Video:The Leopold and Loeb Murderwith Ben Arrona
Making national headlines, the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder was a heinous crime that left its mark on American society. This About.com history video will give you an overview of the Leopold and Loeb murder.See Transcript
Transcript:The Leopold and Loeb Murder
Hi, I'm Ben Arrona, here for About.com. I'm a historian with a Master's degree in American History, and today we will be discussing the Leopold and Loeb murder.
Long before the O.J. Simpson trial was bequeathed the title of "trial of the century," another such case carried this distinction. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two Chicago college students from wealthy families, were accused of the thrill killing of a 14-year-old boy. The ensuing trial would garner headlines around the country. Here's a closer look.
Leopold and Loeb Decide to Commit Murder
Nathan Leopold was a brilliant young man from an extremely wealthy family. With an IQ over 200, he had graduated from college and was already on his way to law school by the age of 19. His accomplice, Richard Loeb, also came from a wealthy family, and while intelligent, was fascinated by engaging in risky, often illegal, activities such as theft and arson. Believing that their wealth, social status, and intelligence insulated them from the rules others were bounded by, they decided to commit what they considered to be the perfect crime.
Committing the Crime of the Century
They began to plot out the murder and ransom of a yet-to-be-determined victim. On May 21, 1924, Leopold and Loeb rented an automobile and covered its license plate. That evening, completely by chance, they came across 14-year-old Bobby Franks, a distant cousin of Loeb's. After luring him into their rented car, it is believed that Loeb pulled him into the back seat and bludgeoned him with a chisel. He then had a cloth shoved in his mouth, ultimately leading to his death by suffocation. The two killers drove the boy's body into a marshy area, dumping it in what they presumed to be a well-hidden location.
Leopold and Loeb Confess to Murder
They had just pulled off the perfect crime, or so they thought. Franks' body was discovered the next morning as his feet had been left sticking out of the drainage pipe he was placed in. As police searched the scene, Leopold's glasses were found, and were quickly traced back to his optometrist, and subsequently to Leopold. Soon thereafter, Leopold and Loeb's alibis broke down and the two men admitted to the crime.
The Ends of Leopold and Loeb's Lives
With the case receiving much attention in the press, and with the two men facing the death penalty, Leopold and Loeb were able to secure the services of renowned defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. Darrow's main task was to ensure that the two men did not receive the death penalty. After a defense that focused on the psychology and upbringing of the two young men, Darrow was able to convince the presiding judge that life in prison would be the appropriate penalty. Richard Loeb died in prison at the hands of a fellow inmate in 1936, while Nathan Leopold was eventually paroled in 1958 and lived the remainder of his days in Puerto Rico.
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