Peter Thomas Narrated an Episode on 1935’s Trial of the Century
(‘The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping: Investigation Reopened,’ Forensic Files Special)
Just a quick post this week to tell you about the most exciting Forensic Files sleuthing yet: A Reddit user posted a link to a 60-minute episode under the name Forensic Files Special.
You might already know about the existence of some other hour-long Forensic Files episodes (the most famous being about Bobby Kent), but they were narrated by Peter Dean and HLN still broadcasts them.
Peter Thomas lends his voice to the five Forensic Files Special episodes and they no longer air. Medstar, the production company behind Forensic Files, made the episode in 2005 as part of a five-part package for Court TV.
Then those episodes disappeared.
Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can find at least one of them, about a case from early in the past century: the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son.
In the early days of air travel in 1927, before rolling beverage carts and honey-roasted nuts, Charles Lindbergh enthralled the world by becoming the first person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.
The aviator received a ticker tape parade down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and a Medal of Honor from President Calvin Coolidge. Pictures of his 6-foot-3-inch blond personage appeared on the covers of magazines and newspapers. Admirers kept framed photos of him and his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in their homes.
He later married a wealthy diplomat’s daughter, Anne Morrow, who shared his interest in aviation. They sought out a more private life by moving to a 390-acre estate in Hopewell, New Jersey. Still, when they had their first child, a cherub-like boy named after his father, it made a huge splash. Newsreels showed footage of 20-month-old Charles Jr. standing up in his crib.
Soon, however, the man whose career reached the stratosphere experienced high drama that was no jubilation. On the evening of March 1, 1932, a mystery evildoer sneaked onto Anne and Charles’ property, propped a homemade ladder up to the baby’s room, and stole him.
The kidnapping stirred up sympathy and hysteria around the world as the culprit sent ransom letters and had secret meetings with a doctor who offered to serve as an intermediary. Everyone wanted to be part of the action. From jail, Al Capone offered to use his “connections” to broker the baby’s return.
But in the end, no one—not the mafia or the FBI or amateur sleuths—could help. The search for the baby concluded when a truck driver found his body along a roadside, rousing outrage and prompting a trial filled with as much hype and passion as the O.J. Simpson case would six decades later.
Unlike Simpson, defendant Bruno Richard Hauptmann took the witness stand, and his questioning by prosecutor David T. Wilentz was more theatrical than anything Johnnie Cochran served up.
Even if you’re already familiar with the Lindbergh saga, you’ll appreciate what Peter Thomas’s narration and Forensic Files’ writing bring to the story. Plus, the production offers new investigative work on the handwriting from the demand letters.
“The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping: Investigation Reopened” is available to watch online thanks to the Internet Archive.
For an upcoming post, I’ll offer lesser-known aspects of the case and Charles and Anne Lindbergh’s lives that the show couldn’t fit into 60 minutes.
In the meantime, enjoy the episode. I’ve watched it twice and want to see it again. Until next time, cheers. — RR
See the episode on the Internet Archive