Leopold and Loeb | Crime + Investigation
Richard Albert Loeb was six months younger than Leopold, born on 11 June that they had already begun a sexual relationship, although both boys were fairly . Dolginoff's Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story is a homosexual Jazz Age tale of Chicago's coldest of cold-blooded killers. Music Theatre of. Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr. (November 19, – August 29, ) and Richard Albert .. play, was based on contemporary newspaper accounts of the case, and included an explicit portrayal of Leopold and Loeb's sexual relationship.
Loeb's classmates were several years older and he earned only mediocre grades. At the end of his sophomore year, he transferred to the University of Michigan, where he remained a lackluster student who spent more time playing cards and reading dime novels than sitting in the classroom. And he became an alcoholic during his years at Ann Arbor. Nevertheless he managed to graduate from Michigan, and in he was back in Chicago, taking graduate courses in history at the university.
The two teenagers had renewed their friendship upon Loeb's return to Chicago in the fall of They seemed to have little in common—Loeb was gregarious and extroverted; Leopold misanthropic and aloof—yet they soon became intimate companions.
And the more Leopold learned about Loeb, the stronger his attraction for the other boy. Loeb was impossibly good-looking: That Loeb would often indulge in purposeless, destructive behavior—stealing cars, setting fires and smashing storefront windows—did nothing to diminish Leopold's desire for Loeb's companionship.
Loeb loved to play a dangerous game, and he sought always to raise the stakes. His vandalism was a source of intense exhilaration. It pleased him also that he could rely on Leopold to accompany him on his escapades; a companion whose admiration reinforced Loeb's self-image as a master criminal. True, Leopold was annoyingly egotistical.
Leopold and Loeb's Criminal Minds | History | Smithsonian
He had an irritating habit of bragging about his supposed accomplishments, and it quickly became tiresome to listen to Leopold's empty, untrue boast that he could speak 15 languages. Leopold also had a tedious obsession with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. He would talk endlessly about the mythical superman who, because he was a superman, stood outside the law, beyond any moral code that might constrain the actions of ordinary men. Even murder, Leopold claimed, was an acceptable act for a superman to commit if the deed gave him pleasure.
Morality did not apply in such a case. Leopold had no objection to Loeb's plan to kidnap a child. They spent long hours together that winter, discussing the crime and planning its details. After much debate they came up with a plan they thought foolproof: They would be waiting below in a car; as soon as the ransom hit the ground, they would scoop it up and make good their escape.
On the afternoon of May 21,Leopold and Loeb drove their rental car slowly around the streets of the South Side of Chicago, looking for a possible victim. At 5 o'clock, after driving around Kenwood for two hours, they were ready to abandon the kidnapping for another day.
But as Leopold drove north along Ellis Avenue, Loeb, sitting in the rear passenger seat, suddenly saw his cousin, Bobby Franks, walking south on the opposite side of the road. Bobby's father, Loeb knew, was a wealthy businessman who would be able to pay the ransom. He tapped Leopold on the shoulder to indicate they had found their victim. Leopold turned the car in a circle, driving slowly down Ellis Avenue, gradually pulling alongside Bobby.
The boy turned slightly to see the Willys-Knight stop by the curb. Loeb leaned forward, into the front passenger seat, to open the front door. I'll give you a ride. I want to get one for my brother. He was standing by the side of the car. Loeb looked at him through the open window. Bobby was so close Loeb could have grabbed him and pulled him inside, but he continued talking, hoping to persuade the boy to climb into the front seat.
Bobby stepped onto the running board. The front passenger door was open, inviting the boy inside Loeb gestured toward his companion, "You know Leopold, don't you? The car slowly accelerated down Ellis Avenue. As it passed 49th Street, Loeb felt on the car seat beside him for the chisel. Where had it gone? They had taped up the blade so that the blunt end—the handle—could be used as a club. Loeb felt it in his hand.
He grasped it more firmly. At 50th Street, Leopold turned the car left. As it made the turn, Bobby looked away from Loeb and glanced toward the front of the car.
Loeb reached over the seat. He grabbed the boy from behind with his left hand, covering Bobby's mouth to stop him from crying out.
Leopold and Loeb - Wikipedia
He brought the chisel down hard—it smashed into the back of the boy's skull. Once again he pounded the chisel into the skull with as much force as possible—but the boy was still conscious. Bobby had now twisted halfway around in the seat, facing back to Loeb, desperately raising his arms as though to protect himself from the blows. Loeb smashed the chisel down two more times into Bobby's forehead, but still he struggled for his life.
The fourth blow had gashed a large hole in the boy's forehead. Blood from the wound was everywhere, spreading across the seat, splashed onto Leopold's trousers, spilling onto the floor. It was inexplicable, Loeb thought, that Bobby was still conscious. Surely those four blows would have knocked him out?
Loeb reached down and pulled Bobby suddenly upwards, over the front seat into the back of the car. He jammed a rag down the boy's throat, stuffing it down as hard as possible. He tore off a large strip of adhesive tape and taped the mouth shut. The boy's moaning and crying had stopped. Loeb relaxed his grip. Bobby slid off his lap and lay crumpled at his feet.
Leopold and Loeb had expected to carry out the perfect crime. But as they disposed of the body—in a culvert at a remote spot several miles south of Chicago—a pair of eyeglasses fell from Leopold's jacket onto the muddy ground. Upon returning to the city, Leopold dropped the ransom letter into a post box; it would arrive at the Franks house at 8 o'clock the next morning. The following day, a passerby spotted the body and notified the police.
The Franks family confirmed the identity of the victim as that of year-old Bobby. The perfect crime had unraveled and now there was no longer any thought, on the part of Leopold and Loeb, of attempting to collect the ransom.
By tracing Leopold's ownership of the eyeglasses, the state's attorney, Robert Crowe, was able to determine that Leopold and Loeb were the leading suspects. Ten days after the murder, on May 31, both boys confessed and demonstrated to the state's attorney how they had killed Bobby Franks.
Crowe boasted to the press that it would be "the most complete case ever presented to a grand or petit jury" and that the defendants would certainly hang. Leopold and Loeb had confessed and shown the police crucial evidence—the typewriter used for the ransom letter—that linked them to the crime. The trial, Crowe quickly realized, would be a sensation.
In fact, they admitted that they were driven by the thrill. For that matter, they basked in the public attention they received while in jail ; they regaled newspaper reporters with the crime's lurid details again and again. Public reaction The murder and subsequent trial received worldwide publicity and, driven by the newspapers of the day, the public was outraged. Within the Jewish community, no one had imagined that such shining examples of success could have committed such a crime.
Both Leopold and Loeb's families were affluent, and each dapper young University of Chicago student surely had a fine future all but guaranteed for him—there was absolutely no reason to turn to crime. Part of the public fascination was based on the perception of the crime as a Jewish crime, in which both the perpetrators and victim were perceived to be Jewish. InChicago was consummately an ethnic city, a city where the majority of residents were immigrants or the children of immigrants, and a city in which politics, neighborhoods, and institutions often carried ethnic labels.
Meyer Levin was quoted as saying that it was "a relief that the victim, too, had been Jewish" reducing the chances of bigots using this crime to justify anti-Semitic violence.
In fact, neither defendant was a practicing Jew. Loeb's mother was Catholic and his father was Jewish. Bobby Franks' parents, while ethnically Jewish, were converts to Christian Science. Leopold and Loeb both admitted to the press that they had a homosexual relationship, and this increased the lurid aspects of the crime considerably.
This was especially scandalous for that time period. The issues of their youth and of the crime both made the death penalty a major topic of discussion. Trial The trial proved to be a media spectacle; it was one of the first cases in the U. While the media expected them to plead not guilty by reason of insanityDarrow surprised everyone by having them both plead guilty.
In this way, Darrow avoided a jury trial which, due to the strong public sentiment against his clients, would most certainly have resulted in a conviction and perhaps even the death penalty. Darrow gave a hour speech, which has been called the finest of his career and is perhaps the finest argument against capital punishment ever give. The speech included such arguments as: This terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and it came from some ancestor It may be, in fact, that Darrow accepted the case because it offered a huge public platform for such a speech; he knew that his strong argument against capital punishment would be reprinted in newspapers around the world.
Leopold and Loeb’s Criminal Minds
And if he could successfully reason that such heinous murderers should not be executed, perhaps he would make other capital punishment cases more difficult to prosecute.
In the end, Darrow was successful in avoiding the sentence of execution. Instead, the judge sentenced Leopold and Loeb each to life in prison for the murderplus 99 years each for the kidnapping. The judge commented that it was not for mercy, but that the state hesitated to order capital punishment on those who are so young.
And that, perhaps, the life sentence would be the most intolerable. Prison and later life In prisonLeopold and Loeb used their educations to good purpose, teaching classes in the prison school. In January ofat age 30, Loeb was attacked by fellow prisoner James Day with a straight razor in the prison's shower room, and died from his wounds. Day claimed afterward that Loeb had attempted to sexually assault him; an inquiry accepted Day's testimony, and the prison authorities ruled that Day's attack on Loeb was self-defense.
That inspired the newsman Ed Lahey to write in the Chicago Daily News, "Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition. He moved to Puerto Rico to avoid media attention, and married a widowed florist. Leopold died of a heart attack in at the age of Legacy Capital punishment has remained a controversial issue. The case of Leopold and Loeb was significant in that they were young, and it is questionable if the execution of youth is appropriate.
The debate surrounding youth is that usually it is argued that they did not fully understand what they were doing and could be reformed in some manner to better repay their debt to society in other ways. In this case, they did make significant contributions to the prison through providing education to prisoners, in some way repaying debt to society.
And I ask your Honor, in addition to all that I have said to save two honorable families from a disgrace that never ends, and which could be of no avail to help any human being that lives. Now, I must say a word more and then I will leave this with you where I should have left it long ago. None of us are unmindful of the public; courts are not, and juries are not. We placed our fate in the hands of a trained court, thinking that he would be more mindful and considerate than a jury.
I cannot say how people feel. I have stood here for three months as one might stand at the ocean trying to sweep back the tide. I hope the seas are subsiding and the wind is falling, and I believe they are, but I wish to make no false pretense to this court. The easy thing and the popular thing to do is to hang my clients. Men and women who do not think will applaud. The cruel and thoughtless will approve. It will be easy today; but in Chicago, and reaching out over the length and breadth of the land, more and more fathers and mothers, the humane, the kind and the hopeful, who are gaining an understanding and asking questions not only about these poor boys, but about their own—these will join in no acclaim at the death of my clients.
These would ask that the shedding of blood be stopped, and that the normal feelings of man resume their sway. And as the days and the months and the years go on, they will ask it more and more. But, your Honor, what they shall ask may not count. I know the easy way.
I know the future is with me, and what I stand for here; not merely for the lives of these two unfortunate lads, but for all boys and all girls; for all of the young, and as far as possible, for all of the old. I am pleading for life, understanding, charity, kindness, and the infinite mercy that considers all. I am pleading that we overcome cruelty with kindness and hatred with love.
I know the future is on my side. Your Honor stands between the past and the future. You may hang these boys; you may hang them by the neck until they are dead.
But in doing it you will turn your face toward the past. In doing it you are making it harder for every other boy who in ignorance and darkness must grope his way through the mazes which only childhood knows. In doing it you will make it harder for unborn children. You may save them and make it easier for every child that sometime may stand where these boys stand. You will make it easier for every human being with an aspiration and a vision and a hope and a fate.
I am pleading for the future; I am pleading for a time when hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men.
"Thrill Me" explores the relationship of Leopold and Loeb
When we can learn by reason and judgment and understanding and faith that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of man. I feel that I should apologize for the length of time I have taken. This case may not be as important as I think it is, and I am sure I do not need to tell this court, or to tell my friends that I would fight just as hard for the poor as for the rich.
If I should succeed, my greatest reward and my greatest hope will be that for the countless unfortunates who must tread the same road in blind childhood that these poor boys have trod—that I have done something to help human understanding, to temper justice with mercy, to overcome hate with love. I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision.
I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: Erase my name or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love. The judge was persuaded, though according to his ruling, his decision was based on precedent and the youth of the accused; after 12 days on September 10, he sentenced both men to life imprisonment for the murder, and an additional 99 years for the kidnapping. Although they were kept apart as much as possible, the two managed to maintain their relationship.
Leopold was later transferred to Stateville Penitentiaryand Loeb was eventually transferred there as well. Once reunited, the two expanded the current prison school system, adding a high school and junior college curriculum. The money was used to purchase goods such as cigarettes from the prison store.
Other prisoners were not aware that Leopold and Loeb were no longer receiving larger amounts of money. They were both seen as rich snobs, which made them targets for other prisoners. One day in the prison yard, Leopold was threatened at knife point for money.
After trying to explain that he did not have any, he was saved when Loeb and some of his other friends intervened. Some of Loeb's money went to a former cell-mate of his, James E. Day, as a bribe not to hurt him. On January 28,Leopold and Loeb were working on assignment at the prison school. While they were working, Day passed them and reportedly said "I'll see you later" referring to Loeb.
Loeb was later attacked by Day with a straight razor in a shower room. He was taken directly to the prison hospital where doctors tried to save his life. Leopold went to the hospital to find his friend barely conscious and slashed all over. Leopold offered to have his blood tested for a transfusion but was denied by the doctors, who knew there was no hope.
Loeb's last words to Leopold were "I think I'm going to make it. Day claimed afterward that Loeb had attempted to assault him, but it may have been the other way around. Many doubted that Day's story was true. It was not likely that he acted in self-defense. Day emerged unharmed from the attack, while Loeb sustained more than 50 wounds, including numerous defensive wounds on his arms and hands.
Loeb's throat had also been slashed from behind, suggesting that he was taken by surprise. Nevertheless, an inquiry accepted Day's testimony. The prison authorities, perhaps embarrassed by publicity sensationalizing alleged decadent behavior in the prison, ruled that Day's attack on Loeb was self-defense.
Day was later tried and acquitted of Loeb's murder. A sexual motive for the murder has been suggested. There is no evidence that Loeb was a sexual predator while in prison, but Day was later caught at least once in a sexual act with a fellow inmate. This is echoed in an interview with the Catholic chaplain at the prison, Father Eligius Weir, who had been a personal confidant of Loeb's. Weir stated that James Day had been the sexual predator and had gone after Loeb because Loeb refused to have sexual relations with him.
Leopold composed books for the prison school. On the cover of these books he wrote Ratione autem liberamur Latin, "by reason, however, we are set free". Although Leopold continued with his work in prison after Loeb's death, he suffered from depression.