Nathan Freudenthal Leopold, Jr. (November 19, 1904 – August 29, 1971) and Richard Albert Loeb (June 11, 1905 – January 28, 1936), more commonly known as "Leopold and Loeb", were two wealthy University of Michigan alumni and University of Chicagostudents who murdered 14-year-old Robert "Bobby" Franks in 1924 and were sentenced to life imprisonment.
The duo were motivated to murder Franks by their desire to commit a perfect crime. Once apprehended, Leopold and Loeb retained Clarence Darrow as counsel for the defense. Darrow’s summation in their trial is noted for its influential criticism of capital punishmentand retributive, as opposed to rehabilitative, penal systems.
Leopold and Loeb spent seven months planning the murder, disposing of the body and working out a way to get ransom money with little or no risk of being caught. They put their plot into motion on Wednesday, May 21, 1924. After a search, the pair finally decided upon Robert "Bobby" Franks, the son of Chicago millionaire Jacob Franks, who was walking home from Harvard High School (closed 1962) in Hyde Park, Chicago. The 14-year-old boy, who was both the neighbor and second cousin of Richard Loeb, was lured into the passenger seat of their rented car.
Future Hollywood producer Armand Deutsch later claimed he might have been the intended victim of Loeb or Leopold. But on the day of the murder, as the 11-year-old grandson of Julius Rosenwald, he was picked up by his family's chauffeur after school because he had a prior dental appointment. Deutsch died aged 92 on August 13, 2005.
With Franks in the vehicle, one of them drove and the other one sat in the back armed with achisel. It's not known who struck the first blow with the murder weapon. But a sock was stuffed into the schoolboy's mouth and he died soon after. Contrary to rumors that Franks had been sexually assaulted, the trial judge would later state that conclusive evidence convinced him that no abuse had been committed.
The killers covered the body and drove to a remote area near Wolf Lake in Hammond, Indiana. They removed Franks's clothes and left them at the side of the road. Leopold and Loeb pouredhydrochloric acid on the body to make identification more difficult. They then had dinner at a hot dog stand. After finishing their meal, they concealed the body in a culvert at the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks near 118th street, north of Wolf Lake.
After returning to Chicago, they called Franks's mother and said her son had been kidnapped. They mailed the ransom note to the Franks. The killers burned items of their own clothing that had been spotted with blood. They also attempted to clean bloodstains from the upholstery of their rented automobile. The two then spent the rest of the evening playing cards.
Before the Franks could pay the ransom, Tony Minke, a Polish immigrant, discovered the body. When Leopold and Loeb learned that the body had been found, they destroyed the typewriter used to write the ransom note and burned the robe used to move the body.
However, Detective Hugh Patrick Byrne, while searching for evidence, discovered a pair of eyeglasses near the body, unremarkable except for an unusual hinge mechanism. In Chicago, only three people had purchased glasses with such a mechanism, one of whom was Nathan Leopold.
Upon being questioned, Leopold told police he had lost the glasses while birdwatching. Loeb told the police that Leopold was with him the night of the murder. Leopold and Loeb claimed they had picked up two women in Leopold's car and had dropped them off near a golf course, never learning their last names. Unfortunately for Leopold and Loeb, Leopold's car was being repaired by his chauffeur that night. The chauffeur's wife also said the car was in the Leopold garage that night.
During police questioning, Leopold's and Loeb's alibis fell apart. Loeb confessed first, followed by Leopold. Although their confessions corroborated most of the facts in the case, each blamed the other for the actual killing. Most commentators believe that Loeb struck the blow that killed Franks. However, which of the two actually wielded the weapon that killed Franks would never be known.Psychiatrists at the trial, impressed by Leopold's intelligence, agreed that Loeb had struck the fatal blow. However, the circumstantial evidence in the case, including eyewitness testimony by Carl Ulvigh (who saw Loeb driving with Leopold in the back seat minutes before the kidnapping), indicated that Leopold had been the killer.
The ransom was not their primary motive; the young men's families provided them all the money that they needed. Both had admitted that they were driven by the thrill of the kill and the desire to commit the "perfect crime." While in jail, they basked in the public attention they received and regaled newspaper reporters with the crime's lurid details again and again.[dubious ]