TELECOM Digest Editor Noted in response to Regular Reader:
> ...Consider 1924, and the two University of Chicago students, Nathan
> Leopold and his partner Mr. Loeb. Both brilliant geniuses -- quite
> literally -- they molested and murdered fourteen year old Bobbie
> Franks, and stuffed the boy's nude body in a storm sewer in the far
> south side Hegewisch neighborhood, then had the audacity to demand a
> million dollar ransom from the boy's grandfather, who was the Vice
> President of Sears, Roebuck at the time. They were caught when Mr.
> Leopold accidentally left behind a pair of eye-glasses at the crime
> scene. Richard Loeb died in Joliet Penitentiary in 1935 as the result
> of a homosexual affair with another prisoner in the hoosegow. The
> Chicago Daily News (a long, out of business newspaper) reported it the
> next day by noting that 'brilliant linquist, honors student at
> University of Chicago yesterday made one fatal mistake: he ended his
> sentence with a proposition'.
Just for the sake of accuracy: Nineteen year old Leopold and eighteen
year old Loeb did not molest Robert Franks. Franks was killed almost
immediately when he got in the car. This myth about molestation came
about because the killers tried to disguise the body by pouring acid on
the face and genitals (Franks, like his killers, was Jewish).
The Sears-Roebuck connection is with Richard Loeb; his father was a
Vice-President of that company.
There was no million dollar ransom. A million dollars was the reported
fee Clarence Darrow asked for to defend them in court. Leopold and
Loeb's ransom note, to Robert's father Jacob Franks, demanded $50,000.
Richard Loeb was killed in January 1936, slashed 58 times by an
ex-cellmate who claimed he was defending himself against Loeb's
advances. Not bloody likely. Loeb's throat was cut ear to ear and his
hands and arms were slashed to ribbons in an effort to defend himself.
The cellmate didn't have even a scratch on him.
The "homosexual advances" story was considered ridiculous by everyone
who had any knowledge of the two men, including the warden (who was not
allowed to testify); a homophobic jury nonetheless acquitted Loeb's
killer. James Day killed Loeb because Day was convinced Loeb had access
to unlimited money from his family and he demanded that Loeb support
him. The two had been arguing for weeks over Day's demands for money.
James Day was a known predator. He was later caught sodomizing another
prisoner and was punished for it. That's part of the record, too.
Anyone interested in the case should read the Hal Higdon book.
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Another book of interest on this case
was written about 1956 called 'Compulsion' if you recall it. I think
what you refer to as the 'myth about the molestation' came about
because the men chose to strip the boy's body naked and attempt to
deface the boy's genitals; this is not a 'normal act' in a
'heterosexual murder' at least. Bobbie Franks knew the killers quite
well; he went with them willingly when they offered him a ride home
from Chicago Normal School, where he was a teenage student. He had
known them for years.
They had worked up quite an elaborate scheme regards the ransom money,
including a telephone call to the Walgreen's Drug Store pay phone on
63rd Street and Drexel where Mr. Franks had been told to wait for
their call; the call was timed in such a way that Mr. Franks would
have only a few minutes to take the sack of money and race to the
Illinois Central station at 63rd Street and board the South Shore
train to Michigan City which was due to come through five or ten
minutes after the phone call was received. On boarding the South Shore
train he was to look for a note hidden in the box of (blank) telegraph
forms for a note which instructed him to toss the bag of money off the
train into a wooded area near the Champion Tire Company from where the
guys would retreive it a few minutes later. The whole scheme fell
apart when Nathan Leopold lost his eye-glasses at the scene of the
crime; the body was found in the sewer by workmen trying to otherwise
repair it. The eye-glasses were traced back to him by the optician who
had originally built them for him.
Clarence Darrow based his appeal for their lives partly on his claim
that both guys were insane. Apparently after killing the boy, they
left his body in the back seat of their 'Model T' automobile and drove
around looking for a place to eat lunch; they finally agreed on some
restaurant on Indianapolis Boulevard in Whiting; stopped, got out to
get food then got back in and argued about where they should dump the
body. Darrow noted that "at that time of day, the evening rush hour,
hundreds of machines on the roadway at the same time; accidents are
very common; had there been an accident with their machine the police
would have been involved, it would have all been over for them; yet
they wanted to stop right there and eat their meal before they took
the body on for disposal. I defy you to tell me they are not insane
for acting like that." PAT]