The Lindbergh Baby | Who Kidnapped and Killed Charles Lindbergh III
A few days before Christmas 1935, with Hoffman’s investigation underway and Hauptmann’s execution imminent, Lindbergh moved his family to Europe, where he remained for the next several years. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed on April 3, 1936.
Even if Hauptmann was innocent, was Lindbergh cold enough to let another man die in the electric chair? The authors think he was. “They didn’t call him the Lone Eagle for nothing,” Monier says.
What they needed was an eyewitness who could place Lindbergh in Hopewell early in the evening on March 1, 1932. They began to hunt for Ben Lupica.
In 1932 Lupica was a Princeton Academy high school student living near Hopewell. A few hours before the kidnapping, he was passed by a man on the road with a ladder in his car.
The prosecution never called him as a witness. Ahlgren was troubled. “Here was the only guy to have seen someone driving around Hopewell with a ladder, and they didn’t call him ,” Ahlgren says.
But where to find him? No Ben Lupicas were listed in the phone book, and Princeton Academy no longer existed.
Ahlgren wondered if Princeton Academy could have been a prep school for Princeton University? He worked out the dates when Lupica might have graduated and then placed a call to Princeton University’s alumni association.
It was a long shot that paid off. Ben Lupica was now a retired chemist still alive in upstate New York. Despite the dozens of books and articles written about the case, no one had interviewed him since the trial. Through his wife, he agreed to meet with them.
Sixty years after the event, Lupica’s memory was sharp. He was retrieving the mail when an oncoming car with New Jersey plates pulled over to its left on the narrow dirt road to pass him. The lone driver was wearing a fedora.
Lupica hadn’t paid attention to the driver: “He was a white guy,” he told Monier and Ahlgren. “He could have been anyone, anyone in the whole world.”
Ahlgren understood then why the prosecution hadn’t called Lupica. Hauptmann’s car had New York plates.
Something else Lupica said made both of their pulses race: He wasn’t sure, but Lupica thought the car was a Dodge because it had a distinctive grille and no hood ornament. The other car with a distinctive grille and no hood ornament was a Franklin, the same car Lindbergh drove.
When their book Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax was published last spring by Branden Books, a small Boston publisher, Ahlgren and Monier were suddenly thrust into the public eye. They did more than 100 radio interviews and took a trip to New York, where Arthur Miller interviewed them for “Court TV.” An Associated Press story was published around the country.
Not all the reactions were positive. Reeve Lindbergh, a 47-year-old writer living in northern Vermont, thought the book was a cruel attack on her parents. “Yes, my father had a fine sense of humor,” she told The Boston Globe. “But to suggest he was capable of murder is unthinkable.”
Geoffrey C. Ward, who scripted a PBS “American Experience” segment on Lindbergh, agreed. “It seems to me obscene to blame the father of a murdered child for the murder without any evidence at all,” says Ward, who concluded Hauptmann was guilty as charged.