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A Crime of the Past


Posted: March 2, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2014 2:00 a.m.

The Nanny

March 2, 1932, Hopewell New Jersey - It’s been just awful. Since last night the police are all over the place - upstairs, outside, and now in the library with madam.

The Colonel was in there a long time, and I should be next. What can I tell them? I did just what I always do each evening at six o’clock.

The Colonel and madam always spend time with him as their ritual each evening.

Then at dinnertime about six o’clock I take the baby up to his room and bed him down for the night. I went in again at eight-thirty and he was sleeping peacefully.

The next time I checked was around ten o’clock. Charles was not in his crib. The window was open, as I had left it. I looked to see if he could have somehow climbed out of his bed. He was almost two and very active.

I saw there were muddy footprints leading from the window and the screen was unlatched.

I panicked, and then thought his parents may have come up and taken him. I went down to the sitting room; just the two of them were there together, Colonel and Mrs. Lindberg.

I know I was incoherent, but when they realized what I was saying both ran upstairs. When he was sure there was an emergency, the Colonel called the Trenton police.

They are calling me into the dining room now. I am frightened. I was the last to see the baby.

A very important looking detective is sitting at the head of the table and others along the sides. I am standing at the end.

“What is your name and duties?” He asked.

“Betty Gow, and I am baby Charles’ nanny. Have been since he was born, twenty months now. I wouldn’t do him any harm.” She began to cry softly.

“I took good care of him.”

“Alright, alright. What were your responsibilities? Tell us everything about last night.”



This story took over the front pages of all the newspapers in America.

Charles Lindberg was a celebrity. In 1927 he was the first to have flown the airplane, Spirit of St. Louis, solo from America to Paris. He later married Anne Morrow the daughter of our Ambassador to Mexico.

Both families were front-page news and very likely a good prospect for a profitable kidnapping. Charles Jr. was only 20 months old and the apple of his family’s eye.

Anne told the detectives she couldn’t latch the screen that day and then forgot about it. Outside below the window there were ladder marks and footprints on the muddy ground, but no shoe prints were found.

The perpetrator must have worn only socks or moccasins. There were the same prints leading away from the house to the woods.

Nearby on a rocky piece of ground a makeshift ladder was found. A smaller set of footprints coming out of the woods joined the others. The same sets of footprints were observed farther on, leaving the area and disappearing at the paved highway suggesting two people entered a car.

In the next months Colonel Lindberg traveled far and wide chasing clues from ransom letters. Anne Lindberg remained in seclusion with her mother.

There were many theories pertaining to the kidnapping. Some said the baby died in an accident at the Lindberg home and the crime was concocted to hide the incident. Then the nanny and her boyfriend were thought to be responsible. Also said, it was a hoax for publicity.

There was a report that the night of the kidnapping two men in a black car stopped a worker in the area and inquired as to the location of the Lindberg farm. A three state-search went out looking for this car.

Then seventy-four days later – May 5, 1932 - a truck driver walking in the woods five miles from the Lindberg property came upon a tiny body half buried with dirt and leaves in the woods.

The head had two puncture wounds in it. The identification was made and was found to be Charles Junior. The nanny identified him. He died from two skull fractures.

It was obvious the baby had been killed soon after he had been taken from his bed. One theory was that when the abductor was descending the ladder it partially gave way and Charles had been dropped and landed on his head, or the ladder penetrated his skull and he died then or shortly after.

No one knows exactly what happened. A ransom note was found at the crime scene for $50,000, according to the F.B.I.


The arrest

An arrest was made Sept. 9, 1934 when some of the money from the ransom payment was used at a gasoline station. It was traced to Bruno Richard Hauptman.

In Hauptman’s garage tools were found that matched marks on the ladder found at the kidnap scene. Hauptman was brought to trial and convicted.

The crime brought on the early passage of a bill, making kidnapping a federal offense with the death penalty. This incident was the topic of discussion for many years.

The writer referenced articles from the New York Times March 2 and May 13, 1932 editions, and an FBI story on the Internet.


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