Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping

'A Worthless Streak'

Like Greenlease, both Hall and Heady had tasted wealth. Unlike the auto executive, neither had had to work for it.

Hall was born to a pampered life in 1919 in Pleasanton, Ks. (pop. 1,000), 75 miles south of Kansas City. His father, John, was a big-shot lawyer in the small town, and his grandfather was a judge. His mother, Zella, lost her only other child as a toddler, so she focused her attention on Carl.

As Hall later said, No one could have a finer mother than I had, and the same goes for my father. I had wonderful parents. Their actions were in no way responsible for my going bad.

John Hall died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1932, as his son entered his teenage years, leaving Carl as heir to his familys sizable fortune.

But trouble with the boy started the summer after his father died. He became so unruly that his mother sent him to live with another couple, hoping the influence of a father figure would bring Carl in line.

Carl won over the woman of the house with occasional tearful fits about the loss of his father. The woman told friends that Zella Hall simply was too cold-blooded to soothe the boys anxiety, according to journalist James Deakins book, A Grave for Bobby.

At age 14, Hall was packed away to Kemper Military Academy in Booneville, Mo., where, not incidentally, he was a classmate of Paul Greenlease, Robert Greenleases adopted son.

Zella Hall felt the discipline of a military school would be good for her boy, and the strategy seemed to work. Hall was an honor student and member of the rifle, baseball and basketball teams during his first two years. His evaluations were positive for the first two years, spiced with words such as dependable, conscientious, promising, ambitious, honest and capable.

Yet Hall was a terror at home when he returned for summers and holidays. He had discovered booze at a young age, and the Pleasanton police became accustomed to picking up the local scion for drunkenness, vandalism and disturbing the peace.

Carl Hall had changed when he returned to Kemper for his third year.

His evaluations suddenly featured different phrases: slow developing, temperamental, none too straightforward, worthless streak, tries to bluff. He became a disciplinary problem and was caught with alcohol more than once.

Hall transferred to Pleasanton High School for his senior year, and Zella Hall must have breathed a sigh of relief when he graduated in 1937.

He gave college a try at his mothers insistence, but he flunked out after a semester and enlisted in the Marines. He completed four years, then re-enlisted for a second stint amid the patriotic fever of World War II. Hall made sergeant briefly but was busted back to the rank of corporal due to an AWOL one of many drinking-related disciplines during his eight years. He won a discharge under honorable conditions less distinguished than a full honorable discharge and was deposited back into civilian society in 1946.

Zella Hall died in 1944, while Carl was away in the service. He was left with an estate valued at more than $200,000equivalent to roughly $2 million today. He would be set for life if he played it smart.

But he didnt.

He ordered the family attorney to convert the estates property and securities into cash. He took his loot to Kansas City and started spending, and he didnt stop until it was all gone.

He lived at the Phillips Hotel in K.C., where he handed out dollar-bill tips like they were dimes. He played the ponies and the stock market. He did poorly at the former, worse at the latter. He became an inveterate gambler dice, cards, whatever. Other players greeted him warmly when he walked into a gambling den with a bulge of cash in his pocket.

He invested in one business after another that failed crop-dusting, elevator music, liquor stores.

After a quick marriage and quicker divorce prompted by his drinking, Hall headed west. As Hall later told the FBI, he was just bumming around the country drinking and gambling until I had lost all my inheritance. He was broke five years after being handed a fortune.

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