Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leopold & Loeb

Life & Death In Prison

Loeb's mansion at Stateville
Loeb's mansion at Stateville

At first, prison officials tried to keep Leopold and Loeb apart, but eventually they ended up together. Their lives were drastically altered. A year later, when reporters came to see them, Leopold refused to be interviewed. Loeb was much altered. "I can't talk to you. I'd like to say something, but I'm afraid I'll get in bad."

In 1932, the two of them opened a school for the prisoners. Along with other educated inmates, Leopold and Loeb did the administrative work and taught classes. Both of them showed signs of rehabilitation. For once they were doing something really constructive with their lives, their intellectual gifts and their expensive educations

James Day
James Day

But prison is a very dangerous place to live, despite the illusion of security. On January 28, 1936, James E. Day, Loeb's cellmate attacked him in the shower with a straight razor. Blood poured out from over fifty razor wounds. Seven doctors and surgeons fought to save him, but Richard Loeb died at the age of thirty-two from loss of blood and shock. Afterwards, Leopold washed the blood from the body of his most intimate friend.

Later in Leopold's book Life Plus 99 Years, he describes his feelings: "We covered him at last with a sheet, but after a moment, I folded the sheet back from his face and sat down on a stool by the table where he lay. I wanted a long last look at him.

"For, strange as it may sound, he had been my best pal.

"In one sense, he was also the greatest enemy I have ever had. For my friendship with him had cost me my life. It was he who had originated the idea of committing the crime, he who had planned it, he who had largely carried it out. It was he who had insisted on doing what we eventually did...Dick was a living contradiction.

"As I sat now by his cooling, bleeding corpse, the strangeness of that contradiction, that basic, fundamental ambivalence of his character, was borne in on me.

"For Dick possessed more of the truly fine qualities than almost anyone else I have ever known. Not just the superficial social graces. Those, of course, he possessed to the nth degree....But the more fundamental, more important qualities of character, too, he possessed in full measure. He was loyal to a fault. He could be sincere; he could be honestly and selflessly dedicated. His devotion to the school proves that. He truly, deeply wanted to help his fellow man.

"How, I mused, could these personality traits coexist with the other side of Dick's character? It didn't make sense! For there was another side. Dick just didn't have the faintest trace of conventional morality. Not just before our incarceration. Afterward too. I don't believe he ever, to the day of his death, felt truly remorseful for what we had done. Sorry that we had been caught, of course....But remorse for the murder itself? I honestly don't think so."

James Day claimed that he delivered those fifty plus razor wounds because Loeb had made homosexual advances to him. This was highly unlikely since Loeb's throat was slashed from behind. Day and Loeb had many arguments before usually related to Day's portion of the money that Loeb gave out to his friends for cigarettes and candy. Out of the $50 monthly allowance that Loeb's family provided him, he completely supplied Day and others with snacks and tobacco. When the new warden cut each prisoner's allowance to $3/week, Day was jealous that he wasn't getting from Loeb what he thought he should.

Day, of course, did not have a scratch on him, despite his plea that he had killed Loeb in self-defense. The blood on Day's body was Richard's. Regardless of the facts, Day was judged not guilty.


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