Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leopold & Loeb

Alienists Tesitfy: Richard Loeb

Young Dick Loeb
Young Dick Loeb

When it came to Richard Loeb's parents, the alienists wrote: "Albert H. Loeb is fair and just. He is opposed to the boys' drinking and often spoke of it; he is not strict, although the boys may have thought he was. He never used corporal punishment. In early childhood, he was not a play-fellow with the boys...Dick and his brothers loved and worshipped their father and did not want to lose their father's love and respect."

Ann Bohnen Loeb was from a large Catholic family, which did not approve of her marriage to a Jew, despite his very high social standing and wealth. However, the Albert Loeb's friends fully accepted her and thought well of her. Together, she and Albert had four sons: Allan, Ernest, Richard and Thomas. The alienists considered Ann "poised, keen, alert and interested."

While much of what the alienists said about Richard Loeb describes a purely psychopathic personality, there are events in Richard's life that show another side to him. Maureen McKernan tells the story in The Amazing Crime and Trial of Leopold and Loeb of Richard's automobile accident: "The summer he was fifteen years old, driving to a dance one evening at dusk, his automobile collided with a horse and buggy at a dark street corner. He had not yet turned on the automobile lights and the accident was said to be unavoidable. A woman was hurt and her grandson slight injured. Dick helped take her to the hospital, but, once there, when he realized she was injured, he wept and fainted. He had to be almost carried home. Every day he visited the woman, taking her flowers and fruit, and the best of food. He persuaded his father, not only to pay all the hospital bills, but to pay off a mortgage on the woman's home, and to send her on a trip that winter to mend her shattered nerves."

One of the Loebs' mansions
One of the Loebs' mansions

At the age of four, a Canadian woman named Struthers became his governess. She devoted an enormous amount of time to his education coaching, tutoring and encouraging him to study. Richard was a very bright lad whose IQ was 160 and she was very successful in getting Richard promoted rapidly in school. He finished grade school at age twelve, graduated from high school at fourteen and entered the University of Chicago that year. After an argument with Mrs. Loeb, Miss Struthers left the household.

The alienists interviewed her and decided that she was "too anxious to have him become an ideal boy....She would not overlook some of his faults and was too quick in her punishment and therefore he built up the habit of lying without compunction and with increasing skill. She was quite unaware of the fact that he had become a petty thief and a play detective."

Wanting to get away from home, Richard transferred to the University of Michigan and was one of their youngest graduates at age seventeen. Richard was lazy and unmotivated, so his grades were nothing special, despite his high intelligence.

 

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