CEMETERY JOHN by Robert Zorn


The Undiscovered Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping
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Debut author Zorn makes a compelling case that the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping was orchestrated by a Bronx deli clerk who got away with the crime scot-free.

The author argues that German immigrant John Knoll masterminded the kidnapping of world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh's young son. Convicted of the crime in 1935, Bruno Kauptmann was executed the following year, without mentioning any accomplices. On the night of March 1, 1932, Zorn writes, kidnappers climbed a ladder up the side of the Lindberghs' New Jersey home to steal the sleeping toddler from his bed. Although his parents met the ransom demands, their son was never returned; little Charlie Lindbergh's remains were found near their home more than two months later. Zorn's connection to the case is personal. His late father, economist Eugene Zorn, grew up in the South Bronx, where Knoll rented a room. The elder Zorn recalled witnessing a conversation about the kidnapping in 1931, when he was 15, among Knoll, his brother and a man Knoll called "Bruno." Reading about the case in 1963, Eugene's memory of the exchange returned, sparking his suspicion of Knoll, who, even by the accounts of Knoll's own family members, was a disturbed, stamp-collecting loner obsessed with aviation and deeply jealous of Lindbergh's fame. Eugene shared his theory with the Lindberghs in a letter but never received a response. Several of the book's 23 photographs and illustrations reveal striking similarities between the police sketch of "Cemetery John," who collected the $50,000 ransom, and Knoll, now deceased. Knoll skipped town just before the start of Kauptmann's trial.

Zorn's research includes new forensic evidence, personal and historical documents, and interviews, laying the foundation for a thrilling true-crime tale that offers a resounding answer to the question of who was really responsible for the kidnapping.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59020-856-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2013


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