by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
February 13, 2007
THE 'COLD CASE' OF THE CENTURY
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- If I knew then what I know now, well, there is no doubt that I would be retired from a lifetime career in forensic science. I am drawn to my wide-screen television set each night for re-runs of "Law and Order," "Cold Case Files," "Forensics" and "48 hours." And, weekly, "Bones," "CSI, Crime Scene Investigation, Las Vegas." There are many programs I've seen more than twice. Originally, it was the street scenes of New York City that claimed my interest but now I realize it the crime and detection that draws me.
Lately, I'm thinking "outside the box," as they say in contemporary jargon. I watch the program and at the same time wonder just how much we would know now if we had applied today's knowledge to one of the cases that still calls out for clarification down the long, long halls of memory.
I was born four months before Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. was kidnapped and yet that case became part of my life's lore since that day in March, 1932. Although I can't recall events during those months before I was a year old, I was being involved.
Baby Lindbergh was about 20 months old; policenationwide stopped all automobiles to see if a baby was on board. In mid-March, my father was driving and my mother held me close to her breast while discreetly nursing me. When the policeman asked to see the baby's feet, my mother, perplexed, said "This is a baby girl, officer, not a toddler."
"I have my orders, ma'am. The Colonel's babe has a deformed toe and I have to check all babies. That means all babies," he said emphatically. Kidnappings for ransom were very rare, so we can't blame the police for not knowing then what we have since learned. In fact, out of this case came the Lindbergh Law; kidnapping became a federal crime.
My mother complied but not without difficulty. All babies wore socks but they were hoisted up to the diaper and pinned. Legs were kept warm but it wasn't easy to expose the toes in a car idling at curbside on a cold evening. Satisfied, the policeman nodded and said "on your way, now."
That little incident was not enough to create a bond between young Lindbergh and me but I grew up knowing all about him. Over my crib was a framed picture of the toddler and my mother mourned that loss as if he were her own.
I've read the books written on the case and have seen guests on talk shows over the years who were reporters at the trial. Adela Rogers St. John, a reporter for Hearst newspapers and frequent guest on the Mike Douglas Show told of the circus atmosphere in Hopewell, New Jersey. Newspaper writer and legend, H L Mencken, called the whole affair "the biggest story since the Resurrection."
Lindbergh would not inform police of ransom demands; instead, he paid them ... twice, to two separate con men, at $100,000 each.
Would this case go this far today? The crime scene, the area around the ladder propped against the window leading into the baby's room, originally had two sets of footprints. By the time the masses traipsed through the region, there was nothing usable. Fingerprints on the window sill were also contaminated.
With everything I have read, I must find Bruno Hauptman guilty of the kidnapping and the murder. But, it's not because they proved it so in court. Quite the contrary. The shadow of a doubt loomed large but nobody paid attention. I base my assumption on the money he was offered and refused to take ($90,000) if he would confess. The death sentence would be taken off the table and his wife and child would live happily ever after. Nope. He would not confess to something he didn't do.
When the body of a toddler roughly the same age and size was discovered, it was declared to be the Lindbergh baby, identified by his father in a brief look at the decomposed body. However, Dr. Philip Van Ingen, a pediatrician who had seen him two weeks before the kidnapping, gave a very thorough examination. He would not conclusively say it was the Lindbergh baby. He went on to declare: "If someone were to come in here and offer me ten million dollars ... I simply wouldn't be able to identify those remains."
According to an entry on Baby Lindbergh in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, "As of 2006, the body of the child has never been positively identified by forensic means - and, thus the child may be classified as missing."
That is a very chilling thought, even for a cold-case file. I'd like to know the true end of the story. Dr. Van Ingen could not identify those remains - but we could. DNA must be available. Consider that a collective "we." Someone can, but alas, I can't. I missed my calling.