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Leopold and Loeb Trial: 1924 - The Perfect Murder… For Its Thrill

franks culvert car body

Over several years, Leopold and Loeb had developed a homosexual relationship. In the fall of 1923, they devised a plan for the perfect murder, to be committed for the sake of its thrill. The more they detailed their plan, the stronger their compulsion to carry it out became. In March 1924, according to a report later prepared by leading psychiatrists for their defense, "they decided to get any young boy whom they knew to be of a wealthy family, knock him unconscious, take him to a certain culvert, strangle him, dispose of all his clothes, and push the body deep into this funnel-shaped culvert, through which the water flowed, expecting the body to entirely decompose and never be found."

On May 21, 1924, Leopold and Loeb rented a car. With Loeb in the back seat, Leopold drove slowly past the exclusive Harvard Preparatory School. They saw 14-year-old Bobby Franks, like them a son of a millionaire and also a cousin of Loeb, and offered him a ride. Within minutes, Loeb grabbed Franks and bashed his skull four times with a heavy chisel.

After wrapping the boy's body in Leopold's lap robe, the two drove around Chicago until dark. Then they went to the culvert, near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks and carried out their plan. Next they buried Franks' shoes, belt buckle, jewelry, and the bloodstained lap robe, stopped off for dinner, and burned the lad's clothes in the furnace at Loeb's house. Later, they mailed a special-delivery ransom note to Franks' father and, at Leopold's house, washed the bloodstains from the car and phoned the Franks' home to say that Bobby Franks was safe, and instructions were on the way.

Unable to reach Bobby's father the next morning, they quickly learned why: Newsboys were hawking extras announcing discovery of the boy's body. A railroad workman had noticed a human foot protruding from the culvert. Another worker had found a pair of eyeglasses.

The police soon traced the glasses to Leopold. He admitted recent birdwatching near the culvert. His alibi for his whereabouts on May 21? Birdwatching with Richard Loeb, then a ride around Lincoln Park in his car with Loeb and a couple of girls. But the Leopold chauffeur said he had been repairing Leopold's car all day, and in the evening he had seen the boys washing the floor of a strange car.

Next the police pulled a beat-up Underwood typewriter from Jackson Park Harbor and proved that the ransom note had been written on it. Leopold said he owned a Hammond typewriter, but Chicago Daily News reporters checked with his college classmates and learned that when they borrowed "Babe's" typewriter to type their papers, it was an Underwood.

Now came the grilling. Through a day of intensive questioning, both Leopold and Loeb stuck to their story. But the next day, thinking that Leopold had betrayed him, Loeb angrily confessed.

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