Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Frank Sinatra, Jr. Kidnapping

The Ransom

Sinatra speaks to the press
Sinatra speaks to the press

The kidnappers would later say that they had an amicable relationship with Sinatra, Jr. until they asked for his father's phone number.

He flatly refused.

"You can shoot me, beat me up, whatever," he said. "I'm not giving you a phone number. I'm not scared of you guys."

But Keenan happened to hear a radio news report that Sinatra was holed up at the Mapes in Reno, and Keenan made the first of seven phone calls to Sinatra, Sr. on Monday night, 22 hours after the abduction.

Sinatra is said to have impetuously offered $1 million for the safe return of his only son, but the kidnappers insisted they wanted only $240,000. That was Keenan's business model, and he was sticking to it.

During a second call, the next morning, Frank, Jr. was allowed to say hello to his dad. In a third call, Sinatra was directed on a dry-run ransom drop to a gas station in Carson City, Nev., 30 miles from the kidnapping scene.

Federal Agents with the ransom
Federal Agents with the ransom

Authorities said the caller — Keenan, despite his plans to use tough-talking Irwin — was an educated young man who used firm and formal language, including the phrase, "Discretion will be the demeanor."

Sinatra, Sr. called on his friend Al Hart, president of City National Bank in Beverly Hills, to assemble the $240,000.

The bills were photographed by the FBI, then packed into an 18-inch square package that weighed 23 pounds — 12,400 bills in all, in denominations ranging from $5 to $100.

Keenan made several more calls to the Mapes, ordering Sinatra, Sr. to Los Angeles for the ransom drop. In a series of calls to pay phones, he finally directed a courier to leave the money between two school buses parked at a gas station on Sunset Boulevard.

John Irwin
John Irwin

FBI Agent Jerome Crowe made the drop just before 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11, about 74 hours after the abduction.

Keenan and Amsler picked up the cash as the FBI discreetly filmed the proceedings from several vantage points.

Keenan returned to the hideout to discover that Irwin and Sinatra, Jr. were gone. Irwin had gotten edgy and decided to split. He drove the hostage onto the 405 freeway and let him out at the Mulholland Drive overpass.

Young Sinatra walked a few miles toward Bel-Air, then summoned a private security guard who happened to be passing by.

The guard, George Jones, drove Sinatra to his mother's house, where both his parents were waiting.

As reporters watched, young Sinatra said, "I'm sorry, Dad."

He father gave him a hug and replied, "You don't have anything to be sorry for."