Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Evidence Files: Most Famous Ransom Notes

For parents faced with the nightmare of a child snatched by a stranger, a ransom note left in the empty bassinet can serve as a beacon of hope.  An abductor who leaves a ransom note, they may reason, did not kidnap the child on a perverted impulse — once the ransom is paid, the family is reunited with their child and the terror is over.  Though it may seem that a child is safer in the hands of someone using him as collateral, ransom situations often end in tragedy.  Here are five famous ransom notes from the cases that captivated America.

Charley Ross ransom note. Click to enlarge

In the first recorded kidnapping for ransom in U.S. history, brothers Charley and Walter Ross were kidnapped while playing outside their family’s Philadelphia mansion on July 1, 1874.  The kidnappers let Walter go, but Charley’s body was never found. Two days after the kidnapping, the boys’ father, Christian Ross, received the note seen above. It was followed a few days later by another note demanding $20,000, which Ross tried to pay by following the enclosed instructions but was unable to contact the abductors.

“Mr. Ross- be not uneasy you son charly bruster he al writ we as got him and no powers on earth can deliver out of our hand. You wil hav two pay us befor you git him from us. an pay us a big cent to. if you put the cops hunting for him yu is only defeeting yu own end. we is got him fitt so no living power can gits him from us a live. if any aproch is maid to his hidin place that is the signil for his instant anihilation. if yu regard his lif puts no one to search for him you money can fech him out alive an no other existin powers don’t deceve yuself and think the detectives can git him from us for that is one imposebel
yu here from us in few day”

 

Lindbergh baby ransom note. Click to enlarge.

On March 1st, 1932,  Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., was kidnapped from the New Jersey home of his parents, aviators Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  This note was discovered in an envelope on the windowsill of the child’s nursery.  It was followed by others, all postmarked from Brooklyn, and all bearing the distinct signature. Despite the Lindberghs’ efforts to pay the ransom, on May 12, the body of little Charles was discovered not far from the family’s home.

“Dear Sir!

Have 50.000$ redy 25.000$ in
20$ bills 15.000$ in 10$ bills and
10.000$ in 5$ bills After 2–4 days
we will inform you were to deliver
the money.

We warn you for making
anyding public or for notify the Police
The child is in gut care.
Indication for all letters are
singnature

and three holes.”

 

 

Bobby Franks ransom note. Click to enlarge.

On May 21, 1924, two wealthy and academically gifted teenagers kidnapped and killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks, the son of Chicago millionaire Jacob Franks. The abductors, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, mailed the Franks family the above note, signed “George Johnson.” Before the Franks had a chance to pay the ransom, Bobby’s body was discovered. Leopold and Loeb had poured hydrochloric acid on it to hinder identification.  When asked, both admitted they had killed their victim for the thrill, and not for the ransom money.

Dear Sir:  Proceed immediately to the back platform of the train, watch the east side of the track, have your package ready, look for the first LARGE red brick factory situated immediately adjoining the tracks on the east. On top of this factory is a large black water tower with the word CHAMPION written on it. Wait until you have completely passed the south end of the factory, count five very rapidly and then immediately throw the package as far east as you can. Remember, this is the only chance to recover your son.  
Yours truly,
 GEORGE JOHNSON

 

Peter Weinberger ransom note. Click to enlarge.

On July 4, 1956, one-month-old Peter Weinberger was kidnapped from the patio of his Long Island, NY, home.  This note was discovered by his mother inside Peter’s empty baby carriage.  Desperate to get their child back, the Weinbergers, who, unlike the Franks and the Lindberghs, were not wealthy, contacted police despite the kidnapper’s warning.  Based on a handwriting analysis, authorities zeroed in on  Angelo LaMarca, a former bootlegger. LaMarca had not shown up at two arranged meetings to collect his ransom and return the baby, later citing that he was scared off by the media attention. On August 23, LaMarca was arrested and confessed to abandoning the still-living baby along a highway.  His decomposed remains were later discovered in that area.

 Attention: I’m sorry this had to happen, but I am in bad need of money, & couldn’t get it any other way. Don’t tell anyone or go to the police about this, because I am watching you closely. I am scared stiff, & will kill the baby at your first wrong move. Just put $2000 (two thousand) in small bills in a brown envelope, & place it next to the sign post at the corner of Albemarle Rd. and Park Ave. at exactly 10 o’clock tomorrow (Thursday) morning. If everything goes smooth, I will bring the baby back & leave him on the same corner “Safe & Happy” at exactly 12 noon. No excuses, I can’t wait! Your Baby sitter.

 

 

JonBenet Ramsey ransom note. Click to enlarge.

According to the testimony of Patsy Ramsey, she discovered this two-and-a-half page ransom note on the staircase of her Boulder, CO,  home, and reported the disappearance of her daughter JonBenet, whose murder remains unsolved.  JonBenet’s body was found in the basement of her family home eight hours after she was reported missing.  The alleged ransom note demanded $118,000 – the amount of a bonus that her father, John Bennett Ramsey, had recently received at work.  The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported in 1997 that ”There are indications that the author of the ransom note is Patricia Ramsey,” but in 2008, the Boulder District Attorney’s office officially announced that the Ramsey family was innocent of their daughter’s death.

 Mr. RamseyListen carefully! We are a group of individuals that represent a small foreign faction. We do respect your bussiness [sic] but not the country that it serves. At this time we have your daughter in our posession [sic]. She is safe and unharmed and if you want her to see 1997, you must follow our instructions to the letter.You will withdraw $118,000.00 from your account. $100,000 will be in $100 bills and the remaining $18,000 in $20 bills. Make sure that you bring an adequate size attache to the bank. When you get home you will put the money in a brown paper bag. I will call you between 8 and 10 am tomorrow to instruct you on delivery. The delivery will be exhausting so I advise you to be rested. If we monitor you getting the money early, we might call you early to arrange an earlier delivery of the money and hence a [sic] earlier delivery pick-up of your daughter.Any deviation of my instructions will result in the immediate execution of your daughter. You will also be denied her remains for proper burial. The two gentlemen watching over your daughter do notparticularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them. Speaking to anyone about your situation, such as Police, F.B.I., etc., will result in your daughter being beheaded. If we catch you talking to a stray dog, she dies. If you alert bank authorities, she dies. If the money is in any way marked or tampered with, she dies. You will be scanned for electronic devices and if any are found, she dies. You can try to deceive us but be warned that we are familiar with law enforcement countermeasures and tactics. You stand a 99% chance of killing your daughter if you try to out smart [sic] us. Follow our instructions and you stand a 100% chance of getting her back.You and your family are under constant scrutiny as well as the authorities. Don’t try to grow a brain John. You are not the only fat cat around so don’t think that killing will be difficult. Don’t underestimate us John. Use that good southern common sense of yours. It is up to you now John!Victory!S.B.T.C

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