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The Enduring Mystery of the Lindbergh Kidnapping

by Lloyd C. Gardner

The Crime of the Century



It is a drizzly, overcast day in the early afternoon of May 12, 1932. A truck carrying a load of lumber to Hopewell, New Jersey, slows and pulls over onto a wide space between the road and a wood. The driver, a black man named William Allen, gets out and walks around the truck into the tall grass and brush to relieve himself. After fifty feet or so he has to bend over to duck under a branch. When he straightens up, he will later tell the police, “I saw a skull sticking up out of the dirt, which seems to have been kicked up around it. I thought I saw a baby with its foot sticking out of the ground.”

Allen calls out to his companion, “Wilson, Wilson, come over here.” Orville Wilson jumps out of the truck and joins him, and they both stare at a small, badly decomposed body wearing only what looks like a sort of flannel undershirt. Neither man touches the corpse. Nearby on the ground they see some tufts of blond hair. For perhaps five minutes they stand there wondering what to do. They both notice a large, quarter-size hole above the forehead, later identified as the child’s fontanel.

Finally, Wilson says, “Come on, let’s go and tell somebody about this,” and they get back in the truck. In Hopewell a few minutes later they see Deputy Chief of Police Charles Williamson walking along the street. Do you have a minute, Allen asks? Williamson nods. He has plenty of time, he says. What do they want? “I have found a dead baby,” Allen replies. “Where?” “Up in the woods on Mount Rose Hill.” Allen is talking about a place only a few miles or so from Highfields, the French country–style house of Colonel Charles Lindbergh.

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