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1) The Lindbergh Kidnapping- “The Biggest Story Since The Resurrection”
The kidnapping and murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., son of aviator Charles Lindbergh occurred in 1932 and was one of the most horrific crimes of its time, prompting the “Lindbergh Law”, which made kidnapping a federal crime. (Prior to, it was classified as a local crime.)
20 month old Charles Lindbergh Jr. went missing from his crib on March 1, 1932. The police were contacted and the investigation led to finding a ladder, fingerprints, and a ransom note. The ladder had 400 partial fingerprints however “were of no value to the investigation due to the surge of media and police that were present within the first 30 minutes to hour after the first call for help”. The note called for $50,000.
One very suspicious detail during the fingerprint process was that not even one fingerprint, not from Mr. and Mrs. Lindbergh, the baby, or the nurse-maid was found. The day after the kidnapping, The Bureau of investigation (not yet the FBI) was authorized to investigate the case. Word of the kidnapping spread, even several organized crime groups were offering assistance for legal favors and money. Al Capone offered his help from jail, saying that if he were released from prison his assistance could be more effective. The proposition was quickly dismissed by police.
New Jersey officials announced a $25,000 reward for the safe return of “Little Lindy” and the Lindbergh family offered an additional $50,000 reward of their own. According to the U.S. Consumer Price Index, the $75,000 total in U.S. currency in 1932 was equivalent to nearly $1.2 million in 2008 when adjusted for inflation.
A second ransom note was sent to the Lindbergh home by mail, but once the kidnappers realized that the police were now involved in the case, the ransom had been doubled to $100,000. John F. Condon, a 72-year-old school teacher in the Bronx, wrote a letter to the Home News proclaiming his willingness to help the Lindbergh case in any way he could. John (Jafsie) Condon placed ads in a Bronx newspaper seeking contact with the kidnappers.
Condon met a man claiming to be one of the kidnappers (a Scandinavian sailor part of a gang of three men and two women) at Woodlawn Cemetery. According to Condon, the man said the Lindbergh child was unharmed and being held on a boat, however they were not ready to hand him over or receive payment yet. Condon expressed his doubt about the man having the baby but the mysterious man told him he would provide proof, delivering the baby’s sleeping suit.
A few days later, Condon received the toddler’s suit in the mail. Lindbergh asserted it was his son’s. Condon put out another ad that said: “Money is ready. No cops. No secret service. I come alone, like last time.”
On April 1, 1932, the kidnappers sent another note saying they were ready to accept payment. Condon met the man at St. Raymond’s Cemetery with $50,000 in gold certificates. The man accepted the money and gave Condon a note saying Charles, Jr., was on a boat along the Massachusetts coast. Although Lindbergh flew over the region for days, he never located the boat in question.
On May12, 1932, a truck driver discovered the remains of the Lindbergh baby in the woods along a road near the Lindbergh home. The body was decomposed, the skull fractured, and it appeared that someone had tried to bury the body.
In 1934, a gas station attendant in the Bronx, N.Y., got suspicious when a motorist paid for gasoline with a gold certificate. He took down the man’s license plate number and notified police. The car belonged to an illegal German immigrant named Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Police found $14,000 of gold certificates in a shoe box in Hauptmann’s house, and arrested him.
Hauptmann had served a three-year prison sentence in Germany for burglary. Hauptmann had fled to the U.S. to avoid another trial on charges of possessing stolen tools. He had recently quit his job as a carpenter, yet was living well, investing in the stock market.
Hauptmann maintained his innocence until the end, even though he was offered life in prison in exchange for a confession. But Hauptmann denied any connection to the crime and said that the money had been left with him by an old business partner Isidor Fisch who had returned to Germany in 1933 and died of tuberculosis.
Some theorists claim the kidnapping must have been an “inside job” involving either a member of the family or a servant. However, a notebook with Mr. Condon’s number and address was found in the shoe box as well as a piece of wood discovered in the attic, determined to be an exact match to the wood used in the construction of the ladder found at the scene of the crime.
2) The Kidnap and Murder of Bobby Greenlease
In September 1953, six-year-old, Bobby Greenlease, son of millionaire car dealer, Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr., was kidnapped from his elite Kansas City prep school, and murdered by Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady, two drug addicted alcoholics. The ransom amount was $600,000- which at that time was the largest amount in US history.
Only half of the money was recovered, allegedly, the remainder was stolen by two corrupt police officers in St. Louis, where Hall and Heady were captured fleeing authorities [source].
In the 1930’s, Hall had attended school with Bobby’s adopted older brother, Paul Robert Greenlease.
Hall had been plotting against the wealthy family since then.
3) The Kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr.
In 1963 Rat Packer Frank Sinatra’s only son was kidnapped from his Lake Tahoe hotel room. Considered one of the most ‘half-baked’ crimes and the second most famous kidnapping in American history- kidnappers Barry Keenan and Joe Amsler (23 year old classmates) knocked on Sinatra’s room door with a wine box filled with pine cones. “I’ve got a package for you” said Keenan, and then quickly he let go of the box, pulled out a revolver and shouted “don’t make any noise, and nobody gets hurt”.
They blindfolded Sinatra and put him in the back of their Impala, driving through a blizzard down the Sierra Nevada’s to a hideout they rented eight hours from Lake Tahoe. Not only was this plan absolutely ludicrous in that Frank Sinatra was one of the most famous entertainers of all time, not to mention his ties with both the government and the mafia- Keenan and Amsler were certainly taking a pretty stupid risk.
Sinatra Jr. was released, safely, two days after the $240,000 ransom was paid. The kidnappers were later prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to short prison terms. They later received grants of parole by the state.
4) Greek Tycoon Held for Ransom
In June of 2008, Greek tycoon Giorgos Mylonas (49), Chairman of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece and head of Greece’s Alumil Aluminum Company was seized at gunpoint from his car outside his home in Thessaloniki, and kidnapped-for-ransom. Police suspect that five people were involved in the abduction- 3 gunmen, one driver and the mastermind behind the operation.
Mylonas was held captive for 13 days, but was not physically harmed. The AFP news agency quoted police saying the ransom sum was of 12 million Euros, though Mylonas claims that only he and his wife know the precise amount.
According to BBC’s Malcolm Brabant “abductions and extortion by criminal gangs occur more frequently than the Greek authorities admit because they are settled quietly and out of the public eye by the payment of a ransom”.
The case received a great deal of media attention spotlight and prompted the tycoon’s family to urge journalists to act with restraint, saying that intense coverage was putting the industrialist’s life at risk.
5) Miami Mother Kidnaps Her Own Son and Threatens With Blowtorch
When Miami mother, Alejandra Arriaza (39) found out that her ex-husband had recently sold his business for a large sum of money, she and her boyfriend, Angel Ponce (37) orchestrated her own kidnapping and that of her 17 year old son, with the help of Ponce’s nephew Joel Boza- as part of a kidnap-for-ransom scheme.
In April of 2009, Arriaza took her son to a South Florida Wal-Mart to buy an iPhone- leaving one of the car doors unlocked, to allow a masked Ponce to hide in the back seat with a fake handgun. When Arriaza and her son returned to the car, Ponce covered the teenager’s eyes with thick tape and ordered Arriaza to drive Ponce’s trailer in the 1600 block of Southwest 127th Court in Miami, where the boy was tied to a chair with shrink wrap and tape.
Ponce called the father and threatened to burn the boy with a blowtorch if he did not dish out $50 000. Arriaza informed her ex-husband that they were burning their son’s feet and implored him to pay the ransom.
The father contacted the police and finally, investigators were able to track the location of the trailer and rescue the boy and, his mother. Not long after Ponce’s arrest, it was quickly discovered that Arriaza was in on the abduction the whole time.
Arriaza, Ponce and Boza face kidnapping charges in federal court in Miami, and a possible life sentence if convicted.