The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax 

 Letter to District Attorney Alex Hunter 

 From New York Attorney Darnay Hoffman 

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March 11, 1997

Re: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case  &  Jon Benet Ramsey

Dear Mr. Hunter:

I am a criminal and civil defense attorney in New York City. I recently defended "Subway Gunman" Bernhard Goetz in a civil trial in New York, and I am a former law student of Barry Scheck (Cardozo '82).

I have been following your investigation into the Ramsey case with great interest and I would like to bring certain similarities between the Lindbergh Kidnapping case and the Ramsey case to your attention:

First, and most important, every member of the Lindbergh household, with the exception of Charles and Anne, were under suspicion from the moment the police began their investigation. With what we know about infant homicides today, Lindbergh would have been a prime suspect himself. And for very good reasons:

1) When the Lindbergh baby was first discovered missing, both Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and the nursemaid Betty Gow, immediately suspected Charles Lindbergh. In fact, Betty Gow's first words to Lindbergh were "Colonel, do you have the baby? Please don't fool me!"

2) Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her March 2, 1932 letter to her mother-in-law (a letter she prefaces with the warning that she "Better destroy after reading"), observes that "She (Betty Gow) thought C. (Charles Lindbergh) had taken the baby for a joke. I did (also), until I saw his face." (Lindbergh was never able to give police a complete account of his whereabouts on the day of the kidnapping. He mysteriously "forgot" to attend an dinner given by NYU with Lindbergh scheduled as a guest of honor, or why he arrived home "early" just prior to the time when his son was kidnapped. Lindbergh claimed, vaguely, that he "couldn't remember" the events of that day.)

3) Two months before the March 1st kidnapping, Charles Lindbergh had played a cruel practical joke on his wife, and the nursemaid, by hiding his son Charles Jr. in a closet for twenty minutes while announcing melodramatically that someone had kidnapped the baby. Lindbergh watched with silent glee at the sheer terror and panic as members of his household frantically tried to find the child. Finally, Lindbergh triumphantly produced the baby from it's hiding place.

4) Lindbergh, himself, was the one who discovered the ransom note, even though the place where he had "found" it -- on the window sill in the baby's bedroom -- had already been searched by his wife and the nursemaid.

5) Lindbergh inexplicably allowed the crime scene to become contaminated by both the press and the police by insisting they follow him around the grounds en masse, trampling all over footprints that had been left in the mud around the house. Remarkably, Lindbergh did this despite the great show he made of waiting patiently for nearly two hours for a police technician to arrive with fingerprint gear before opening the ransom note.

6) Lindbergh tried to prevent his household staff from being questioned by police or subjected to polygraphs.

7) Upon discovering his son was "kidnapped," the first person Lindbergh called before calling the police was his lawyer.

8) Lindbergh tried to divert the police investigation by bringing in outside "investigators", while insisting that the kidnapping was the work of "outsiders," i.e., professional kidnappers. (Mob boss Frank Costello was so unimpressed with this theory that he advised Lindbergh to forget about paying any ransom money because, in his opinion, the child was "already dead" and that the kidnapping had all the ear-marks of an amateur at work.)

9) Lindbergh refused to allow the FBI to investigate the case, preferring, instead, to allow the inexperienced New Jersey State Police -- headed by Col. Norman Schwartzkopf (father of "Stormin' Norman) who had no prior police experience except as a floor walker at Bambergers department store (he was politically appointed to the New Jersey State troopers) -- to handle the investigation. Schwartzkopf made a mess of the investigation (which was the general idea).

10) J. Edgar Hoover, along with some of his agents, believed that Lindbergh was lying about what he knew about the circumstances surrounding his son's kidnapping. Later on, Hoover also came to believe that Lindbergh lied about his voice identification of Hauptmann as "cemetery John." Moreover, a Bronx grand juror hearing the case asked, rather incredulously, how it was possible for Lindbergh to be certain he could identify Hauptmann 's voice from hundreds of feet away and remember it two years later when Hauptmann was finally captured as the "kidnapper." Hoover was so frustrated by Lindbergh's "stonewalling" that he encouraged Congress to pass the Federal "Lindbergh" Kidnapping law so the FBI would have jurisdiction to investigate. (Hoover was so suspicious of Lindbergh and his lying that he opened an FBI surveillance file on him which he eventually shared with Franklin Roosevelt, who suspected Lindbergh of pro-Nazi sympathies.)

11) Lindbergh refused to allow the New Jersey State Police, or anyone from law enforcement, to listen in on any phone calls he received concerning the kidnapping that might contain clues.

12) Lindbergh tried to prevent the Treasury Department from recording and "marking" any of the kidnap ransom money so that it could not be traced afterward.

13) Lindbergh let members of the underworld have copies of the kidnap ransom note, even though the police wanted to hold back giving out the unique kidnapper's "signature", which, police knew, would be a vital clue in determining whether or not future communications from the kidnapper were legitimately from him, and not from the thousands of hoaxers plaguing the case.

14) When the Lindbergh baby was eventually found in May of 1932 (two months after the kidnapping), police discovered that someone had hurriedly dumped the body into a shallow ditch within sight of the Lindbergh home. Had Lindbergh not prevented a ten mile search for his son by police bloodhounds when the child was first discovered missing, authorities would have known from the beginning that the baby had died within minutes of having been "kidnapped," and would have treated the matter as a homicide instead of as a "kidnapping." As result, Lindbergh would not have been an anxious parent hoping to effect the return of his son, but would, instead, have been the parent of a murder victim, and, therefore, unable to personally direct or control a police investigation into a homicide.

15) The initial autopsy of the Lindbergh baby was so sloppy that police could never really be sure of the cause of death. In fact, the child might have been suffocated first, and then hit on the head, in order to cover up the real cause of death. 

One recent theory of the kidnapping has Lindbergh repeating his "practical joke" of hiding the baby, only to have it go horribly wrong (the child suffocates and is then bashed in the head to look as if "accidentally" dropped out a window by an anxious "kidnapper" making an all too hasty get-away on an awkwardly constructed ladder used to gain entrance to the second story bedroom window.)

16) Lindbergh immediately ordered the cremation of his son without any further tests or examinations by qualified forensic pathologists (remember how "careful" Lindbergh was with respect to fingerprints on the ransom note? Was that because Lindbergh knew there would be no fingerprints?) 

Michael Baden, in the October 1983 Journal of the Forensic Sciences, stated: "The fractured-skull diagnosis was wrong for two reasons: there was no fracture, just a separation of the unfused skull bones which is normal in all babies, and there was no brain damage. It's the brain damage, not the fracture, that would cause death. The baby was probably smothered at the time of the kidnapping to keep him from crying out and alerting the family and the nurse who were all in nearby rooms."

17) Whoever "kidnapped" the Lindbergh baby was intimately familiar with the large, rambling Lindbergh estate home. The kidnap ladder was placed directly under the child's second story bedroom window -- remarkably, there were no ladder marks under the other windows, which means the kidnapper was incredibly "lucky" to find the right window on the first try without trial and error, or he knew the right window from some prior knowledge. The shutters to the baby's bedroom windows, moreover, were the only ones that couldn't latch closed from the inside and therefore would not need to be forcibly opened.

18) Apparently, the kidnapper was not afraid of detection. What else could explain a "kidnapping" which took place sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 PM in a house full of people and servants, fully lit, with someone quite capable of walking in on the kidnapper at any given moment? The "kidnapper," furthermore, was not worried about the child screaming or making any noise (was that because the child would not cry if the "kidnapper" was someone it already knew?).

19) The Lindbergh family Boston terrier, Wahgoosh, was reported to be a neurotically nervous dog who barked at any strange sound or person -- that night, not a peep.

20) The Lindbergh family never stayed at their home during the weekdays, preferring, instead, to stay with Anne Morrow's parents, an hour away in Englewood New Jersey, which was closer to New York City where Charles worked during the week. The decision to remain at their home a day or two longer was made at the last minute and could only have been known by members of the immediate family and household staff. Professional kidnappers "staking out" the Lindberghs would have known from the meticulous routine kept by Charles that the family could be expected to be staying with Anne's family, and the country home where the baby was kidnapped. This was why the police insisted for over two years that the kidnapping was an "inside job." Even Hauptmann's defense attorneys argued that there was no way a Bronx carpenter could have known what the Lindberghs were doing, at the last minute, two hours away in the backwoods of New Jersey, to then rush out there and kidnap Charles Jr..

21) Police investigating the crime noted that there were no fingerprints of any kind in the baby's bedroom. None. Not even fingerprints normally associated with the baby, his mother, the nursemaid, household staff, or even Charles. One police officer remarked afterwards that it appeared to him as if someone had purposely wiped down the whole room to remove it of any fingerprints -- a task too dangerously time consuming for a stranger and would-be "kidnapper."

In short, the Lindbergh and Ramsey cases have one very important theme in common -- they are both kidnap "hoaxes" perpetrated by the parties really responsible, who must "hide in plain sight" in the hopes of throwing off the police. In the first case, involving Lindbergh, the hoax was successful; in the second, involving the Ramseys, only for a time. Yet, in each case, the "kidnapper" was able to successfully bring about a breakdown of normal police procedure into what should have been routine domestic homicide investigations. Instead, the police were tricked into believing the crime to be a kidnapping, instead of a murder, with devastating consequences for the destruction and contamination of potential crime scene evidence.

If you would like to consult with me further on this case I would be more than happy to speak to you. You are doing a very difficult investigation under nearly impossible circumstances. The fact that my former law professor Barry Scheck has agreed to consult with you makes me even more eager to help.

Good luck on this case.

Very truly yours,

Darnay Hoffman

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