Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leopold & Loeb

An Important Break

Richard Loeb
Richard Loeb

On Friday, May 23, Richard Loeb, a handsome nineteen-year-old University of Chicago student and neighbor of the Franks family, was at his Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house with Howard Mayer who was the campus liaison to the Evening American. Loeb suggested that they try to locate the drugstore that the kidnapper had instructed Jacob Franks to go to with the ransom money. Just as the two of them were about to check the various drugstores, two Daily News reporters, one of whom was a ZBT member, came into the fraternity house and decided to go with them.

Eventually, they found the Van de Bogert & Ross drugstore and confirmed that there had been two calls the previous day for Mr. Franks. "This is the place!" Loeb shrieked enthusiastically to the others. "This is what comes from reading detective stories."

Mulroy, one of the reporters, asked Loeb if he knew the murdered boy. Loeb told him he had, then he smiled and said, "If I were going to murder anybody, I would murder just such a cocky little son of a bitch as Bobby Franks."

On Friday the 23rd, the coroner's inquest was held. Dr. Joseph Springer had conducted the autopsy. Bobby Franks had died of suffocation, perhaps when his kidnapper held his hand over the boy's mouth or when he had shoved something down the boy's throat. There were a number of wounds on the boy's body, which suggested that he had fought with his captor.

There were small wounds on the right and left sides of his head, plus bleeding and bruises from a blunt instrument on Bobby's forehead. Some chemical had been poured on his face and his penis. While there was some dilation of the rectum, Springer said that Bobby had not been sexually abused.

When police talked to the game warden for the area around Wolf Lake, they found that one frequent visitor to the area was Nathan Leopold, a nineteen-year-old ornithologist. Police had a servant awaken the young man so that he could come down to the police station for questioning. Young Nathan Leopold was questioned, but the answers he gave about his birdwatching expeditions were very credible and he did not arouse suspicion.

The Leopold home
The Leopold home

The Leopolds were a very highly respected family of German Jews who had arrived in the United States in the mid-1800's. The family had made its fortune transporting grain, minerals and other freight on the Great Lakes. They lived in the same wealthy Kenwood area as the Franks family.

A cabdriver came forward with the story of two well-dressed young men who had hired him to drive them to the home of Jacob Franks. Once there, the two men sat in the cab for several minutes, but did not get out. He then drove them to another destination.

The eyeglasses
The eyeglasses

Eight days after the murder, police discovered that the hinges on the pair of eyeglasses were very unique and had only been sold on three pairs of glasses in the Chicago area. One of those three pairs of glasses belonged to Nathan Leopold.


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