindbergh kidnapping was in 1974 when I saw the movie “Murder on the Orient Express” with Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot. For those not familiar with that movie: Poirot is returning from Istanbul to England. He meets his friend Bianchi on the train. Shortly after departure, Ratchett tries to hire Poirot for protection. He has received death threats. Poirot turns him down.
That night, heavy snow falls and the train gets stuck. The next morning, Ratchett is found stabbed to death in his cabin. Poirot discovers that Ratchett is really Cassetti, a gangster who planned and carried out the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping. Daisy was the infant daughter of a British Colonel. The kidnappers demanded ransom to be paid in exchange for the infant but after the ransom was delivered, they killed the baby. A nanny called Paulette was wrongfully suspected of an insider job. She committed suicide.
Casetti’s accomplice was arrested and executed. Only shortly before the execution, it became known that Cassetti was the mastermind behind the crime.
My interest in the Lindbergh kidnapping then shifted to the Hauptmann execution as doubt remains to this day about his involvement. I too suspect an insider job and if you browse the book you can see on pages 27-28 why. Underneath the nursery’s window you will see a suitcase on a window-box. To climb over that window-box and suitcase while holding a baby, then turn inside the window sill to descend the ladder, is not exactly an easy task. It would make more sense to lean over the window-box and then hand the baby over to whoever was on the ladder outside.
“Erastus Mead Hudson was a fingerprint expert who knew the then-rare silver nitrate process of collecting fingerprints off wood and other surfaces on which the previous powder method could not detect fingerprints. He found that Hauptmann’s fingerprints were not on the wood, even in places that the man who made the ladder would have had to touch. Upon reporting this to a police officer and stating that they must look further, the officer said, “Good God, don’t tell us that, Doctor!” The ladder was then washed of all fingerprints, and Schwarzkopf [superintendent of the New Jersey State Police] refused to make it public that Hauptmann’s prints were not on the ladder.” The book shows you photographs of the ladder and the difficulties with the type of ladder during re-enactments on page 31.
The baby’s decomposing body was eventually found after 73 days. “The child’s body was face downward, covered with leaves and insects. It was little more than a skeleton, the outline of a form in a dark, murky heap of rotting vegetation. The left leg was missing from the knee down, as were the left hand and right arm. Most of its organs were gone, scavenged by the animal life dwelling in the wooded area. It had decomposed so completely that it was not possible at first to determine whether it was a boy or a girl. The cause of death was a massive fracture of the skull. The tiny body had been left to the elements for two to three months. Less than twenty-four hours later, and an hour after it had been identified as Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. by his nurse and father, the body was cremated.”
Basically, the autopsy provided no clues, except information in the remains of the baby’s clothes, the number of teeth, and his uniquely crossed little toes. Photographs are on pages 54 and 58. Caution: the photograph on page 58 shows the decomposed remains of the baby.
The book also shows us Isidor Fisch on page 74 who Hauptmann claimed was the owner of the incriminating evidence against him. Fisch applied for a passport on May 12, 1932, the day that the Lindbergh baby was found dead. On Dec 9, 1933, Fisch sailed to Germany after the ransom money was paid. He had paid for his ticket with $420 worth of gold certificates purportedly lent by Hauptmann. He had also purchased, with Hauptmann’s money, $600 worth of German currency. Fisch was never successfully tied to the crime but for some, his behaviour and travel plans were reason why they doubt that Hauptmann was solely responsible.
The book further shows fascinating materials and pictures of the key players. It shows a confident Hauptmann during his trial and a brilliant drawing of a broken Hauptmann shortly before his execution. The book will not solve the crime however, it gives you an insight in the time, the trial, the mood, the circus around Hauptmann’s execution, and the public’s interest by use of unique photographs. All the main characters are there as well as the Lindbergh staff, the police officers involved, the court, the jury, and the media. Especially interesting are the photographs of the search of the Hauptmann premises on page 73 since I had never seen those before.
For more information visit http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/lindbergh/ and check where you can meet the authors for book signings! If you are interested in the Lindbergh kidnapping than this book belongs in your collection.
I received a free copy of this book through the publisher in exchange for an honest review.