Leopold and Loeb

The murder of Bobbie Franks

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They are Nathan Leopold, Jr., son of the millionaire president of the Fibre Can company, and Richard Loeb, whose father is a vice-president of Sears, Roebuck & Co.

On May  21, 1924, Nathan Leopold met his friend Richard Loeb after their post graduate classes at the University of Chicago. Nathan was studying law. Richard was studying history. The time was eleven o clock.

   The two drove in Nathan's Red Willis Knight, to a Rent a Car on South Michigan St. where they rented a Gray Willis Knight. They rented the car under the name Morton D Ballard using an elaborate false identity (see above link) they had earlier created. They then drove to a local restaurant where they put side curtains up on the rented car and had lunch with a friend, Dick Rubel.

After lunch they  returned to Leopold's home. They dropped off Nathan's car, after transfering their "gear" From Nathan's red car to the rented car. These included a pair of rubber boots, some ether, hydrochloric acid, rope, some gags, and a chisel.
The ether, Hydrochloric acid, Rope and guns


At this time, Nathan asked the Leopold family chauffeur, Sven Englund,  if he could do something about the squeeking brakes. Nathan commented he'd rather hit someone than have squeaking brakes.

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They ended up in Jackson park, where one of the boys- seemingly Leopold after Loeb showed him how, taped the metal end of the chisal- to use as a grip. Their weapon would be the wooden handle of the chisel, their blunt object. Loeb referred to this weapon as his "Toy." The boys were also armed. Leopold had a 38 and Loeb a 45.


   They  remained in the park for 45 minutes to an hour, until the local schools let out. They had a victim in mind; Johnny Levinson. Johnny was a neighborhood boy who fit the 'profile' Loeb and Leopold had created. The victim must have wealthy parents, he must be small so they could easily overtake him, and he must be someone they knew, so he would come willingly into the car and not make a scene. They caught sight of Levinson and began trailing him. However, they later lost him. Leopold returned to his house to retreive his binoculars, which Loeb referred to as Leopold's "bird glasses".

The afternoon was wearing on and Levinson had not reappeared.  However, at approx 5PM, a boy broke away from a baseball game and began walking home. His name was Bobby Franks. Another boy followed Bobby at a distance. His name was Irving Hatrtman. Loeb and Leopold spotted Bobby, turned the car around, let Franks gain a little on them, then pulled over.

Richard Loeb knew Bobby. Leopold did not. Bobby Franks was a friend of Richard's young brother, Tommy. Bobby often played tennis on the Loeb's court, and had even played with Richard on occasion.The Franks lived diagonally across from the Loebs.

   Richard Loeb called to Bobby, "Bobby, you want a ride home?" Bobby said he'd just as soon walk. His house was not far. "Wait. I want to ask you about that tennis racket you were using last week. I was thinking of getting one for Tommy." Bobby got in the car, beside the driver, in the front seat.

  As he got in, Richard introduced Bobby to Nathan. "You know Babe? This is Bobby Franks. Do you mind if we drive around the corner?"

Bobby  said he didn't mind.

   Meanwhile, young Irving Hartman paused in his walk to examine some tulips. When he looked up, Bobby was gone.

The murder


 The car rounded the corner and Bobby was hit over the head with the chisel. The plan had been to knock him unconscious. The boy would be hit with the blunt end of the chisel, knocked out, and taken to the predetermined dumping site, at which point they would complete the plan by strangling the boy. The plan dictated each hold an end of the rope and they both pull, to share equally in the guilt. However, Bobby did not succumb instantly. He screamed, and was thus hit again and again, then gagged and dragged into the back seat.

   Leopold began to lose his compusure, mumbling, "This is terrible. This is terrible!" Richard Loeb calmed him down by talking to him, joking and laughing.   Bobby was wrapped in a rug and shoved onto the back floor. Already things were going wrong. There was a great deal of blood. They hadn't intended on that.


     They began to drive around, killing time until nightfall. They headed out to Indiana towards a location they had already decided upon.  At a deserted spot they stopped the car, removed Bobby's pants and shoes, belt and class pin. They left the shoes on one side of the road, the belt and pin on the other.

   In their alibi, Leopold and Loeb claimed they had dinner at the Coconut Grove. In reality, this (left) is where they had their dinner May 21st. They stopped at a lunch stand called the Dew Drop Inn and Leopold ordered them Hotdogs  (red hots) and Rootbeers.  They sat eating.

Disposing of the body

Once it was dark enough, they proceeded to the place they intended to dispose of the body- a culvert at Wolf Lake, where Leopold had often gone birding. The culvert was a drainpipe under the railroad tracks that connected two lakes.  

Leopold had never noticed it when birding and thought nobody else would notice it either. They completed removing the body's clothing, dragged it in the robe to the culvert, then poured the acid on the face, the genitals and an identifying scar. . They poured acid on the genitals because Richard was under the impression that a person could be identified by his genitals, believing his brother Tommy had a preculiarly shaped penis.

 . The smell of the acid and the water caused some discomfort, and Leopold did not push the body into the pipe far enough, and one of the boy's feet protruded.


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  With the body hidden, they then stopped at a drugstore where Nathan phoned a friend (Susan Lurrie) cancelling a date. This is interesting. Leopold had a date with Susan for May 21st, and thus, one could argue, Lurrie gets dragged into Leopold and Loeb's alibi just as does Dick Rubel. Leopold and Loeb's favorite topics of discussion was "What if our friends knew what we really were". Perhaps there was an added thrill in circummstantially involving these people.

    Leopold then phoned his father telling him he would be a bit late getting home to drive home his aunt and uncle,who were visiting.

They then called the Franks from another phone at another drugstore. Leopold told Mrs Franks he was George Johnson,they had kidnapped her son, he was safe, and further instructions would follow tomorrow.

They then drove back to Leopold's home. They parked the bloodied rented car on the street and Nathan retrieved his own car from the garage. He drove his aunt and uncle home while Richard stayed, talking to Nathan's father. Ten minutes later, Nathan returned. They had a few drinks with Mr. Leopold until he went to bed- at 11:30 PM. Nathan and Richard remained for a while, drank some more, and played two games of Casino ("for fun"). at 12:30 or 1 they drove to the Loeb house and burnt the boy's clothing in the furnace.

   The chisel was disposed of, by being tossed out the window of the car, an action that was witnessed by a night watchman, who retrieved the weapon, covered with blood,  from the gutter to give to the police.

May 22, 1924. The Wheels Within the Wheels.


The plan continued after classes on Thursday. It was Ransom day.

  An elaborate plan had been hatched for the delivery of the ransom. It was the most interesting and most complex part of the entire crime, and it was the part Richard Loeb liked best.

"Who says there's no way to get delivery of the ransom without letting anybody get a look at you? Or giving them a chance to plant a gang of dicks to watch you pick it up? This is neat, Nate- hey, I'm a poet! I knew if we just put our heads together and gave ourselves time enough we could come up with a foolproof scheme. Let's see them unravel this one." (Life Plus Ninety Nine Years)

  The ransom collection plan was as follows. Place a note in the trash can on a certain street corner. Place a note in the telegraph blank box aboard a certain train. . He is to count quicly to five, then throw the box with the ransom as far as he can. The boys would be sitting in an alley in the rented car, and watch the box be thrown from the train, then watch the train speed away. Should Franks have notified the police, should the police have even boarded the train with Franks, they would all be carried away, and not know where the kidnapers were. Should the train stop or slow, well, then they only had not to move to pick up the ransom. It seemed a foolproof plan. They couldn't get caught.

   Unfortunately, things continued to unravel. The note wouldn't stick to the waste basket. So they eliminated that part of the relay. Mr Franks had indeed alerted the police, and he forgot the address to where he was to take the cab. Leopold did not tell the cab company where he (he was posing as Mr Franks when he ordered the cab) wanted to go, so the cabbie arrived at the Franks, and nobody knew where to go. And then, an unidentified body had been discovered in a swamp in Indiana . The jig, so to speak, was up.

   The boys phoned the drugstore several times. Mr Franks never arrived. They grabbed a paper from the newsstand and read about the discovery of the body. Loeb wanted to quit, to return the car and lay low, sure that the game was over.

Loeb argued against it. It was too risky. But Leopold insisted. They phoned the drugstore again, and again, there was no Mr Franks in the store. And then, then the game was truly over.

  . At the drugstore, they ran into one of the instructors from the Harvard school, Mott Kirt Mitchell, who would become a suspect. They discussed the tragedy. Leopold then drove Loeb home.


Newspaper excerpts

Loeb, Leopold Tell How They Lured Boy Into Car, Slew Him

Marked Three Sons of Rich Neighbors
and Picked Up Robert by Chance; Victim Killed at Once and Driven to Burial Place as Pair Rejoiced.

Julius Rosenwald's Grandson
Picked as Another for Abduction and Ransom -- Slayers Plotted Six Months to Commit Crime and Hide Tracks.

Two mentally gifted university students, sons of wealthy Hyde Park families, confessed to kidnaping and murder of 14-year-old Robert Franks today to the last detail of plot and execution.

They are Nathan Leopold, Jr., son of the millionaire president of the Fibre Can company, and Richard Loeb, whose father is a vice-president of Sears, Roebuck & Co.

They kidnaped the Franks boy in Ellis avenue, near his home and there, as the first step in what was to have been a series of similar crimes, conceived for money and "in a spirit of adventure."

With Robert in their car, sitting in the front seat, the kidnapers turned east from 49th street and Ellis avenue and a moment later the one in the back seat, supposedly Leopold, grasped the captive with a hand over his mouth and then swung the steel chisel on his head.

Victim Strangled to Death

The boy moaned. To stifle the sound, according to official quotations from the confessions, a hand was kept over his mouth until a rag could be stuffed in and got blows on the head that caused death.

It was then about 5:30 o'clock. Robert was dead five minutes after he leaft his homeward way to get into the automobile.

Leopold and Leob set about their plans of ruining identification by sprinkling acid in the boy's face and undressing him. They drove out south to hide the clothing and then, about 9:30, went to the swamp. Leopold had a pair of rubber boots. He got out and Loeb handed the dead boy to him.
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Elated, Wash Blood Off Car

The young murderers went directly home from their gruesome chore, apparently in a fram of mind more elated at the success of their plans than of horror at what they had done. They washed all the blood they could detect from the rented car, as it stood in the Loeb yard, then went to his room and after a game of casino went to sleep.

Next morning they noticed some blood on the car they had overlooked. They went over it carefully and removed every stain except some smears on the robe that resisted their best efforts. When they returned the car they held out the robe and three days later, Saturday, took it out along the lake shore and tried to burn it.

Those details and all others of preparation, murder and concealment were told freely by the kidnapers once their resistance had been overcome. Evidence dug up by two young reporters for The Daily News, college mates of the suspect, hastened the confessions by revealing flaws in the aliby story. Cornered, discredited, beaten, the murderers told the truth.

Began Plot Last Winter

They planned the crime that baffled all Chicago as long ago as last November, they said. They selected as victims the Franks boy, the grandson of Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., and the son of Attorney David Levinson, 5201 Ingleside avenue.

Then they began, with a craft scarcely paralleled in criminal history, to set the stage in such a way that they could operate without danger of detection. To begin with they had the advantage of position. Their parents are friends and social equals of the rich men they had in mind as victims. All are Jews. All live in the same exclusive section of Hyde Park.

Set Up Dual Lives

This advantage they supplemented by establishing fictitious identities, through registries at hotels here and in other towns, bank accounts and the like. All steps in the actual commission of the crime were rehearsed and checked with safety in view.

On Wednesday, May 21, they were ready, with a ransom letter so phrased that it could be delivered to the parents of any one of the three victims they had chosen. They rented a car and set out.

Chance threw the 14-year-old Franks boy in their path. They got him into their car by inviting him to play tennis at Loeb's. Then they killed him.

Coldly Await Ransom

The burial over, they mailed their ransom letter to Franks and sat down to await delivery of the $10,000 they had demanded. They were sure Franks would pay. They even took the first steps, next day, toward collecting by the unexpected discovery of the slain boy's body.

Boys Confident of Safety

They were confident they could not be caught. They had been too careful, too wise. Their confidence endured from that day to this morning. It was so strong that Loeb actually figured in the hunt for the slayer at one stage, helping one of the reporters who was instrumental later in bringing him to justice.

As spectators with neighborly interest, they watched every step of the search, without a moment of worry. And why not? They were beyond suspicion. Leopold's father is president of the Fibre Can company, several times a millionaire. Loeb's father is vice-president of Sears, Roebuck & Co.

And the students had positions of their own--fraternity men, good fellows, "sharks" at their studies. Leopold was a Ph.B. at 18 (a year ago) and a brilliant student of law. Surely they were safe.

But their confidence, their astonishing aplomb had deserted them at dawn today, when daylight began creeping through the dusty windows of the Criminal court building to reveal the climax of the terrible drama.

Loeb's Spirit Cracks

Lately so cocksure, so flip in the face of questioning, the lads had wilted. Loeb sat slumped in a chair in one room, his face yellow with fear, for they had trapped him. In stammering, gasping sentences, the beginnings of the story were coming from him.

In another room was the brilliant Leopold, ashen, haggard, on the rock. He, too, was "cracking."

Presently they were brought face to face, with a table between them, and their half confessions, each throwing the burden on the other fellow, were read to them. They cursed each other, shouted hysterical charges and denails and threats. Then the cold truth of their fix sobered them. They sat shaken and beaten to dictate jointly their real confession.

State's Attorney Crowe seized the stenographers' notes immediately, locked them in a bank vault and hustled the lads out of sight. His motives weren't explained.

Find Confession Detail Exact

The confession complete, the state's attorney and his men, with detectives as an escort, took the two students out to go over the whole course of plot and crime. In every detail they found corroboration. The confession, unique in that respect, had been an exact statement of what happened. Once they had broken, the students poured out the precise truth about their crime.

Scene Makes Crime History

No comparable scene ever was enacted inside the dingy walls of the Criminal court building, where men and women of all degrees have confessed crimes of all sorts of have withstood triumphantly the efforts of detectives to lead them into guilty admissions.

Pitted against two sharp-witted youths, college trained and worldly wise, were the state's attorney himself and his keenest assistants, and the best detectives of the police force. For twenty-four hours the advantage was all with the suspects. Then unexpected evidence, much of it turned up by two reporters for The Daily News, who were college mates of Loeb and Leopold, disposed of the carfeful alibis the pair had told.

As thei alibis broke down the suspects' assurance vanished. Presently, trapped in lie after lie, they broke down completely and gave up the whole story to their questioners.

Break Nearly at Same Time

"Strange to say, both boys started talking at almost the same time, although they were in different rooms," Mr. Crowe said. "Mr. Sbarbaro and I were questioning Leopold and across the hall Chief Hughes and Mr. Savage were with Loeb."

Stenographers took down the almost unbelievable tale as it fell from the boys' lips. When it had been completed, Leopold and Loeb, according to Mr. Crowe, signed the shorthand notes. Mr. Crowe locked the notes at once in a loop safety vault, but related from them all account of the kidnaping and murder as composed from the two sets of notes.

So elaborate were the kidnaping plans that they took Leopold and Loeb nearly seven months to perfect in their minute details. Not the slightest preparation, they thought, had been overlooked. It was to be the perfect crime and that expected accomplishment, the boys indicated, was to thrill them as much as $10,000 "easy money."

Set Up False Identities

Conceived last November in this spirit of matiching wits with the law, Leopold and Loeb started at once to lay a groundwork. Even before taking up details of the actual kidnaping, they realized that certain preliminaries were necessary against the time when they might be hunted men. Most important, they decided, would be a well-established set of false identities.

Both boys undertook this by registering under assumed names at hotels in Chicago and other Illinois towns. That was done so long before the kidnaping that they were confident of being able, in an emergency, to pose safely in altogether different characters.

The Morrison was one of the hotels used. There Loeb registered as Mordin D. Ballard of Peoria, on May 7. He checked out next day, leaving an unpaid bill of $8.20, and a grip containing four textbooks. The grip and the books were found to-day. Loeb's university library card was in one of the books. The Trenier hotel, at Oakwood and Grand boulevards, was another of the kidnapers' stopping places.

Money Ready for Flight

Along about the same time Leopold went to Peoria and Loeb to Morris, Ill., both opened checking accounts and registered at hotels. The purpose of those excursions was not only to confuse their identities the further, but to provide "getaway" money in case they were forced to flee from Chicago.

No criminal in fiction was more far-seeing or tireless in his preliminaries. That was part of the thrill that came to the two lads in the employment of brains, social standing and wealth to the execution of their crime. With the first steps covered, they truned to consideration of the crime itself and gave it as much care.

Three sons of wealthy Jewish neighbors, Robert Franks among them, were selected as possible victims. A letter, the now famous ransom note of "George Johnson" was typed, sealed in an envelope and stamped for special delivery. That was done several days, perhaps a fortnight, before the kidnaping.

The youths went over every step of the planned crime, from covering their trail by renting an automobile to selecting the dismal, remote spot for hiding the body. All was ready and a week ago Wednesday they went afield in search of a victim.

In the automobile they had chartered under false names Leopold and Loeb cruised along Ellis avenue. The homes of the three boys they had selected were within a few blocks. Any of them might appear in a situation favorable for a swift, silent kidnaping.

Get Boy Into Auto

Robert Franks at that moment walked from the Harvard school playground, where he had been umpiring a baseball game, and started south in Ellis avenue toward his home, three blocks away. He had gone a block or two when the kidnapers' automobile stopped beside the curb.

According to Mr. Crowe's version of the confessions, Loeb, who frequently played tennis with Robert, invited him to hop in and ride to the tennis court.

Five minutes later or in less time Robert Franks lay dead in the automobile, his head battered with the cold chisel wrapped in surgical tape.

Cruised Around with Body

The death car, with the youthful kidnapers, encouraged by the success of their first awful step, and the little neighbor boy crumpled in a heap at their feet, rolled here and there about the south side until "heavy dusk." Then it was swung southward, to the bleak marshland which Nathan Leopold knew step by step from having studied bird life there.

The dead boy, stripped of every stitch of clothing was pushed out of sight in the railway culvert. A short time later his garments had been hidden and the typewriter, the only possible telltale of the ransom letter writer, flung into the Jackson park lagoon.

How They Were to Get Cash

The students' plans for collecting the ransom from the father of their first victim were no less shrewd than their preparations for the crime itself.

Franks, after getting the letter demanding ransom, was instructed to go to a certain drug store in the East 63rd street. In his excitement he forgot the address and didn't go, and a few minutes later learned that his son was dead.

Had he gone there he would have been told by telephone to look in a certain refuse box on the curb near by. There he would have found a letter telling him to bard a designated Michigan Central railroad train at the 63rd street station. Even the coach and the seat in the coach would have been indicated in the letter.

After passing a certain station farther south he would have watched, by instruction, for a designated signboard. At the sight of it his course would have been to open the window and at the next crossing throw his bundle of money from the window.

Leopold and Loeb had planned to be at the crossing in an automobile.

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"An intellectual machine going without balance" is how Clarence Darrow described Nathan Leopold in his trial summation.


Bobby Franks

Bobby Franks was age 14 when he was picked up and murdered while on his way home from the Harvard School in Chicago's fashionable Hyde Park district. Franks was a brilliant student at the school. As a member of the Harvard debate team, he had argued against capital punishment. Franks' conduct, however, worried his teachers. On his scholastic record are the notations "too self-satisfied" and "still hampered by unpleasant characteristics."

Franks was the son of Jacob Franks. Jacob made his fortune financing Chicago real estate. He earned the title "Honest Jake" Franks because of his reputation for square dealing.

Bobby Franks knew Richard Loeb, but not Leopold. Franks and Loeb had often played tennis together on the Loeb family courts. Franks was also a distant cousin of Loeb.

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