Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leopold & Loeb

The Investigation

The investigation of Bobby Franks' death went into high gear. Unfortunately an opportunity was lost when Jacob Franks and Samuel Ettelson forgot the address of the drugstore where they were to await instructions from the kidnapper. Soon a Yellow Cab arrived at the Franks' home, sent by the kidnapper, but the driver had not been given any instructions as to the destination.

Shortly afterwards, at the Van de Bogert & Ross drugstore on East Sixty-third Street, a phone call came in for a Mr. Franks. The caller was told that there was no Mr. Franks there. A few minutes later, another call came for Mr. Franks, along with a description of Jacob Franks. The druggist told the caller that there was no man in the store of that description.

Several rewards were publicized: Jacob Franks offered $5,000; Police Chief Morgan Collins offered another $1,000; the two major Chicago newspapers, the Tribune and the Herald and Examiner, each offered $5,000.

Robert E. Crowe
Robert E. Crowe

State's Attorney Robert E. Crowe took charge of the investigation. Crowe's assistant, Bert Cronson, a nephew of Samuel Ettelson, was assigned full time, along with two others on Crowe's staff.

Crowe, a forty-five-year-old politician known for his pugnacity and stubbornness, was trying to establish himself as the top Republican in the Chicago area. A favorable solution to the Franks' case would go a long way to achieving that goal.

Detectives at culvert
Detectives at culvert

The culvert near Wolf Lake in which the body was found was near railroad tracks. In fact, it was members of a railroad crew that had lifted the naked body of the Franks boy from the water. Bobby's clothes were not found nearby, but a pair of eyeglasses were lying on the ground.

The ransom note, police scientists determined, was typed by a novice typist on an Underwood typewriter. Coroner Oscar Wolff told the press that only an educated person could have drafted a letter in such perfect English. "That would signify intelligence, a dangerous attribute in a criminal....Greed would be the controlling passion, and, dead or alive, they intended to cash in on Robert Franks, the millionaire's son."

A Portion of the Ransom Note
A Portion of the Ransom Note

Given that the ransom note was written by someone well educated, the police focused upon three teachers at the Harvard School where Bobby Franks attended. They were taken to the police station and grilled for hours while their apartments were searched. One of the teachers was released, but the other two were kept in custody.

The small horn rimmed glasses found near the body did not belong to the boy. The frames, which were made of Xylonite, were chewed at the ends. The prescription was very common. The chances of finding the owner of the glasses seemed slim, but every attempt was made. The newspapers carried photos of the glasses and the police contacted optical companies in the area.