Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Cudahy and Pat Crowe

Should He Pay?

Police Chief John Donahue
Police Chief John Donahue
Omaha Chief of Police John Donahue told Cudahy not to pay the ransom.

The kidnapper foresaw this possibility.

In the ransom note, he referred to what was then the most infamous kidnap case in American history - the snatching of Charley Ross, 4, in Philadelphia on July 1, 1874, by a man who used candy to entice the boy into a buggy.

His father, Christian Ross, a prosperous merchant, placed a newspaper ad offering a $300 reward. Soon came an unsigned letter - the first of 23 -that ultimately demanded $20,000 in exchange for the safe return of Charley.

Police cautioned Ross against setting a precedent by paying a ransom. Ross communicated with the kidnappers for months by answering their letters with newspaper classified ads. After delaying payment on the advice of police, the father ultimately decided to pony up the ransom. But by then his usual means of communicating with the captors through newspaper ads failed.

Charley Ross was never seen again. The Cudahy kidnapper noted that Christian Ross regretted for the rest of his life that he took the advice of the police.

Ross died of a broken heart, sorry that he allowed the detectives to dictate to him, the kidnaper wrote. Mr. Cudahy, you are up against it, and there is only one way out - give up the coin. Money we want and money we will get. If you dont give can lead your boy blind the rest of your days.

Cudahy decided to comply.

He told the papers, I wish you would say for me that I am willing to pay any reasonable reward for his recovery. As to what a reasonable reward would be, I cant exactly say. Almost any sum would be reasonable, perhaps. One cant estimate such things in dollars and cents.

He called Omaha National Bank and made arrangements for coachman Gray and another servant, Albert Sears, to pick up the gold coins that afternoon.

The money weighed nearly 100 pounds. No single bag would hold it, so the bank sent a clerk to a nearby store to buy a sturdy suitcase in which to carry it. The bank charged Cudahy $12 for the valise.

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