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Bruno Hauptmann's Death

Bruno Hauptmann

It was a sensational crime, considered by many to be the most heinous act of the century.

The young son of hero aviator Charles Lindbergh…the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean…

Charles Lindbergh Son

…was kidnapped and killed. And this man…

Bruno Hauptmann

…was put to death for doing it, even though he denied to the very end that it was him.

Bruno Hauptmann was born in Germany and entered the United States illegally by stowing away. Settling in the New York City area, he worked as a carpenter, married a German waitress in 1925 and they had a child eight years later.

On the night of March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh Junior was abducted from his family's New Jersey home. It's believed the kidnapper climbed up a ladder that was placed under the boy's bedroom window. The child was wrapped up in a blanket and carried off. There, on a radiator on the windowsill, was a ransom note. The kidnapper wanted $50,000. The Lindbergh family complied but the toddler was not returned.

Charles Lindbergh Missing poster

The cause of the boy's death was blamed on a blow to the head, thought it was never really established whether the injury was an accident or deliberate.

Charles Lindbergh Dead

Some thought he might have fallen and suffered a fatal injury during the kidnapping.

The kidnapper eluded capture for more than two years. But then in September 1934, a $10 bill that was part of the ransom package was given to a gasoline station attendant, who wrote down the New York license plate of the car. Hauptmann was tracked down by the FBI and police in New York and New Jersey. The investigation ended when Hauptmann, noticing he was being tailed in the Bronx, tried to give authorities the slip by running red lights and speeding. But he was eventually cornered and taken away in handcuffs.

The "Crime of the Century" spawned the "Trial of the Century", as Hauptmann was called the most hated man in the world. During the court proceedings in Flemington, New Jersey he denied being guilty – even though more than $14,000 of the ransom loot was found in his garage…some of the wood in the kidnapper's ladder could be traced to his home… and experts linked his handwriting to that on the ransom note.

His lawyer argued the case against him was completely circumstantial with no reliable witnesses placing Hauptmann at the scene. But those defense arguments were unsuccessful and Hauptmann was convicted. In March 1936 his final chance of clemency was denied.

They called the electric chair at the New Jersey state prison "Old Smokey"….

Bruno Hauptmann Electric Chair

…and Hauptmann was led there on April 3, 1936.

Reporters say he sat down without saying a word. But minutes before taking that last walk, he told his spiritual adviser that he was absolutely innocent of the crime.