Kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease
Bobby Greenlease and his father, 1953
Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr.
February 3, 1947
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died|| (aged 6)|
Lenexa, Kansas, U.S.
|Cause of death||Homicide by .38 caliber snub nose Smith & Wesson revolver|
|Resting place||Forest Hill Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.|
|Known for||Kidnapping and murder victim|
Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Jr. (February 3, 1947 – September 28, 1953) was a six-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri, who was the victim of a kidnapping and homicide on September 28, 1953. His father Robert Greenlease Sr. was a multi-millionaire auto dealer, and the requested ransom payment was the largest in American history at the time.
Greenlease Jr.'s kidnappers, despite the ransom, had no intention of returning him to his family. Before the ransom demand was issued, he had already been murdered by Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady. Heady and Hall were condemned to death and executed in Missouri's gas chamber in December 1953.
Heady was the third woman ever to be executed by US federal authorities.
Robert "Bobby" Cosgrove Greenlease Jr. was born to Robert Greenlease Sr. (1882–1969) and Virginia Pollock Greenlease. Robert Greenlease Sr. was a multi-millionaire Cadillac dealer and auto entrepreneur having made his fortune by introducing General Motors vehicles to the Great Plains in the early 20th century, owning dealerships from Texas to South Dakota. He was 65 years old when Bobby was born in 1947. The Greenleases were said to have been devoted to Bobby.
According to author John Heidenry, whose book Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease is an account of the case, Bobby was said to be a trusting boy, with kidnapper Bonnie Heady stating that from the moment she appeared at his school posing as his aunt to take him to his mother, he just took her hand and did anything he was told to do.
Abduction and murder
Carl Hall, one of the two perpetrators
|Born||Carl Austin Hall|
July 1, 1919
Bonnie Emily Brown
July 15, 1912
December 18, 1953 (aged 34)
Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S.
December 18, 1953 (aged 41)
Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S.
|Criminal penalty||Death by gas inhalation|
|Location(s)||Johnson County, Kansas|
In September 1953, Carl Hall (34) and Bonnie Heady (41), kidnapped Bobby from Notre Dame de Sion, a Catholic pre-school located in Kansas City, Missouri. The kidnappers were drug-addicted alcoholics then living together in nearby St. Joseph. In the early 1930s, Hall had attended Kemper Military School in Boonville with Paul Robert Greenlease, Bobby's adopted older brother. Hall had planned for years to victimize his former classmate's wealthy family.
Heady went to Bobby's school, persuading a nun, Sister Morand, that she was his aunt, telling her that his mother had suffered a heart attack and was in St. Mary's Hospital. She then took Bobby away in a taxicab driven by John Oliver Hager, of the Ace Cab Company, who would testify in court that he had picked up Bobby and Bonnie Heady, who stated she was the alleged aunt. When another Sister from the school rang to inquire about Mrs. Greenlease's condition, she discovered the truth and her husband contacted the FBI. The couple took Bobby across the state line to Johnson County, Kansas, where Hall shot him dead with a revolver. They then took the child's body to St. Joseph and buried him in the backyard of Heady's house, at 1201 South 38th Street.
After the murder, Hall and Heady sent Bobby's father messages in the mail and phone calls demanding a ransom of $600,000 ($5.7 million today). Greenlease, desperately trying to save his son, held off the police and the FBI, paying the money. At that time it was the largest ransom ever paid in American history, and remained so until the 1972 kidnapping of Virginia Piper. Hall became convinced that police would trace them to St. Joseph, so he randomly decided to drive to St. Louis. The couple collected the ransom and fled.
Two police officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and patrolman Elmer Dolan, told a grand jury that the $300,000 they turned over was the full amount confiscated from Hall when they arrested him. This statement was false; in fact, Shoulders had taken half of the $600,000 ransom that Hall had on him at the time of arrest. Both officers were convicted of perjury. Shoulders was found guilty on April 15, 1954, and sentenced to serve 3 years; he died on May 12, 1962. Dolan was convicted on March 31, 1954, and sentenced to 2 years. Dolan later maintained that he perjured himself because his fear of Shoulders exceeded his fear of prison, and he received a pardon from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Once in St. Louis, Hall left Heady in the middle of the night in a rented room. He contacted criminal associates to enlist their help in diverting 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 had written. It was thought that this would divert police attention from St. Louis. However, O'Day caught a glimpse of the ransom money. 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 her at an apartment at 4504 Arsenal Street and discovered Bobby's body in a shallow grave in her back yard. Bobby was later interred in a mausoleum at Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City.
Bobby's kidnapping and murder scandalized the nation and soon led to federal indictments for Hall and Heady. Both pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder, and were executed together in the Missouri gas chamber on December 18, 1953.
Heady is one of only four women to have ever been executed by federal authorities, the others being Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt in 1865 and Ethel Rosenberg, who, along with her husband Julius, was convicted of being a Soviet spy and executed by electric chair on June 19, 1953, just months before Heady. The fourth woman is Lisa Montgomery of Kansas, who was executed by lethal injection on January 13, 2021, for the 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.
Since the federal government did not have any execution facilities, Missouri's state facilities—and thus the then-legal gas chamber—were used to carry out the executions. This was the case for all federal executions in the 20th century, before the first executions at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2001. Heady is the only woman executed by the federal government by gassing. Heady grew up and is buried in Clearmont in Nodaway County, Missouri.
Only $288,000 of the ransom money was recovered. The missing $312,000 remained a subject of wide speculation. Some of the theories accounting for this were:
- A cab driver who took Hall to the Coral Court Motel had tipped off local mobster Joseph G. Costello.
- Hall tried unsuccessfully to bury the cash near the Meramec River, though the FBI would later search that area in vain.
- Suitcases in Hall's possession upon his arrest were not brought to the 11th District Precinct Station (the arresting officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan, were subsequently federally indicted for perjury).
The case was the subject of an episode of Investigation Discovery's series A Crime to Remember, "Baby Come Home" (season 2, episode 8) as well as an episode of the Investigation Discovery series Deadly Women entitled "Under His Control."
- Cole, Suzanne P.; Engle, Tim; Winkler, Eric (April 23, 2012). "50 things every Kansas Citian should know". The Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
- "US schedules first federal execution of woman since 1953". news.yahoo.com. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
- As described in an episode of Deadly Women entitled "Under His Control", originally aired in the United States on October 21, 2010 on Investigation Discovery cable channel.
- "The Greenlease Kidnapping". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on January 22, 2016.
- "The 18 Largest Ransoms Ever Paid". Business Insider. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
- 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.
- "18 Dec 1953, Page 1 - Jefferson City Post-Tribune at Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com.
- "US carries out its 1st execution of female inmate since 1953". Associated Press. January 13, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
- "Zella C. Cannon Hall (1888-1944) - Find A Grave..." www.findagrave.com.
- John Heidenry (2009). Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312376796.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation's case on Greenlease kidnapping
- Blood Money and the Death of a Child — The United States v. Hall and Heady
- Crime Library Article on Greenlease
- Biography on Greenlease family maintained by Charles Elias Disney and Daniel H. Disney
- Greenlease kidnapping
- Kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease at Find a Grave