Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping

The Snatch

A taxicab rolled to a stop in front of the exclusive Notre Dame de Sion Catholic School on Locust Street in Kansas City, Mo., at 10:55 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, 1953.

The cab idled as the fare, Bonnie Heady, made her way into the school building. She was dressed respectably brown hat, beige blouse, dark gabardine skirt and white gloves.

Sister Morand greeted the stranger at the door. Heady explained she had come to remove a first-grader, Bobby Greenlease, from class because the boys mother had had a heart attack while shopping that morning.

The woman explained that she was the sister of the stricken woman, Virginia Greenlease, who desperately wanted to see her boy.

Sister Morand would later recall that the visitor seemed agitated, which struck the nun as appropriate under the circumstances. She may have noticed that the woman smelled of Clorets, which Heady had chewed to mask the odor of the eye-openers of whiskey shed downed that morning.

Bobby Greenlease in church, with classmates
Bobby Greenlease in church, with classmates

Sister Morand sent a colleague to fetch Bobby. She led the visitor into a school chapel to pray for Mrs. Greenlease. Heady folded her hands, bowed her head and pretended she cared.

After a few minutes, she stepped out of the chapel, and Bobby Greenlease, a slightly built 6-year-old, was standing there waiting for her.

He came right up to me and took a hold of my hand, Heady later said.

Bobby, with a mop of sandy hair, was wearing a white shirt with brown slacks. Pinned to his shirt was a Jerusalem medal, a large cross surrounded by four smaller ones, signifying the spread of Gods word to the corners of the earth.

Bobby was chatty. Heady led him to the cab and directed the driver to a parking lot in downtown Kansas City, a short drive from the school.

There, Heady paid the cabby and led Bobby around a corner to a remote section of the parking lot, where her 1951 Plymouth station wagon sat waiting.

Heady opened the front passenger door and encouraged Bobby to slide into the front seat. Behind the wheel sat Carl Hall, her drinking buddy.

Hall asked Bobby how he was, and the boy said he was doing well. The child noticed Headys boxer dog in the back of the station wagon. He told the couple he had two dogs of his own, as well as a green parrot named Polly.

The three chatted about their pets and about Bobbys Jerusalem medal a source of pride for the boy as Hall drove the car south, then west toward the Missouri-Kansas state line.

The boy indicated no fear and apparently did not question Hall about where they were going or why. As the FBI later reported, Bobby was very talkative and gave him absolutely no trouble.

The car crossed the state line then continued 5 miles, until the city faded into farmland in Johnson County, Ks. Hall turned the station wagon into a field at the Moody Farm, following the ruts of a tractor path to a remote spot concealed by standing crops and an overgrown windrow.

Heady got out, opened the cars tailgate, threaded a leash over the boxers head and took him for a walk. As the boy sat watching the dog over his shoulder, Hall gripped a foot-long piece of clothesline in both hands, slipped the cord over Bobbys head and pulled his garrote tight.

Bobby flailed his fists and kicked his feet. Halls dainty drinking hands werent strong enough to asphyxiate the 6-year-old. He went to an alternative method, dropping the rope in favor of a 38-caliber revolver.

As Bobby continued to struggle, Hall pushed the boy to the floorboard of the car and tried to pin him down with a knee. He fired a shot but missed the gyrating boy from point-blank range.

Finally, Hall raised the gun to the roof and brought it down on Bobbys face, knocking out three teeth. The stunned child was finally still. Carl Hall took a breath, aimed his gun at the boys head and fired a second shot. This one hit its mark and snuffed out the brief life of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Jr.

Hearing the shots, Heady hurried back on rubbery legs and put her dog back in the car. Hall wrapped Bobbys body in a blue tarp and laid it on the floorboard of the back seat. As an afterthought, he opened the tarp, unpinned the Jerusalem cross from the boys shirt and tucked it in his pocket.

Hall drove back into Missouri, then north through Kansas City toward St. Joe. But thirst cried out as the car passed Lynns Tavern in northern Kansas City, one of their many watering holes. They went in for a couple of stiff ones, leaving the boxer alone with the boys body in their bloody car.

With their gullets full of booze, the kidnappers made their way home to Headys house on South 38th Street in St. Joseph, an hour north of Kansas City. Hall carried the body to a hole hed dug in the backyard and covered it with lime and dirt, topping the grave with fresh mums.

He next retrieved an addressed letter from a drawer and drove back to Kansas City, where, at about 3 p.m., he mailed the letter special delivery. It was addressed to Robert Greenlease, Sr.