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How Can Such a Guilty Kidnapper be so Innocent? - Page 3 of 3

Exactly how did the baby die? Since Hauptmann never confessed, and no one witnessed the actual kidnapping, no one knows exactly how the child was killed. The autopsy produced evidence of a massive skull fracture, but did not rule out death by choking, suffocation, or strangulation. At the trial, the prosecutor suggested two theories. Initially the jury was told that the kidnapper had dropped the child from the ladder and that it had smashed its head on the window sill directly below the nursery. But in his closing statement, the prosecutor suggested that the child had been murdered in cold-blood before it was dropped by the kidnapper.

In all probability, the child was choked, strangled, or smothered to death in his crib. Look at it from the kidnapper's point of view: the Lindbergh's were home, and also in the house were their three servants, including the child’s nursemaid. If the child had awakened and cried out, the kidnapper would have been trapped in the room. A quick escape down the rickety ladder was not possible. From the kidnapper's point of view, not killing the child would have been too risky. Some have suggested that the child had been chloroformed, but this is unlikely because the odor would have lingered, and there was no evidence of it.

There is also physical evidence to support the cold-blooded murder theory. In the baby's crib, the bed clothes were drawn across the bed where the child’s neck would have been. The blankets were still pinned to the mattress on both sides of the bed. The crime scene investigators found a small pocket where the child had been sleeping. If the kidnapper had picked up the child by reaching under its arms, the bed clothes would have been disturbed. All of this suggests that the baby had been yanked out of the bed by its head or neck, the way one would handle a child already dead.

And finally, there is no evidence that Hauptmann had made any plans to keep and care for the child, a task that would have required considerable preparation.

Accepting the fact that Hauptmann was guilty, interesting questions still remain, such as, why didn't he confess?

That's a good question. Upon his arrest, Hauptmann was confronted with the most incriminating evidence, a prolonged and grueling interrogation, and was beaten. Still, he held his ground. After his conviction, he was sentenced to death, but promised life if he confessed. He didn't. Why?

According to Leon Turrou, one of the FBI agents assigned to the Lindbergh investigation, Hauptmann, shortly after his arrest, indicated to him that if a deal for leniency could be struck, he might confess. Turrou killed any chance of confession by telling Hauptmann that only the New Jersey State Police could approve such an arrangement. (This information is based upon two letters written by Turrou in 1977.)

According to Dr. Dudley Shoenfeld, a New York City psychiatrist who was closely associated with the investigation, and present every day in the courtroom during Hauptmann's trial, Hauptmann's psychological make-up was such that he was incapable of confessing. In 1936 Shoenfeld wrote a book on the case called, The Crime and the Criminal in which he presents a detailed psychiatric profile of Hauptmann whom he believed to be the kidnapper.

Notwithstanding Dr. Shoenfeld's findings, there is a more practical, even humane reason for Hauptmann's refusal to confess, even in the face of death. It has to do with his wife Anna. Anna Hauptmann was (and is) absolutely certain of her husband's innocence, and would not allow him to confess to such a horrible crime because to do so would make her the wife of a child killer. She actually said this to her husband, and rather than leave her with such a terrible legacy, Hauptmann went to his death proclaiming his innocence.

Less noble is the theory that up to the very end, Hauptmann, having had the support of the governor, didn't think that he was going to be electrocuted. According to the many who were associated with Hauptmann during his final days, he didn't believe be was going to die until they actually strapped him into the chair.

Did the New Jersey State Police bungle the investigation? No, and this is one of the most unkind and outrageous myths associated with the Lindbergh case. The reality is this: the New Jersey State Police conducted a thorough investigation under the most difficult circumstances, an investigation few modern law enforcement agencies could match if the crime were committed today.

Did Hauptmann get a fair trial? Yes, he received as fair a trial as could be expected under the circumstances. The trial judge was unbiased, experienced, and competent, and the jury was made up of intelligent and rational people with a lot of common sense. Moreover, Hauptmann took advantage of a full range of appeals under the guidance of a competent and dedicated attorney. If Hauptmann hadn't received a fair trial, this should not be taken as further proof of his innocence. Even guilty people can be railroaded. His guilt and the fairness of the trial, in this case anyway, are separate issues.

Today, the public is being fooled by people who, for their own reasons, want to change history. We can understand why Mrs. Hauptmann wants to clear her husband's name. Others want to sell books and be guests on afternoon talk shows. And still others would use the case to rail against the police and perhaps to argue against the death penalty. How can we support capital punishment if in the famous Lindbergh case, an innocent man was railroaded to his death?

Today, the Lindbergh phenomena is a giant hoax perpetrated by people who are taking advantage of an uninformed and cynical public. Notwithstanding all of the books, TV programs, and legal suits, Hauptmann is as guilty today as he was in 1932 when he kidnapped and killed the son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lindbergh.

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This page was last updated on: Wednesday, January 9, 2008

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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