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The FBI Lab's First Major Case



Lindbergh kidnapping ransom note

At about 9 p.m. on March 1, 1932, a ladder was leaned up against the home of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne near Hopewell, New Jersey. Within minutes, their 20-month-old son was gone. 

What followed was a massive investigation, led by New Jersey State Police. The kidnapper left a ransom note on the nursery window sill—see above—demanding $50,000. The clumsy, misspelled handwriting of the note, and of ones that followed, were reproduced and widely distributed on posters to law enforcement.

In September 1934, when a prime suspect named Bruno Hauptmann was arrested, samples of his handwriting were flown to Washington, D.C. where they were closely examined by the FBI Laboratory and compared to the ransom notes. The analysis revealed a match: the samples were remarkably similar in
personal chacteristics and writing habits. That work was vital in the eventual conviction of Hauptmann. 

Read the whole story of the Lindbergh kidnapping.

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