Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lindbergh Kidnapping

The Ransom Note

On the windowsill was an envelope, spotted earlier by Lindbergh. It was dusted for fingerprints, as were other areas in the room. Officer Schoeffel slit the envelope open with his penknife. He removed a single sheet of folded paper. It had been written with blue ink. The note was handed to Lindbergh. It read:

Dear Sir!

Have 50000$ redy with 2500$ in 20$ bills 1500$ in 10$ bills and 1000$ in 5$ bills. After 2-4 days we will inform you were to deliver the Mony.

We warn you for making anyding public or for notify the polise the child is in gute care.

Indication for all letters are singnature and 3 holes.

The ransom note
The ransom note

At the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet of paper was a drawing of two interlocking circles, each about an inch in diameter. The area where the circles intersected had been colored red. Three small holes had been punched into the design. Kelly found only a single unidentifiable smudge on the envelope, nothing on the sheet of paper.

Within a few hours scores of reporters were at the Lindbergh estate, and by morning curious on-lookers were tramping over the property. Schwarzkopf set up a command post in Lindbergh's three-car garage. The butler and his wife were kept busy providing coffee and sandwiches to the police and the journalists. Additional telephone lines were brought in, and the press finally established their headquarters in the small hotel in the village of Hopewell.

Lindbergh took charge. He and Breckinridge decided that the best way of obtaining the return of the baby was to do whatever the kidnappers asked. Schwarzkopf, in awe of Lindbergh, had no choice, even though he pointed out that Lindbergh legally could not offer immunity to the criminals.

Within the next few days, thousands of pieces of mail were received at Hopewell. Three state police officers worked full time on sorting through the mail. Three theories were being formed:

1) Lindbergh presumed that the kidnappers were professional.

2) Because of the kidnappers' familiarity with the house, the location of the nursery, and the modest ransom request, Schwarzkopf thought that the gang was local and unprofessional.

3) Lieutenant Keaton, Schwarzkopf's principal detective, wanted to pursue the possibility that the kidnapping might have been, directly or indirectly, the work of domestic employees, since somehow the kidnappers had to have been informed that the family was not returning to the Morrow estate, as was their custom. Keaton gingerly explored the possibility that Betty Gow, the nursemaid, was somehow involved.

On March 4, a second ransom letter was received. It scolded Lindbergh for involving the police, and upped the ransom demand to $70,000. The same symbol of interlocking circles was at the bottom of the note. Thinking that this note might have been intercepted by the police, a third letter was sent the next day to Breckinridge's office, to be delivered to Lindbergh. It essentially repeated the information contained in the March 4th letter.