The Lindbergh Baby | Who Kidnapped and Killed Charles Lindbergh III
“Steve’s not your typical, single-minded cop,” says Ahlgren. ” I guess I thought maybe there was enough of a bizarre component to him that he would read the article.”
When he did, Monier, too, was troubled by Lindbergh’s involvement in the investigation. As a former juvenile officer, Marlier knew recent FBI crime statistics showed that over 70 percent of the homicides involving children under nine years old are committed by one or both parents. Yet as far as Monier could tell, neither Lindbergh was ever a suspect. It appeared the police assumed from the outset that there had been a kidnapping and then handed over the reins.
“Something’s not right here,” Monier told Ahlgren.
The two men checked out everything the local libraries had to offer on the Lindbergh case, from biographies to contemporary news accounts to the trial transcripts. Monier’s search took him to St. Anselm’s College, Ahlgren’s to the large public library in Manchester. Now and then they shared their discoveries over the phone.
“Maybe you guys’ll write a book,” Ahlgren’s wife said. At the time, they laughed at the suggestion. But they didn’t stop reading. By fall, simple curiosity had become an obsession.
“Some guys take up golf,” shrugs Monier. “We read.”
In one biography Monier learned that in January 1932, Lindbergh hid his son in a closet, then told his wife, Anne, and the child’s nanny that little Charles was missing. The women searched the house for 20 frantic minutes before Lindbergh admitted the hoax.
When the baby disappeared two months later, one of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s first thoughts was that her husband had taken the child as a joke, according to a letter she wrote to her mother-in-law. Monier suspected the same thing.
“This is one strange duck,” he told Ahlgren.
By the end of 1990, the pair realized that there was an overwhelming possibility that Hauptmann was innocent. They also realized that no one had ever asked the question that would be first on the lips of a prosecutor or investigator today: Did Lindbergh do it?
They had some reservations. It wasn’t just that neither had ever written a book. Implicating an icon — even a dead icon — in the death of his child is painful.
“In 23 years in law enforcement,” says Monier, ”I’ve seen all kinds of people fall from grace, but I still don’t like it. Lindbergh was a national hero, and I think we all want to keep flying this guy across the ocean.”
But if they were right — and they firmly believed they were right — a hero had permitted an innocent man to die in the electric chair. That, they felt, was worth exploring through the eyes of two individuals who had spent their lives in the criminal justice system.
They sketched out an outline over Monier’s kitchen table one night early in the winter of 1991. Their initial plan was to concentrate on Lindbergh’s background and his actions from the day of the kidnapping through the end of the trial.
Like a cop on the beat, Monier did the background work. He spent his nights and weekends examining the facts as if the crime had been committed in his town. Since nearly everyone associated with the case was dead or no longer talking (Anne Lindbergh has granted no public interview for years and Hauptmann’s widow, Alma, only rarely speaks to the press), he turned to the record. Nights in the library were augmented by endless calls to the archivist at the New Jersey State Police Museum near Trenton, New Jersey, where the original police files are on display.