Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping

Execution of Justice

Carl Hall gave up Bonnie Heady, and cops collected her from the room where she had been holed up drunk for more than a day.

Initially, Hall admitted to the kidnapping but denied killing the boy. But Heady gave the complete story, in an interview with FBI Agent J.E. Thornton.

She began, Im trying to help you as much as I can. Im just so hazy on some things that I cant remember. If you had been drunk as long as I had, it does something to your brain. I just travel around in a haze most of the time.

When Thornton asked whether she remembered the day of the kidnapping, she replied, No, I dont know what day it is half of the time.

The agent tried to address the womans motivation. He asked, You have some income of your own and have been a substantial citizen You know the boy had disappeared. Why didnt you call the police?

Heady said, I should have, I know that. But I thought if I called the police theyd come and take him (Hall) away, and I love him very much and want to keep him. We had been very happy together and I wanted to keep him.

As she spoke, Bonnie Headys face was marked with cuts and bruises from the beating he had administered in their argument over the quality of their accommodations in St. Louis.

When confronted with Headys true account of the murder of the boy, Hall dropped his head, groaned and said, Its true, its true. Later that night, he sat in the interview room muttering, Money, money, money.

Police remove body of Bobby Greenlease
Police remove body of Bobby Greenlease

The body was dug up from a chrysanthemum bed in Headys yard in St. Joe before 9 a.m. that morning, Wednesday, October 7, and Heady and Hall were charged with federal crimes under the Lindbergh Act because they crossed from Missouri to Kansas to kill the boy.

They pleaded guilty to murder, a gambit that allowed their attorney to focus on avoiding the death penalty for the pair. A jury convened in federal court in Kansas City on November 16, seven weeks after the crime, to determine their fate.

The confessions were the most compelling evidence. The prosecutor took 45 minutes to read Bonnie Headys 25-page confession to the jury. Later, FBI Agent Arthur Reeder read Carl Halls 36-page statement as Robert Greenlease sat glowering just yards from his sons killers.

It was a brief trial three days and an even briefer deliberation. Jurors condemned Hall to die within eight minutes of retiring to the jury room. One juror voted to spare Heady in the first vote, but his mind was changed after less than an hour of back-and-forth.

Carl Hall & Bonnie Heady in cuffs
Carl Hall & Bonnie Heady in cuffs

The judge announced the death sentence and ordered Heady and Hall to the prison in Jefferson City, Mo., to await execution. They would not wait long.

From Death Row, Bonnie Heady wrote a note of apology to the Greenlease family. It read in part:

I doubt if this letter will do much good, but there isnt anything we could do or say that would atone for our mistake I would give anything if I could go back to that Sunday in September and erase everything that has happened since. It all seems like a nightmare to me I dont say I dont enjoy money, as everybody does, but that was not my motive. I could have been very, very happy with Carl living in my house as I had been, but he was used to more money. My case was loving not wisely, but too well. I wanted so much for him to be happy I think anyone will find if you drink from one to two fifths of whiskey a day for a year and half that your brain doesnt function properly. Since I have been in jail is the first time Ive been able to reason clearly for some time.

Just after midnight on December 18, 1953, a scant 81 days after they committed murder, prison officials led Hall and Heady to the building that housed the prisons gas chamber. The walked without rancor to the execution chambers anteroom. An Episcopal priest led them in the Lords prayer. The two were allowed to hold hands for a moment, and they kissed goodbye.

They were blindfolded, led into the chamber and strapped into adjacent chairs. Before gas began seeping into the room, they spoke their last words.

Bonnie Heady said, Are you doing all right, honey?

Carl Hall replied, Yes, mama.

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