Bobby Greenlease

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Bobby Greenlease
Born Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr.
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Died (aged 6)
Lenexa, Kansas, U.S.
Cause of death Homicide by handgun
Resting place Forest Hill Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Known for Murder victim

Robert Cosgrove "Bobby" Greenlease Jr. (1947-September 28, 1953) was the 6-year-old son of multi-millionaire automobile dealer Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr., of Kansas City, Missouri.

Bobby was the victim of a kidnapping on September 28, 1953, that led to the largest ransom payment in American history (at the time). His kidnappers, however, had no intention of returning him to his family. Before the ransom demand was even issued, he had been murdered by Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady.[1]


Multi-millionaire Robert Greenlease made his by fortune introducing General Motors vehicles to the Great Plains in the early 20th century. He owned dealerships from Texas to South Dakota. He was quite old when Bobby was born, and the Greenleases doted upon him.

Bobby was said to be a trusting boy. According to John Heidenry, whose book Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease, is an account of the case, kidnapper Bonnie Heady said that from the moment she appeared at his school (claiming to be a relative taking him to his sick mother), Bobby just took her hand and did anything he was told to do.[2]

Abduction and murder[edit]

In September 1953, Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady kidnapped Bobby from Notre Dame de Sion, an exclusive Catholic school located in Kansas City, Missouri.

The kidnappers were drug-addicted alcoholics then living together in St. Joseph, Missouri. In the early 1930s, Hall had attended Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, with Paul Robert Greenlease, Bobby's adopted older brother. Hall had planned for some time to victimize his former classmate's wealthy family.

Heady went to Bobby's school, persuaded a nun that she was his aunt. She told a false story, saying that his mother had suffered a heart attack). She then took him away. Hall and Heady then took him across the state line to Johnson County, Kansas, where Hall shot him to death with a revolver.

After the murder, Hall and Heady sent Bobby's father a message demanding a ransom of $600,000. Greenlease, desperately trying to save his son, held off the police and the FBI. He paid the money. Hall and Heady collected the ransom and fled. At that time it was the largest ransom ever paid in American history.

Hall became convinced that police would trace them to St. Joseph, Missouri, and he impulsively decided to drive to Saint Louis, Missouri, instead.


Once in St. Louis, Hall left Heady in the middle of the night in a rented room and contacted criminal associates in an attempt to divert police attention. One of the associates, a former prostitute named Sandra O'Day, was supposed to fly to Los Angeles and mail a letter Hall which had written. It was thought that this would divert police attention from St. Louis. However, O'Day caught a glimpse of the ransom money and decided to do some diverting of her own.[3] St. Louis police soon learned that Hall was flaunting a large sum of money, and they brought him in for questioning.

Hall eventually implicated Heady. The police found Heady back at her own home outside Kansas City, and also found a shallow grave in her backyard.[2]


The kidnapping and murder scandalized the nation and soon led to federal indictments, trials, and subsequent executions for both Hall and Heady. They died together in the Missouri gas chamber on December 18, 1953.

Heady was one of only two women since 1865 to be executed by federal authorities. The other one was Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg. Since the federal government did not have any execution facilities, it chose a state which had the death penalty and could carry out the execution.

Only about half of the ransom money was recovered. The missing money remained a subject of wide speculation. Some of the theories accounting for this were:

  • Hall tried unsuccessfully to bury the cash near the Meramec River (the FBI searched that area in vain)
  • Suitcases in Hall's possession upon his arrest were not brought to the 11th District Precinct Station (two arresting officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan, were subsequently federally indicted for perjury)[5]
  • The cash fell into the hands of mobsters or had been hidden in the walls of the motel[6] (the 1995 demolition of the Coral Court Motel turned up nothing)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cole, Suzanne P.; Engle, Tim; Winkler, Eric (April 23, 2012). "50 things every Kansas Citian should know". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b As described in an episode of Deadly Women entitled "Under His Control", originally aired in the United States on 2010-10-21 on Investigation Discovery cable channel.
  3. ^ Heidenry, John (2009). Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-37679-0. 
  4. ^ John Heidenry (2009). Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312376796. 
  5. ^ FBI — The Greenlease kidnapping,
  6. ^ James Hirsch (July 23, 1988). "St. Louis' Little Sin". NY Times News Service. 

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