Precedents

October 8, 1934


Charles Lindbergh became a worldwide celebrity after he became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic. The kidnapping of his 20-month-old son, Charles Jr., on March 1, 1932, thus set off a media circus. The baby’s body was found 10 weeks later a few miles from Lindbergh’s New Jersey estate; he had died of a head injury likely incurred the night of the abduction.

Nearly $14,000 in gold certificates—part of a $50,000 ransom—was found in the garage of the Bronx home of Bruno Hauptmann, a German-born carpenter (pictured above in court). A piece of floorboard from Haupt­mann’s attic was alleged to have been part of the ladder used in the crime.

Found guilty after a six-­week trial, he was offered life imprisonment in return for a confession. However, Hauptmann stead­fastly claimed innocence and, on April 3, 1936, was put to death in the electric chair.

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