bob mills for jdb and forum
hauptmann the elusive
Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:44

Thanks, John. From what I know of Hauptmann's background, he was profoundly affected by the World War and its aftermath. If he had a personality disorder of some kind, it wouldn't excuse a crime but might help explain his behavior before and after his arrest.

For me, the case is about inept policing, a need to redeem the (apparent) loss of a national icon's child, and how an obvious gang operation morphed into a fantastic story of how one man masterminded an act that nobody except a psychologist in a New York office, who never met Hauptmann, conceived as a one-man job.

You couldn't write this script. A family occupies a house in a remote area on weekends only. Because their child is ailing, his mother stays over into Tuesday, a decision known to a handful of people (not possibly including Hauptmann). That Tuesday night, the child disappears, apparently seized by someone who knew the family would be there (for the first time ever on a Tuesday), and decided to abduct the child even though the lights were on throughout the house. That person then drives 4-1/2 miles toward Princeton, stops alongside the main road where the chance of discovery was the greatest, and double-parks while carrying the (now dead) child 75 feet into the woods.

A retired school principal and neighborhood gadfly in the Bronx, NY, about 50 miles from where the child was abducted, gets involved. He writes to a LOCAL PAPER in the Bronx, offering to negotiate with the abductor, suggesting that he had prior knowledge of a gang operation. He receives a response from an individual who happens to live in the Bronx, with whom he meets twice in cemeteries and to whom he gives $50,000. in marked ransom bills, relying on "Cemetery John"'s word that the child is alive and being cared for.

After 2-1/2 years Hauptmann is arrested because he spent ransom money at a gas station. The man whom he met in cemeteries is presented to him in a lineup, but he refuses to identify him as Cemetery John, telling an FBI agent "My life won't be worth five cents (if I do)," a comment that clearly demonstrates the man's awareness that the kidnapping was a gang operation and his fear of retaliation by the gang if he identifies Hauptmann.

Hauptmann is indicted despite the lack of identification. Suddenly the crime that everybody knew wasn't a one-man job becomes exactly that. The cops stop looking for clues, stop seeking other suspects. Hauptmann goes on trial as a lone kidnapper. The school principal/gadfly who didn't identify him earlier now does, and the jury somehow overlooks the fact that Hauptmann, having met with the key prosecution witness twice, wandered around the Bronx without a disguise and without fear of identification, including to City Island, where the witness kept a summer home, and was never stopped once for questioning even though he was public enemy #1.

Several credible witnesses place Hauptmann at the bakery where his wife worked on the night of the kidnapping. In contrast, only two witnesses place Hauptmann in New Jersey, one a disreputable liar and another who was almost blind. Hauptmann is convicted and executed.

  • Hauptmann The Obstinatejdb, Fri Jan 25 01:59
    There's been so much speculation regarding Hauptmann's mental state, his legal predicament, and the nature of his involvement in the LKC that I can only guess that his head must have been spinning... more
    • hauptmann the elusive — bob mills for jdb and forum, Sat Jan 26 10:44
      • Detective Workjdb, Sun Jan 27 02:36
        Great detective work, Bob (and thank you also). It does seem that placing the LKC firmly in an historical context is the way to go with the case. Indeed, the World War figures in it; and Hauptmann's... more
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