Nathan Leopold Jr. was born on November 19, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois. Like most other residents of Michigan Avenue, his family was very wealthy and hired a series of governesses to take care of him and his brother, Tom. Mathilda Wantz, his last governess, sexually abused the boys. She was fired when Nathan’s mother found her cruelly dumping an ailing Nathan out of bed to get him ready for school. He attended Miss Spade’s, an only recently co-educational institution, and later transferred to Douglas School. He was never very popular.
Richard A. Loeb was born on June 11, 1905, and raised on the south side of Chicago. He was not allowed to socialize with children his age when he was young. He felt that his parents neglected him and his governess was too strict. For these reasons, he developed a habit of lying and spent a lot of time in a fantasy in which he was in jail. This daydream evolved into an alternate reality where he became a gang leader and criminal. He wanted to feel strong because he felt powerless in his own life. Loeb attended the Lab school and then moved on to U. High, a preparatory school associated with the University of Chicago. He was a very bright boy, graduating from the high school at thirteen and continuing on to the affiliated university in the fall. Richard became very popular, and met Nathan Leopold while he was a freshman at the University of Chicago. After a brief period of enmity, Nathan and Richard became solid friends.
On May 21, 1924, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks was abducted while walking to school. His parents received a phone call later that day, saying that he had been kidnapped. His parents’ lawyer and friend, Samuel Ettelson, was told over the phone that the Bobby would be driven in a cab to a drugstore at 1465 East Sixty-Third Street and that they were to bring ten thousand dollars to the drugstore. The phone rang again, and Mr. Franks was told that Bobby had been found dead in a culvert near Wolf Lake. The investigation began immediately. An important clue was lost because both Franks and Ettelson forgot the address of the drugstore, and the taxi driver didn’t know the destination either. Richard Loeb, a friend of the Franks family, and Nathan Leopold, a frequent visitor to Wolf Lake, were interrogated, along with three of Bobby’s schoolteachers. Loeb said he hadn’t killed anyone, and Leopold had a credible alibi. However, a pair of eyeglasses with unique hinges was found near the scene of the crime. The hinges were so individual that only three had been sold in the area, and Nathan Leopold was one of the customers who had bought them.
Nathan was questioned by state attorney Robert Crowe in a room at the LaSalle Hotel. At first, Leopold claimed that he lost the glasses because he tripped while watching birds and they fell out of his breast pocket. The scene was recreated by Crowe’s assistant, but the glasses stayed in his pocket. After some fumbling around, he confessed that he and his friend Richard Loeb had been dining, picking up two girls, and driving around with them. Loeb’s story was a little different, as he claimed that they had gone their separate ways after dinner and that he did not remember what he had done afterwards. The discrepancy aroused suspicion.
Later, a friend of both boys relayed a message from Leopold to Loeb. This message changed the course of the interrogations: “Babe [Leopold] said to tell the truth about the two girls. Tell the police what you did with them. You can't get in any worse trouble than you are now. He said you'd understand.” Aside from a few details that Richard claimed he couldn’t remember, Loeb and Leopold’s accounts became the same. The interrogation was halted and Crowe took the boys out to dinner. A few days later, evidence was collected that incriminated both Nathan and Richard. Leopold’s chauffeur stated that his car had been in the garage all afternoon, so the boys could not have been driving around in it. Also, the text from a study sheet found in Nathan’s house matched the handwriting on the ransom note.
Loeb soon confessed to premeditative murder, saying that he and Leopold thought committing the perfect murder would be a fun challenge. He also accused Leopold of being the actual killer, but Nathan denied this, claiming that Loeb was the real murderer. However, it did not matter; they were both arrested and imprisoned in Joliet Correctional Center. Richard Loeb was stabbed to death by his cellmate while in the shower on January 28, 1936. Leopold was released two years later, and died in 1971 of diabetic heart trouble.
-photos courtesy of http://www.law.umkc.edu/
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