Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leopold & Loeb

What Really Happened

Prosecutor Crowe (center, seated) and his staff pose with Leopold (seated, right) and Loeb (seated, left)
Prosecutor Crowe (center, seated) and his staff pose with Leopold (seated, right) and Loeb (seated, left)

Essentially, the whole murder/kidnap scheme was an elaborate game to entertain and intellectually challenge two bored students. They immensely enjoyed developing and refining what they were certain was the "perfect crime," befitting their superior intellects. Collecting the ransom without being caught was a more difficult problem for them than the kidnapping and murder. They had put together several different plans for the ransom collection, researching each plan diligently.

Finally they agreed on the plan they would use. They would tell the boy's father to go to a drugstore near the train station. They would call him at the drugstore and tell him to take a certain train that was leaving in a few minutes, so that the police could not be notified. On the train, the victim's father would find a note in a prearranged place that would tell him where to throw the money from the train. The two boys would be waiting to retrieve it.

The kidnapping had been planned for a number of months, although the boys decided that they would select their victim the day of the kidnapping, as long as he had a rich father to pay the ransom. Also, the victim would have to be a person one of the boys knew so that it would be easy to lure him into the car. They had callously planned to murder the victim, so there was no concern about being identified. They would drive by the exclusive Harvard School and randomly select the boy that was most convenient.

At one point they had even considered kidnapping and murdering their fathers or brothers, but figured they would be under too much scrutiny if their own family was involved.

They understood that their victim would have to be killed quickly so that there was no chance of him escaping or being discovered. Once the victim was killed, disposal of the body was an immediate priority. The culvert at Wolf Lake was ideal because it was concealed enough that even Leopold was not initially aware of it, despite his frequent birding trips there. Also, by dropping the victim in the culvert, they avoided having to dig a grave.

Using one of their cars was out of the question since it could be traced back to them. They invented an elaborate scheme to rent a car under an assumed name. They covered the license plate, so even that could not be traced back to them.

Loeb (l) and Crowe with the rented car
Loeb (l) and Crowe with the rented car

The afternoon of the murder, Leopold and Loeb hung around the Harvard School after classes had finished. They had considered and rejected several students for various reasons. It was getting close to dinner time and most of the students had left. It was then that they saw Bobby Franks.

Richard knew Bobby. He was a neighbor and had played on the Loeb mansion's tennis courts. Richard asked him to look at a particular tennis racket and Bobby agreed. As soon as he was in the car, Bobby was hit on the head with a chisel and a cloth forced down his throat, which led to his suffocation.

With Bobby dead or unconscious, covered by a rug in the backseat, the two boys drove toward the Indiana border. They pulled off on a deserted road and stripped the boy of his clothing, most of which they left by the side of the road.

They had dinner at a hot dog stand in Hammond and stayed there until it was almost dark. Then they took the dirt road to the marshlands around Wolf Lake. After dumping Bobby's body into the culvert, they drove back home, stopping only so that Leopold could call his father to say he would be delayed and to call Jacob Franks to tell him his son had been kidnapped. At the same time, they addressed the ransom note to the Franks' house and mailed it with postage and instructions for special delivery.

Then they went to Loeb's house and burned clothes that had bloodstains on them. After that, they went to work on the bloodstains in the rental car. Later that night, the two boys stayed up late playing casino. They threw out the chisel used to murder Bobby on the way to take Loeb home.

The next day they perfected the scheme to collect the ransom money and placed the kidnap note in a telegraph box on the last car of a train going to Michigan City, Indiana. Then Leopold called Jacob Franks and gave him the address to the drugstore. When Jacob Franks didn't go to the drugstore, they realized their grand scheme had failed.

Loeb ended his confession by saying," I just want to say that I offer no excuse, but that I am fully convinced that neither the idea nor the act would have occurred to me had it not been for the suggestion and stimulus of Leopold. Furthermore, I do not believe that I would have been capable of having killed Franks."

Confronted with Loeb's confession, Leopold had little he could do but confess himself. The confessions were very similar except for some minor details and one major factor. Leopold claimed that Loeb had killed Bobby, whereas Loeb had claimed Leopold had committed the murder. Initially, the police and the press decided to believe Loeb and treat Leopold as the "evil genius" who had dominated his affable friend with his superior intellect.

In some ways, it didn't matter which of the two had actually killed Bobby. They would both hang for premeditated murder and kidnapping, according to State's Attorney Crowe.

 

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