The Complex Evidence in the Lindbergh Kidnapping

Governor Harry Moore wrote a letter to Ellis Parker hoping it would convince him to become involved in the investigation into the kidnapping of twenty-month-old Charles Lindbergh Jr. “I want you to know that I will be very glad to have you exercise all of your ability in this connection and if I can facilitate your efforts I will be very glad to do to so.” Parker agreed to the governor’s request though he asked that his involvement not be revealed because “too much publicity has been given to the case by the police, which has retarded its progress.”

Colonel Norman Schwartzkopf, head of the New Jersey State Police, refused to cooperate with Parker’s investigation. In one of the letters sent to update Governor Moore, Parker wrote, “It looks to me as though the State Police do not intend to let any officer outside of their own have any information that might clear up this case as they will not release anything for fear someone else will solve the problem and they are using this method to get them to bring any information to them.”

Shortly after his entry into the case, Ellis Parker discovered a young man named Ben Lupica and after interviewing him he became convinced that the young man had seen the kidnappers.

On his way home from school near dusk on the evening of March 1st, 1932 seventeen-year-old Sebastian (Ben) Lupica saw a black or dark blue 1925 or 1926 Sedan coming towards him on the Wertsville-Stoutsburg Road, not far from the turnoff to the Lindbergh estate. The driver saw him and pulled to his left not his right and Lupica saw two ladders on top of the front seat that extended to the back window. The following morning when he was brought to the Lindbergh house he realized a third section could have fit inside the other two. He told the State Police that he was sure he’d seen the man who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby because the ladders he’d seen in the car were the same ladders he’d seen at the house.

Lupica got a good look at the man in the car and described him as being between 45 and 50 years old with a full, red face. He wore a soft fedora hat, a dark overcoat and was alone in the car, which had an L license plate indicating that it was registered in Mercer County. There were five numbers in the license plate the first one of which Lupica remembered was a two.

Mrs. Henry Conover had also seen the dark colored sedan, solo driver and the ladders across the top of the seat at 3 o’clock near the Wertsville Road. At approximately 6:30 or 7:00 p.m., the Conover family saw a car pull into Featherbed Lane. The condition of the road was so muddy they thought it might have gotten stuck. The Moore family told Parker that at around 8:22 p.m. a car went by and that the headlights looked like they were splashed with mud and were so dim they gave off no reflection. When Ellis Parker asked where the road went, Moore replied: “Up to the Lindbergh place,this road there is absolutely no travel. Lindbergh used the road more than anyone else.” Parker concluded that Moore had seen the same car as Lupica and Conover, and measured the time it would take to get to where the car was seen, which enabled him to deduce that the crime took place around 8 o’clock.

Millard Whited, who would later figure prominently in the conviction of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, told police that 7:10 p.m. on the night of the kidnapping he saw a large brown sedan, apparently a Lincoln enter the driveway to the Lindbergh property. Police said that although Lindbergh was driving his Lincoln that night, he didn’t arrive home until 8:25 p.m.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was born on June 22nd 1930; his mother’s twenty fourth-birthday. “When I first saw it, Anne told her mother-in-law, I thought, “Oh, dear it’s going to look like me dark hair and a nose all over its face.” But then she discovered Charles’ mouth and a cleft in his chin. The baby didn’t seem to like being held, but enjoyed being talked to and was curious and attentive.

After months of searching, Anne and Charles Lindbergh bought a piece of land a few miles from Hopewell in the Sourland Mountains of New Jersey. Princeton was twenty minutes away by car and New York, two hours. It was surrounded by woods, had a fine rolling view and there was a field in front on which to land a plane. While they waited for construction to begin on their new home, they rented a small farmhouse five minutes from Princeton and Charles continued to commute to New York by train. Anne wrote her mother-in-law about how excited she was to have her own home.

By late February 1932 the Lindberghs were not yet settled in their new home in the Sourland Mountains of New Jersey. The house wasn’t completely furnished; there were no curtains or shades on the windows. Although they had been spending weekends at the house for several weeks, the only continuous occupants on the “farm”, as Lindbergh called it, for three or four months had been the butler and housekeeper, Ollie and ElsieWhateley.

Up until the fateful weekend that began on Saturday February 27th, the Lindberghs had never stayed at the Hopewell house longer than a duration that lasted until Monday morning. On the 27th, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the child and Miss Root arrived at the Hopewell house in a car driven by Henry Ellerson, one of the Morrow chauffeurs.

Later that evening Colonel Lindbergh arrived home with his friend and attorney Henry Breckinridge and Breckinridge’s wife, Ada. The baby, Anne, told them was coming down with a cold and had been put to bed at seven o’clock, after she and Elsie Whateley put drops in his nose. Anne Lindbergh made several trips to the nursery that evening to make certain that he was covered.

On Sunday the baby’s cold was getting worse and he was kept in his room nearly all day. That evening the parents went to the Princeton Junction railroad station to bid goodbye to the Breckinridges and Miss Root. Upon arriving back home, they went directly to the nursery where Anne gave the baby milk of magnesia, put drops in his nose and turned off the light.

On Monday morning Charles Lindbergh went to New York, leaving Anne and the baby behind with the Whateleys and telling her not to return to her mother’s house in Englewood because the baby’s cold hadn’t improved. Lindbergh called that night from New York and said that he would not be returning to Hopewell. Anne and Elsie took care of the baby, and then the mother went to her own bedroom, leaving the door leading to the nursery open. “During the night,” she said. “I went in several times to see if the baby was all right.”

The following morning she awoke tired after a night of broken sleep. In the third month of her second pregnancy and with a cold herself she called Englewood and told Betty Gow to come to Hopewell. Betty’s arrival at one-thirty gave Anne the chance to go for a walk. The baby spent most of that day in his room too.

Betty Gow was dark haired and pretty and had come to the United States from her native Scotland looking for a better future. She had worked for a year as a nursemaid for a family in Teaneck, New Jersey, and then moved to Detroit to look up an old boyfriend from Scotland. He was working in the Ford plant and she wondered about marrying him, but he thought of Betty as just another girlfriend and she came back to New Jersey and learned through a friend who worked in the Morrow household that there was a position opening up with the Lindberghs. Charles Lindbergh interviewed her briefly and hired her. Betty came to work for the Lindberghs in February 1931 when little Charlie waseight-months-old.

March 1st, 1932 was bleak and blustery with rain that produced a muddy condition of the soil surrounding the house. The rain stopped early in the evening when a strong wind developed.

Lindbergh had not been expected home because he was scheduled to be the guest speaker at a widely publicized fund raising banquet for New York University and had failed to attend because he “had his dates mixed up.” However, Mrs. Lindbergh had been notified that he was returning to Hopewell, for, in a statement given to Lieutenant John Sweeney of the Newark Police Department, she said, “I stayed at my desk, listening for Colonel Lindbergh, from about seven-thirty to eight twenty-five, looking at my watch all the time.”
At eight twenty-five the sound of a horn was heard, followed by the noise of crunching gravel. Then, through the garage, as was his custom, Lindbergh entered the house, greeted his wife, and then they went upstairs to the bathroom adjoining the nursery. For some unexplained reason they did not look in on their sleeping baby, even though he was sick, and went downstairs for supper.

After they ate they went into the living room and sat by the fire for a short period of time no longer than five minutes, according to Anne. Then they went upstairs to their bedroom where they talked for another ten or fifteen minutes. Colonel Lindbergh bathed, dressed again and told his wife he was going downstairs to read. After he left, Anne drew a bath for herself and then got ready for bed. She discovered that she had left her tooth powder in the baby’s bathroom and walked down the hall to retrieve it, doing so without lighting any lights. She returned to her bedroom and after she brushed her teeth she rang the bell for Elsie Whateley and asked her to fix her some hot lemonade.

Shortly after this Betty came into Anne’s bedroom and asked her if Colonel Lindbergh had taken the baby. Anne didn’t know where her husband was, but it seemed likely that he did have the baby. Betty ran downstairs to speak to Lindbergh and Anne hurried into the baby’s room. As she was coming back into her own room she met her husband and asked him if he had the baby. He didn’t answer her and went into his closet and got his rifle. Anne ran back into the baby’s room again, looked through the bedclothes and the closets, then rushed back into her own bedroom, threw open the window and leaned far out. She heard what sounded like a cry coming from the general direction of the woodpile. Elsie told her it was probably a cat. The mother thought it could have been the wind too.

Charles Lindbergh said: “Mrs. Lindbergh and I finished dinner at approximately 9 o’clock. We went from the dining room to the living room, where I heard a noise, which I attributed to the dropping of something in the kitchen such as a wooden box. Later Lindbergh described what he heard as sounding like an orange crate falling.

Major Initial Report Corporal Joseph A. Wolf, March 1st, 1932

“I then asked Colonel Lindbergh whether he had any suspicions as to who committed the crime or whether he could recall any incident, such as a strange noise or actions of his dog, which was in the house that night. He stated that he had no suspects or was he able to recall anything by which he might be able to fix the time of the crime”

Why did Lindbergh lie about this incident? He obviously thought it important enough to mention to the police later on. But when Corporal Wolf first questioned him no more a couple of hours after hearing the noise he made no mention of it. If, as many have assumed the sound were the sound of the ladder breaking then it certainly would have fixed the time of the kidnapping.
Lindbergh told Ollie Whateley to come upstairs and instructed him to call the Sheriff, then after finding that the phone lines weren’t cut he called Henry Breckinridge in New York and the State Police in Trenton. Lindbergh also left orders for no one to enter the nursery or walk around the house until the police arrived.

That night the baby had been put to bed at the usual time, around 7:30. Betty and Anne put drops in his nose, and then replaced the flannel bandage he was wearing with a flannel nightshirt. An expert seamstress Betty cut and sewed a little short sleeve shirt from old flannelette using blue silko thread. On top of this they put a sleeveless wool shirt, diapers, rubber pants and a Dr. Denton’s one piece-sleeping suit. The women closed and locked the shutters, but couldn’t lock one of them because it was warped.

At 8 o’clock Betty came back into the nursery and found the baby sleeping soundly, and fastened his blanket to the sheet with two large safety pins. After she finished supper she turned on the radio, and after about five minutes had a phone call from her boyfriend, Henry “Red” Johnson, a sailor. They’d had a date that night, but Betty’s unexpected journey to Hopewell had interfered and Red was calling to say that he was sorry he’d missed her and was on his way to his brother’s house in Connecticut.

Betty visited with Elsie until around 10 o’clock when she went upstairs to take the baby to the bathroom. She went into the nursery, walked over to the window, closed it, put on the heater, and then went over to pick up the baby. She waited a few seconds, not hearing him breath and discovered he was missing when she felt all over the bed for him. At first Betty thought that Lindbergh had taken the child and hidden him. Lindbergh was known for playing extreme jokes, which were probably only amusing to him. Betty confirmed an earlier incident that occurred when Marie Cummings was the baby’s nurse. Lindbergh had hidden the baby in a clothes closet for forty minutes, turning the house into an uproar, before the child was discovered.
Lindbergh wasn’t sure whether he’d seen the note on the windowsill upon his first or second visit to the nursery. There had been but five or ten minutes between these visits. In the meantime he had seized his rifle and rushed outside into the darkness of the night to find the baby to pursue the kidnappers, if possible.

There on the windowsill was the note undoubtedly left by the kidnappers. Lindbergh coolly refrained from touching it, and ordered that no one else touch it, fearing obliteration of fingerprints. The note might have contained information about not notifying the police, which, in fact, it did; it might have also said that child had been killed and told them where to find the body. Lindbergh might have put on a pair of gloves and opened it himself without destroying fingerprints and one has to wonder what prevented him from doing what any concerned father might have done.

Ollie Whateley jumped into the car and started for the village to get flashlights; but he met Chief Wolf and Assistant Chief Williamson who told him they had flashlights, and he turned back to the scene of the crime.

Corporal Joseph Wolf, who was the first to question Lindbergh, arrived at 10:55, then Troopers Lewis Bornmann and Nuncio De Gaeteno at 11. Major Charles Schoeffel of the State Police came, as did Captain Lamb and Lieutenant Keaton. It wasn’t until after midnight that fingerprint expert Frank Kelly arrived.

Prior to Kelly’s arrival, at Lindbergh’s direction, Wolf removed the envelope from the windowsill to the mantle with a knife. Kelly opened the envelope with a nail file and dusted the ransom note with powder in a vain attempt to find fingerprints. Kelly examined and tested everything in the nursery for fingerprints even the window that Mrs. Lindbergh and Betty Gow closed together and found none. It was as though someone had wiped the nursery clean between the time of the kidnapping and Kelly’s arrival. Why would a cool, cunning criminal take the time to wash off fingerprints from every inch of the nursery, or wear gloves, not cut the telephone wires shutting off communication from the outside world with the isolated home.

Dear Sir!
Have 50,000$ redy 25,000$ in 20$ bills 15,000$ in 10$ bills and 10,000$ in 5$ bills. After 2-4 days we will inform you were to deliver the Mony.
We warn you for making anyding Public or for notify the polise. The child is in gut care
Indication for all letters are
And 3 hohls

The signature was a peculiar symbol: two interlocking circles drawn in blue ink; each about the size of a quarter; a solid red ball of color within the oval formed by the intersection of circles; and three holes piercing the symbol.
The kidnappers consisted of a party of at least two or more persons. Two members of the party walked on foot to the east side of the Lindbergh house and assembled a three-piece homemade extension ladder. Two sets of fresh footprints were found leading off in a southeast direction. About seventy-five feet from the house the police found a section of the wooden ladder: nearby and still attached to each other were two other sections of the same ladder. A dowel pin and a chisel lay on the ground not far away from the ladder. They searched some of the earth beneath the nursery window and found imprints that could have been made by the base of the ladder. Not a single police officer reported finding mud on the rungs of the ladder, although the muddy footprints of the man who climbed it were found, in varying numbers, within the nursery and outside the house. Corporal Wolf also surmised that the kidnappers arrived in a car, which was left parked some distance from the house either in Lindbergh’s private lane or on Featherbed Lane.

The rungs of the ladder were unusually far apart; nineteen inches, not the usual twelve inches. The upright of the bottom section, near the dowel pin had broken and split. The last thing they found was bucks brothers chisel with a inch and a wooden handle.