The disclosure that New Jersey authorities confiscated a long letter Bruno Richard Hauptmann wrote to his mother, detailing the way he felt the prosecution had "manufactured" evidence against him in order to "break the life of an innocent man" does not surprise Anna Hauptmann, the widow of the man executed in 1936 for the kidnapping murder of Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. Now 79, Mrs. Hauptmann still insists her husband was executed for a crime he did not commit. When I told her about the suppressed letter, she said:
"They always suppress anything that would have told the truth.
Mrs. Hauptmann would not issue a formal statement about the letter, but she did appear angry and disappointed that it was never sent to her mother-in-low. In past interviews she had told me on several occasions that he frequently worried that "Richard's mother might have doubts about his innocence, because she was so far away in Germany and couldn't hear from Richard's own mouth the truth," But, she had added, "at least Richard was able to write to his mother, to tell his side."
The suppressed letter, a poignant 5,000 word refutation of the prosecution's case against him, recently was discovered in the files of Mark O. Kimberling, warden of the state prison in Trenton, N.J., where Hauptmann spent the final year of his life. It was never sent to his mother in Kamemz, Germany, because Kimberling was afraid he and Gov. Harold Hoffman would be placed "in an embarrassing position for having released it."
The suppression causes no surprise because the letter is based in large part on a 33,000-word memoir Hauptmann wrote in his death cell, and that memoir was also suppressed. During a series of long interviews with Mrs. Hauptmann, she said:
"They wouldn't publish Richard's story while he was still alive." She said pressure had been brought against the newspaper that wanted to. "They didn't publish it until after Richard was dead, then The New York Daily Mirror printed a little bit of it."
Although Mrs. Hauptman has said she hopes to see "vindication for my Richard before I die," she will not comment publicly about "how they murdered Richard." Her reticence is because of her son, who was 2 years old when his father was executed. The son, who lives near his mother in an East Coast city, worries that if she sues the state of New Jersey or makes any move to officially reopen the case, "his privacy will be invaded," as Mrs. Hauptmann puts it.
But the publicity created by this letter may, I hope, provoke a fresh look at the case by New Jersey authorities.
In that last year of his life, Hauptmann spent most of his waking hours going through the 11-volume transcript of his trial analyzing the testimony of prosecution witnesses. His letter to his aging mother is a point-by-point critique of the circumstantial evidence used to convict, and eventually to kill him.
What appears remarkable in that letter is that Hauptmann, with no evidence to support his rebuttal, again and again hits hard at precisely those points that appeared during my research to be evidence suppressed or manufactured by some of the authorities.
For example, the prosecution "proved" that a 3/4-inch chisel found under the kidnapped child's nursery because his tool box lacked a chisel of that size. Hauptmann told his mother that he had owned several 3/4 inch chisels when he was arrested. The police, he said, must have hidden them.
Indeed, I found in New York City police files an inventory of Hauptmann's tool box. One of the tools listed was a "3/4-inch Stanley brand chisel." Further, when granted a very brief look through the Lindbergh case evidence still stored in a locked room at State Police headquarters in Trenton, I found a manilla envelope marked, "chisels from Hauptmann's garage." Inside the envelope were two more 3/4-inch chisels.
Hauptmann also wrote to his mother that the state had proved that he had spent almost every penny of the $50,000 ransom. And yet, immediately after his-conviction, Hauptmann wrote, a state trooper told him his sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment if he disclosed where he had hidden $30,000 the police knew was still missing.
(Hauptmann maintained that the nearly $15,000 found in his possession had been left with him by a friend and business partner, Isidor Fisch, who owed Hauptmann money. Shortly after he left the money, Hauptmann said, Fisch died and Hauptmann, with no idea that it was part of the identifiable Lindbergh ransom, began to spend it, leading authorities to him.)
Forty years later, in a conversation with a deputy superintendant of the New Jersey State Police, I was told that the $30,000 was still unaccounted for.
And on and on Hauptmann's letter went, a reasoned analysis of each piece of evidence used to convict him. "Concocted evidence," Hauptmann called it and that characterization was, I feel, accurate.