Friday, February 1, 2013

Most Asked Question

Among the many comments I have been getting about what I said on "Who Killed ....."  the most frequent issue raised is:  How would Lindbergh go about secreting his child, presuming Anne knew nothing about the endeavor?  Where and how could one possibly do that?  These are important questions.  The answers I will give will, of course, not satisfy many.  Truth is, as John Douglas said last night, there will be lots of questions that will never have answers in this case.  Take, for example, the table that was found in 1948, and re-discovered to everyone's amazement by Mark Falzini in an evidence bin at the archives.  It was this table that had a legend written on it claiming innocence for Hauptmann, and explaining where the rest of the money was buried.  (A picture of the table viewed from the bottom, is reproduced in the original edition of "Case" before page 210).  What Falzini discovered  after carefully looking at the table was that the holes in the ransom notes fit perfectly over the holes where the table top was attached to the base.  Every hole fit perfectly for every ransom note, suggesting that they had been punctured at the same time.  What was behind the writing on this table?  Who could have done this simply by guesswork?  There it sits at the archives and museum - waiting for a final answer.

So with that in mind, let me address the issue as I see it today, 11 a.m., February 1, 2013. 

As I put at the heading of my "Afterwards," Charles Lindbergh testified that most people did not know what he did during the day time - or presumably at other times as well.  That he worked with Dr. Alexis Carrel on a variety of projects, most famously the artificial heart, is well-known.  It is possible that Dr. Carrel -- a fervent eugenicist talked with Lindbergh about his "problem."  They could have decided to do something, using Carrel's contacts with a variety of institutes, one close to the Lindbergh home, "The Skillman Institute for Epileptics."  Remember that this condition was treated then as a serious mental illness inheritable, and efforts were made to keep those afflicted separate from society so that they would not reproduce.

I wrote in the Afterwards that there were sightings that night of cars leaving the area of the Institute on the way to (possibly) Highfields.  Among these was a car that could have been Hauptmann's.  We simply do not know.

What we do know is that powerful people at that time had the ability to move heaven and earth to change their situation -- especially if it was potentially embarrassing.  We also know that at the height of the eugenics movement, the attitude toward the handicapped was very different than today, with the "Special Olympics," and the recognition that society gains, not loses, from their contribution.  This has been an important recognition that came after many other movements, such as those for equality for women, civil rights decisions from Brown vs Board of Education, etc. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Endgame - for the moment

This will end the first series of comments on last night's show.

It is perhaps foolish to disagree with a trained profiler on a key question of character, but one must enter some demurs about a statement that flat out declares that Col Lindbergh did not have a mean bone in his body.  He might have been a schemer, but not a killer.  First of all, I think I said perfectly clearly that I was not accusing him of being a killer -- but, indeed, as John Douglas said, a schemer -- for very big stakes, indeed.  Perhaps it was all worked out in detail.  Perhaps there was a slip up - an accident or a betrayal at one or several points.  I do not know.  Perhaps Lindbergh was a split personality, perhaps his instructions were not entirely clear,  Perhaps these very nervous guys were not under his complete control.  All of this is possible.  Perhaps we could enter the plea, "Will no man rid me of this troublesome priest."  I don't know.  What I do know is that anyone who reads about Lindbergh quickly finds out that he was a nasty practical joker, doing things that really hurt people. We also know, and it was acknowledged last night that he was very close to Nazi racial theories, and feared pollution of the American race.  And believed it was everyone's obligation to minimize that pollution, and to raise a whole breed of supermen.  He himself spread his sperm as far as he could.  I will not re-argue all this here, but it is in the new edition of my book, spelled out in less detail (I was allowed only 10 pages by the publisher) than I would have liked.  But the essence is there.

 More thoughts when I digest the material over a few martini's -- either shaken or stirred.
Interesting that the show last night said the child was found where it was dropped off that night, or at least that it had been there from near the beginning.  And it also said that the discovery came two weeks after the pay off.  Well, this last is simply not so.  It was several weeks afterwards, not two.  Why is that important?  Because there is no proof the child was placed there that night.  Captain Walsh -- one of the first to look at the location of the body after it was discovered -- testified that there was no way he could tell that was the case.  If the child had been killed and kept in another place and then dumped out of the burlap bag it had been placed in, as was perfectly logical, it could well have been done later to bring closure to the case.  In another place, my blog "Case Never Dies," I discuss this point at length.  The place where the child was found must have been searched.  Indeed, we have the NJSP commander claiming the whole area around Highfields had been searched.  And if one looks at photos of the place, it is a perfectly logical place (at the time) for a quick drop off.  It was a place where many people must have pulled off, a widened out place in the road  -- either to relieve themselves, or to picnic -- it was a logical place to stop and "spoon" as necking was called back then.  And the corpse was not found deep in the woods but actually close to the road, within a short range of traffic.

All of which argues for a replacement of the body some time after the crime.

Cemetery John on the Prowl

We get to see a scene at night in the cemetery where Cemetery John meets with Jafsie for the first time -- waving a hankie from inside the gate.  Now, the remarkable thing about this meeting is the length of time a kidnapper spends discussing his fears, confessing his mother would not like what he is doing, blaming others for this, asking if he will burn. Hey, how about nervous now?  Apparently not, apparently comfortable.  How the hell does he know the child has not been discovered yet?  (subject of next post).   Now, how do we know his name is John?  Well, Jafsie says that he said to call him John.  But --hold on -- in another interview, Jafsie tells reporters that the man would not tell his name, and so Jafsie calls him John.  (That's all in "Case")  So if Jafsie -- the master puzzle maker and solver -- is our source, we must ask another question, is Cemetery John interesting for a Freudian reason, turn the letters around and you have JC or Jafsie.  No, I don't think that Condon was talking to himself that night.  But that he loved to play games even in the most serious moments.  We do not know Condon's full extent of participation in this strangest of all cases, but we do know is that the only record of the conversations are those of Condon.  We do not have a transcript, we have a monologue from a person who makes up stories all the time, uses a variety of crude pseudonyms, and in general is close to a nut case - but a brilliant guy nevertheless.

Jafsie belongs on "Boardwalk Empire," where he could chase Nucky all around the boardwalk, and challenge him to handwrestle!

Nursery Details

During the show, we are invited into the nursery to see the lay out, as Anne and Betty put Charlie to bed that night.  Good atmosphere.  Then we also see a glimpse of a foot entering the room through the window that, the show says, was unlocked.  Right, and it is unclear from all reports whether the window was open a bit, or down.  When Betty comes into the nursery to discover the child missing, she says she closed the window. Presumably, since she was not suspicious at that point, it had been left up.  Good thing, too, for the kidnappers (now we can officially use the plural after last night), because had it been locked the whole thing would have been a no go.  For here is John Douglas in the show describing the scene as a group -- two or three -- as very nervous guys, drawing strength from one another.  (Of course, as he says at another point, if there was inside help, their nervousness presumably would have been a whole lot less -- a whole lot) 

But wait, there are some things missing from the nursery!  The screen that shielded the crib from strong winds is not there.  The perps would have had to go around that screen.  Either that or Betty moved it aside earlier - but if she did that before the window was closed, Anne or Charles might have scolded her, might they not?  So the screen was probably there (I won't say 100% sure, but 80?).  That would make me nervous, how about you?  (But showing it was too difficult, I am told, for the camera work - but those of us deeply interested, the point needs to be made.)

Then we have the famous safety pins that Jafsie swiped when he came down to Highfields and entered the case. They are not shown in the show.   They fastened the blanket to the mattress at Charlie's neck level.  And people puzzled over how the child was yanked out of bed leaving the blanket pinned to the mattress.  Another problem, unless you were sure, very sure what you were doing.  All in all this is quite an obstacle course, starting with the difficulty of making a silent entry into the nursery, moving across the floor, moving aside the screen, and taking the child out of its confined position.  Good thing everyone was downstairs, and that everyone knew that the child was not to be disturbed between 8 and 10.  (Wonder if Violet conveyed that to her mystery person -- that not only would they be there, not only would Col Lindbergh be coming back early, and not only that when he was there, orders were not to disturb Charlie).  It all works so well.  Instead of a bell tolling in the background to tell us the exact time, of course, but we have the sound of an orange crate falling on the floor that only Col. Lindbergh appears to hear.  Wow, we wouldn't know when it happened otherwise, would we?  Would we!

Next up more minor details.

Forensic Disputes

The  forensic expert on last night's show, Dr. Butts, had a very interesting theory about how the injuries to the skull occurred, and how the fracture was a complex injury resulting, "in his opinion" (he was careful to say) from a blow to one side of the head that might have been caused (my suggestion) by a hammer striking one side of the head while the child was placed down on a hard surface, and that would account for the way the injuries showed up on the brief autopsies.  Nowhere does he refer to the autopsy findings that we have.  Once again one must ask if because of time constraints something was left out from the interview with Dr. Butts.  Perhaps he did look at them carefully. (I am told he felt they were too sketchy to be of much use)  If so did he notice anything else in these reports that might have challenged his view that the child had a "mild case" of rickets?  Did he note any deformities, such as size of skull, fontanel not closed, shape of teeth, overlapping toes, etc.? For these were all there in the report.  Did he, then, look at the trial testimony of Dr. Mitchell describing the condition of the skull, as so fragile it came apart like an orange peel.  At a key point in the testimony Attorney Reilly promises to come back to that point - as he is intrigued - but never does.  Too bad, might have been interesting.

Then - in related fashion - we have Dr. Butts describing the child as normal with a "mild" case of rickets.  Two doctors who examined Charlie did not call the case "mild."  They were there 81 years and more ago, Dr. Butts was given written reports a few months ago.  I am sure he is very competent as a forensic examiner, but somehow I wish he might be on the stand for a defense attorney to question why his opinion differs so much from that of two attending physicians.

Now, let us come back to the injury.  I frankly have no idea how the child died, and am willing to agree that it could have been precisely as he concludes.  One wonders, nevertheless, if the child was dumped that night (subject of yet another post to come), why kill it in that manner? Remember Prosecutor Wilentz had a lot of trouble, a lot of trouble explaining how the child died, going from one explanation to another - including the idea that the child was bashed against the wall - or possibly struck with that 3/4" chisel left behind.  If it was carried away in a burlap bag (often cited as the transportation mechanism - and only glimpsed in the show as the picture of the men holding the ladder flashes by on your screen), then why not simply bash its head against a tree?  Of course you would need to be sure of death.  So maybe the hammer idea.  But why not strangle the child, a less complicated manner of committing murder, surely? Using the chisel only once in a car or against a car is far less sure than simply smothering the child.  Why I belabor this point is because of a concern that Dr. Butts is a tad too eager to offer his explanations off the cuff.  No doubt I am wrong, and there is much more to see in his interviews.  But, one must say, that as they stand, they are hardly convincing.  And we have the testimony of discovering officers that they poked a hold in the skull when trying to turn it over.  Of course, if Dr. Butts is correct, they must be wrong.  No doubt.  Too bad, however, Captain Harry Walsh the man who did that isn't around to interview. 

A Conspiracy Indeed?

 Here we are at the edge of hard science.  The second important assertion in "Who Killed the Lindbergh Baby" came from John Douglas -- a flat statement that there had to be inside help, hence the official narrative is shattered and in pieces on the floor of the nursery.  In his book, "The Cases That Haunt Us," published in 2001, Douglas first advanced his argument that the death of Violet Sharp provided the necessary clue as to where that help had originated.  Her suicide - he opined - probably came from a fit of remorse over having inadvertently (?) revealed where the Lindberghs were that night.  Interestingly, the police investigating the crime announced that they believed that her death went a long way to solving the case.  Last night the show said he had "refined" his position on Violet, and a picture of her was shown.  But there was not much more said in the show.  Violet remains in a deep violet shadow, then.  But I think Douglas really did not want to go too far on that point, however.  Was something was left on the cutting room floor?  But here is the problem with that "inadvertent" position.  If - as in my first email -- we now agree that it was a conspiracy, how would it be possible to get everything together on that short notice?  Remember, Richard did not have a telephone, and actually reported for work that morning.  It is already mid-morning when the decision is made to stay overnight.  Violet's contacts do not seem to fit anywhere along the path of the crime -- not nearly so close, say, as Betty Gow or Red Johnson.  And the idea that John Knoll was in contact with Violet was never explored, because there is absolutely no evidence that she would have had contact with him.  Perhaps she was involved in a deeper sense, perhaps Douglas's intuition here is right, casting aside her acknowledged emotional state after coming out of the hospital.  Her suicide is discussed in "Case" pp. 106-112. 

When the police came to take her away for questioning for a third time, they were sent to cool their heels in an office -- for half an hour --- (!), while someone fetched her.  What had happened while they were kept in another room was she had staggered down into the butler's pantry and collapsed.  Then the officers were taken to the study where Col Lindbergh and a Dr. Phillips met them and told them Violet was dead.  Once again, the person in charge is Col Lindbergh.  Once again it is Col Lindbergh who informs the police that there had been found  a"partially filled can of Cyanide of Potassium Crystals on the shelf in Miss Sharp's room," along with a glass containing the remaining undissolved crystals and a discolored spoon.  Only then - after all that -- did Captain Harry Walsh get admitted to the "death room," so to speak.  So perhaps it would be a little uncomfortable to pursue that death.

A word on conspiracy.  It is not really that loaded, but I would have liked to use in my interview the term "cut outs," but it was said that word would not be familiar enough to people who had never watched Cold War spy stories.  John LeCarre where are you when I needed you?

Next up Dr. Butts.