On May 21st, 1924 at around 4:45 in the afternoon, two teenagers in a car approach a 14 year old boy walking alone. They offer him a ride, which the boy declines as he is only two blocks from home. One of the teenagers, who knows the 14 year old, encourages him to get in, saying he wants to talk to him about a tennis racket the boy owns. He obliges, getting into the passenger seat and as the car turns a corner he is struck several times with a chisel and dragged into the back seat where he is gagged, loses consciousness and suffocates to death.
The teenagers wait for dark, strip him, pour acid on his body and push him into a culvert where he is discovered the next morning. After police follow several clues including a dropped pair of eyeglasses and an Underwood portable typewriter, the teenagers are brought in for questioning. They confess.
Their relatives secure the services of a famous lawyer, who works with a team of psychiatrists in an attempt to prove the teenagers were mentally abnormal but not insane. They plead guilty and the sentencing hearing lasts a month and a half, surrounded by a media storm of local and international publicity. They are sentenced to Life and 99 years in prison on charges of murder and kidnapping for ransom.
This is the story of Nathan Leopold, Richard Loeb and Robert Franks; at least it is the popular part that everyone knows. Leopold and Loeb have been branded the poster children for teenage killers, for wealth and intelligence gone wrong, and utilized in newspapers and fiction to portray everything from the dangers of obsessive love to the evils of secular education.
Despite the regular media attention this case is given, barely any of it has focused on more than the four months that summer in 1924 in which the crime and hearing took place. While I cover that time on this site, I also do my best to shed some light on the under-reported times in the boys’ lives. What their childhoods were like, what happened after they were sentenced, as well as exploring the stories that have grown out of their legend.