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The Polygraph in the Lindbergh Case - Page 1 of 3


The Polygraph in the Lindbergh Case
By Jim Fisher

On March 2, 1932, the twenty-month-old son of Charles A. Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone, was snatched from his home near Hopewell, New Jersey. The New Jersey State Police, under the command of Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, quickly discovered a three-piece, homemade extension ladder used by the kidnapper to gain entry through the nursery window. The ladder and a ransom note bearing a symbol of interlocking circles as a signature comprised the key crime scene clues.

During the next few weeks, the Lindberghs received a series of ransom notes bearing this symbol. A month after the kidnapping, the Lindbergh intermediary, John F. Condon, a retired 72-year-old school teacher from the Bronx, paid the $50,000 ransom to a man who called himself John. The pay-off was made at night in a cemetery in the Bronx. Despite the pay-off, the baby was not returned.

On May 12, ten weeks after the kidnapping, the partially decomposed body of a child, identified as the Lindbergh baby, was found in a wooded area about two miles from the Lindbergh Estate.

From the start, Colonel Schwarzkopf and his men were faced with problems that made progress in the case very difficult. When word got out that Colonel Lindbergh's son had been kidnapped, an army of reporters, cameramen, sightseers, and local police descended upon the scene destroying any physical evidence that might have been left behind.

Prior to the arrival of these unwanted people, the state police had taken steps to protect as much of the scene as possible, including a set of tire tracks on a nearby road and a large footprint beneath the baby's window.

Corporal Frank Kelly of the New Jersey State Police photographed the foot impression, the tire tracks, the kidnap ladder, and a carpenter's chisel left behind by the kidnapper. He also gathered soil found on the nursery floor and collected mud samples from beneath the baby's window. The soil was sent to a private industrial laboratory in Newark for analysis. (At the time, the FBI lab had not been established.)

Corporal Kelly also dusted several items at the scene for fingerprints, including the ransom note, the ladder, the chisel, and parts of the nursery itself. The best he could do, working with the unsophisticated equipment of the time, was to raise a few unidentifiable smudges.

A major problem confronting Colonel Schwarzkopf was Lindbergh who made it clear from the beginning that the police were not to take any steps to arrest the kidnapper until the child was safely returned. Because of this policy, when the ransom was paid in the Bronx Cemetery, the only people present were Colonel Lindbergh and his go-between, John F. Condon, later known as "Jafsie."

The intense publicity surrounding the crime drew out of the woodwork every mental case, crank, and con man in the East. Thousands of investigative man-hours were wasted running down false leads created by all of these troubled and criminal minds.

The nature and direction of the investigation took a dramatic turn following the discovery of the baby's remains. Schwarzkopf and his men, no longer concerned with the baby's welfare, could launch a more aggressive investigation. Because there were aspects of the crime that suggested an inside job, Schwarzkopf had the enormous task of ruling out, as suspects, hundreds of people close to the Lindberghs. This group included over thirty domestic servants employed by the Lindberghs and Mrs. Lindbergh's family, the Dwight Morrows of Englewood, New Jersey.

On May 14, 1932, two days after the child's remains were found, Dr. Calvin Goddard, the director of the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory at Chicago's Northwestern University Law School, traveled to Hopewell to meet with Colonel Schwarzkopf. He was accompanied by Leonarde Keeler.

Schwarzkopf told Keeler and Goddard that he had heard of the polygraph but didn't know much about it. Keeler explained how the instrument worked, stating that it had a ninety percent accuracy rate. Keeler suggested that Schwarzkopf use the polygraph to weed out suspects. He said the question of whether of not any of the servants had been involved could be resolved once that were all tested on the machine.

Schwarzkopf seemed interested. He thanked Keeler and said he would give the polygraph some thought and get back to him. He would discuss the matter with Colonel Lindbergh.


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A. James Fisher
Dept. of Political Science & Criminal Justice, 146 Hendricks Hall
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA 16444
e-mail: jfisher@edinboro.edu blog: http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com

								

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