The Archivist KIDNAPPED 33: Bobby Greenlease

33: Bobby Greenlease

33: Bobby Greenlease post thumbnail image

Bobby Greenlease. A 6 year old boy was picked up by a woman claiming to be his aunt. She told the school his mother had a heart attack and she was taking him to the hospital to be with his mother. They had no idea it was all a lie and they let him leave with a monster. 

Sources:

Kidnap Greenlease Boy. Kansas City Star. September 28, 1953

Hall Confession Gives Details of Boy’s Kidnaping and Murder. St. Louis Globe-Democrat. November 18, 1953

Mrs. Heady’s Full Confession Made Public as Trial Opens. St. Louis Globe-Democrat. November 17, 1953.

Greenlease Kidnapping. FBI. https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/greenlease-kidnapping

Transcript:

In the morning, shortly before 11 AM on September 28, 1953, a cab driver is called to pick up a woman at 3834 Main Street in Kansas City, Mo. The woman asks to be taken to the French Institute of Notre Dame de Sion. In case you couldn’t tell, the school is an exclusive private catholic school. When they arrive at the school the woman goes inside, and the cab waits outside for her.

Once inside the school the woman tells Sister Morand that she had been shopping with the mother of six-year-old Bobby Greenlease in the Plaza district and the boy’s mother had suffered a heart attack. She says she is the boy’s aunt. Mrs. Greenlease had been taken to the hospital and she had been sent to pick Bobby up and take him to the hospital. The woman appeared visibly upset and apologized several times for her frazzled condition. Sister Morand invites the woman to pray in the chapel. The nun stayed at the door and saw the woman approach the alter and she appeared to kneel and begin praying. Sister Morand then left to get Bobby. When Morand and Bobby return the woman says, “I’m not a Catholic but it did me good to pray.” The woman and Bobby then get into the cab and drive away.

Around 11:30 another nun at the school, Sister Marthanna phones the Greenlease residence to find out how Mrs. Greenlease is doing, and to ask what hospital she is in. The phone call was answered by Mrs. Greenlease who informs Sister Marthanna that she has not suffered a heart attack and was not shopping this morning. Sisters Marthanna and Morand immediately phone the police. Mrs. Greenlease calls her husband, who then rushes home. The family call the police also, the Kansas City police also call the FBI.

Sister Morand gives a description of the woman who picked Bobby up as young with reddish-brown hair wearing a white blouse and a dark brown skirt. She identifies the cab as belonging to the Toedman Cab Company. She also says Bobby walked directly to the woman without hesitation and the woman put her arm around his shoulder and held his hand.

The police quickly locate the driver of the cab, Willard Creech (the name in the paper in 1953 said Charles Creech, but the FBI page identifies him as Willard Creech), a 62-year-old man from Kansas City. He gives a similar description of the woman and tells police he drove the woman to the school, and she asked him to wait because she wanted to be taken to the Katz Drug Store at Westport and Main in Kansas City. She was only in the school about six minutes, and she returned to the cab with the boy. He last saw them in the Katz drug store parking lot where they walked to a 1952 blue Ford sedan. During the ride he heard the woman ask Bobby about his two dogs, and the boy answered her by saying the dogs were fine. (The Greenlease family had two dogs). She also asked about a black parrot, but the boy didn’t say anything. He then heard the woman ask if the boy wanted to get ice cream, but he did not answer. The cab driver said the blue car was empty when the woman and boy got in, and the car had Kansas license plates.

So, let’s talk about the Greenlease family.

Robert C. Greenlease was one of Kansas City’s earliest and most successful car dealers. Raised on a horse farm near Slater, Missouri, his family moved to Kansas City where he eventually worked for his uncle at the Weber Engine Company. At the age of 21, Greenlease began production of the Kansas City Hummer, a five-passenger vehicle that never quite succeeded. He then began an automobile repair business that blossomed into the Central Automobile and Livery Company. The car rental business was ideally suited for exploring Kansas City’s newly expanded park and boulevard system. In 1908 Greenlease acquired Kansas City’s first Cadillac dealership. He ultimately became a millionaire and the Midwest’s largest dealer-distributor for Cadillac and General Motors. Robert Greenlease married his second wife, Virginia Pollock, in 1939. Virginia was born November 8, 1909, in Kansas City, Mo. She attended schools in Kansas City and became a registered nurse, working in a hospital for several years before she met her future husband, Robert. After they married, the couple had two children, Virginia Sue in 1941 and Robert Jr. in 1947. Virginia (the mom) also loved and cared for Robert Sr’s son Paul from his first marriage. The family was incredibly wealthy with Robert Sr.’s net worth reported as 24 million in 1953 ($248,619,325). The family is also devoutly catholic, and all three children attend private catholic schools. The family attended church at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Roeland Park, Kansas.

A few hours after the kidnapping, the Greenlease’s received the first ransom letter. The letter was mailed “special delivery” and postmarked 6PM on September 28, 1953. The letter demanded $600,000 ($6,215,483) in $20- and $10-dollar bills. The letter said to place the money in a duffle bag, and the kidnappers would return Bobby safely in 24 hours if the money was delivered without any tricks.

A second ransom letter was delivered the next day postmarked 9:30PM on September 29, 1953. Inside this letter was a Jerusalem medal that Bobby Greenlease wore. Again, a demand for $600,000 was made. The letter said Bobbly was ok, but very homesick.

Robert Greenlease was ready to comply with the kidnappers. He contacted the head of a local bank, Arthur Eisenhower, the brother of President Dwight Eisenhower. Arthur Eisenhower saw to it that every serial number on every bill was recorded. The ransom consisted of 20,000 $20 bills and 20,000 $10 bills, weighing approximately 80 lbs. On September 30th Robert Greenlease placed an ad in the newspaper that said “M— will meet you in Chicago Sunday. G.” The kidnappers knew this as the signal the money was ready.

On October 3rd, the first attempt to deliver the money was made, but the kidnappers did not find the money, so the Greenlease’s had to wait for the return of their son. The ransom money was left under a bridge near St. Joseph Missouri. On October 5th the Greenlease’s had the final communication with the Kidnappers. The call came in around 1AM with the kidnappers stating they had received the ransom and their son would be returned alive within 24 hours.

At 3:30 PM on October 6th a call to the 11th district Police department in St. Louis alerts police to the Townhouse Hotel in St. Louis. The caller, identified as John Oliver Hager, told police of a man staying there who had lots of cash and said he had embezzled the money. The police arrested Carl Austin Hall, with two metal suitcases containing $550,000. Later that same day police ascend on an apartment on Arsenal St in St. Louis and arrest Bonnie Emily Heady. The amount of the ransom money found is disputed because only $300,000 is accounted for at the trial. During the interrogation by police and FBI. Hall admitted to agents that he planned the kidnapping and the abduction and picking up the ransom money. But he did not kill Bobby Greenlease.

On October 7th, 1953, at 8:40AM FBI agents, police, and reporters rush to a house in St. Joseph, Missouri where Bonnie Heady had previously lived and found the body of Bobby Greenlease buried in the backyard. Inside the house, blood was found on the basement floor and steps, also on a nylon blouse and a fiber rug. The agents also recovered .38 calibre shell casings. The casings were fired from a .38 caliber snub nose Smith & Wesson revolver. The gun was in Hall’s possession at the time of his arrest. A different bullet was recovered from the floor mat of a Plymouth station wagon owned by Bonnie Heady, also a .38 revolver recovered from Bonnie Heady.

Let’s talk about these two POS’s. Carl Hall was born into a wealthy family and went to a military school where he met Paul Greenlease. Carl inherited a substantial amount of money from his father. He lost most of his money by investing in several failing businesses. So, he decided his best opportunity to get back the money he lost was to rob cab drivers. (smart). He total amount gained was $38. And so, he went to prison where he thought day and night about his “big score”. The score that would allow him to live in the lap of luxury again. In prison he told other inmates that kidnapping is the only crime you can commit that you only need to strike once and then you can retire for life.

After he was released from prison for stealing $38. He moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he met Bonnie Heady. She was described in the paper as “plump and not entirely unattractive” nice. But Bonnie was known to sleep around and occasionally prostitute herself, but Bonnie did own her own house. So, she had that going for her. Plus, she’s not entirely unattractive. Hall and Heady are known to get drunk often, and it appeared to others that Hall was sometimes physically abusive. At the time of her arrest for the kidnapping Bonnie had several bruises and marks that she said came from Carl Hall beating her.

During the summer of 1953 Carl Hall began planning with Bonnie to kidnap one of the Greenlease children. They made repeated trips to Kansas City to watch and follow the Greenlease family. The monster couple tried to abduct 11-year-old Virginia Sue one day in the middle of September. The couple had followed Mrs. Greenlease and Virginia Sue from their home to the Plaza district. When Mrs. Greenlease left her car to go into the drug store Virginia Sue had stayed in the car. Carl then walked up to the Greenlease Cadillac, but as he approached Virginia Sue jumped out of the car and ran down the street. After this attempt Carl made the decision to go for Bobby Greenlease instead, saying the older girl would make too much of a scene.

A little over a week later the couple drove to Kansas City and parked around the corner from the French Institute of Notre Dame de Sion at 8:40AM. They watched the school and observed Bobby Greenlease being dropped off by his mother. They then drove to Main Street where they made the decision to move forward with their plan. At 10:30 Bonnie Heady called for a cab and told the driver to take her to the school. We know what happened here. Bonnie was actually surprised by how trusting Bobby was, and how when she greeted him he walked straight up to her and took her hand. When the cab arrived at the Katz parking lot, the fare was $0.85, she gave the driver a dollar and told him to keep the change. Bonnie then walked Bobby through the Katz drug store and found Carl behind the wheel of her station wagon in the back of the drug store. Bobby got into the station wagon freely without any reluctance. He sat in the front seat between Carl and Bonnie.

The couple then drove out of the city to Overland Park, Kansas. They stopped near a wheat field lined with a tall hedge. Bobby pointed out some large green hedge balls, the Bonnie told him she would go and get one for him. Bonnie had also brought her dog Doc with them; they thought the dog would act as a cover if someone were to spot the couple with the boy. When the car stopped at the field and Carl opened the back tailgate the dog jumped out and Bonnie chased after him, because she was worried, he would get lost. She told police and FBI agents when she was about 75 to 100 yards away from the station wagon, she heard two gunshots. When Bonnie returned to the station wagon Carl was in the process of wrapping Bobby’s body in a blue plastic sheet. She said their original plan was to strangle the boy with a rope. (You know, because that’s better). They then put his body into the back of the car and covered it with a blanket. Bonnie noticed Carl had blood all over his clothes, so they took of his coat and folded it inside out, then rolled up his sleeves to hide the blood stains of the cuffs. She then helped him wash the blood off his face. They then drove to Lynn’s Tavern in North Kansas City. There, Carl changed the license plate on the station wagon (it turns out these were the original license plates, Carl had changed them to a stole plate during the kidnapping). The couple had two drinks at the tavern and then drove to St. Joseph Missouri.

At Bonnie’s house they parked in the basement garage, and then brought Bobby’s body up through the house and out the back door to the yard. Carl had dug the grave the day before. Carl placed the boy in the grave and then put lime on top of the body. Then covered it with dirt. After Carl washed the blood out of the station wagon, he had to hurry and drive back to Kansas City to mail the ransom note. While he was gone Bonnie finished burying the body. Carl called Bonnie and let her know he had sent the ransom note with no issues. On September 29th the couple went to a greenhouse to buy flowers to plant on the grave.

The couple used stolen license plates every time the went into the city to mail ransom notes. In total the Greenlease’s received six ransom notes and 15 phone calls from the kidnappers. Throughout Carl and Bonnie watched TV and listened to the radio to hear if any details of the kidnapping were reported.

Bonnie told FBI agents that she started feeling guilty and began drinking very heavily. She said anytime she was sober she couldn’t stop thinking about what they had done. Her memory is distorted from that point on.

Once the couple saw the ad in the newspaper about the ransom, they made plans to collect the money and then leave town. Carl and Bonnie collected the money from under a bridge and then drove straight to St. Louis. Once there they found an open bar, it was about 6AM. Carl then purchased two metal suitcases from an army surplus store and discarded the duffle bags the money was in. Carl then took Bonnie to a second bar where he left her for several hours. When he returned, he had purchased a red Nash car? The two then argue about spending the ransom money so freely. Carl had been talking about staying in one of the first-class hotels in St. Louis, but Bonnie thought they needed to stay low key. She said spending the money was going to attract attention.

Carl then tells Bonnie he rented a small apartment for them to live in and she calmed down. Carl rented the apartment under the name Grant. Two days later October 7th, the police arrested Carl at a hotel in St. Louis where he had been staying. At first, he tells officers his name is John James Byrne. While under interrogation Hall says he isn’t the one who killed Bobby. He tells them a man named Tom Marsh was the killer. Later he admits he made this person up.

On October 30, 1953, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady were tried in a Federal Court in Kansas City, Missouri presided by Judge Albert Reeves. Both pleaded guilty to the charges of kidnaping and murder. On November 19, 1953, after hearing evidence against the two, the jury recommended the death penalty for both. The jury deliberated for one hour and eight minutes! And 15 minutes after the verdict Judge Reeves sentenced them both to be executed on December 18, 1953. Judge Reeves said “I think the verdict fits the evidence. it is the most coldblooded, brutal murder I have ever tried.”

Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Heady were executed in Missouri’s lethal gas chamber at the state penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri on December 18,1953. The were executed side by side. The chamber had to have a second chair installed so they could be executed simultaneously. Heady is the only woman to have been executed in the gas chamber.

Some other interesting pieces of this case. The two arresting officers in St. Louis, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan were convicted in federal court for perjury, due to the missing $300,000 at the time Hall was booked in the 11th precinct. Over half of the $600,000 went missing and was never found after Carl Hall’s arrest. Originally two suitcases were found, but only one was brought to the police station. Carl Hall claimed he had most of the ransom money on him at the time of his arrest. He told the FBI he had chosen the $600,000 amount because he figured it would be easier to carry. He estimated the weight to be about 80lbs, if he had asked for 1 million, it would weigh over 100lbs and be harder to carry.

The Greenlease family wanted to make a lasting memorial to their sweet son Robert Jr. On February 3, 1962, what would have been Bobby’s 15th birthday, the family gifted the property for the construction of the new Rockhurst high school. The land was dedicated as the Greenlease Memorial Campus. They also made an endowment to Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri for the construction of the Greenlease Library. The building is still a part of the campus today. The building was dedicated on October 12, 1967. On November 3, 2000, a second building was dedicated on the Rockurst University Campus. The building now known as Greenlease Gallery, features permanent historic and inspiring early Christion art and icons. The family continues to make endowments and donations to hospitals, churches, and schools.

Robert Greenlease Sr. died on September 17, 1969, Virginia Sue died at the age of 42 in 1984, and the mother Virginia Greenlease passed away on September 24, 2001.

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