The Lindbergh Baby | Who Kidnapped and Killed Charles Lindbergh III
Part of what he found was expected: The Lone Eagle’s historic flight across the Atlantic, followed by a heroic return to New York; a meteoric rise in stature, climaxing with a storybook marriage to Anne Morrow, the daughter of an influential banker and ambassador.
But he also found there was another side to Lindbergh. The man behind the public mask was “a social misfit,” a rigid loner with a penchant for cruel jokes. Once during his airmail piloting days, one of Lindbergh’s roommates returned from a night on the town and took a drink from a pitcher, only to discover that Lindbergh had replaced the ice water with kerosene. The pilot nearly died. “Had it not been for the Lone Eagle flight,” a friend of Anne’s told a British writer, ” [Lindbergh] would now be in charge of a gasoline station on the outskirts of St. Louis.”
Monier was taken aback. “In life,” he says, “we tend to take a few facts and extrapolate an image of someone from that. The image I had was of a hero. But when I began reading, I was surprised to find that this was a cold, aloof guy, whom, frankly, I wouldn’t like very much.”
Monier was also surprised when he examined Lindbergh’s actions surrounding the kidnapping of his first child. Charles Augustus Lindbergh III was born on June 22, 1930. A year later, the baby was left with Anne’s parents while she and Lindbergh surveyed the Orient. The trip was cut short in October, after Anne’s father died.
Construction began on a rambling French manor house on 500 acres outside Hopewell. When the house was livable, the couple would meet there on Saturdays and remain until Monday morning, when Lindbergh left for his job in New York with Trans-Continental Air Transport and would spend the week with Anne at her mother’s estate.
That steady routine was altered on Monday, February 29,1932. The baby had a slight cold, and Lindbergh instructed Anne not to travel and expose him to the weather.
At 7:30 P.M. on Tuesday, Anne and Betty Gow, the child’s nanny, put the infant to bed. They latched two of the three sets of shutters. A set on the east side was warped and wouldn’t latch.
Twenty minutes later, Betty Gow checked on the boy one last time. Lindbergh, who didn’t want his son coddled, had given strict orders that no one was permitted in the nursery again until 10:00 P.M., when Charles was taken to the bathroom.
Around 8:25, 45 minutes later than usual, Lindbergh pulled up the driveway, honking his horn. He and Anne had dinner and then talked in the living room. Around 9:15 Lindbergh said he heard a sound, like the cracking of an orange crate falling off a chair. Anne heard nothing, and their Boston terrier never barked.
A few minutes later, Anne went to her bedroom to read. Lindbergh took a bath. At 10:00 P.M., he was in his study when the nanny asked if he had their child. Without a word, Lindbergh raced upstairs and into the nursery as Anne was coming out. “Anne,” he said, “they have stolen our baby.”
With the staff, Anne searched the house while Lindbergh drove up and down the road, flashing his headlights on the woods. They found nothing.
Upon his return, however, Lindbergh went alone into the nursery. There he found a sealed envelope in plain view on a radiator beneath a window. He ordered that no one touch it until the police arrived in order to preserve fingerprints.
The precaution was unnecessary. Inside the envelope was a ransom demand for $50,000. There were no fingerprints on the envelope or the letter. In fact, there were no prints in the nursery, not even of the Lindbergh family or staff, as if every surface in the room had been washed clean.
Minimal precautions were taken to preserve evidence outside the house, where the police found two holes in the soft ground below the nursery window with the warped shutters – the only window in the entire house that didn’t latch from the inside. In the brush they found an odd homemade ladder. Any other clues that may have existed were obliterated by the horde of police and press who trampled the grounds.
For two months the investigation went nowhere. Then on May 12, 1932, the lifeless child was found in the woods less than three miles from Lindbergh’s estate. Lindbergh identified the body, then ordered its cremation without delay. Any evidence that might have identified the killer literally went up in smoke.