Bruno Hauptmann was born on November 26, 1899 in the city of Kamenz, Germany. He began work as a carpenter when he was young, but joined the German Army to fight in World War I. He was trained as a machine gunner and suffered numerous injuries and chemical gas attacks.
After the war ended in 1918, he was unable to find contracts as a carpenter. Left without work, he turned to committing criminal acts against his fellow Germans. With a fellow German Army veteran, Bruno proceeded to burglarize three homes and rob two women at gunpoint. Eventually the police apprehended Bruno and sentenced him to five years in prison. For the next several years, he lived in Bautzen Prison until his release.
After his release, Bruno returned to crime and was once again arrested and sentence to prison. However, he managed to escape prison by walking out of an unguarded and unlocked door. After fleeing the city, he tried to make his way to the United States by stowing away on ships. He was found and returned to Germany on two separate occasions.
After these failures, he decided to try a different approach and stole someone else's identification card and wore a disguise. In November of 1923, he made it into the United States and he managed to find legitimate work as a carpenter. In 1925, he married a woman named Anna Schoeffler, who was also a German immigrant. They moved to the Bronx, where they had one son and Bruno continued his carpentry work.
On September 19, 1934, Bruno was suddenly arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., the son of the famous aviator. The child had been kidnapped two years before, on March 1, 1932 an a ransom demand of $50,000 was paid. However, the child was found dead on May 12, 1932 in a forest near the Lindbergh home. The police apparently discovered a gold certificate from the original ransom money that had been spent and had a license plate number written on it. The license plate belonged to Bruno Hauptmann's Dodge Sedan, linking him to the kidnapping.
The trial immediately attracted massive media attention and was called the "trial of the century". The trial began on January 2, 1935 in Flemington, New Jersey. The evidence produced by the prosecution included $14,000 in ransom money found in Bruno's garage, a ladder used in the kidnapping that was made of the same wood found in Bruno's home, and testimony matching Bruno's handwriting on letters to the handwriting of the ransom letter. Further evidence included testimony that Bruno was the man who received the ransom money, Bruno was seen spending the money, that he had been in the area of the Lindbergh home prior to the kidnapping, and that he was absent from work on the day of the ransom payment.
Bruno vehemently denied the charges, claiming that the money had been left in his garage by a friend, Isidor Fisch, who had returned to Germany and died on March 1934. The jury found him guilty and he was subsequently sentenced to death for execution on April 3, 1936. Prior to his execution, New Jersey Governor Harold Hoffman visited Hauptmann on death row and interviewed him. Hoffman left doubting his guilt, but he was not able to get the Court to review the case. On April 3, 1936, Hauptmann was executed by electric chair. Whether he was truly guilty is a question that has run through many people's minds since the case.