Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Greenlease Kidnapping

The Scavenger Hunt

These cases surely passed through the minds of Bobbys parents as they endured a tortured 58 hours of waiting before the kidnapper finally telephoned the Greenlease home at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Family friend Stewart Johnson spoke with the man later identified as Hall, who asked, Have you the money ready? He muttered the word medal to verify his legitimacy. Before brusquely hanging up, Hall asked the family to be ready for a ransom drop Thursday night.

But Thursday came and went without contact.

Finally, the phone rang again at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The kidnapper told Norbert ONeill, another Greenlease friend, that he would call back later that night with ransom-drop instructions.

According to an FBI transcription of the brief conversation, ONeill asked, Is Bobby all right, sir?

Hall answered, He is fine but homesick.

Seven hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Hall called to say instructions for the drop could be found beneath a mailbox at 29th and Holmes in Kansas City. ONeill and Johnson drove there and found a note directing them to another mailbox at 42nd and Charlotte, where yet another note told them to drop the money outside a church at 40th and Harrison.

It read, Leave money here drive straight home boy fine if money ok he will be home in 24 hrs.

But the men did not have the ransom money with them, so they returned to the Greenlease home. The kidnapper called again at 4 a.m. Family friend Ledterman nervously explained they were confused by the kidnappers instructions. Hall promised new, clear instructions on Sunday.

Police outside Greenlease home
Police outside Greenlease home

But the worst of the scavenger hunt was yet to come.

At 12:14 and 1:35 a.m. Sunday, Hall had two cruel conversations with Virginia Greenlease, who pressed for details about her sons well-being.

Hall said, We have the boy. He is alive. Believe me, hes been driving us nuts We have treated him very well Well carry out our bargain if you carry yours out. I assure you your boy is safe. He is a hellcat. Lady, we have earned this money.

In the second call, Hall told Mrs. Greenlease that instructions for the ransom drop were beneath a marked rock at 13th and Summit. ONeill and Ledterman loaded the money into a car and drove there. They dashed out into a driving rain, found the note and returned to the car to read it.

It contained instructions to tie a white rag to the car aerial then drive to Highway 169, where yet another note would be found under a rock beneath a sign. That note read:

Go back to Jt (Viona Rd)Go west to first rd heading south across from lum reek farm sign. Drive in 75 ft. leave bag on right side of road. Drive home, will call and tell you where you can pick up boy.

The two men did their best to follow the instructions, but the rain, the dark night and a series of farm lanes left them confused about the drop site. They went so far as to stop to ask directions to the lum reek farm. They guessed as best they could and left the duffel bag with $600,000 cash sitting on the roadside, then returned to the Greenlease home.

At 4:32 a.m., Hall telephoned to say he couldnt find the money. Ledterman and ONeill rushed back and retrieved the duffel bag, which lay undisturbed where they left it. The kidnapper phoned again at 4:58, 5:50, 6:17 and 6:46 a.m. in the first two to see whether the men had managed to find the money, and in the second two to argue with ONeill and Ledterman over whether they had properly followed his instructions. The men thought he sounded drunk.

The kidnapper phoned again at 10:15 a.m. Sunday to say he would call with new instructions that night.

But Ledterman was losing his patience. He was testy when the phone rang at 8:28 Sunday night. Early in the conversation, the longest of 15 calls from Hall, Ledterman said, Lets get this thing over.

Hall again promised the boy would be released 24 hours after the kidnapping, and for the first time he mentioned a location: Pittsburg, Kansas.

Ledterman said, Youre not bunking me on that, are you?

Hall replied, Thats the gospel truth.

When the kidnapper said he would call back with further instructions on the ransom drop, Ledterman had had enough.

He said, This idea of climbing the tree and looking in a birds nest for a note, then climbing on your belly somewhere looking for something under a rock with a red, white and blue ribbon around itthats getting tiresome. You know, you and I dont have to play ball that way. We can deal man to man.

Hall said, There will be no mix-up tonight. It will go perfectly.

But Hall proceeded to give Ledterman his most convoluted instructions yet. He said he would call at 11 that night at a hotel with the phone number Valentine 9279. The catch was Hall couldnt remember the name of the hotel.

Ledterman was exasperated. He said, Suppose I call Valentine 9279 and I dont get an answer. How am I going to find out what the hotel is?

After much questioning, Ledterman finally extracted from the word-slurring kidnapper that the hotel was in downtown Kansas City near the Lasalle Hotel.

Ledterman managed to find the hotel the Berkshire and was waiting there when the phone rang at 11:30. Hall told Ledterman to drive east out of Kansas City on Highway 40, then south on a county road for one mile to a bridge, beside which the money should be placed.

Ledterman followed the instructions, and at 12:35 a.m. Monday, October 5, nearly a full week after the kidnapping, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady took possession of the $600,000 ransom, the largest ever paid at that time.

Heady and Hall, driving a Ford they rented in St. Joe, headed east across Missouri on U.S. Highway 40, toward St. Louis. They had no luggage no toiletries, no change of clothes, nothing but the loot. After driving half an hour, Hall stopped to make one last depraved call to the Greenleases.

Ledterman answered.

Hall said, You can tell his mother that she will see him as we promised within 24 hours.

Ledterman pressed for details, but Hall said he would send a telegram with the time and place of release to the Western Union office in Pittsburg.

Ledterman told him he would go there and wait. He asked, The boy is alive and well?

Hall replied, And as full of piss as any kid Ive ever seen.

Ledterman: I can quote you on that, can I?

Hall: Yes, you can quote me.

Ledterman drove that night to Pittsburg, 100 miles south of Kansas City near the Oklahoma border. He waited for two days to no avail.

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