Sunday, 16 June 2013

Leopold & Loeb

This case from Chicago in 1924, is the most notorious for the "thrill to kill" and for attempting the "perfect murder".  Naturally, the attempt fails miserably, and the work of legendary lawyer, Clarence Darrow, saved them from the Death Penalty.  The case inspired the films "Rope" and "Compulsion".

    Nathan Freudenthal Leopold was born November 19th 1904, to an affluent Jewish family and showed himself to be extremely gifted and intelligent.  He was said to have had an IQ of over 200 and spoke numerous different languages.  After graduating from Chicago Law School, he was lined up to attend Harvard Law School after he returned from a trip to Europe.  Richard Albert Loeb was born on June 11th 1905 to an affluent Jewish family in Chicago, and like Leopold, he was also exceptionally intelligent.  Loeb was the youngest ever graduate in the history of the University of Michigan.

    Both boys lived in the wealthy Kenwood area of Chicago, as did the family of the victim, Bobby Franks.  In fact, Franks was the second cousin to Loeb!  Both met at the University of Chicago, where they both found a liking to the works of philosopher Nietzsche.  Both believed they were "Supermen", far superior to everybody else due to their hyper intelligence.  They worked together committing petty crimes, gradually increasing in seriousness, until they decided to do the ultimate; commit the perfect murder.  It was put into operation on May 21st 1924, and they decided upon young bobby Franks.  He was lured into a car, and driven away.  It was never established who drove and who sat in the back, but a witness seeing the car around the time, saw Leopold sat in the rear.  Also, as Leopold was clearly the dominant of the two, it stands to reason that he would be the one chauffeured.  Franks was killed and driven out to Wolf Lake, in Indiana.  Here they stripped the body, discarding the clothes at the side of the road, and they dumped the body by a drain tunnel, near the Pennsylvania Railroad,by 118th Street.  The body also had hydrochloric acid poured on it.

     The family of Franks received a message that their son had been kidnapped, and then they received a ransom note.  Franks` father was millionaire Jacob Franks.  Events then started spiralling out of control.  A Polish immigrant worker named Minske discovered the body, and on examination of the crime scene, a pair of spectacles was discovered near the body. Upon hearing these developments, the pair destroyed the typewriter and the blanket that they wrapped the body in.  The spectacles were a specially made set and soon traced to Leopold, and upon arrest, both denied any involvement.  They gave an alibi that they were with two young ladies, whose names they never knew.  But when questioned, Leopolds` chauffeur said that at the time they were supposed to have been with the girls and dropped them off somewhere, the car was in fact in the garage, a fact confirmed by his wife.  Loeb then confessed, shortly by Leopold.

    Put on trial, they were defended by Clarence Darrow, who rejected the idea of an insanity plea, and persuaded them to plead guilty, thus avoiding a jury and a probable Death Sentence.  Darrow gave what was regarded as the finest speech of his career, in getting them life, instead of death.  On |January 28th, Loeb was attacked by inmate James Dayt, who claimed self-defence from a sexual attack from Loeb.  Despite the fact that it was clear that one knife to Loebs` throat, had come from behind, it was decided that it WAS self-defence.  It was widely believed that Day was a jail sex predator, and was upset that the generous money Loeb received from his family, and shared out with some inmates, stopped going to him.  He had gotten away with murder.

    Leopold was released in 1958, and died on August 29th 1971, in Puerto Rico from a heart attack.