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Bonnie Emily HEADY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 28, 1953
Date of arrest: October 6, 1953
Date of birth: July 15, 1912
Victim profile: Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr., known as Bobby, 6
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber revolver)
Location: St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri, USA
Status: Executed in Missouri’s lethal gas chamber at the State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri, on December 18, 1953
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2

FBI Files
The Greenlease Kidnapping


Part 1 (5.4 Mb)

Part 2 (5.4 Mb) Part 3 (5.5 Mb)

Robert C. "Bobby" Greenlease (1947-1953) was the son of multi-millionaire automobile dealer Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Sr., of Kansas City, Missouri. He was the victim of a kidnapping in September 1953 that led to the largest ransom payout in U.S. history at the time; however, Bobby Greenlease's abductors had no intention of returning him to his family. Before the ransom demand was even issued, the young boy was murdered by his abductors, Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady.


Multi-millionaire Robert Greenlease made his fortune introducing General Motors vehicles to the Great Plains in the early 20th century. He owned dealerships from Texas to South Dakota. Greenlease was quite elderly when Bobby was born, and the Greenleases doted upon him. Bobby was said to be a trusting boy. According to author John Heidenry, whose book Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease tells the story of the abduction and the criminals who abducted him, kidnapper Bonnie Heady said that from the moment she showed up at his school claiming to be a relative taking him to his sick mother, that he just took her hand and went along with anything he was told to do.

Abduction and murder

In September 1953, Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady kidnapped six-year-old Bobby Greenlease from Notre Dame de Sion, an exclusive Kansas City Catholic school. The kidnappers were drug-addicted alcoholics then living together in Saint Joseph, Missouri. In the early 1930s, Hall had attended Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri with Paul Robert Greenlease, Bobby's adopted older brother, and Hall had planned for some time to victimize his old classmate's wealthy family.

Heady went to the school, persuaded a nun that she was Bobby's aunt (and told the false story that Bobby's mother had suffered a heart attack), and took him away. Hall and Heady then took Bobby across the state line to Johnson County, Kansas, where Hall shot him to death.

After the murder, Hall and Heady then sent Bobby's father a message demanding a ransom of $600,000. Greenlease, desperately hoping to save his son, held off the police and FBI, and paid up. Hall and Heady collected the ransom and got away. It was the largest ransom paid up to that point in U.S. history.

However, Hall then became convinced that police would trace them to St. Joseph, and impulsively decided to drive to St. Louis, instead.

Arrest and Execution

Once in St. Louis, Hall left Heady in the middle of the night in a rented room, then contacted old criminal associates in an attempt to divert police attention from them. One of the associates, a former prostitute named Sandra O'Day, was supposed to fly to Los Angeles and mail a letter Hall had written from there in order to divert police attention from St. Louis; however, O'Day caught a glimpse of the ransom money and decided to do some redirection of her own. St. Louis police soon learned that Hall was flaunting a large sum of money, and they soon brought him in for questioning. Hall eventually implicated Heady; the police found Heady back at her own home outside Kansas City, and found a shallow grave in the backyard.

The Lindbergh kidnapping-type case so scandalized the nation that it led to federal indictments, trials, and subsequent executions for both Hall and Heady, who died together in the Missouri gas chamber in December 1953. Heady was one of only two women since 1865 to be executed by federal authorities.

Only about half the ransom money was recovered. The fate of the missing money remained a subject of wide speculation that a cab driver who took Hall to the Coral Court Motel had tipped off mob boss Joe Costello, that Hall tried unsuccessfully to bury the cash near the Meramec River (FBI searched the area in vain), that suitcases in Hall's possession upon his arrest were not brought to the 11th District Precinct Station (with two arresting officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan, subsequently federally indicted for perjury), that the cash fell into the hands of mobsters or was hidden in the walls of the motel itself (the 1995 demolition of the Coral Court turned up nothing).

United States Attorney General Herbert Brownell followed the case intensely, as undoubtedly did President Eisenhower. Eisenhower's eldest brother, Arthur, was president of Commerce Bank in Kansas City, where the Greenleases kept their money.


The Greenlease Kidnapping

The Crime

At approximately 10:55 a.m. on September 28, 1953, Sister Morand of the French Institute of Notre Dame De Sion, a school for small children in Kansas City, Missouri, answered the door and was confronted by a woman who said she was the aunt of Bobby Greenlease. Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr., known as Bobby, was six years old and the son of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Sr., a wealthy automobile dealer who resided in Mission Hills, Kansas City, Missouri. The woman informed Sister Morand that Bobby’s mother had just suffered a heart attack and had been taken to St. Mary’s Hospital. The woman appeared visibly upset and apologized to Sister Morand for her condition. Upon getting Bobby, Sister Morand told him that an aunt had called at the school for him, but she did not tell Bobby that his mother had suffered a heart attack.

Sister Morand recalled that Bobby walked directly to the woman without hesitation, and there was nothing in his action or behavior to indicate doubt on his part that this woman was his aunt. As the woman left the school, she had an arm around Bobby’s shoulder and was holding his hand. Sister Morand last saw them as they entered a taxicab.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. that day, Sister Marthanna of the school called the Greenlease home to inquire about Mrs. Greenlease’s condition, spoke to Mrs. Greenlease and at that time learned that the story told by the woman who called for Bobby was false. Mrs. Greenlease immediately called her husband who rushed home and, after hearing the story of what happened, notified the chief of police in Kansas City, who in turn reported the matter to the FBI.

Willard Pearson Creech, cab driver for the Toedman Cab Company in Kansas City, told authorities that shortly before 11:00 a.m. on September 28, 1953, a woman, whose description fit that of the woman who had called at the school, entered the cab and requested him to drive her to the school of Notre Dame De Sion. Upon arriving at the school she told Creech to wait for her because she desired to be driven to the Katz Drug Store at Westport and Main Streets in Kansas City. In approximately six minutes, the woman reentered the cab accompanied by a small boy fitting the description of Bobby Greenlease. When Creech last saw them, they had stopped behind a blue 1952 or 1953 Ford Sedan bearing Kansas license plates.

A few hours after the kidnapping, the Greenleases received the first ransom letter concerning the return of their son. The first letter, mailed special delivery and postmarked 6:00 p.m.on September 28, 1953, demanded $600,000 in $20 and $10 bills be placed in a duffle bag. The kidnappers promised Bobby’s safe return in 24 hours and as long as there were no tricks in delivering the money.

The second ransom letter was postmarked 9:30 p.m. on September 29, 1953. Inside the envelope in which this letter was mailed was the Jerusalem medal which had been worn by Bobby Greenlease. The letter again contained demands for $600,000 and stated that Bobby was okay but homesick. Overall, the Greenleases received over a half dozen ransom notes and 15 telephone calls.

The final communication between the Greenleases and the kidnappers was a telephone call received at 1:00 a.m. on October 5, 1953 at the Greenlease residence. The kidnappers stated that they had received the $600,000 ransom money and assured the Greenleases that their son was alive and that he would be returned in 24 hours.

Unknown to the family, the kidnappers, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady, had killed the boy soon after the abduction and buried the body near Heady’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri. Then the two murderers took the ransom money and traveled approximately 380 miles to St. Louis, Missouri.

On October 5, 1953, Hall purchased two metal suitcases and transferred the ransom money from the duffle bag to these suitcases, leaving the duffle bag in an ash pit in south St. Louis. Carl Hall took Bonnie Heady, who was drunk, to an apartment he rented on Arsenal Street, also in St. Louis. Heady immediately went to sleep, and Hall deserted her there, leaving only $2,000 of the $600,000 ransom money in her purse.

On October 6, 1953, Hall purchased two large garbage cans and a shovel, placed them in a rented car and drove to Meramec River in St. Louis County, where he intended to bury the ransom money; however, he could not find a suitable place. He left the cans in a deserted club house and drove back to the Coral Courts Motel where he was staying. Hall became suspicious of persons in the vicinity of the motel during the afternoon of October 6, 1953 and moved to an apartment at the Townhouse Hotel in St. Louis.

Authorities Break the Case

A telephone call was received at the 11th District, St. Louis Police Department, about 3:30 p.m. on October 6, 1953 from John Oliver Hager, a driver for the Ace Cab Company in St. Louis. His information led to the arrest of Carl Austin Hall (who identified himself as John James Byrne) by officers of the St. Louis Police Department at the Townhouse Hotel in St. Louis during the evening of October 6, 1953. Later that night, he led the officers to an apartment on Arsenal Street in St. Louis where Hall’s girlfriend, Bonnie Emily Heady, was taken into custody.

Hall was interrogated by FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies several times after his arrest and emphatically insisted that practically all of the $600,000 ransom money was in his possession at the time he was arrested by the St. Louis Police Department. Hall admitted to FBI agents the planning of the kidnapping, the actual abduction of the victim, and to burying the body in the yard of Mrs. Heady’s residence. He also admitted picking up the ransom money, but denied that he killed the victim.

At this time he implicated Tom Marsh, stating he had turned the victim over to Marsh. Hall later admitted Marsh was a fictitious individual and the only persons involved in the kidnapping were Bonnie Heady and himself. It was not until October 11, 1953 that Hall admitted he and Bonnie Heady transported the victim from Kansas City, Missouri to a point just outside of Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas where Hall shot the victim to death. He then transported the body approximately 45 miles back to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he buried it in Bonnie Heady’s yard and planted flowers on the grave. Bonnie Heady admitted assisting Hall in the preparation of the ransom letters and notes of instructions to the Greenlease family concerning the pay-off of the ransom as well as going to the school and obtaining custody of the victim using the ruse that his mother was ill.

The boy’s body was found by FBI agents at 8:40 a.m., October 7, 1953, buried near the porch of the Heady residence at 1201 South 38th Street in St. Joseph, Missouri. The body had been wrapped in a plastic bag, and a large quantity of lime had been poured over this bag. The Greenlease family dentist identified the body as that of Bobby Greenlease at 1:05 p.m. on October 7, 1953. Blood stains were found on the basement floor and steps in the Heady residence, and on a nylon blouse and fiber rug. Some .38 caliber shell casings were also found in the house. These shell casings were examined by the FBI Laboratory and it was found that they had been fired from a .38 caliber snub nose Smith & Wesson revolver in Hall’s possession at the time of his arrest. The FBI Laboratory also ascertained that a lead bullet recovered from a rubber floor mat in the Plymouth station wagon owned by Bonnie Heady was also fired from Hall’s .38 caliber revolver.

The Judgement

On October 30, 1953, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady appeared before Judge Albert L. Reeves in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri, at which time they entered pleas of guilty to the indictment. On November 19, 1953, after hearing the evidence, a jury in the federal court in Kansas City, Missouri, recommended the death penalty after only an hour and eight minutes of deliberations. Fifteen minutes after the verdict was announced, Judge Reeves sentenced both of them to be executed on December 18, 1953.

Judge Reeves said, “I think the verdict fits the evidence. It is the most coldblooded, brutal murder I have ever tried.”

Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Heady were executed together in Missouri’s lethal gas chamber at the State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri, on December 18, 1953. Hall was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m., and Bonnie Heady was pronounced dead 20 seconds later.

Over half of the $600,000 was never found. FBI investigation established that the two suitcases which reportedly contained the ransom money, and which were in Hall’s possession at the time of his arrest, were not brought to the 11th District Precinct Station as testified by the arresting officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan. Both officers were subsequently federally indicted for perjury. Lieutenant Shoulders was convicted on April 15, 1954 and sentenced to three years in prison, and patrolman Dolan was convicted on March 31, 1954 and sentenced to two years. After they were released from prison, both returned to the St. Louis area. Shoulders died on May 12, 1962. Dolan received a full pardon from President Johnson on July 21, 1965.


Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady Case File

The kidnapping of 6-year-old Bobbie Greenlease in 1953 shocked America, but when citizens across the land later learned that his two alcoholic abductors had planned long in advance to brutally murder the boy before obtaining any ransom, nation-wide rage demanded their executions.

Unlike William Edward Cook, who kidnapped his victims simply to exercise life-and-death control over them, the kidnappers of Bobbie Greenlease planned their crime to obtain, $600,000, the largest ransom ever paid in a U.S. kidnapping to that time.

The kidnappers got the money and enjoyed its use in a brief, boozy spree that ended with their capture and a path to the gas chamber.

Carl Austin Hall was the pampered son of a wealthy St. Louis lawyer. He never had to work for a living. His father died in 1946 and left Hall more than $200,000. Through wild drinking and drug addiction, Hall quickly squandered his fortune.

To obtain more funds to feed his drug habit, Hall began to rob taxicabs. His clumsy robberies soon brought police to his door and he was given a five-year term in the Missouri State Prison. Hall served sixteen months and was released on April 24, 1953.

He immediately began planning the kidnapping and murder of a small child, the 6-year-old son of one of the wealthiest men in Kansas City, Missouri, Robert Greenlease, a 71-year-old car dealer.

When Hall stepped from prison, he was greeted by a woman who had never met him before, a plump, 41-year-old overweight widow with a porcine face. She embraced Hall and kissed him passionately on the mouth, then introduced herself.

She was Bonnie Brown Heady, who had been a gun moll in 1935, when she was married to Dan Heady, a bank robber. Heady had been imprisoned and then broke prison only to be shot down by a sheriff’s posse while trying to reach his 23-year-old red-headed wife, Bonnie.

When Mrs Heady was told that her husband had been shot to death, she crinkled a crooked grin and said out of the side of her mouth: “That’s too bad.”

Bonnie Heady was as addicted to criminal types as Carl Austin Hall was addicted to heroin. She had heard about Hall from ex-prisoners and became intrigued by the playboy crook. She took him to her home in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Bonnie Heady was an alcoholic and drank most of her waking days. Hall either drank himself into stupors with her or mainlined heroin and was in a drugged state. When the couple sobered up, they began to work out the details of the Greenlease kidnapping, which Hall had been planning in prison.

The idea of committing an atrocious crime excited the jaded Bonnie who listened to Hall’s kidnapping and murder plan and then squealed: “Why, that’s better than sex!” She readily agreed to take part in the atrocious crime.

The night before the kidnapping, Hall and Heady, in a downpour, put on boots and took a shovel into Mrs. Heady’s yard. There they dug out a small, shallow grave, one in which they intended to bury the body of the child they would kidnap the following day. After completing this ghoulish chore, the couple celebrated by getting drunk.

The next morning, September 28, 1953, at 10:55 a.m. Bonnie Heady appeared at the entrance of the French Institute of Notre Dame de Scion, an exclusive pre-grade school in Kansas City. She rang the front door bell which was answered by Sister Morand.

She sobbingly told the nun that she was the sister of Bobby Greenlease’s mother, who had suffered a heart attack and was in St. Mary’s Hospital. Mrs Greenlease was calling for her son, Bonnie said, and she had come to fetch him.

Sister Morand asked Mrs Heady to wait in the chapel and she returned with a small blonde-haired boy in a few minutes. Bonnie Heady was in a pew, on her knees. She got up and said to Sister Morand: “I have been praying for my sister’s quick recovery. I am not a Catholic and I don’t know whether or not God heard my prayers.”

This show of devotion further assured the nun that Bonnie Heady was who she said she was. Bobby Greenlease did not react to Mrs. Heady, and, even though she was a total stranger to him, he went along with her without a word of protest.

Mrs. Heady took the boy to the curb, where she had a cab waiting. The cab took her and Bobby to Main and 40th streets, where the woman got out, and holding the boy by the hand, walked across the street to a waiting 1947 Plymouth station wagon.

The cab driver thought he recognized the driver, a balding man with drooping eyelids and a receding chin, who appeared to be half-asleep. Mrs. Heady and the little boy got into the station wagon and it drove away slowly, going south toward Highway 169, out of Kansas City.

About this time, Sister Morand realized her awful error. She called St. Mary’s Hospital just after Bobby and the woman left the school, and learned to her horror that Mrs. Greenlease was not a patient. Then she called the Greenlease home and found Bobby’s mother was well and at home.

The nun told the story of how the woman had picked up Bobby. The Greenleases instantly realized their son had been kidnapped, and a ransom letter arriving the next morning proved it. The ransom note read:

Your boy been kidnapped get $600,000 in 20s—10s—Fed. Res. notes from all twelve districts we realize it takes few days to get that amount. Boy will be in good hands—when you have money ready put ad in K.C. Star—will meet you in Chicago—Signed Mr. G. Do not call police or try to use chemicals on bills or take numbers. Do not try to use radio to catch us or boy dies. If you try to trap us your wife your other child and yourself will be killed you will be watched all the time. You will be told how to contact us with money. When you get this note let us know by driving up and down main St. between 39 & 29 for 20 minutes with white rag on car aeriel.

If do exactly as we say and try no tricks, your boy will be back safe within 24 hours—after we check oney. Deliver money in army duefel bag. Be ready to deliver at once on contact—$400,000 in 20s $200,000 in 10s.

Although the note assured the nervous Greenlease parents that their child was “in good hands,” Bobby Greenlease was by then dead. Carl Austin Hall had taken him for a ride with Heady and then dragged him out of his station wagon and fired three bullets into his head.

Heady and Hall then wrapped the little body in a blanket and returned to Heady’s St. Joseph house, where they buried the body on the night of the kidnapping.

When news of the kidnapping spread about the world, lawmen and the public alike were shocked. There had not been a major kidnapping in the U.S. for a decade, not since the racket-busting days of the 1930s, when the FBI had tracked down a number of vicious kidnappers like William Dainard and John Henry Seadlund.

The Bureau, still hampered from acting immediately, could not enter the case for seven days under provisions in the 1932 Lindbergh Kidnapping Law.

The law stated that after seven days, if the kidnap victim was not recovered, authorities could presume that the kidnappers had taken the victim across a state line and thus broken a federal law.

The Bureau, despite inclinations of its agents to act promptly, waited. The local police also waited at the insistence of the Greenleases, who still believed that no one would really harm an innocent little boy.

The kidnappers, however, dragged out negotiations for the ransom delivery for several weeks. Hall made more than a dozen calls to the Greenleases, ambiguously setting up arrangements for the delivery of the money and then altering the plans.

One phone call from Hall, who called himself “M,” with Mrs. Greenlease at the other end, was recorded by federal agents:

Mrs. G.: This is Mrs. Greenlease.

M: Speaking.

Mrs. G.: We have the money, but we must know that our boy is alive and well. Can you give me that? Can you give me anything that will make me know that?

M: … A reasonable request, but to be frank with you, the boy is driving us crazy. We couldn’t risk taking him to a phone.

Mrs. G.: Well, I can imagine that. Would you do this? Would you ask him two questions. Give me the answer of two questions.

M: Speaking.

Mrs. G.: … If I had the answer to these two questions, I would know my boy is alive.

M: All right.

Mrs. G.: Ask him what is the name of our driver in Europe this summer.

M: All right.

Mrs. G.: And the second question, what did you build with your monkey blocks in your playroom the last night you were home… If I can get those answers from you, I’ll know you have him and that he is alive, which is the thing you know that I want.

M: We have the boy. He is alive. Believe me. He’s been driving us nuts.

Mrs. G.: Well, I can imagine that. He’s such an active youngster.

M: He’s been driving us nuts.

Mrs. G.: Could you get those answers?

M: All right.

Hall and Heady sadistically delighted in playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Greenleases, purposely dragging out their negotiations, making numerous, brief calls that slightly twisted their instructions and cleverly evaded answers that might assure the parents that their son was still alive.

Their communications often broke down, chiefly due to the drunkenness of the kidnappers. The abductors left sixteen notes under rocks, behind trees, under mailboxes, many of these directing go-betweens to find more notes in a crazy paper chase that confused both kidnappers and their victims.

Delivery of the ransom money was finally arranged by Hall, who instructed go-betweens to leave the $600,000, which weighed eighty-five pounds, in a duffel bag in some high grass near a country lane on October 4, 1953.

Hall had difficulty in finding the money as he reeled drunkenly about in the grass. Failing to find the ransom money, he called Robert Ledterman, a Greenlease contact and go-between, another conversation recorded at 8:28 p.m., October 4, 1953, by FBI agents:

Ledterman: Greenlease residence. Ledterman speaking.

M: How are you?

Ledterman: Fine. How are you tonight?

M: A little late.

Ledterman: You said eight o’clock. Are we all set?

M: We’re all set. We have a perfect plan. It couldn’t be any…

Ledterman: How’s that now? Give me that again.

M: There could not be any mistake. This is a perfect plan. It will have to be a little later. I am sorry, too, but we want to make sure there’s no mix up this time.

Ledterman: Yes. Let’s get things over—say, by the way, M, did the boy answer any of those questions?

M: No … I couldn’t… we didn’t get anything from him.

Ledterman: Couldn’t get anything from him?

M: He wouldn’t talk … I’ll tell you this much. You will get him in Pittsburgh, Kansas.

Ledterman: You’re not bunking me in that, are you?

M: That’s the gospel truth.

Following this call, two Greenlease family friends, Ledterman and Norbert S. O’Neill, according to the arrangements Hall made in his phone call, retrieved the duffel bag containing the ransom money from the tall grass and left it near a bridge close to the junction of highway 40 and 10E at midnight on October 4, 1953.

This time Hall found the money and he called the Greenlease home, again identifying himself as “M,” to state that he had picked up the ransom, but that the bills had not yet been counted.

Ledterman: I can assure that all the money you demanded is there.

M: Well, I am sure of that. You can tell his mother that she will see him as we promised within twenty-four hours … We will certainly be glad to send him back.

The murdering kidnappers immediately left for St. Louis, where they bought two large metal suitcases and dumped a total of about $300,000 into both, according to later statements.

They reportedly buried these in an ash pit somewhere in south St. Louis. Hall took the rest of the cash with him. The pair got roaring drunk and spent lavishly, drawing attention to themselves.

The pair then went to a cheap hotel room where Bonnie Heady passed out. As soon as she fell unconscious on the bed, Hall grabbed the suitcase, left $2,000 in his paramour’s purse, and deserted her.

Hall did not leave town, but merely went to the expensive Congress Hotel, where he bought the favours of a young whore and then began to tip so lavishly that he drew the suspicions of hotel employees.

One of these, alerted by the news coverage of the recent kidnapping in Kansas City and the largest ransom paid up to that time in U.S. history called St. Louis police and reported that “a man is spending big money around the Congress Hotel and he doesn’t look the part.”

St. Louis Police Lieutenant Louis Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan went to investigate. They found Hall nurturing a terrible hangover in his room at the Congress Hotel.

Inside his bags, according to Shoulders, the two officers found more than $250,000 and a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver with three cartridges fired. Hall was taken in for questioning.

Some hours later, police picked up Heady. Both were grilled until dawn. FBI agents went to Heady’s home and here the body of Bobby Greenlease was found. They sadly informed the shocked parents.

The callous killers then began to talk. Heady at first insisted that she did not know that she was part of a kidnapping. She said she thought Hall was the former husband of Mrs. Greenlease and that she was merely trying to help him obtain his son, who had been kept from him.

This story quickly evaporated when FBI men and local police confronted her with the real facts that proved she and Hall had been together since his prison release.

Hall and Heady then admitted the kidnapping, but loudly denied having killed the child. Hall placed the blame on an ex-convict, Thomas John Marsh, a man he had known in prison. This, too, was another fabrication.

Finally, Hall made a full confession. For all his promises and assurances to the Greenlease family, his sadistic cruelty was capped with a bland confession that Bobby Greenlease was dead and that he had murdered the child only a few hours after the abduction, having driven from Kansas City to a deserted farm.

Hall said that Heady took a stroll in a field, while he placed his hands about the boy’s neck and tried to strangle him inside the car. Bobby Greenlease was a feisty youngster. He fought for his life, striking his attacker and squirming repeatedly from his grasp. Hall told investigators that he had been prepared for such resistance.

“I had the gun in my coat pocket,” he said. “I pulled it out and shot once, trying to hit him in the heart. I didn’t know if I hit him or not, for he was still alive … I shot him through the head on the second shot. I took him out of the car, laid him on the ground and put him in a plastic bag. I remember a lot of blood there. This farm where the killing occurred is about two miles south and two miles west of the state line.”

After murdering and bagging the boy, Hall said he called out to Heady, who walked back to the car and helped the murderer load the body into the back seat. After arriving at Heady’s home in St. Joseph, Missouri, the couple waited until nightfall so that next-door neighbors could not see their movements.

They dragged the plastic-wrapped body to the shallow grave they had prepared several days before the kidnapping, dumped it inside and then covered it with dirt. The next morning, both bought chrysanthemums, which they planted on top of the grave.

When realizing that they faced the death penalty, the kidnappers made a show of expressing their regrets to the parents, writing the Greenleases and begging for forgiveness.

The two were tried on November 16, 1953, and the jury quickly found them guilty of kidnapping and murder on November 19, 1953. The jury also recommended that both these callous killers be sent to the gas chamber.

After they were sentenced to death, Bonnie Heady sneered: “I’d rather be dead than poor!” When the sentence was announced, the gallery in the courtroom exploded with thunderous applause. Said the elderly Robert Greenlease who had been sitting quietly in the courtroom throughout the trial: “It’s too good for them, but it’s the best the law provides.”

Meanwhile, Hall no longer claimed that he buried half the ransom money. He insisted that all the $600,000 was in his hotel room when he was arrested, but only $250,000 was ever turned in by the two officers who arrested him.

“That’s a pack of lies,” Lieutenant Shoulders said. Robert Greenlease said that he believed Hall was telling the truth about the money, saying: “With certain execution facing him, Hall has no reason to lie.” The St. Louis Police also believed the condemned prisoner. Patrolman Dolan was suspended by the department, which announced that Shoulders would be charged with theft.

The suitcases in Hall’s room that contained the money, it was announced, were not delivered to police until an hour after Hall was booked. Shoulders was summoned before the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, but he was too ill to attend, a doctor stating that the lieutenant was exhausted because of work and was in “too nervous a condition” to stand questioning.

The 55-year-old Shoulders, under great pressure, announced from his home that night: “The suitcases with the money were delivered to the police station at the same time as the prisoner. I can prove that the money I found in Hall’s room was the same money I turned over to the FBI. Where that money is will come out at the right time, and when it does I know that Lou Shoulders will be in the clear.”

Shoulders later underwent a six-hour interrogation about the money. He then resigned from the St. Louis Police Department “to save the force further embarrassment,” it was announced. Shoulders was not finished, however. He claimed that he was the victim of “character assassination.”

Moreover, Shoulders said: “I got the kidnappers. I got the woman. I got the gun. I did not get the money.” He wrote a letter of resignation which ended with: “After twenty-seven years as a police officer, to be castigated on the heels of performing my duty with the highest sense of responsibility is more than I can bear.”

Shoulders then packed his bags and flew to Hawaii to stay with his son, followed all the way to Honolulu by FBI agents who continued to keep an eye on him.

Hall and Heady, meanwhile, prepared to die. Heady would be the first woman executed in Missouri since 1834. She was permitted to visit her lover on the night of their execution and they dined together on their favourite meal, fried chicken.

Heady sat outside of Hall’s cell while he nervously gripped the bars. Bonnie Heady was clearly the strongest of the two, stroking his hands and patting his head, telling him that “everything is going to be all right.” Hall had been terrified for days that he would be killed by inmates at the Missouri State Prison.

Child killers, as the warden and guards knew, seldom survived in the general prison population. Fathers, brothers, sons, all with memories of children on the outside, hold these criminals in the greatest contempt and traditionally slay killers of women and, especially, children. For this reason, Hall was kept in a separate holding cell, away from the other prisoners.

The execution of these two killers attracted great attention. The warden of the prison originally announced that Hall and Heady would enter the gas chamber in bathing suits and the local newspapers had their artists draw Hall in swimming trunks and Heady in a two-piece swimming suit.

This brought down the wrath of womens’ groups who called this unseemly and indecent.” The warden changed his mind and ordered that Hall was to die wearing green denim slacks. Heady would wear a green denim dress.

About a half hour before they were to die, the warden allowed the pair to be alone together in a cell, undisturbed and without supervision. When Hall stepped from the cell, lipstick was smeared on his mouth and neck.

Blindfolds were then placed on the condemned pair and they were led to the gas chamber. Heady’s chief concern at the moment of her death was how she would appear before those witnessing her death.

She had put her hair in curlers early that morning and spent several hours combing her hair and fixing her face. She was led trembling to a metal chair only inches from where Hall sat in the gas chamber.

She turned her blindfolded face to the warden and said: “Thanks for everything. You’ve been very kind.” Then she turned to her partner in cold-blooded murder and said to Hall: “Are you all right, honey?”

Hall replied in a dull, resigned voice: “Yes, Momma.” A U.S. marshal leaned close to Hall, still trying to determine the whereabouts of the missing $300,000, asking the killer: “Have you anything to tell me.”

Both Hall and Heady said nothing. The doors to the chamber were closed and witnesses could see through the glass of the chamber that Heady and Hall were talking quickly to each other, but none of their last words could be heard.

The cyanide pellets were dropped into the small vats of sulphuric acid beneath the chairs in which the killers sat. Hall breathed deep, swallowed once, and died. Bonnie Brown Heady fought death to the last second, holding her breath until the fumes surrounded her and she had to take a breath, her last.

The story was still not over, however. The hunt for the money went on. Only a day after the execution of Hall and Heady, ex-patrolman Dolan was indicted for perjury by a federal grand jury, which declared he had given false evidence concerning the suitcases full of money found in Hall’s hotel room.

Then Shoulders was indicted and both men were placed on trial. After a prolonged court battle, both men were found guilty of misappropriating the funds and perjuring themselves and sent to prison. Dolan was given a two-year sentence, Shoulders three years.

The Greenlease money never surfaced. Only a few of the marked bills appeared, some in Michigan, some in Mexico. Officers looked for it in Europe and South America, but no trace of it could be found.

It was later concluded that the money had been sold at a cut-rate price, for about 250 on the dollar. In the hunt for this money, the press gave more coverage to its possible whereabouts than it rendered to the unsuspecting 6-year-old boy who paid with his unfulfilled, unlived life.


Blood money and the death of a child

By Mike Donnelly

In September 1953, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady kidnapped, killed, and ransomed a six-year old boy named Bobby Greenlease. Further, they made their ransom demands after already killing the little boy. Bobby was the son of a millionaire, a Cadillac dealer and a General Motors stockholder named Robert Greenlease, Sr.. Hall and Heady kidnapped Bobby Greenlease in Kansas City, Missouri, and eventually murdered him across the state line in what was then rural Johnson County, Kansas. [1]

Hall and Heady pleaded guilty to a federal capital crime – interstate kidnapping without returning the victim unharmed. This was a violation of the federal Lindbergh Act. Both offenders faced conviction and died in the gas chamber in a remarkably short time span even by the standards of a half-century ago. The executions of Hall and Heady happened eighty-one days after the abduction of Bobby Greenlease. It was “the swiftest punishment ever meted out under the Lindbergh Law.” [2]

Interstate kidnapping was a major problem in the Midwest dating back at least to the Prohibition Era. Nonetheless, the crime did not fall under federal jurisdiction until after the abduction of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. The Lindbergh Law, created in 1932 and amended in 1934, provided capital punishment for anyone convicted in federal court of interstate kidnapping – if the kidnapper hurt the victim. [3] It was a popular law. Americans lauded its perceived deterrent effect. The enforcement of the Lindbergh Law further deified the already popular Justice Department Bureau of Investigation and its director, J. Edgar Hoover. [4]

The abduction of twenty-month old Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., whom the press affectionately called the “Eaglet,” was one of the “Crimes of the Century,” because his father, Charles A. Lindbergh, was quite possibly the most admired aviator on Earth. When the Lindbergh family reported the baby kidnapped, on March 1, 1932, it was, up to that point, the biggest crime story in American history. [5]

The furor regarding the crime propelled Congress into action. Democratic Representative John J. Cochran of Missouri was a long time advocate of federal laws against ransom kidnapping; his wealthy, law-abiding constituents wanted him to protect their families from illegal “hooch” merchants in St. Louis and Kansas City. A few hours after the news media announced that the Eaglet was dead, Representative Cochran delivered a timely nationwide radio address; he called for Congress to make legislation giving federal police officials including Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation more authority to stamp out ransom kidnappings. He pointed out that under the current system, state police officers found jurisdictional difficulties crossing state lines, while pursuing offenders. [6]

A House committee that included Missouri Republican Leonidas C. Dyer attached a capital ransom law to a proposed Lindbergh bill. However, recalcitrant members of the Senate squelched the death penalty clause. Members on both sides of the issue hotly debated the possible deterrent effects of the death penalty on ransom kidnapping. Those opposed were not concerned with restricting capital punishment for religious, ethical, or moral reasons. Rather, they feared that having the death penalty available for kidnappers that simply harmed their victims rather than killing them could endanger innocent lives. In theory, a kidnapper would be less likely to release a victim that endured rape, beating, or torture, if the probable result were a sentence of death. Nonetheless, those in favor of the capital crime provision reasoned that it was a preventative measure that could stop ransom kidnappers before they struck.

At first, those supporting the capital punishment clause did not get what they wanted. On June 22, 1932, President Herbert Hoover signed the Lindbergh bill into law without the death penalty provision. Still, the 1932 legislation was important. It provided state authorities with the help of the Justice Department Bureau of Investigation, after a seven-day waiting period passed. It also made interstate kidnapping a federal offense. Ultimately, Congress shelved the death penalty provision until after the election of a Democratic president – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A crime surge in 1933 and 1934 led to propositions for toughening the Lindbergh Law. Ransom kidnapping increased acutely during this period thanks in part to criminals such as the Ma Barker gang. In early 1934, a new bill was making the rounds in the Senate. Initially, it shortened the Bureau of Investigation’s waiting period from seven days to three days and had no death penalty provision. A Senate Judiciary Committee sent it back to the House for more tinkering in April. [7]

On May 3, 1934, a House Judiciary Committee submitted several new amendments and overhauled the entire bill. First, they reconsidered and rejected the shortened waiting period. [8] Then they added “[the penalty of] death if the verdict of the jury shall so recommend, provided that the sentence of death shall not be imposed by the court if, prior to its imposition, the kidnapped person shall have been liberated unharmed.” [9] The House passed the updated version of the bill on May 5, but the Senate urged caution and sent the amended bill to a House-Senate Conference Committee on May 7. [10]

Once more, outside events pushed Congress to act. On May 9, 1934, a group of gunmen kidnapped a retired oil millionaire near Los Angeles and demanded an $80,000 ransom. Two days later, the House-Senate Committee, this time including figures like Republican Senator William E. Borah of Idaho, reached a speedy compromise. They recommended that the Senate withdraw any objection to the death penalty provision and pass the House bill. Six days later, President Roosevelt signed the amended Lindbergh Law. The law remained unchanged until 1956. [11]

The abduction and murder of Bobby Greenlease unleashed a torrent of despair felt worldwide. The London Times sent a correspondent to cover the story as did the New York Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The murder of a six-year old boy seemed an almost unbearable assault on the comfort and security of a generation of parents hardened by the miseries of the Great Depression and in the midst of an unprecedented postwar baby boom. [12]

Most of the details of the premeditation and carrying out of the crime and backgrounds of the kidnappers came from confessions Hall and Heady made to the St. Louis Police Department and later the Federal Bureau of Investigation. United States District Attorney, Edward L. Scheufler and FBI agent Arthur S. Reeder read these confessions aloud to the jury at the beginning of the criminal hearing – held entirely for determining sentencing. [13]

The news writers and later sources writing on the Greenlease case clearly tended to adopt a moralizing tone regarding the two child killers. This is not impossible to understand. The kidnappers were people that had inherited whatever wealth they had, rather than people that “earned” their fortunes through frugality and hard work. Neither Carl Hall nor Bonnie Heady needed money. Greed, not want, motivated their crimes. [14]

Carl Hall, the son of well-off parents, began his life on July 1, 1919. His father was an attorney in Pleasanton, Kansas, and his mother was the daughter of a judge. Hall flunked out of William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, in the fall semester of 1937 and served two stints in the Marine Corps. The Marines disciplined him numerous times for being AWOL after nights of excessive drunkenness. [15] His father left the family a large amount of money with his widow as trustee. Carl Hall eventually inherited $200,000, when his mother died in 1944.

Nonetheless, money plainly did not solve Carl Hall’s woes. By 1951, drinking, narcotics abuse, obtaining the services of prostitutes, and gambling had reduced his fortune to a mere pittance. Therefore, he committed a handful of taxicab robberies in Kansas City, Missouri. His criminal exploits netted him a grand sum of $38 and a short stint in the Missouri State Penitentiary. In his prison cell, he methodically planned the “ultimate crime.” He told his cellmates that he would kidnap a child from a wealthy family, hold the child for ransom, and take in enough money to retire for life.

On April 24, 1953, the State of Missouri paroled Hall. He then went to St. Joseph, Missouri. In May, Hall met Bonnie Heady for the first time in a cocktail lounge at the Robedoux Hotel in St. Joseph. They began living together in her home, in an arrangement both described as a common-law marriage.

Heady was financially secure but mired by heartbreak and abusive relationships. In 1949, she inherited a rather sizeable sum of money ($44,000) and property (a 360-acre farm in Nodaway County, Missouri) from her father. She lived primarily off rent paid by a tenant farmer. By May 1953, she was an alcoholic, who drank a fifth of whiskey each day. In 1952, she divorced her husband of twenty years, officially due to his infidelity; yet, the real cause was likely his systematic brutality. For example, he ordered her to have eleven illegal abortions, because he did not want any children. It seemed that the relationship may have caused her to suffer a mental breakdown. In the months prior to meeting Hall, she resorted to prostitution and posing for pornographic photographs with a female friend. [16] She was almost seven years older than Hall. They were a pair of self-described “misfits.” [17] He was a convict, and she was a “whore.” Revealing the true side of his nature, he said that he wanted her to drink herself to death. [18]

In prison, Hall read the society columns in various Missouri newspapers searching for someone to ransom. News editors wrote about the considerable wealth of Robert Greenlease, Sr., and described his two, young children. After the papers tipped off Hall, he called the Greenlease home under false pretences and spoke to a maid. She told him the ages of the children, and where they attended school. Hall did not choose to victimize Bobby Greenlease, in particular, until mid-1953. Hall devised a variety of abduction schemes. One was stealing Bobby at gunpoint from his home, if his parents ever left him there alone; they never did. Another alternative was snatching Bobby’s eleven-year-old sister, Virginia Sue, during her daily commute back from school. [19]

On September 26, Hall finished his preparations for kidnapping Bobby Greenlease. First, he purchased a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver from Uncle Sam’s Loan office, a private business in Kansas City, Kansas. Then he obtained a fifty-pound bag of lime from Sawyer Material Company on Westport Road in Kansas City, Missouri, because he had “read some time in the past that ‘hot’ lime would quickly eradicate human flesh and bone.” [20] In addition, he purchased a long handled shovel and two boxes of bullets at Hatfield Hardware in St. Joseph, Missouri. Afterwards, he paid for three sheets of plastic sheeting at Western Auto in the same town. Finally, he bought stamped envelopes at the Post Office in St. Joseph and paper to write the ransom note at a variety store in the same town. [21]

Long before September 26, Hall calculated that $600,000 in tens and twenties was an ideal ransom figure, because it weighed no more than eighty-five pounds. Any more would have been too heavy for him to haul around. The amount was to be the largest ransom amount paid in American history up to that point.

In the night, Hall returned to the home of Bonnie Heady (1201 S. 38th Street, St. Joseph, Missouri) and told her he planned to kill the boy. She thought they were only going to abduct the boy and then release him, but Hall convinced her that killing the boy was the best option. In her confession she said that she was intoxicated and unable to reason clearly or resist the manipulations of her lover. He spent all day Sunday digging a hole in her flower garden. He took rest brakes about once an hour to imbibe, and then returned to his macabre work. In the end, the grave was about three feet deep and five feet long.

Hall dictated a ransom note and Heady hand printed it. However, they sent the note to the wrong address (2600 Verowa Rd., Kansas City, Missouri). They did not realize their error until September 29, and hastily mailed off another note to the correct address. The text of the first note was as follows:

Your boy been kiddnapped [sic] get $600,000 in $20’s – $10’s – Fed. Res. Notes from all twelve districts we realize it takes a few days to get that amount. Boy will be in good hands – when you have money ready put ad in K.C. Star. M – will meet you in Chicago next Sunday – signed Mr. G.

Do not call police or try to use chemicals on bills or take numbers. Do not try to use any radio to catch us or boy dies. If you try to trap us your wife and your other child and yourself will be killed you will be watched all of the time. You will be told later how to contact us with money. When you get this note let us know by driving up an [sic] down main St. between 39 & 29 for twenty minutes with white rag on car aeriel [sic]

If do exactly as we say an [sic] try no tricks, your boy will be back safe withen [sic] 24 hrs afer [sic] we check money.

Deliver money in army duefel [sic] bag. Be ready to deliver at once on contact.


$400,000 in $20’s

$200,000 in $10’s [22]

Monday, September 28, 1953, started out in a way familiar to Bobby Greenlease. His mother, Virginia, and her maids helped prepare the boy for a typical school day at the exclusive Notre Dame de Sion Catholic School at 3823 Locust, Kansas City, Missouri – located in the center of town. The French Order the Sisters of Sion ran the school. Bobby loved it there. He wore his decorative Jerusalem Cross with its two-inch red ribbon proudly on the left side of his chest, while he attended class. His father dropped him off at school at 8:30 AM, as the kidnappers watched in the distance. [23]

Around eleven in the morning, Bonnie Heady rang the front door bell. Then she waited in front of the large, double doors at the front of the school until a nun named Sister Morand answered. Heady misrepresented herself as the sister of Virginia Greenlease. Heady was believable, forceful, and adept at her role. In anticipation of her acting debut, Hall bought chlorophyll tablets to rid her breath of the smell of whiskey. She claimed to the nun that she had just rushed Mrs. Greenlease to the hospital after signs of a heart attack. The distraught “aunt” needed to take her “nephew” to see his mother right away. [24]

Sister Morand asked Heady if she wanted to say a prayer. The nun led Heady to the chapel, when she answered “yes.” She fell on her knees and prayed. She went so far as to say, “I’m not a Catholic. I don’t know if God will answer my prayers.” [25] After escorting the woman to the chapel, Sister Morand went to the second floor, pulled Bobby Greenlease from class and delivered him to the stranger. [26]

Greenlease, demonstrating his innocence, placed his hand in the hand of Heady. Then Heady said, “we are going to see momma.” [27] After her arrest, Heady broke down and confided these words to a police secretary, “You know he just put his little hand in mine, and he was so trusting.” [28] Sister Morand watched the woman and child depart down the front steps. There was a taxi waiting at the end of the driveway. [29]

About a half an hour after the mysterious woman and Bobby Greenlease checked out, a nun called the Greenlease household at 2920 Verona, Mission Hills, Kansas, to inquire about the condition of Mrs. Greenlease. A maid answered the telephone. She informed the nun that Bobby’s mother was well and at home. Mrs. Greenlease rushed to the telephone and discovered to her horror what had occurred. [30]

In the meantime, Bonnie Heady and the boy pulled into the parking lot of Katz’s Drugstore at 40th Street and Main, Kansas City, Missouri. She told Bobby they were going to get ice cream and meet his father. Instead, Carl Hall and a boxer dog belonging to Heady named “Doc” waited in her 1951 Plymouth station wagon. [31] Hall said, “Hello, Bobby. How are you?” Greenlease responded, “fine.” [32] Then the woman and the boy entered the vehicle.

Hall drove directly west to State Line Road. Crossing the Kansas-Missouri state line with Greenlease in the car automatically triggered the Lindbergh statute. Then Hall went south to 50 highway and west to 69 highway. He continued south through Overland Park, Kansas, and deep into a wheat field with a tall hedgerow near the intersection of 69 highway and 95th Street to find a suitable murder spot. Greenlease seemed calm and curious enjoying the journey and commenting on some hedge balls he observed in the distance.

Hall pulled over and stopped the car. Heady told Greenlease she would gather a few hedge balls for him to play with and walked away from the car. She knew what would happen next and did not wish to be present. Hall opened the rear door of the station wagon and spread out a sheet of plastic meant to cover the body. This excited the dog; he jumped out of the vehicle and ran. Heady hastily began to pursue the barking canine. She calmed the animal and walked with him about one hundred feet from the vehicle on a path following the hedgerow. Then she heard two loud shots. [33]

The murder was especially brutal. The one hundred seventy-one pound, five foot ten inch Hall tried unsuccessfully to strangle the first grader (who was only one third of his size) with a piece of clothesline. It was less than fifteen inches long – too short for Hall “to hold in my hand and get a good twist.” [34] Greenlease began kicking and fighting, so Hall hit him in the mouth and knocked out his teeth. Finally, the murderer pulled out his .38 caliber revolver and fired at close range. Hall nonchalantly went on to confess: “I missed him on the first shot but the second one entered his head, causing him to bleed profusely and subsequently die. I do not remember exactly what position Bobby was in at the time of his death, but I believe I had pushed him down on the floor board of the Plymouth.” [35] Then Hall wrapped up Bobby’s corpse. [36]

Heady returned, surprised by the gunfire. The original plan of course was a less noisy strangulation. Nonetheless, she helped him clean up. They lifted the plastic-wrapped dead body into the back of the station wagon and covered it with an old comforter on which the dog slept. She observed blood all over Hall’s face, slicked back hair, and shark skin suit. He rolled up his blood stained sleeves and took off his jacket. She folded the jacket wrong side out and placed it next to the dead six year-old. Finally, she took Kleenex and wiped the blood off the face and hands of her lover for their drive back to Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Hall and Heady exited the scene of the crime. Hall drove north on 69 highway to 50 highway. Then he turned on Rainbow Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, until he reached Westport Road and followed it back into Missouri. He followed the Southwest Trafficway downtown, got on I-169 north, and crossed the Broadway Bridge spanning the Missouri River into Kansas City North. The couple, even with a dead child in the back of the station wagon, managed to make time for one stop at Lynn’s Tavern in Kansas City North. [37] The blood stained Hall sent his mistress inside to get a bottle of whiskey, while he checked to see if any blood had dripped out of the back of the Plymouth. The two of them drank their whiskey, driving north on Highway 71 to bury the body in her yard and plant flowers on top of it.

The disposal of the Greenlease body was a macabre affair. Hall took the corpse to the basement, where he removed the Jerusalem Cross from the school uniform. He pulled the plastic wrap off the body, covered the corpse with lime, re-wrapped it, and stuck it in the hole. Then he placed a little dirt on top and told Heady to stomp up and down on the grave and water it to pack it tight. His job was to clean the basement with turpentine, water, and gasoline. Hall washed the blood and brains out of the station wagon with a water hose. Cold water did not do a very good job, apparently. On October 1, Hall ended up renting a 1952 Ford sedan from U-Drive-It auto rentals in St. Joseph, Missouri. [38]

On September 29, Hall and Heady bought a dozen chrysanthemums and planted them on the grave to allay suspicion. He drove to Kansas City next and mailed the second ransom letter. He placed the Jerusalem Cross inside. The second note read:

You must not of got our first letter. Show this to no one. Get $600,000 in 10$ and 20$ federal reserve notes from all distrisst [sic] 400,000 in 20s – 200,000 – 10s you will not take numbers of treat bills in any way.

When you have money put ad in star personal meet me in Chicago signed G. Call police off and obey instructions Boy is ok but homesick. don’t try to stop us or pick up or boy dies you will hear from us later. Put money in army duffle [sic] bag

M. [39]

The Jerusalem Cross belonging to Bobby Greenlease arrived with the second ransom note, and it convinced Robert Greenlease, Sr., his family, and his friends that they were dealing with the real kidnappers; the family had received several phony ransom demands, before getting the second ransom note. Mr. Greenlease and a business assistant, Robert L. Ledterman, hurriedly went to the Commerce Trust Company and called on bank official Arthur Eisenhower, brother of the President of the United States, to get the money. Eisenhower contacted H. Gavin Leedy, president of the Kansas City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, who got the wheels in motion under strict secrecy. [40]

Hall started making telephone calls masking his voice with a cloth. The first call was with a business associate of Robert Greenlease, Sr., named Stewart Johnson, on September 30. The second call was with another associate named Norbert O’Neill on October 2. The third call was with Robert L. Ledterman on October 3 in the wee hours of the morning. On October 4, Hall made several calls to the Greenlease residence speaking to those with whom he had already spoken and even with the mother, Virginia Greenlease. That day, he spoke with her on four occasions. In the early hours of October 5, the Greenlease household received the final ransom drop-off instructions. The FBI tape-recorded all of the calls, but they did not attempt to trace them. The seven-day waiting period was a handicap that prohibited further action. Furthermore, Mr. Greenlease feared any FBI involvement that might endanger his son’s life. The telephone calls were about the delivery of the ransom. Hall assured the worried family and their friends that Bobby was alive, well, and homesick for his mother. [41]

Collecting the ransom was no simple affair. Hall led the Greenlease operatives on an elaborate series of wild goose chases. The supposed reason was to shake off the FBI, in case the family had disregarded his instructions. After several false ransom drops, the exasperated Ledterman told Hall: “This idea of climbing the tree and looking in a bird’s nest for a note, then climbing on your belly somewhere looking for something under a rock with a red, white and blue ribbon around it— that’s getting pretty tiresome. You know, you and I don’t have to play ball that way. We can deal man to man.” [42]

On October 4 at 11:30 PM, Hall decided it was safe to give the instructions for a real ransom drop. Ledterman was to drive east on 40 highway past Stephenson’s Café, a rural area in present-day Independence, Missouri. He was to continue east until he reached road 10 E. After that, he was to turn right and drive approximately one mile to a bridge. Then, he was to toss the large moneybag in a nearby spot. Instructions for finding the boy would be waiting at the Western Union office in Pittsburg, Kansas. [43]

The ransom drop was a success for Hall and Heady. Hall picked the ransom money at 12:30 AM on October 5. Then he and his partner headed east toward St. Louis. Hall previously took a morphine injection in Kansas City. During their flight, he became anxious and stole a pair of license plates to cover his tracks. The kidnapper-murderers made another stop at Boonville, Missouri, to fuel up. Heady slept most of the time, but occasionally woke to smoke cigarettes and sip whiskey. The highway they took was the two-lane Highway 40 (the best one available at the time), which took five and one-half hours, even at a high rate of speed. [44]

On October 5 at six in the morning, Hall and Heady arrived in St. Louis. They began hitting the bars as early as possible, Heady doing the lion’s share of the drinking. As she drank, he transferred the tinted money into two suitcases, ditched the Ford, and called a Yellow Cab. Soon afterward, he purchased a 1947 red Nash sedan. In the meantime, the drunken woman had a fight with him about what hotel they should stay in. He eventually secured an apartment at 4504 Arsenal, St. Louis, Missouri, under the false name of Mr. and Mrs. Grant. He told the landlady that his fellow traveler was ill. It seemed she was intoxicated enough to jeopardize their chances of obtaining a room. Right before she became too intoxicated to keep consciousness, he placed the suitcases of money in the closet. Then she fell asleep, and he called another Yellow Cab. [45]

Heady remained asleep until around noon the next day – the day of her capture. She woke to find the two suitcases gone. She called a cab and went to a liquor store, where she purchased whiskey, milk, and foodstuffs. Then she returned to the apartment and stayed there until around midnight, when the St. Louis Police arrived. [46] Hall greeted Heady in handcuffs at the front door of her apartment with the St. Louis Police on all sides. He betrayed his lover almost immediately after his arrest. [47]

Hall set his own trap: he got drunk, went on a romp looking for a “whore” and spent the money too carelessly. After having several drinks, he returned to the apartment, took the money suitcases, and went to the Jefferson hotel. There he met a Mafia-connected cab driver named John Hager, who worked for the Ace Taxicab Company. After Hall requested feminine companionship, Hager put his customer in touch with a prostitute named Sandra O’ Day. Then he asked the cab driver to deliver a breakup note to his common law wife at the Arsenal street address. [48]

Hall and O’ Day checked into a room at the Coral Court Motel, a reputed gangster hangout off Route 66 in St. Louis County, [49] and he got back to making plans. They drank whiskey for hours. Hall lavished money on the prostitute and the cab driver, who became a personal valet of sorts. Hall decided he would give O’ Day a fist full of money to take an airplane to Los Angeles, California. From there he wanted her to send a letter to his attorney in St. Joseph. This would supposedly confuse the FBI. Nevertheless, staying inconspicuous was impossible, because in less than two days, Hall wasted around $40,000. [50]

Hall’s spending spree quickly attracted the attention of underworld figures. John Hager tipped off gangster Joe Costello, who was the owner of Ace Cab Company. After receiving the tip, Costello called his good friend, St. Louis Police Lieutenant Louis Shoulders. Shoulders and his driver, Elmer Dolan, arrested Hall around 8:00 PM on October 6. They claimed they took the remaining money, around $560,000, to the Newstead police station in North St. Louis, but no one saw them bring it in.

Sometime after the arrest, other law enforcement officials discovered that $300,000 had disappeared. On October 19, the St. Louis Police Commissioners ordered a probe into alleged discrepancies in the police reports both Elmer Dolan and Louis Shoulders filed on the arrests of Hall and Heady. This caused a large scandal resulting in federal perjury indictments for the two officers in December 1953. There are many theories as to what happened to the cash. It is unknown whether Costello deduced that the money was the Greenlease ransom and wanted to give Lieutenant Shoulders the arrest of a career in exchange for a cut of the money. Then again, Costello may have supposed Hall was a common embezzler and conspired to steal half of the loot with the help of the St. Louis Police. Of course, there is also the remote possibility that Hall may have successfully hidden the money, although he said he did not. In that way, he could have ruined the careers of the cops that arrested him and had his revenge. Shoulders and Dolan eventually served stints in federal prison for lying to a grand jury investigating the case. [51]

On October 7, 1953, the two lovers wept, while St. Louis detectives examined them. Hall told police that Bobby Greenlease was dead and pinned the murder on a man named Thomas John Marsh. “I didn’t shoot the boy…[Marsh] did it,” [52] Hall sobbed while covering his face with his hands. Hall said Heady was an unsuspecting accomplice. She claimed complete ignorance of the murder, but confessed her role in the kidnapping: “Carl …said he had returned the boy to the school…I didn’t go to the police because I knew I would be blamed for the kidnapping.” [53]

Later that day, Hall and Heady’s story began to fall apart. The St. Joseph police and Buchannan County, Missouri, sheriff’s deputies began a detailed search of Heady’s home and discovered the body of Bobby Greenlease in her yard. The district attorney of Buchannan County, John E. Downs, supervised the operation. Authorities removed the body to a funeral home in St. Joseph and performed an autopsy. Dr. Hubert Eversull, Bobby’s dentist, drove up from Kansas City and positively identified the boy. Downs filed first-degree murder complaints against Hall, Heady, and Marsh. On October 13, they finally acknowledged slaying the child and admitted the crime occurred in Kansas. At this point, the FBI assumed full authority over the case under the Lindbergh statute. [54]

The United States v. Hall and Heady case lasted a mere three days – November 16 to November 19. Both pleaded guilty. Their confessions entered the record on the first day. The hearing was merely to establish sentencing. They did not appeal. [55] The hearing took place at the United States Courthouse in Kansas City, Missouri. Judge Albert M. Reeves (mentioned in chapter 1) presided with a steady hand over his last major criminal hearing as an active judge in the Western District of Missouri. The case was important enough that a staff writer for the New York Times mentioned it in a eulogy to Reeves in 1971. Reeves was a stalwart, conservative Republican selected by Warren Harding and approved by Congress in January 1923. He and another judge, Merill Otis, helped break the Pendergast machine. In 1954, Reeves took senior status as a United States district court judge. [56]

The United States district attorney representing the prosecution was Edward L. Scheufler. His most significant accomplishment was that he prosecuted fifty percent (three out of six) of the kidnappers sentenced to death under the Lindbergh act in the federal court system. On March 30, 1953, President Eisenhower had nominated the fifty-four year old Scheufler to fill the position vacated by Democrat Sam Wear. On April 14, the Senate confirmed the nomination. Scheufler was a native of Barton County, Kansas. In 1924, he graduated from George Washington University in Washington D.C. and set up a law practice in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1930, he became a city councilman representing the second district and became a thorn in the side of corrupt Democratic political boss Thomas J. Pendergast. In 1940, he rose to the position of chairman of the Jackson County Republican committee. [57]

Hall’s defense lawyers were court appointed. They were Roy K. Dietrich of Kansas City, Missouri, and Marshall K. Hoag of Pleasanton, Kansas. Harold Hull of Maryville, Missouri, represented Bonnie Heady. In the past, he had represented her on civil matters. [58]

The jury members were not likely to show mercy on the killers, while thinking of a proper punishment. Nine of the jurors were fathers. Dietrich tried to weed out as many as he could, but found that to be an impossible task during the peak, baby boom year of 1953. One journalist wrote, “In occupation, the fairly well dressed group includes three merchants, two bank officials, three engaged in farming or raising livestock, and an insurance man, real estate dealer, railroad supervisor and one salesman.” [59] The journalist failed to mention a black woman from Springfield, Missouri, who was an alternate juror. The woman was a maid named Edna Lee Parks. Yet, there was no evidence of racism in the story. The journalist did not mention the white male alternate (John D. Pahlow) either. [60]

The jurors were all Missouri residents. None of them were Kansas City residents. All of them resided in small towns or in rural areas. There were no women jurors. They were:

1. Albert C. Burgess of Joplin

2. George D. Byler of Webb City

3. Fred Carpenter of Wheatland

4. William Jasper Craig of Springfield

5. Warren J. Cross of Stockton

6. Percy Delarue of Bolivar

7. Robert E Draffen of Columbia

8. Burl M. Garvin of Joplin

9. Elmer Guenther of Versailles

10. C. D. Heyasel of California

11. Grady Hord of Eldon

12. David Levy Lebolt of Springfield [61]

Hall and Heady entered the courtroom in chains. The editors of the London Times ran an article describing the entrance of the manacled child killers: “Kansas City, Nov. 16 – Carl Austin Hall and Mrs. Bonnie Brown Heady, who are alleged to have confessed to kidnapping and killing six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, were brought in chains to-day before the federal court here for trial.” [62] The eyes of the world focused on events in Kansas City.

The defense lawyers half-heartedly tried to win life sentences for their clients and failed. Hull described Heady as a woman destroyed by a marital sadness, and Dietrich characterized Hall as a man ruined by greed. Both were victims of alcoholism. Hull stated, “I am not interested in sympathy for my client [but] I think after you hear the evidence for forty years of Mrs. Heady’s life, you can realize that a recommendation of life imprisonment can be the outcome in this case.” [63]

The prosecution shattered any hopes the defense had of swaying the jury to recommend life imprisonment. The principal witnesses against Hall and Heady were Hall and Heady themselves. Their confessions, describing their sordid lives and the crime against Bobby Greenlease were sixty-three pages long. Scheufler read Heady’s slowly and clearly to the judge and jury. FBI agent Arthur S. Reeder read Hall’s in a dispassionate and legalistic manner. A handful of women in attendance in the packed courtroom cried during the description of the murder. Scheulfer called both of Bobby’s parents to the stand of their volition; this sent a powerful emotional message to the jury. Other witnesses included Sister Morand, who identified Bonnie, John and Lloyd Parker of the Sawyer Material Company, where Hall bought the lime, and Grace Hatfield of the Hatfield Hardware Company, where Hall purchased the shovel. Two FBI agents testified that they found two bullets in the Plymouth station wagon; ballistics tests proved both bullets were from Hall’s .38. [64]

The defense did not dispute the facts, but tried one last time for life sentences. They did not call upon psychologists and psychiatrists; Judge Reeves had barred any insanity pleas after the arraignment. Instead, Dietrich summoned some people from Pleasanton, Kansas, who told a variety of anecdotes about the childhood of Carl Hall. In essence, his father died when he was twelve. In addition, his mother was allegedly stern, severe and unloving. This lack of love supposedly led him to drink and become obsessed with material things. [65] Harold Hull only called the elderly aunt of Bonnie Heady to the stand, and the old woman said: “[my niece] was kind to children. She was a kind, loveable woman.” [66] The transparencies of the arguments did not escape the jurors. [67]

Scheufler’s closing argument was concise and devastating. He said these words in part:

Defense counsel said [Heady] loved children. But she was more interested in her dog than Bobby. … [She had the option of telling Hall]: ‘No, Carl, let us not do this. Let us not plan the death of a child like this.’ She had a chance 50 times, 100 times, 1000 times to stop this thing ... she could have said no. But she did not … Little Bobby Greenlease, defenseless, was trapped like an animal … It was one of the most heinous, brutal and cold-blooded crimes in the annals of American history. … If there was ever a case [in which] a jury [was] justified in taking a life, this is it. [68]

In essence, they showed no mercy, and they should get none. [69]

Judge Reeves gave his charge to the jury in stern language. He reminded the jury that technically they were deciding whether or not to issue the death penalty based on the fact that a kidnap victim was not returned unharmed. They were ruling on the Lindbergh Law, not a federal murder statute. Reeves explained how anyone that aided and abetted a capital crime in the manner Bonnie Heady did could receive the same sentence of death as the one that actually committed the crime. Next, he told the jury that their decision was not simply to serve as punishment but also as a deterrent. Summarily, he reiterated the details of the crime concentrating on the fact that Hall and Heady immediately took Bobby into Kansas to murder him and reminded the jurors of the advance purchase of the quicklime (premeditation). For whatever reason, probably to further assail the immorality of the kidnappers, he reminded the jurors that under Missouri law there was no such thing as a common law marriage. [70] In closing Judge Reeves stated:

Congress enacted the law annexing the death penalty to kidnapping … ask yourselves these questions: Since you have the responsibility to make a recommendation what penalty should be imposed in this case, could you conceive that Congress in enacting the law and providing the death penalty in kidnapping cases, could have had in mind a more terrible crime than was committed in this case, where a little boy was not only hurt but murdered? [71]

The jury could not. At 11:52 in the morning on November 19, 1953, the twelve men returned from their deliberations and recommended death for Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady. Judge Reeves set the date of execution as December 18, 1953. They would die in the gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City . [72] On November 24, Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., congratulated Scheufler: “I note that the jury recommended the death sentence for the killers of Bobby Greenlease. One of the greatest deterrents to kidnapping is to bring the criminals promptly before the bar of justice.” [73]

Reeves received dozens of letters begging for the commutation of the death sentences, and about the same amount in support of his decision. The judge had no doubt about the righteousness of sentencing Hall and Heady to death. The following was a typical response Reeves gave to those opposed to the death penalty for religious reasons: “I appreciate what you say about the spiritual law but it is necessary for the people, while on this earth, to have laws and to impose penalties. In the spiritual world there are laws and penalties imposed – in like manner as penalties are imposed in this physical world by sovereign order.” [74]

Bonnie Heady and Carl Hall were the third and fourth people put to death under the amended Lindbergh Law. Bonnie Heady was the only woman ever executed under the Lindbergh Law, the second executed in Missouri’s history up to that point, and the last woman executed by the federal government in the twentieth century. [75] The immediately preceding federal executions were of two figures as widely unpopular as Hall and Heady. On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair one after the other at Sing Sing Prison in New York, after a federal jury convicted them of violating the capital provision of the Espionage Act of 1917. Hall and Heady died together, because Missouri had two chairs in the gas chamber. [76]

Hall and Heady’s demise came on schedule. In the minutes before their deaths, the guards turned off the Christmas lights in the prisoner’s cells. Hall and Heady held hands and kissed for the last time. They entered the gas chamber blindfolded and died after inhaling cyanide gas. A doctor pronounced Heady dead at 12:58 AM. Hall died two minutes later. [77] The federal government promptly satisfied the public lust for revenge.

In 1953, few people questioned whether or not Hall and Heady received a fair hearing or doubted the constitutionality of the death penalty clause of the Lindbergh statute. However, a forward-thinking Democratic lawyer named John W. Oliver said, “the only jurisdiction that I knew in which you had a continued trial after a plea of guilty was the Soviet Union. The Soviet Purge Trials of the 1930’s commenced with full and fair confessions of all political and other crimes.” [78]

In 1968, the United States Supreme Court, applying the logic Oliver had used fifteen years earlier, ruled in United States v. Jackson that the provision of the Lindbergh Act giving the jury the power to recommend the death penalty after a guilty plea was unconstitutional. A jury trial was meant to determine guilt or innocence and nothing else. [79]

The slayers of Bobby Greenlease paid the ultimate price for perpetrating one of the most heinous murders in the annals of American crime. One highly controversial result of the Jackson ruling (1968) was that the Warren Court ended the era of swift justice. If the Hall and Heady trial were held today it is probable that it would take about eight years to execute them with their defense lawyers living off public money the whole time; yet, in the early 1950s, the overwhelming majority of people from London, England, to Kansas City, Missouri, emphatically supported the executions of Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady, even if some called it “frontier justice.”


[1] The place where the Greenlease murder occurred was in close proximity to what today is a low-crime, affluent suburban enclave called Overland Park, Kansas. The crime happened in a field near the intersection of 95th Street and U.S. Highway 69 (close to the current Oak Park Mall). James Deakin, A Grave for Bobby: the Greenlease Slaying (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1990), 15-23; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953.

[2] New York Times, 18 December 1953.

[3] Ernest Kahlar Alix, Ransom Kidnapping in America – 1874-1974: The Creation of a Capital Crime (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1978), 62-124; U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Anti-kidnapping: Report to Accompany H. R. 5657. 72nd Cong., 1st sess., 1932; H. R. 1493. U. S. Congress. House. Committee on Rules. Anti-kidnapping: Report to Accompany H. Res. 250. 72nd Cong., 1st sess., 1932; H. R. 1507. U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Amend the Kidnapping Act: Report to Accompany S. 2252. 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1934; H. R. 1457. U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Conference. Forbidding Transport of Kidnapped Persons in Interstate Commerce: Report to Accompany S. 2252. 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1934. H. R. 1595.

[4] Alix, Ransom Kidnappings, 78-117.

[5] The New Jersey State Police, under the leadership of Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, recovered the body of the slain child on May 12, 1932. Noel Behn, Lindbergh: the Crime (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994), 14-20, 169-177; Jim Fisher, The Lindbergh Case (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 7-8, 107-119; George Waller, Kidnap: the Story of the Lindbergh Case (New York: the Dial Press, 1961), 3-14, 99-106.

[6] U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Anti-kidnapping: Report to Accompany H. R. 5657. 72nd Cong., 1st sess., 1932. H. R. 1493; U. S. Congress. House. Committee on Rules. Anti-kidnapping: Report to Accompany H. Res. 250. 72nd Cong., 1st sess., 1932. H. R. 1507; Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 60-77.

[7] Ibid., 97-109; U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Amend the Kidnapping Act: Report to Accompany S. 2252. 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1934. H. R. 1457.

[8] Ibid.

[9] U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Amend the Kidnapping Act: Report to Accompany S. 2252. 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1934. H. R. 1457.

[10] Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 97-109.

[11] Congress lowered the waiting period to twenty-four hours on July 28, 1956. Eisenhower signed the bill into law on August 6. Ibid., 97-109, 128-132; U. S. Congress. House. Committee on the Conference. Forbidding Transport of Kidnapped Persons in Interstate Commerce: Report to Accompany S. 2252. 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., 1934. H. R. 1595; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: 1774 -Present, [date unknown] @ <>; A proposal to shorten the FBI waiting period originally came about in response to the Greenlease case. Congress debated legislation for shortening the waiting period two-and-a-half years before passing the Keating bill. Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver from Tennessee introduced legislation to reduce the FBI waiting period to twenty-four hours. He voiced the same concerns Representative Kenneth B. Keating expressed about the problems of not allowing the FBI to handle Lindbergh cases for a full week. Senator Kefauver obtained the support of Senators Robert C. Hendrickson (Republican, New Jersey) and Harly M. Kilgore (Democrat, West Virginia). Congress quickly shelved the 1953 legislation, because of a combination of racial bigotry and political opposition to Kefauver. Senator Olin D. Johnson, a South Carolina Democrat, led the obstinate block of lawmakers opposed to the Kefauver Bill. The editors of the New York Times stated, “In the South particularly the issue of state or Federal jurisdiction in criminal cases in a touchy one because civil rights sometimes are involved.” Quoted in New York Times, 10 October 1953; Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 131.

[12] London Times, 8 October 1953; New York Times 20 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 20 November 1953.

[13] Hall confessed to agents Finis Y. Sims and A. S. Reeder. Heady confessed to agents A. S. Reeder and Don W. Walters. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 24-36.

[14] In contrast, Robert Greenlease, Sr., was the “classic, American, self-made man.” He was born on a farm in Saline County, Missouri in 1882 and came to Kansas City at age 12. After failing at several business ventures including putting handmade cars together (e.g., the Kansas City Hummer) he obtained a franchise to sell Cadillacs in 1908. In the next few years General Motors annexed Cadillac. Greenlease got in on the ground floor of distribution. After a number of years, he became rich. Eventually, he controlled wholesale distribution of Cadillacs from Texas to the Dakotas and from Missouri to Colorado. If he could not build automobiles hands on, he could sell them and hugely profit. Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 16.

[15] St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 24-36.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Carl Hall quoted in Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 30.

[18] Ibid.

[19] In early September, Hall attempted to snatch Virginia Sue Greenlease out of the family’s blue Cadillac, while her mother was in a Plaza drug store; yet, the girl opened the car door and went into the store ruining Hall’s element of surprise. He did not want to attract attention, so he abandoned his plans. Furthermore, he decided the older child would probably be more perceptive and put up a greater struggle. Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 December 1953.

[20] Quoted in St. Louis Globe Democrat, 17 November 1953 and Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953

[21] St. Louis Globe Democrat, 17 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 128-130; Deakin Grave for Bobby, 15-23; J.J. Maloney, “The Greenlease Kidnapping,” Crime Magazine [1998-1999] at <>. United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR.

[22] Ibid. Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 36-39; United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR.

[23] St. Louis Globe Democrat, 17 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 128-130; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 15-23; Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping”; United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Direct Examination of Sister Morand,” 1-7.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Quoted in Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 18.

[26] St. Louis Globe Democrat, 17 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 128-130; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 15-23; Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping”; United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Direct Examination of Sister Morand,” 1-7.

[27] Quoted in United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Direct Examination of Sister Morand,” 5.

[28] Quoted in Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 19.

[29] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Direct Examination of Sister Morand,” 1-7.

[30] Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 19.

[31] Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953. Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 15-23.

[32] Quoted in Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Quoted in St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953 and Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 15-23.

[37] Hall and Heady thought Lynn’s was in North Kansas City, but that would be a few miles east of the general direction in which they were traveling. Most likely the “out-of-towners” assumed Kansas City North was North Kansas City. Almost fifty years later, no record of the Lynn’s Tavern (phone number or address) existed in the yellow pages.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 15-23, 36-39; United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR.

[40] Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 45.

[41] Hall, at one point, sarcastically told Mrs. Greenlease “Lady, he is alive. He is driving us nuts. … We have earned this money.” United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Direct Examination of Virginia Pollock Greenlease,” 1-5; Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 1-64.

[42] Quoted in Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 43.

[43] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Direct Examination of Virginia Pollock Greenlease,” 1-5; Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin¸ Grave for Bobby, 1-64.

[44] Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 65-98; Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953.

[47] Ibid.

[48] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR; Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 1-286; Larsen, Federal Justice, 221-224.

[49] J.J. Maloney explains, “The Coral Courts was renowned as a place where a fellow could stay for a while with no questions asked (in fact, each of the beige tiled units had its own garage, so no care would be left indiscreetly in view of those passing by on Route 66). The Coral Courts was built in 1941, by John Carr, a man long rumored to be mob-connected and who had run a posh brothel in St. Louis for years.” Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7.

[50] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. Maloney, “Greenlease Kidnapping,” 1-7; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 November 1953; Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 17 November 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 1-286; Larsen, Federal Justice, 221-224.

[51] Ibid; New York Times, October 19, 1953, and December 19, 30, 1953.

[52] Quoted in Kansas City Star, 8 October 1953.

[53] Quoted in Ibid.

[54] Ibid.; New York Times, 13 October 1953.

[55] Kansas City Star, November 16,17, 18, 19, 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 17, 18, 19, 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 226-236.

[56] Larsen, Federal Justice, 126-130; “Albert L. Reeves is Dead at 97,” New York Times, 26 March 1971. “Judge Reeves Rites,” Kansas City Star, 26 March 1971.

[57] “Executions of Federal Prisoners Since 1927,” Federal Bureau of Prisons Home Page, 7 February 2000, @ <>; Kansas City Star, 30 March 1953; Kansas City Star, 14 April 1953.

[58] Kansas City Star, 15 November 1953.

[59] Joseph L. Oppenheimer, “Greenlease Jury All Fathers,” Kansas City Daily Record, 19 November 1953.

[60] Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953; Joseph L. Oppenheimer, “Greenlease Jury All Fathers,” Kansas City Daily Record, 19 November 1953.

[61] Kansas City Star, 17 November 1953.

[62] London Times, 17 November 1953.

[63] Quoted in Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 228-229.

[64] Kansas City Star, November 16,17, 18, 19, 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 17, 18, 19, 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 226-236.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Nellie Baker quoted in Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 231.

[67] Kansas City Star, November 16,17, 18, 19, 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 17, 18, 19, 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 226-236; United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Argument to the Jury on Behalf of the Defendant Bonnie Brown Heady [and] Argument to the Jury on Behalf of Defendant Carl Austin Hall,” 1-20.

[68] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Closing Argument on Behalf of the Government.” Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 232.

[69] Kansas City Star, November 16,17, 18, 19, 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 17, 18, 19, 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 226-236.

[70] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Court’s Charge to Jury,” 1-14.

[71] Ibid., 13.

[72] United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Judgement and Sentence.” Kansas City Star, 20 November 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 20 November 1953; New York Times, 20 November 1953; London Times, 20 November 1953.

[73] Quoted in Larsen, Federal Justice, 223.

[74] From Albert L. Reeves, Kansas City, Missouri, to A. M. D. Morrell, St. Joseph, Missouri, 23 November 1953. Albert L. Reeves Papers, 967-KC, Box 2, File 57, Western Historical Manuscript Collection, Kansas City, Missouri.

[75] Kansas City Star, 18 December 1953; St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 18 December 1953; New York Times, 18 December 1953; London Times, 19 December 1953; Deakin, Grave for Bobby, 226-236; Alix, Ransom Kidnapping, 128-130; United States v. Hall and Heady (1953), C 18,671-KC, USDC-WM, RG 21, NA-CPR. See “Standard Certificate of Death for Bonnie Emily Brown Heady and Carl Austin Hall, December 18, 1953.”

[76] “Executions of Federal Prisoners Since 1927,” Federal Bureau of Prisons Home Page, 7 February 2000, @ <>; Joseph H. Sharlitt, Fatal Error: The Miscarriage of Justice that Sealed the Rosenburg’s Fate (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989), 105-107; Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenburg File: A Search for the Truth (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983), 384; Doug Linder and others, “The Trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenburg,” Famous Trials, 21 January 2000.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Quoted in Larsen, Federal Justice, 222.

[79] In 1962, President Kennedy nominated and the Senate confirmed Oliver as a federal district judge in Western Missouri. He assumed senior status in 1980. Ibid., 222-223, 241; United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570 (1968).


The Greenlease Kidnapping

By David Krajicek -


In May 1953, a freshly minted ex-con named Carl Hall happened to mount a barstool in St. Joseph, Mo., beside a stranger named Bonnie Heady.

The sun outside was high in the sky and the air was sweet with the approach of summer, but sunshine made people like Heady and Hall twitchy.

Heady, 41, had been around the block. She had a stubby build, a plump, round face, beady brown eyes, and a bit of a turtle chin. Her short, brown hair framed a pasty facethe complexion of a dedicated barfly.

Hall wasnt much of a looker, either, with prominent ears, puffy eyes and a flabby midriff. His rapidly receding widows peak made him seem older than 34. His hands were soft and doughy, the mitts of a man whod done nothing more strenuous in life than grip a highball glass or pool cue.

Hall and Heady were a pair by the time they staggered out of the Pony Express saloon in St. Joes Hotel Robidoux on that May day. They had at least three things in common: an unquenchable thirst, a lack of scruples, and an alcohol-diminished ability to think straight.

Theirs would prove to be a match made in hell.

Within four months, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady would put their heads together and commit one of the most inscrutable crimes imaginable.

They kidnapped and murdered a 6-year-old boy, then managed to extract a kings ransom from his wealthy father, a Kansas City Cadillac dealer.

They fled to St. Louis with their loot but without a clue what to do with it. Their post-ransom plan was so thin that they didnt even bring along a change of underwear.

Life on the lam amounted to a fleeting drunken bender. They were in custody less than 48 hours after grabbing the ransom cash. Ultimately, they would pay dearly for their crime.

And the fate of the kidnap ransom would become an embarrassing coda to their story and an obsession for FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover when $300,000 turned up missing after it passed through the hands of a rogue St. Louis cop.

The Snatch

A taxicab rolled to a stop in front of the exclusive Notre Dame de Sion Catholic School on Locust Street in Kansas City, Mo., at 10:55 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, 1953.

The cab idled as the fare, Bonnie Heady, made her way into the school building. She was dressed respectably brown hat, beige blouse, dark gabardine skirt and white gloves.

Sister Morand greeted the stranger at the door. Heady explained she had come to remove a first-grader, Bobby Greenlease, from class because the boys mother had had a heart attack while shopping that morning.

The woman explained that she was the sister of the stricken woman, Virginia Greenlease, who desperately wanted to see her boy.

Sister Morand would later recall that the visitor seemed agitated, which struck the nun as appropriate under the circumstances. She may have noticed that the woman smelled of Clorets, which Heady had chewed to mask the odor of the eye-openers of whiskey shed downed that morning.

Sister Morand sent a colleague to fetch Bobby. She led the visitor into a school chapel to pray for Mrs. Greenlease. Heady folded her hands, bowed her head and pretended she cared.

After a few minutes, she stepped out of the chapel, and Bobby Greenlease, a slightly built 6-year-old, was standing there waiting for her.

He came right up to me and took a hold of my hand, Heady later said.

Bobby, with a mop of sandy hair, was wearing a white shirt with brown slacks. Pinned to his shirt was a Jerusalem medal, a large cross surrounded by four smaller ones, signifying the spread of Gods word to the corners of the earth.

Bobby was chatty. Heady led him to the cab and directed the driver to a parking lot in downtown Kansas City, a short drive from the school.

There, Heady paid the cabby and led Bobby around a corner to a remote section of the parking lot, where her 1951 Plymouth station wagon sat waiting.

Heady opened the front passenger door and encouraged Bobby to slide into the front seat. Behind the wheel sat Carl Hall, her drinking buddy.

Hall asked Bobby how he was, and the boy said he was doing well. The child noticed Headys boxer dog in the back of the station wagon. He told the couple he had two dogs of his own, as well as a green parrot named Polly.

The three chatted about their pets and about Bobbys Jerusalem medal a source of pride for the boy as Hall drove the car south, then west toward the Missouri-Kansas state line.

The boy indicated no fear and apparently did not question Hall about where they were going or why. As the FBI later reported, Bobby was very talkative and gave him absolutely no trouble.

The car crossed the state line then continued 5 miles, until the city faded into farmland in JohnsonCounty, Ks. Hall turned the station wagon into a field at the Moody Farm, following the ruts of a tractor path to a remote spot concealed by standing crops and an overgrown windrow.

Heady got out, opened the cars tailgate, threaded a leash over the boxers head and took him for a walk. As the boy sat watching the dog over his shoulder, Hall gripped a foot-long piece of clothesline in both hands, slipped the cord over Bobbys head and pulled his garrote tight.

Bobby flailed his fists and kicked his feet. Halls dainty drinking hands werent strong enough to asphyxiate the 6-year-old. He went to an alternative method, dropping the rope in favor of a 38-caliber revolver.

As Bobby continued to struggle, Hall pushed the boy to the floorboard of the car and tried to pin him down with a knee. He fired a shot but missed the gyrating boy from point-blank range.

Finally, Hall raised the gun to the roof and brought it down on Bobbys face, knocking out three teeth. The stunned child was finally still. Carl Hall took a breath, aimed his gun at the boys head and fired a second shot. This one hit its mark and snuffed out the brief life of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Jr.

Hearing the shots, Heady hurried back on rubbery legs and put her dog back in the car. Hall wrapped Bobbys body in a blue tarp and laid it on the floorboard of the back seat. As an afterthought, he opened the tarp, unpinned the Jerusalem cross from the boys shirt and tucked it in his pocket.

Hall drove back into Missouri, then north through Kansas City toward St. Joe. But thirst cried out as the car passed Lynns Tavern in northern Kansas City, one of their many watering holes. They went in for a couple of stiff ones, leaving the boxer alone with the boys body in their bloody car.

With their gullets full of booze, the kidnappers made their way home to Headys house on South 38th Street in St. Joseph, an hour north of Kansas City. Hall carried the body to a hole hed dug in the backyard and covered it with lime and dirt, topping the grave with fresh mums.

He next retrieved an addressed letter from a drawer and drove back to Kansas City, where, at about 3 p.m., he mailed the letter special delivery. It was addressed to Robert Greenlease, Sr.

The Victims

Virginia Greenlease learned that her son had been snatched from school at about the time the killers were enjoying their nerve-settling whiskey at Lynns Tavern. A supervising nun from Bobbys school had phoned the Greenlease home to check on the womans condition. A maid passed the phone to Mrs. Greenlease, and both nun and mother understood immediately what had happened. The mother called her husband at work, and he rushed home.

Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr., was a self-made man. Born in 1882 on a Missouri farm, he moved to Kansas City at age 12 and was smitten by the horseless carriages that were just then beginning to frighten draft teams and pedestrians on the streets of American cities.

Before he was 21 the ambitious Greenlease and a partner had designed an automobile they called the Kansas City Hummer. They manufactured four of them before the enterprise went belly up. Greenlease next opened an auto repair shop, then parlayed that into a car dealership. He hung up his overalls, donned a suit and began selling the Thomas Flyer.

Fortune came knocking the next year when he won a franchise to sell Cadillacs. That company merged with General Motors, and Greenlease soon owned a string of Cadillac and Oldsmobile dealerships in Kansas City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Omaha and Topeka.

As an early Cadillac franchisee, he was able to win wholesale distribution rights for a vast swath of the country. His bank account grew every time a Caddy rolled out of dealerships from El Paso, Texas, to Fargo, North Dakota, and St. Louis to Denver. He invested heavily in General Motors stock, and over time Greenlease became one of GMs largest shareholders and one of Kansas Citys most prosperous citizens.

But as he reached his moneymaking prime, Robert Greenlease felt a niggling dissatisfaction with his personal life. He had married young, but he and his wife had failed to conceive a child. After years of trying, they adopted a son they named Paul in 1917, when Robert was 35.

He gave his adopted son everything he could, including a private education at Kemper Military Academy, a boarding school in Booneville, Mo., 100 miles east of Kansas City. Yet Greenlease yearned for a child of his own blood. When his marriage ended in divorce, the auto magnate began an April-September romance with a young woman named Virginia Pollock. They married in 1939, when he was 58 and she 29exactly twice her age.

The couple had a daughter, Virginia Sue, three years later. Bobby followed in 1947, when his father was 65. They raised their children in a Tudor-style mansion on Verona Road in the country clubby Kansas City suburb of Mission Hills, Ks.

Greenlease spared no expense on his family. A staff of maids, nannies, gardeners and chauffeurs reported for duty each day. He treated his wife and kids to extravagant vacations, and he enrolled his children in two of Kansas Citys most reputable schools.

From the moment he learned of his sons disappearance and presumed kidnapping, Robert Greenlease decided that no price would be too much to pay for his namesakes safe return.

'A Worthless Streak'

Like Greenlease, both Hall and Heady had tasted wealth. Unlike the auto executive, neither had had to work for it.

Hall was born to a pampered life in 1919 in Pleasanton, Ks. (pop. 1,000), 75 miles south of Kansas City. His father, John, was a big-shot lawyer in the small town, and his grandfather was a judge. His mother, Zella, lost her only other child as a toddler, so she focused her attention on Carl.

As Hall later said, No one could have a finer mother than I had, and the same goes for my father. I had wonderful parents. Their actions were in no way responsible for my going bad.

John Hall died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1932, as his son entered his teenage years, leaving Carl as heir to his familys sizable fortune.

But trouble with the boy started the summer after his father died. He became so unruly that his mother sent him to live with another couple, hoping the influence of a father figure would bring Carl in line.

Carl won over the woman of the house with occasional tearful fits about the loss of his father. The woman told friends that Zella Hall simply was too cold-blooded to soothe the boys anxiety, according to journalist James Deakins book, A Grave for Bobby.

At age 14, Hall was packed away to Kemper Military Academy in Booneville, Mo., where, not incidentally, he was a classmate of Paul Greenlease, Robert Greenleases adopted son.

Zella Hall felt the discipline of a military school would be good for her boy, and the strategy seemed to work. Hall was an honor student and member of the rifle, baseball and basketball teams during his first two years. His evaluations were positive for the first two years, spiced with words such as dependable, conscientious, promising, ambitious, honest and capable.

Yet Hall was a terror at home when he returned for summers and holidays. He had discovered booze at a young age, and the Pleasanton police became accustomed to picking up the local scion for drunkenness, vandalism and disturbing the peace.

Carl Hall had changed when he returned to Kemper for his third year.

His evaluations suddenly featured different phrases: slow developing, temperamental, none too straightforward, worthless streak, tries to bluff. He became a disciplinary problem and was caught with alcohol more than once.

Hall transferred to Pleasanton High School for his senior year, and Zella Hall must have breathed a sigh of relief when he graduated in 1937.

He gave college a try at his mothers insistence, but he flunked out after a semester and enlisted in the Marines. He completed four years, then re-enlisted for a second stint amid the patriotic fever of World War II. Hall made sergeant briefly but was busted back to the rank of corporal due to an AWOL one of many drinking-related disciplines during his eight years. He won a discharge under honorable conditions less distinguished than a full honorable discharge and was deposited back into civilian society in 1946.

Zella Hall died in 1944, while Carl was away in the service. He was left with an estate valued at more than $200,000equivalent to roughly $2 million today. He would be set for life if he played it smart.

But he didnt.

He ordered the family attorney to convert the estates property and securities into cash. He took his loot to Kansas City and started spending, and he didnt stop until it was all gone.

He lived at the Phillips Hotel in K.C., where he handed out dollar-bill tips like they were dimes. He played the ponies and the stock market. He did poorly at the former, worse at the latter. He became an inveterate gambler dice, cards, whatever. Other players greeted him warmly when he walked into a gambling den with a bulge of cash in his pocket.

He invested in one business after another that failed crop-dusting, elevator music, liquor stores.

After a quick marriage and quicker divorce prompted by his drinking, Hall headed west. As Hall later told the FBI, he was just bumming around the country drinking and gambling until I had lost all my inheritance. He was broke five years after being handed a fortune.

Bonnie and Carl

By May 1951 Hall had turned to crime to support his lifestyle, which at that point amounted to a daily fifth of whiskey and a nightly flop on skid row. He was arrested that month in Milwaukee for vagrancy and fraud. Penniless, he had tried to sell a car he did not own.

He made his way back to Kansas City that summer, bought a Saturday Night Special and embarked on a series of taxicab robberies notable only because they were so pathetic. He grabbed a grand total of $33 in eight robberies before being collared on September 16.

He pleaded guilty to two stickups and was sent up the river on a five-year sentence that lasted a year and three months. He was released on April 24, 1953, thanks in part to the work of Bernard Patton, a St. Joseph attorney who had done legal work for Hall on his various business enterprises.

Patton found Hall a St. Joe apartment for $50 a month, then he secured his former clients release by arranging a job as a salesman at an auto dealership. When Hall was fired for drinking, Patton scrounged up a second used-car job. Again he was fired, and again Patton came through, finding Hall a job selling life insurance.

He sold one policy. His client was Bonnie Heady, the woman he picked up at the Pony Express in St. Joe.

Heady was born Bonnie Brown in 1912 on a Missouri farm. Her mother died young, and she was raised by an aunt, who later described the child as happy, carefree, normal and sweet.

Like Hall, Bonnie tried college but dropped out and married Vernon Heady, a livestock merchant at the St. Joe Stockyards. They had a 17-year childless marriage that had the appearance of respectability. The couple bred and showed pedigreed boxer dogs. Bonnie became an accomplished horsewoman, frequently riding in St. Joe parades.

She inherited a 360-acre family farm when her father died, and she earned a decent monthly income by renting the place to a tenant farmer.

Over time, Vernon Heady noticed that Bonnie, a social drinker, was becoming a serious drinker. She imbibed at home alone with increasing frequency and lost interest in her passions, horses and boxer dogs.

The marriage came to an acrimonious end in 1950. Bonnie got the couples house in St. Joe, and a man of questionable reputation moved in while Vernons side of the bed was still warm. The man flattered Bonnie about her lovemaking skills, convincing her she should put those skills to capitalistic use.

Bonnie and the man remodeled a spare bedroom into a sexy barroom, with dim lighting, a comfortable sofa, a liquor cabinet and nudie pictures on the walls. Soon St. Joe cabbies were delivering lonely men to Bonnie Headys boudoir bar for private sexual consultations. She estimated that she serviced 150 different sexual clients over a couple of years.

Stalking and Planning

Carl Hall cuckolded Bonnies pimp and took over his place in the womans bed. He called her Baby Doll. She called him Honey Bunch. They polished off twin fifths of whiskey almost every day. He beat her now and again, then apologized and professed his love. She forgave him and loved him back.

They had an arrangement: Heady paid for everything. The woman would later say she felt pressure to provide her lover with the finer things in life because he had grown accustomed to living high on the hog until his inheritance ran out.

But she continued working as a home prostitute for only a few weeks after Hall arrived in her life. It wasnt that he was morally opposed. He had a bigger score in mind than $10 tricks.

That summer, the couple frequently drove to Kansas City to carouse at fancy hotel bars. Heady noticed that Hall often mentioned the Greenlease name during these trips. They would drive by the Greenlease Cadillac dealership, and Hall would brag that he was a Kemper classmate of the rich mans son.

During one Kansas City visit, Hall picked up a phone book and jotted down the Greenlease familys phone number, Gilmore 6200, and address, 2920 Verona Road in Mission Hills.

Hall told Heady the Greenleases had a young son and that the boys old man probably would pay $1 million to get him back if they kidnapped him. Heady later said she went along because she loved Hall and was afraid to lose him.

Soon the couple was casing the Greenlease home in Mission Hills. Hall went so far as to telephone there, but he was informed by a maid that the family was on vacation in Europe and would return for the start of school in September.

When September arrived, Hall became acquainted with the familys routines. He followed Robert Greenlease, Sr. one morning as the man drove Bobby to school at Notre Dame de Sion. Hall decided to use a time-tested method of kidnapping: go to the school with a sob story and ask that the boy be released.

Hall had no intention of holding the boy for ransom, as the FBIs Greenlease case file makes clear.

FBI Agent Donald Hostetter wrote, He further related that previous to the time the victim was kidnapped he had decided to kill him because he considered the boy evidence, and that he thus decided to destroy the evidence.

In the week before the kidnapping, Hall used Headys money to buy a tarp and a bag of lime. He dug a hole in Headys backyard. Heady prepared a ransom note. Hall read that $1 million is too heavy for one man to carry, so he decided on $600,000 in $10s and $20s, with a total weight of 85 pounds.

His greatest worry concerned the nerves of Bonnie Heady, whom he told the FBI would do anything for one more drink of whiskey.

Hostetter wrote, He further advised that due to her alcoholic mind, she would be in a haze for days, and related that she would drink at least a pint of whiskey before breakfast. He stated that his only fear at the particular time was that Mrs. Bonnie Heady was not getting his instructions through her drunken mind and would foul up things at the crucial time when it came time to obtain the victim.

He neednt have worried. Two drunks were able to pull off the kidnap plot because the nuns at Bobbys school were so willing to turn over the boy without so much as a single skeptical question.

The Ransom Demand

Robert Greenlease called the Kansas City police chief minutes after he learned of the kidnap, and cops alerted the Postal Service to be on the lookout for any mail addressed to the family. The ransom note was improperly addressed to 2600 Verowa in Kansas City, Mo., not 2920 Verona Road in Mission Hills, Kansas. But it was close enough. Robert and Virginia Greenlease were holding the ransom note just hours after Hall mailed it. It read:

Your boy has been kidnapped get $600,000 in $20s $10s Fed. Res. notes from all twelve districts we realize it takes a few days to get that amount. Boy will be in good hands when you have money ready put ad in K.C. Star. M will meet you in Chicago next Sunday signed Mr. G.

Do not call police or try to use chemicals on bills or take numbers. Do not try to use any radio to catch us or boy dies. If you try to trip us your wife and your child and yourself will be killed you will be watched all of the time. You will be told later how to contact us with money. When you get this note let us know by driving up and down main St. between 39 and 29 for twenty minutes with white rag on car aeriel [sic].

The note continued on the other side of the paper:

If you do exactly as we say and try no tricks, your boy will be back safe within 24 hrs after we check money.

Deliver money in army duefel [sic] bag. Be ready to deliver at once on contact.


$400,000 in 20s

$200,000 in 10s

Three of Robert Greenleases business associates, Robert Ledterman, Nobert ONeill and Stewart Johnson, moved into his home and began assembling the ransom money through a family friend, Arthur Eisenhower, a Kansas City bank executive and brother of President Dwight Eisenhower.

FBI agents carefully recorded the serial numbers of all 40,000 bills in the ransom money 20,000 each of $20 and $10.

On Tuesday, the day after the kidnapping, Ledterman placed the ad in the Star with the coded message indicating the money was ready. Meanwhile, Hall apparently realized that he had used the wrong address on the first ransom note, so he sent a second letter on Tuesday that was received the same day.

It began, You must not of got our first letter. That letter was an abbreviated version of the first, with the same basic instructions. The envelope contained Bobbys Jerusalem medal.

The Greenleases were confused by the second letter since they had placed the ad in the Star, as directed. They wanted the kidnapper to know they were willing to cooperate, so Robert Greenlease stepped out of his house on Tuesday afternoon to speak with the crowd of reporters gathered there.

We think they are trying to make contact, Greenlease said of the kidnappers. His voice cracked as he added, All I want is my boy back.

Scourge of the Wealthy

Robert Greenlease was a successful businessman during the 1930s, the heyday of kidnapping-for-profit in America, so the snatching of his own son must not have come as a complete surprise. In Kansas City alone, three high-profile kidnappings had occurred that decade. The victims included the owner of a drug company, the head of a garment firm and the city manager. In each case, the victim was released after a ransom was paid.

These followed the hallmark American kidnapping, the 1932 abduction and murder of aviator Charles Lindberghs son in New Jersey, had prompted passage of the Federal Kidnapping Act giving the FBI jurisdiction in interstate kidnappings.

Child snatchings have occurred for as long as there have been haves and have-nots. In 94 BC, for example, a descendant of the king of Armenia Major was abducted and held ransom by a political rival who demanded a vast tract of land as ransom. He got it in exchange for the release of the heir.

The earliest use of the word kidnap dates to 1682. It then denoted the abduction of English boys who were shipped to America to work on plantations.

In the United States, the first stereotypical kidnapping an abduction by a stranger motivated by profit occurred in Philadelphia on July 1, 1874, when two men used candy to entice Charley Ross, age 4, into a buggy.

His father, Christian Ross, a prosperous merchant, placed a newspaper ad offering a $300 reward. Soon he received an unsigned letter the first of 23 ransom notes demanding $20,000 ransom. Police cautioned Ross against setting a precedent by paying a ransom. He decided to pay nonetheless, but communications from the kidnappers ended before he was able to.

A tip directed cops to New York-based burglars William Mosher and Joseph Douglas, as well as William Westervelt, an ex-Philly cop. Westervelt was arrested, but Mosher and Douglas could not be found. Five months after the kidnap, the pair were shot while breaking into a mansion on Long Island.

As Douglas lay dying, he said: "Its no use lying now. Mosher and I stole Charley Ross." Asked where the boy was, Douglas replied, "I dont know where he is. Mosher knows." But Mosher was dead, and Douglas soon followed.

Charley Ross was never seen again.

Twenty-five years later, kidnapping was back in the news when Eddie Cudahy, 15, heir to an Omaha, Neb., meatpacking fortune, was snatched then released unharmed after the boys father paid a $25,000 ransom.

Investigators pinned the crime on Patrick Crowe, an ex-Cudahy employee with an ax to grind. Crowe fled to South Africa with the ransom money, then wrote parrying letters to Cudahys father in which he identified an accomplice and playfully suggested that he might return to Omaha.

The accomplice, James Callahan, faced trial in 1901, but he was acquitted with a clever defense ploy. Callahan was charged with robbery because Nebraska had no law against kidnapping a child older than 10. Callahans attorney argued his client had not committed robbery since Cudahy had given the money freely. Robbery required physical force, the attorney said.

Confused by legal double-talk, the jury acquitted Callahan. The incensed judge told the jurors, "I hope none of you will ever appear again in this jury box."

Crowe finally returned to Omaha from South Africa and in 1905 was brought up on extortion charges. Remarkably, he, too, was acquitted.

Other notable kidnappings include:

  • Billy Whitla, 8, son of a Pennsylvania steel baron, snatched from school in 1909, was released when his father paid a $10,000 ransom.

  • In 1924, University of Chicago students Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold shocked America when they kidnapped and killed Bobby Franks, 14. They demanded $10,000 ransom, but the boys body turned up before payment was made. The thrill-killers were discovered and pleaded guilty to murder. They escaped the rope and won life sentences thanks to defense attorney Clarence Darrows famed plea for mercy.

  • In 1927, William Hickman snatched and murdered Marian Parker, 12, daughter of a Los Angeles banker. Hickman was charged, tried and executed the first American kidnapper subjected to capital punishment.

  • In 1935 George Weyerhaeuser, 9, son of a lumber tycoon, was kidnapped in Tacoma, Wash., and released after payment of $200,000. Twenty months later, a playmate of Weyerhaeuser, Charles Mattson, 10, was abducted. The kidnapper demanded $28,000, but the boys body was found before the ransom was paid. The crime was never solved.

The Scavenger Hunt

These cases surely passed through the minds of Bobbys parents as they endured a tortured 58 hours of waiting before the kidnapper finally telephoned the Greenlease home at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Family friend Stewart Johnson spoke with the man later identified as Hall, who asked, Have you the money ready? He muttered the word medal to verify his legitimacy. Before brusquely hanging up, Hall asked the family to be ready for a ransom drop Thursday night.

But Thursday came and went without contact.

Finally, the phone rang again at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The kidnapper told Norbert ONeill, another Greenlease friend, that he would call back later that night with ransom-drop instructions.

According to an FBI transcription of the brief conversation, ONeill asked, Is Bobby all right, sir?

Hall answered, He is fine but homesick.

Seven hours later, at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Hall called to say instructions for the drop could be found beneath a mailbox at 29th and Holmes in Kansas City. ONeill and Johnson drove there and found a note directing them to another mailbox at 42nd and Charlotte, where yet another note told them to drop the money outside a church at 40th and Harrison.

It read, Leave money here drive straight home boy fine if money ok he will be home in 24 hrs.

But the men did not have the ransom money with them, so they returned to the Greenlease home. The kidnapper called again at 4 a.m. Family friend Ledterman nervously explained they were confused by the kidnappers instructions. Hall promised new, clear instructions on Sunday.

But the worst of the scavenger hunt was yet to come.

At 12:14 and 1:35 a.m. Sunday, Hall had two cruel conversations with Virginia Greenlease, who pressed for details about her sons well-being.

Hall said, We have the boy. He is alive. Believe me, hes been driving us nuts We have treated him very well Well carry out our bargain if you carry yours out. I assure you your boy is safe. He is a hellcat. Lady, we have earned this money.

In the second call, Hall told Mrs. Greenlease that instructions for the ransom drop were beneath a marked rock at 13th and Summit. ONeill and Ledterman loaded the money into a car and drove there. They dashed out into a driving rain, found the note and returned to the car to read it.

It contained instructions to tie a white rag to the car aerial then drive to Highway 169, where yet another note would be found under a rock beneath a sign. That note read:

Go back to Jt (Viona Rd)Go west to first rd heading south across from lum reek farm sign. Drive in 75 ft. leave bag on right side of road. Drive home, will call and tell you where you can pick up boy.

The two men did their best to follow the instructions, but the rain, the dark night and a series of farm lanes left them confused about the drop site. They went so far as to stop to ask directions to the lum reek farm. They guessed as best they could and left the duffel bag with $600,000 cash sitting on the roadside, then returned to the Greenlease home.

At 4:32 a.m., Hall telephoned to say he couldnt find the money. Ledterman and ONeill rushed back and retrieved the duffel bag, which lay undisturbed where they left it. The kidnapper phoned again at 4:58, 5:50, 6:17 and 6:46 a.m. in the first two to see whether the men had managed to find the money, and in the second two to argue with ONeill and Ledterman over whether they had properly followed his instructions. The men thought he sounded drunk.

The kidnapper phoned again at 10:15 a.m. Sunday to say he would call with new instructions that night.

But Ledterman was losing his patience. He was testy when the phone rang at 8:28 Sunday night. Early in the conversation, the longest of 15 calls from Hall, Ledterman said, Lets get this thing over.

Hall again promised the boy would be released 24 hours after the kidnapping, and for the first time he mentioned a location: Pittsburg, Kansas.

Ledterman said, Youre not bunking me on that, are you?

Hall replied, Thats the gospel truth.

When the kidnapper said he would call back with further instructions on the ransom drop, Ledterman had had enough.

He said, This idea of climbing the tree and looking in a birds nest for a note, then climbing on your belly somewhere looking for something under a rock with a red, white and blue ribbon around itthats getting tiresome. You know, you and I dont have to play ball that way. We can deal man to man.

Hall said, There will be no mix-up tonight. It will go perfectly.

But Hall proceeded to give Ledterman his most convoluted instructions yet. He said he would call at 11 that night at a hotel with the phone number Valentine 9279. The catch was Hall couldnt remember the name of the hotel.

Ledterman was exasperated. He said, Suppose I call Valentine 9279 and I dont get an answer. How am I going to find out what the hotel is?

After much questioning, Ledterman finally extracted from the word-slurring kidnapper that the hotel was in downtown Kansas City near the Lasalle Hotel.

Ledterman managed to find the hotel the Berkshire and was waiting there when the phone rang at 11:30. Hall told Ledterman to drive east out of Kansas City on Highway 40, then south on a county road for one mile to a bridge, beside which the money should be placed.

Ledterman followed the instructions, and at 12:35 a.m. Monday, October 5, nearly a full week after the kidnapping, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady took possession of the $600,000 ransom, the largest ever paid at that time.

Heady and Hall, driving a Ford they rented in St. Joe, headed east across Missouri on U.S. Highway 40, toward St. Louis. They had no luggage no toiletries, no change of clothes, nothing but the loot. After driving half an hour, Hall stopped to make one last depraved call to the Greenleases.

Ledterman answered.

Hall said, You can tell his mother that she will see him as we promised within 24 hours.

Ledterman pressed for details, but Hall said he would send a telegram with the time and place of release to the Western Union office in Pittsburg.

Ledterman told him he would go there and wait. He asked, The boy is alive and well?

Hall replied, And as full of piss as any kid Ive ever seen.

Ledterman: I can quote you on that, can I?

Hall: Yes, you can quote me.

Ledterman drove that night to Pittsburg, 100 miles south of Kansas City near the Oklahoma border. He waited for two days to no avail.

The 38-Hour Binge

The kidnappers brief, booze binge with the loot makes it all the more remarkable that this pair of staggering drunks managed to pull off a kidnapping and murder, then extract a record ransom.

They arrived in St. Louis thirsty at about 6 a.m. Monday, after the five-hour drive across Missouri, and found their way to the Sportsmans Bar on South Jefferson Street. After a few drinks, Hall phoned Bernard Patton, his lawyer friend back in St. Joe, and asked him to remove Headys name from the rental agreement on the Ford they were driving. He explained they had some trouble in Kansas City. Patton said he doubted he could.

Hall and Heady left the car at the Sportsmans, hoisted the conspicuous duffel into a cab and headed downtown to find a shop where they could buy more discreet luggage. While Heady drank Walkers Deluxe whiskey at Slays bar on North Broadway, Hall went to a nearby Army surplus store and bought a green metal footlocker and a large black suitcase.

They took a cab back to the Sportsmans, drove the Ford into a nearby alley and transferred the cash from the duffel into the new luggage, then drove to the Hi-Nabor Bar on Wyoming Street for more whiskey. It was the third bar they had visited in St. Louis. The clock said 9:30 a.m.

They abandoned the rented Ford and took yet another cab to yet another saloon, Colombos, on South Kingshighway. While Heady drank, Hall went to a nearby car lot and bought a used 1950 Studebaker with $425 in ransom money.

At about noon the couple rented a cheap furnished apartment at 4504 Arsenal St. Hall all but carried Heady inside because she was falling-down drunk. He noticed the landlady watching and called out that his wife was ill. The woman also watched Hall carry in their luggage the footlocker and suitcase.

Although she couldnt see straight, Heady was not satisfied with the accommodations. She demanded to know why they were staying in a dive now that they were rich. Hall ended the discussion with a left cross to her kisser.

She passed out on the bed.

Hall went back out, drove the Studebaker a mile away, abandoned it and flagged down a cab, which dropped him at the Old Shillelagh Bar on Morganford Road. This was followed by another cab ride that included a stop at the Post Office, where Hall mailed $500 cash to lawyer Patton in St. Joe.

The cabbie dropped him at the Squeeze Box bar, down the street from the Old Shillelagh. He had whiskey there, then took a cab to Brownies Tavern for more of the same. When he finally returned to the flat Heady was still asleep.

He left $2,000 in ransom money beside a note: Had to move bags in a hurry as report came in on radio Girl next door looked funny Couldnt wake you Stay here and Ill call when I can.

He got in a cab with his ransom money and headed downtown, where, at about 3:30 p.m., he hooked up with one more hack, Johnny Hager, who doubled as a one-girl pimp.

Hall introduced himself as Steve Strand. He put five crisp $20 bills in Hagers palm and asked him to find a hooker.

As the cabbie would later say, I said to myself, What a fare Ive got here. I decided I was going to stick with this guy.

Hagers girl, a big-boned blonde named Sandy ODay, was in the cab within half an hour. The three stopped at McNamees Bar on St. Louis Avenue for a get-acquainted drink. Hall asked about a motel, and Hager suggested the Coral Court, a landmark no-tell joint just west of St. Louis on famed Route 66.

Hall rented room number 49A and dragged his luggage inside. He put $200 on the bed for ODay, then counted out $2,500 and asked Hager to buy him a shirt, socks and underwear. Hager split at 7 p.m. to give the couple privacy, but ODay later said Hall was physically incapable of sex owing to drunkenness.

Hager returned at 10:30 p.m. Hall donned his new clothes. He wanted to stay in the room and drink, but ODay insisted on dinner. They went down the road to the Harbor Inn, where ODay and Hager ate while Hall drank.

Hager dropped his client and hooker at the Coral Court after midnight, then sped to the home of his estranged wife. He woke her up and told her about his deep-pockets fare. The man seemed to have a lot of money, Hager said, and he was making plans to get some of it.

Bad Cop/Bad Cop

On Tuesday morning, Sandy ODay woke up to find Hall holding 100 $10 bills. He explained he would give her the money if she would agree to fly to California and mail a letter addressed to Bernard Patton, his St. Joe lawyer. He apparently believed this would send the authorities on a wild goose chase. ODay gladly took the cash and was out the door as soon as Hager arrived.

A breathless ODay told Hager that she had peeked into lover boys footlocker and found it full of cash. Hager drove ODay to buy clothes for her trip. But instead of flying to California, she decided to travel to St. Joe to look into Patton and his client, Steve Strand. She, too, smelled an easy mark.

Hager spent Tuesday ferrying Hall on errands, with plenty of tavern breaks. Hall bought more new clothes, then picked up a couple of garbage cans as part of an abortive plan to bury part of the ransom money. He decided to move out of the Coral Court, and Hager found him a place that afternoon at the Townhouse Hotel, 5613 Pershing Avenue.

What Hall didnt know is that his personal valet, Johnny Hager, had dropped a dime on him. Hager phoned his boss at Ace Cab Co., a mob confederate named Joe Costello, and whispered that he had an angel who was throwing $20 bills around like confetti and carrying around a fortune.

Costello called a dirty cop, St. Louis Police Lt. Louis Shoulders, an old cab-driving pal from years before. Shoulders was a shakedown artist who had two or three questionable fatal shootings in his record. He figured Costellos mark was likely an embezzler or robber. Shoulders and Costello had played this game before squeeze a bad guy for 50 percent, and everyone goes home with something in their pocket and a smile on their face.

At 7:30 Tuesday night, Hager rendezvoused with Costello, Shoulders and his driver, Officer Elmer Dolan, near Halls hotel. They followed Hager back to the room, and Shoulders and Dolan barged in behind the cabby as Costello waited around the corner.

Dolan and Shoulders arrested Hall, drove him to a district police station, booked him and placed him in a holding pen. The cops then disappeared for 80 minutes. When they returned they carried in the foot locker and suitcase. It contained $288,000. More than half the ransom money was missing, and Hall had spent no more than $5,000.

Shoulders went into the holding cell and questioned Hall about the source of the cash. Forty-five minutes later, Shoulders walked into the office where Dolan sat guarding the evidence. He told Dolan they had arrested Bobby Greenleases kidnapper. Dolan nearly wet himself.

Execution of Justice

Carl Hall gave up Bonnie Heady, and cops collected her from the room where she had been holed up drunk for more than a day.

Initially, Hall admitted to the kidnapping but denied killing the boy. But Heady gave the complete story, in an interview with FBI Agent J.E. Thornton.

She began, Im trying to help you as much as I can. Im just so hazy on some things that I cant remember. If you had been drunk as long as I had, it does something to your brain. I just travel around in a haze most of the time.

When Thornton asked whether she remembered the day of the kidnapping, she replied, No, I dont know what day it is half of the time.

The agent tried to address the womans motivation. He asked, You have some income of your own and have been a substantial citizen You know the boy had disappeared. Why didnt you call the police?

Heady said, I should have, I know that. But I thought if I called the police theyd come and take him (Hall) away, and I love him very much and want to keep him. We had been very happy together and I wanted to keep him.

As she spoke, Bonnie Headys face was marked with cuts and bruises from the beating he had administered in their argument over the quality of their accommodations in St. Louis.

When confronted with Headys true account of the murder of the boy, Hall dropped his head, groaned and said, Its true, its true. Later that night, he sat in the interview room muttering, Money, money, money.

The body was dug up from a chrysanthemum bed in Headys yard in St. Joe before 9 a.m. that morning, Wednesday, October 7, and Heady and Hall were charged with federal crimes under the Lindbergh Act because they crossed from Missouri to Kansas to kill the boy.

They pleaded guilty to murder, a gambit that allowed their attorney to focus on avoiding the death penalty for the pair. A jury convened in federal court in Kansas City on November 16, seven weeks after the crime, to determine their fate.

The confessions were the most compelling evidence. The prosecutor took 45 minutes to read Bonnie Headys 25-page confession to the jury. Later, FBI Agent Arthur Reeder read Carl Halls 36-page statement as Robert Greenlease sat glowering just yards from his sons killers.

It was a brief trial three days and an even briefer deliberation. Jurors condemned Hall to die within eight minutes of retiring to the jury room. One juror voted to spare Heady in the first vote, but his mind was changed after less than an hour of back-and-forth.

The judge announced the death sentence and ordered Heady and Hall to the prison in Jefferson City, Mo., to await execution. They would not wait long.

From Death Row, Bonnie Heady wrote a note of apology to the Greenlease family. It read in part:

I doubt if this letter will do much good, but there isnt anything we could do or say that would atone for our mistake I would give anything if I could go back to that Sunday in September and erase everything that has happened since. It all seems like a nightmare to me I dont say I dont enjoy money, as everybody does, but that was not my motive. I could have been very, very happy with Carl living in my house as I had been, but he was used to more money. My case was loving not wisely, but too well. I wanted so much for him to be happy I think anyone will find if you drink from one to two fifths of whiskey a day for a year and half that your brain doesnt function properly. Since I have been in jail is the first time Ive been able to reason clearly for some time.

Just after midnight on December 18, 1953, a scant 81 days after they committed murder, prison officials led Hall and Heady to the building that housed the prisons gas chamber. The walked without rancor to the execution chambers anteroom. An Episcopal priest led them in the Lords prayer. The two were allowed to hold hands for a moment, and they kissed goodbye.

They were blindfolded, led into the chamber and strapped into adjacent chairs. Before gas began seeping into the room, they spoke their last words.

Bonnie Heady said, Are you doing all right, honey?

Carl Hall replied, Yes, mama.

The Ransom Mystery

After the execution a grand jury indicted Officer Dolan and Lt. Shoulders for perjury concerning the missing ransom money. Dolan was tried in March 1954, convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Shoulders was sentenced to three years after a trial a month later.

Joe Costello escaped indictment in the case. He invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-implication each time he was questioned about the missing money. Cabdriver Johnny Hager cooperated in the investigation and was not charged. He returned the remainder of the $2,500 that Hall had given him.

Nor was his personal prostitute, Sandy ODay, charged. (She never made it to St. Joe. She got as far as Kansas City, then got waylaid in a hotel bacchanal. Police found her in bed with another woman.)

The recovered half of the ransom was returned to Robert Greenlease. But the missing cash was a black mark on the St. Louis Police Department and a thorn in the side of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for some years.

The FBI tried assiduously to track the missing bills all 16,971 of them by distributing copies of the serial numbers to banks across the land. Hoover ordered an agent assigned full-time to Greenlease ransom money duty. The agent, Howard Kennedy, spent 15 years on the assignment.

But only 115 of the bills turned up. Thousands more no doubt made it into circulation but went undetected.

For years, the FBI badgered Elmer Dolan to come clean, dangling the possibility of a presidential pardon. He repeatedly declined until 1962, when both Lou Shoulders and Joe Costello died.

Dolan said he was ready to talk. He was flown to Washington that September, and Agent Phillip King took a six-page statement from Dolan that confirmed suspicions and added a few details.

The cop said Lt. Shoulders passed the money-laden luggage to Costello outside the hotel before they took Carl Hall in for booking. Costello took the money home. Shoulders and Dolan went back to Costellos place after booking Hall. Costello had removed half the money from the luggage. Dolan said Shoulders offered him $50,000.

Dolan said he told Shoulders, I dont want anything to do with that crap.

Shoulders replied, You really dont have anything to say about it.

Dolan said he lied to protect Shoulders and Costello because he feared for his life. While he said he didnt take the cash offered him, he did accept $1,500 in hush money from Costello after he was released from prison. It was Christmastime, Dolan said, and he had a wife and six kids.

At J. Edgar Hoovers urging, President Lyndon Johnson pardoned Elmer Dolan in 1965.

The FBI believes Costello laundered the money through St. Louis mob boss John Vitale, who had connections with the Chicago mob.

Progress on Kidnapping?

After the murder of Bobby Greenlease, FBI Director Hoover issued a directive asking schools and youth organizations to review safety procedures to combat stranger kidnappings.

"Assuredly, a more heinous crime cannot be conceived," Hoover wrote.

Most schools changed procedures for removal of pupils by non-parents, including the use of emergency contact cards that authorized certain individuals to pick up a child. Such a system might have saved Bobby Greenlease.

Since the 1970s, an explosion of parental kidnappings related to custody disputes a trend author Paula Fass calls the democratization of kidnapping has created a new challenge for schools in trying to sort out authorization issues.

How many kidnappings are there in America? The most recent U.S. Department of Justice study, conducted in 2002 with statistics for the year 1999, estimated that nearly 800,000 children were listed as missing.

More than half of those were considered runaways. About 204,000 were family abductions, and some 58,000 of the cases involved abductions by non-family members. Just 115 of those were victims of what authorities call stereotypical kidnappings, or abductions with financial or sexual motives. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that about 100 such incidents are reported each year. In three of four of those cases, the abducted child is killed within three hours, just as in the Greenlease case.

Today, technology might have hastened the arrest of the boys killers.

The insertion of a microchip into a ransom bundle, for example, allows authorities to trace its movement, and advanced telephone tracking technology might have led police to the kidnappers during one of the many phone calls they made to the Greenlease residence before the money drop occurred.

The Greenlease Legacy

Bobby Greenleases parents took refuge in their Catholic faith after the murder, and they made frequent visits to his burial site, the Abbey Mausoleum at Forest Hills Cemetery in Kansas City. Virginia and Robert Greenlease drew particular comfort from the Rev. Joseph Freeman, a Jesuit priest from Rockhurst College in Kansas City. The couple would never forget the priests kindness.

They funded a permanent position named in Freemans honor on the schools philosophy faculty, and over the years they continued to donate generously to the school in their sons memory.

The Greenleases financed construction of a library and art gallery for the college and in 1962 donated land for a new affiliated high school. The school property was named the Greenlease Memorial Campus.

The couple lived long lives. None of their offspring was so fortunate.

Bobbys adopted half-brother, Paul, died in 1964, at age 47. Bobbys full sister, Virginia Sue, also died young, at age 43, in 1984.

The causes of the deaths have been obscured by time, but a cousin of the family said of Virginia Sue Greenlease, The sister never grew up to be a happy, normal person. What happened to her brother had a bad effect on her.

Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr. lived for 16 years after the kidnapping. He died on September 17, 1969, at age 87. The mother, Virginia, died at age 91 on September 24, 2001, five days short of the 48th anniversary of the kidnapping.

She left $1 million each to Rockhurst College and Rockhurst High School in the names of Robert Greenlease Jr. and Sr.



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