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Famous Crimes that Captured the Nation's Attention

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These high-profile crimes transfixed our interest, sparked our curiosity and caused outrage around the country. Take a look at some of 20th century’s biggest, most outlandish crimes.

Famous crimes that captured the nation's attention.
Lindbergh Kidnapping Poster

When: March 1, 1932
Where: Hopewell, New Jersey, area
Criminals involved: Bruno Richard Hauptmann
Status: Solved in 1936

Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was 20 months old when he was kidnapped from the family’s home on the morning of March 1, 1932, near Hopewell, New Jersey. A ransom note was found on the premises demanding a trade – $50,000 for the child.

After communicating with the kidnapper through the newspapers over the course of a few weeks, an exchange was finally set up. The money was handed over, but a false location was given regarding the whereabouts of the child, so he was never found.

It wasn’t until a little over a month later that the body of Lindbergh Jr. was discovered by chance about four-and-a-half miles away from the Lindbergh home, 45 feet from a highway. The body was badly decomposed and the skull crushed.

At this news, the FBI and New York City Bureau Office launched an effort to track the kidnapper by matching serial numbers on gold certificates that were used to pay the ransom. Eventually, this created a paper trail that led them to Bruno Hauptmann, a German immigrant who precisely fit the description given by the man who handed off the ransom money. Hauptmann was later tried in court and found guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death by electrocution, which took place on April 3, 1936.

Read more about the Lindbergh kidnapping


When: Jan. 17, 1950

Where: Boston, Massachusetts, area

Amount stolen: $2,775,394

Made headlines as:
“The perfect crime”
“The crime of the century”
“The fabulous Brinks robbery”

Criminals involved:
Henry Baker, Vincent Costa, Michael Geagan, Adolph “Jazz” Maffie, Joseph McGinnis, Anthony Pino, Stanley Gusciora, James Faherty , Thomas Richardson, Joseph Banfield, Joseph O’Keefe

Status: Solved in 1956

A group of armed, masked men robbed cash, checks, securities and money orders from the Brinks bank in Boston. They dressed in Navy-type peacoats, gloves and chauffeurs’ caps and wore Halloween-type masks to cover their faces.

At the bank, the robbers encountered five employees, who were forced at gunpoint to lie down on the floor while their hands were tied behind their backs and adhesive tape was placed over their mouths. According to the employees’ accounts, the robbers moved with precision, which suggested that the crime was carefully planned and rehearsed. Shortly before 7:30 p.m., they emerged from the bank with the money and sped off into the night.

After years of unfruitful investigation and hundreds of dead ends, the FBI was finally able to crack the case when one of the robbers, who believed he was cheated out of his share of money, gave up the other members of the group.

Read more about the crime, investigation and arrests


When: Nov. 24, 1971

Where: Portland, Oregon and
Seattle, Washington, area

Amount stolen: $200,000

Criminals involved:
A man who called himself Dan Cooper

Status: Unsolved

The day before Thanksgiving in 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket for a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle. A short time after takeoff, he grabbed the attention of a stewardess, telling her that he had a bomb stashed in his briefcase. He demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills in exchange for the safe return of the passengers.

When the flight landed in Seattle, he traded the 36 passengers for the parachutes and money. Keeping some of the plane’s crew, he told them to take off and head for Mexico City. Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, in the dark of night, Dan Cooper jumped from the plane with a parachute and the money. The pilots and crew later landed safely, but the hijacker was never seen again.

In 1980, $5,800 with serial numbers matching those of the money stolen was discovered by a young boy at a place in the Columbia River called Tena Bar. This discovery added intrigue to the case that remains hotly researched and debated to this day.

Read more about the D.B. Cooper hijacking


When: Feb. 4, 1974

Where: Berkeley, California

Criminals involved:
Symbionese Liberation Army and Patty Hearst

Status: Case closed in 2002

Patty Hearst, a wealthy college coed and the granddaughter of media magnate William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped one February night by a group of domestic terrorists calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA for short. Her status made her a high-profile target that the SLA hoped would attract attention – and ransom money. Led by Donald DeFreeze, the SLA had already made news for shooting two Oakland school officials with cyanide-tipped bullets, one fatally.

By April, a strange twist occurred when Hearst was spotted on bank surveillance tapes as part of the SLA, robbing a bank and wielding a machine gun. The FBI conducted a massive manhunt for the group, but always seemed to be a step behind. A break in the case came in May when two members were caught stealing ammunition at a local store. This led to a shootout where six members of the SLA – including DeFreeze – died, but Hearst and others escaped.

Hearst was finally caught on the run in San Francisco on Sept. 18, 1975, and taken to trial, charged with bank robbery and using a firearm during a felony. She was convicted, despite her claims that she was brainwashed by the SLA, and sentenced to serve 35 years. President Carter commuted her sentence in 1979 after she’d served 22 months, and she was released from prison. President Clinton granted her a pardon in 2001.

Read more about Patty Hearst


When: April 10, 1959

Where: Nevada desert, 26 miles southwest of Las Vegas

Criminals involved: James Reves, John William Hagenson

Status: Case closed in November 1959

Vera Krupp was an American woman who loved to flaunt her 33-carat diamond on her hand wherever she went. The massive stone was a blue-white diamond with two smaller, baguette-shaped diamonds on either side, and together with its setting, was valued at about $275,000 in 1959.

In April of that year, three men posing as workmen forced their way into her house, tying Krupp and her foreman up – blindfolded and back-to-back. They ripped the diamond ring right off her hand, drawing blood, and they also took $700,000 they found in the house.

The three men became fugitives. About six weeks after the robbery, the large center diamond was recovered in New Jersey when a local grocer was reported to authorities for trying to sell a large diamond. The two baguettes were later recovered in St. Louis.

Mrs. Krupp? She was able to rebuild her original ring and wore it proudly until her death. In 1968, it was sold at auction for the then-unheard-of price of $305,000 by Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor.

Read more about the Krupp diamond theft


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