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tv   CBS Morning News  CBS  January 31, 2013 4:30am-5:00am EST

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and they all say the same thing-- "that's the guy." narrator: but at the trial condon swears it was hauptmann he met at the cemetery and not someone who looked like john knoll or had a malformed thumb. so whom did condon really meet? if it was bruno hauptmann, then john knoll is not cemetery john. but there might be a more reliable source than condon to prove knoll was part of the plot. the kidnappers communicated with lindbergh through a series of 15 handwritten ransom notes. although some appear as though written by different authors the prosecution's handwriting experts determined they were penned by one person. and that writer was hauptmann. they compared the notes to letters hauptmann wrote
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to a mrs. begg. just as today, they focused on individual letter shapes the spacing between words, and the way letter pairs like "th" are made. in addition to these physical comparisons they pointed out that the notes were written as if by an immigrant. this is the first ransom note that was left in the nursery. "we warn you from making anyding public or for notify the police." it's an odd way of writing. the "dear sir" ends with an exclamation point. the dollar sign is put after the dollar amount, which is a german way of writing the money. also there are misspellings of words. the word "signature" is spelled "singnature". narrator: but the defense expert using the same comparisons
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said hauptmann was not the author. so who is right? we might know if we had taken hauptmann's begg letter envelope, retrieved a dna sample from the licked flap and compared it to dna samples from the ransom note envelopes. but new jersey refused our request to do a dna analysis. today handwriting analysis has become more sophisticated. and besides hauptmann's writing, bob zorn has samples of john knoll's writing on self-addressed envelopes valued by stamp collectors. if a modern expert could match knoll's writing to the ransom notes, this would strongly suggest he was part of the kidnap plot. so nova asked sargur srihari a pioneer in computer-based handwriting analysis to compare both men's writing with the notes. a computer can do a lot more than a document examiner can do.
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narrator: srihari's pattern recognition software can isolate words and letters from multiple documents and compare them by precisely measuring their slope, height, width and contour. and we are to do that for every letter of the english alphabet. narrator: srihari analyzed hauptmann's writing first, taking the begg letters and comparing them to six of the ransom notes. srihari: the results of comparison of the ransom notes and hauptmann writing are shown here at the individual letter pair level and as well as the individual character level. narrator: each comparison gets a score. positive values indicate a higher probability the writing is from the same person. negative values, a lower probability.
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srihari: for instance the letter pair a-m or am has a fairly high negative score indicating that they don't seem to be written by the same individual. there are some positives as well. so what matters is the sum total of all of these things. and that total turns out to be negative, indicating that it is unlikely that hauptmann wrote the ransom notes. narrator: if srihari is correct, then hauptmann did have a coconspirator who wrote the notes. and could it be john knoll? srihari's initial analysis of knoll's writing showed some positives for the word "john." but other comparisons did not. srihari: what we did here was to compare pairs of letters such as e-r or an n-o and so on. and we're also comparing st, again with a negative value. the summary of these comparisons
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is that it is unlikely that john knoll was the writer of these ransom notes. narrator: srihari's conclusion does not completely eliminate knoll as a suspect. but it means john douglas must dig deeper into knoll's story to prove he's a lost kidnapper. john, my dad grew up in this south bronx neighborhood. it was a german neighborhood at the time. narrator: douglas's key question: does zorn have evidence knoll and hauptmann ever met? zorn: my grandparents rented a third-floor flat in one of the homes and john knoll lived three doors down in the second floor of an apartment. he rented a home for ten dollars a month. well, it's very interesting. but how would knoll and hauptmann get to know each other? what makes you think there's a connection? well, when hauptmann came to the states in 1923 he immediately started coming and visiting people
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from his home village of kamenz. as it turned out my grandparents' landlord was from that same home village of kamenz. narrator: if zorn is right hauptmann would have come to this german neighborhood to meet his hometown friend. and that friend would have surely introduced him to his german neighbor and drinking buddy john knoll. so i think it's very likely that john would have come to know bruno hauptmann. the thing's that's puzzling, though from an investigative perspective is that nowhere in the police background checks with names, associates of hauptmann did his name ever come up. narrator: it's possible hauptmann kept his association with john knoll secret from his wife, his friends and the police. but there may be a bigger problem connecting knoll with hauptmann and the kidnapping. bob zorn's father remembered that knoll and his brother
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called a third man "bruno." but what if this bruno wasn't bruno richard hauptmann? whenever anyone tells me that they have heard of somebody conspiring with a man named bruno my reaction is, well, hauptmann never went by the name bruno. nobody ever called him bruno. that was his given name, bruno richard hauptmann, but he always went by richard, even back in germany. and we have here a schoolbook, an essay book of his from eighth grade, and it's signed richard hauptmann. there's no bruno to be found. narrator: could this name issue eliminate john knoll as a possible suspect? douglas is not sure yet. but he is sure the kidnappers knew in advance the lindberghs would be here at hopewell when they would normally have been in englewood. douglas: they had to have inside information
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coming from someone inside this house to know that lindbergh was going to be here on this particular night. narrator: the police never found that inside source. but this man believes he knows who it is. well, i think that no one's ever going to be satisfied with all the answers, but... narrator: lloyd gardner is a respected rutgers historian who authored a major book on the kidnapping with a controversial theory about the crime. douglas: so lloyd, in a nutshell, what do you think really happened? what do i think really happened? i think that someone on the inside had to have coordinated what happened that night. and my conclusion is that charles lindbergh himself was involved in coordinating the kidnapping. narrator: as shocking as this sounds questions about lindbergh's behavior emerged soon after the kidnapping. he didn't trust the police and used his enormous influence
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to control them and the investigation. he even kept the ransom notes and negotiations with the kidnappers secret. so some people began to wonder if he was hiding something. but why would he want his own child kidnapped? lindbergh was very much involved in the eugenics movement. and i think lindbergh was very afraid that little charlie was not ever going to be a healthy young man. narrator: eugenicists believe in creating superior human beings by selectively breeding the smartest and strongest people, those with good genes, and sterilizing the physically and mentally weak. there were rumors that charlie had some physical problem. and if he did, this could be a sign that lindbergh had inferior genes. and his feeling about having an imperfect
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child may have weighed on him very, very heavily. is there any evidence that lindbergh's baby had any of these health problems? yes. the family doctor noted an enlarged or still open fontanel which should have been closed. he had difficulty getting the child to stand up straight when he was doing the physical examination. and children who have this problem are often associated with rickets. narrator: charlie's physician described him as having a "moderate rickety condition," but not the severe form of rickets that can bring deformed bones and other skeletal issues. rickets is caused by a vitamin d deficiency. so the lindberghs were giving charlie vitamin supplements. but was he seriously affected or mildly compromised? according to pathologist john butts...
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his medical record shows no evidence that he had any significant medical problems. if he did have rickets it was a very mild condition for which he was being appropriately treated. narrator: but what if his condition was more serious? do you think that this would be enough motivation to plan a kidnapping and killing of his own child? i don't think lindbergh wanted the child killed. obviously something went wrong. i think lindbergh's idea his overriding idea, was to get the child out of the household and into an institution. this is not unusual for wealthy families to do something with a child who is not quite right. narrator: gardner believes it was lindbergh who told the kidnappers when the baby would be at the unguarded hopewell residence and not at the well-guarded englewood estate. although any staffer could have given the family's location,
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only lindbergh knew one thing. he would be the only person who would know whether he was going to be in hopewell that night. narrator: that evening lindbergh had scheduled a speaking engagement in new york. he was normally punctual but this time he missed the appointment and returned home. he claimed he forgot the commitment but gardner has a different theory. gardner: the fact that he missed this appointment enabled him to come down to hopewell and direct the kidnapping from the inside to make sure that there was no interference with it being carried off successfully. narrator: although the kidnapping may have been successful little else was. charlie ended up dead, and the lindberghs received new kidnap threats against their second child.
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by 1936, they abandoned the hopewell home and fled to europe for a three-year exile. while there, lindbergh's embrace of eugenics attracted him to the superior race philosophies of the nazis who embraced him in return. after the war, lindbergh returned to germany as a consultant for pan american airlines and the air force. and by the 1950s he's embarked on an elaborate and shocking scheme. what finally convinced me that lindbergh was involved was the evidence that came out about his families in germany. narrator: using the assumed identity careu kent, starting in 1958 lindbergh secretly fathered seven children
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with three german women. he swore the families to secrecy and died in 1974 believing his double life would remain hidden. but in 2003, some of his german children revealed the truth after dna testing proved lindbergh's paternity. gardner sees lindbergh's secret life as consistent with his philosophy. gardner: and that is a perfect eugenics kind of experiment. what he wanted was to spread his sperm around as much as possible in hopes of creating this better race. narrator: despite lindbergh's eugenics beliefs and secret families, john douglas does not believe he's also a criminal mastermind. while he's a schemer it doesn't make him a killer. i don't see a violent bone in that
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man's body and i don't see him trusting anyone, no one at all to perpetrate a crime like this, with other people involved. why? because it would be a lack of control. he needed to control every single aspect of his life. narrator: and this would include the investigation itself-- something lindbergh believed he could handle better than the police. fass: it was no surprise at least to me that lindbergh wanted to take charge. most of the history of kidnapping, certainly up to that point was about police incompetence and the inability of most police to bring children who had been ransomed back. so he, who had conquered the atlantic, imagined that he would be able to conquer this particular situation. narrator: but if lindbergh was not involved who supplied the kidnappers with vital inside information?
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douglas now believes it was violet sharp, a servant in the morrow household, who gave contradictory information to the police. and when they came to interrogate her for the third time... she ran upstairs to her room and she drank silver polish that had potassium cyanide in it. and within minutes she was dead. narrator: investigators eventually concluded she was emotionally disturbed and not a conspirator. douglas has refined this conclusion. perhaps she had guilty feelings because she may have inadvertently provided information to someone who called the morrow family asking for the whereabouts of the lindberghs, and she might have said, "well, they're not here tonight. they're over in hopewell." narrator: with lindbergh eliminated, and sharp as the likely unintentional informer douglas turns again to hauptmann's kidnap partners and decides to look at john knoll one last time.
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he wants to know if knoll's behavior after the crime reveals anything suspicious. douglas: bob, why should i look at john knoll as a suspect in this case? was there any change in his behavior on or about the time of the kidnapping? absolutely. three weeks after the ransom was paid, john suddenly seemed to have a lot of money. and he started becoming very very generous to my father in terms of collectibles for my dad's stamp collection. did knoll go anywhere? three weeks before hauptmann goes on trial on january 2, 1935 i've got this photograph here of him sailing with $700 first class tickets with his wife to hamburg on the ss manhattan. douglas: that's expensive, right? $700 for two round-trip tickets to germany. that was an awful lot of money the equivalent of about six years' rent for john. douglas: so what do you think?
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i think it's possible it was some of the ransom money. and then the very day that hauptmann is convicted, february 13, 1935, is the day that john leaves europe to return to the states. narrator: so is john knoll "cemetery john" after all, hauptmann's long missing partner in crime? douglas: what i like about knoll is that the artist's conception drawing, the rendering of cemetery john it looks a lot like knoll. also the malformed hand. that's something that's pretty unique. what zorn showed us was that when the monies were paid, we had knoll going on a spending spree. also, when hauptmann was indicted, he takes off. he doesn't return to the country until hauptmann is convicted. so when you start putting all these things together, all of these bits and pieces if i was involved in the investigation back then, i would be putting knoll
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on the front burner. narrator: douglas knows there isn't enough evidence to convict john knoll. he's a prime suspect to be sure, but his trail may be too cold now to be certain of his guilt. and he believes this case may never be completely solved as a result of mistakes lindbergh himself made. douglas: an ordinary citizen would never be able to take an investigation like this and maintain control over the police, over the overall investigation. but someone of lindbergh's status... i mean, he was a hero. people dropped to their knees. "whatever you want mr. lindbergh. "we'll do whatever you say. sorry, sir, yes, sir." and unfortunately, by him doing that, it pulled the police away from the investigation. and he was able to basically help the bad guys get away with the crime. narrator: because lindbergh feared for charlie's life
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he kept authorities away from the cemetery. douglas believes if he had let the police tail cemetery john he could have led them to the rest of the gang, and in a stroke remove the doubts that have surrounded this tragedy ever since. the death of charles lindbergh, jr. triggered an outpouring of grief not felt since the lincoln assassination, and not felt again until the murder of john f. kennedy. but the tragedy would produce changes that would help protect other children. fass: one of the most concrete legacies of the lindbergh case is the lindbergh law which is passed by the congress the day after the kidnapping and which makes, for the first time kidnapping a federal offense and it makes it a capital offense-- makes it a very serious crime to kidnap a child,
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or anybody, for that matter. narrator: unfortunately, young children remain vulnerable to abductions, primarily by parents in custody disputes and sometimes by sexual predators. but their kidnapping for ransom is rare in the u.s. since the lindbergh law. and today, public alert systems have combined with better police work to aid in the arrest and prosecution of all child abductors. but the ones who got away still haunt john douglas. and for the lindbergh case... douglas: bruno hauptmann, guilty. john knoll, intriguing interesting. but the one thing we can say for sure is that someone absolutely got away with money and murder.
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narrator: but why, after so many years is douglas still looking for answers? douglas: when you get a case like this, we refer to it as an old dog kind of case. i mean, the case now is 80 years of age. so why do we look at it? we look at it for the victims. that's who we work for. we work for the victims. whether the case is ron goldman and nicole brown simpson in the oj simpson case whether it's jonbenet ramsey case that remains unsolved to this day. but we owe it to the victims' families. and that's really our mission, to give some type of closure small closure, so that we know that the person who perpetrated this crime didn't get away with it. in ancient egypt a pharaoh's super weapon. man: the chariot represents a huge turning point
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in military history. a marvel of technology. man: that chariot is superbly designed. the suspension is terrific. after 3,000 years, can modern engineers unlock its secrets? man: a modern designer could not do any better. "building pharaoh's chariot," next time on nova. major funding for nova is provided by: supporting nova and promoting public understanding of science. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from: additional funding from: inspiring tomorrow's engineers and technologists. the exploration continues on nova's website, where you can watch this and other nova programs see expert interviews, interactives, video extras
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and more. follow nova on facebook and twitter, and find us online at this nova program is available on dvd. to order, visit or call 1-800-play-pbs. nova is also available for download in itunes. captioned by media access group at wgbh
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coyle: john bates. i read this character, and there was something... i was drawn to him as much by what he didn't say as by what he did. i thought what he concealed was as interesting as what he revealed a kind of stoicism-- something very old-fashioned but also something quite mysterious as well. there's an element of mystery there. it's all about survival. he survived not losing his job. he survived the return of his wife. and he's now surviving prison, so it's about survival for bates. there are moments of reprieve. falling in love with anna was unexpected. what i loved about that relationship was the sort of restraint. it developed over a long period of time. it was a romance that blossomed through a sympatico. she empathized with him. she's a delightful person and a delightful actor. so, there's a tenderness there, a delicacy. there's a lot of restrictions for
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them. it was frowned upon to have relationships within the servant class and within the household. it wasn't encouraged at all, so you had those kind of restraints. it was a slow burn and people have really invested in that. so we've got a lot in the bank for the trouble that they subsequently meet. just little moments, very beautiful and we're still having them.
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