Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

Famous Cases:  The Greenlease Kidnapping

At approximately 10:55 a.m. on September 28, 1953, Sister Morand of the French Institute of Notre Dame De Sion, a school for small children in Kansas City, Missouri, answered the door and was confronted by a woman who said she was the aunt of Bobby Greenlease.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

The school where kidnapping victim Bobby Greenlease attended.

Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr., known as Bobby, was six years old and the son of Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Sr., a wealthy automobile dealer who resided in Mission Hills, Kansas City, Missouri.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

Greenlease Cadillac, company owned by of kidnapping victim Bobby Greenleases stepfather.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

Classmates of kidnapping victim Bobby Greenlease.

The woman informed Sister Morand that Bobby’s mother had just suffered a heart attack and had been taken to St. Mary’s Hospital. The woman appeared visibly upset and apologized to Sister Morand for her condition. Upon getting Bobby, Sister Morand told him that an aunt had called at the school for him, but she did not tell Bobby that his mother had suffered a heart attack.

Sister Morand recalled that Bobby walked directly to the woman without hesitation and there was nothing in his action or behavior to indicate doubt on his part that this woman was his aunt. As the woman left the school, she had an arm around Bobby’s shoulder and was holding his hand. Sister Morand last saw them as they entered a taxicab.
At approximately 11:30 a.m. that day, Sister Marthanna of the school called the Greenlease home to inquire about Mrs. Greenlease’s condition, spoke to Mrs. Greenlease and at that time learned that the story told by the woman who called for Bobby was false. Mrs. Greenlease immediately called her husband who rushed home and, after hearing the story of what happened, notified the chief of police in Kansas City, who in turn reported the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

The home of kidnapping victim 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease.

Willard Pearson Creech, cab driver for the Toedman Cab Company in Kansas City, told authorities that shortly before 11:00 a.m., on September 28, 1953, a woman, whose description fit that of the woman who had called at the school, entered the cab and requested him to drive her to the school of Notre Dame De Sion. Upon arriving at the school she told Creech to wait for her because she desired to be driven to the Katz Drug Store at Westport and Main Streets in Kansas City. In approximately six minutes, the woman reentered the cab accompanied by a small boy fitting the description of Bobby Greenlease. When Creech last saw them, they had stopped behind a blue 1952 or 1953 Ford Sedan bearing Kansas license plates.
A few hours after the kidnapping, the Greenleases received the first ransom letter concerning the return of their son. The first letter, mailed special delivery and postmarked 6:00 p.m.on September 28, 1953, demanded $600,000 in 20-dollar and 10-dollar bills which was to be placed in a duffel bag. The kidnappers promised Bobby’s safe return in 24 hours and as long as there were no tricks in delivering the money.
The second ransom letter was postmarked 9:30 p.m. on September 29, 1953. Inside the envelope in which this letter was mailed was the Jerusalem medal which had been worn by Bobby Greenlease. The letter again contained demands for $600,000 and stated that Bobby was okay but homesick. Overall, the Greenleases received over a half dozen ransom notes and 15 telephone calls.
The final communication between the Greenleases and the kidnappers was a telephone call received at 1:00 a.m. on October 5, 1953, at the Greenlease residence. The kidnappers stated that they had received the $600,000 ransom money and assured the Greenleases that their son was alive and that he would be returned in 24 hours.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

The spot where money was dropped of for the return of kidnapping victim 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease.

Unknown to the family, the kidnappers, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady, had killed the boy soon after the abduction and buried the body near Heady’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri. Then the two murderers took the ransom money and traveled approximately 380 miles to St. Louis, Missouri.

On October 5, 1953, Hall purchased two metal suitcases and transferred the ransom money from the duffle bag to these suitcases, leaving the duffel bag in an ash pit in south St. Louis. Carl Hall took Bonnie Heady, who was drunk, to an apartment he rented on Arsenal Street, also in St. Louis. Heady immediately went to sleep and Hall deserted her there leaving only $2,000 of the $600,000 ransom money in her purse.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

After an all night drive kidnappers of 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease Carl Austin Hall & Bonnie B. Heady wound up in this dingy apartment. Fed up with Bonnie, Carl gave her $2000 and left her here.

On October 6, 1953, Hall purchased two large garbage cans and a shovel, placed them in a rented car and drove to Meramec River in St. Louis County where he intended to bury the ransom money; however, he could not find a suitable place. He left the cans in a deserted club house and drove back to the Coral Courts Motel where he was staying. Hall became suspicious of persons in the vicinity of the motel during the afternoon of October 6, 1953, and moved to an apartment at the Townhouse Hotel in St. Louis.

Authorities Break The Case

A telephone call was received at the 11th District, St. Louis Police Department, about 3:30 p.m. on October 6, 1953, from John Oliver Hager, a driver for the Ace Cab Company in St. Louis. His information led to the arrest of Carl Austin Hall (who identified himself as John James Byrne) by officers of the St. Louis Police Department at the Townhouse Hotel in St. Louis during the evening of October 6, 1953. Later that night, he led the officers to an apartment on Arsenal Street in St. Louis where Hall’s girlfriend, Bonnie Emily Heady, was taken into custody.
Hall was interrogated by FBI Agents and other law enforcement agencies several times after his arrest and emphatically insisted that practically all of the $600,000 ransom money was in his possession at the time he was arrested by the St. Louis Police Department. Hall admitted to FBI Agents the planning of the kidnapping, the actual abduction of the victim, and to burying the body in the yard of Mrs. Heady’s residence. He also admitted picking up the ransom money, but denied that he killed the victim.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

This police lieut. checked Carl Austin Hall’s room and found $293,992, and then Carl confessed that he was one of the kiddnappers of 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease.

At this time he implicated Tom Marsh, stating he had turned the victim over to Marsh. Hall later admitted Marsh was a fictitious individual and the only persons involved in the kidnapping were Bonnie Heady and himself. It was not until October 11, 1953, that Hall admitted he and Bonnie Heady transported the victim from Kansas City, Missouri, to a point just outside of Kansas City, in Overland Park, Kansas where Hall shot the victim to death. He then transported the body approximately 45 miles back to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he buried it in Bonnie Heady’s yard and planted flowers on the grave. Bonnie Heady admitted assisting Hall in the preparation of the ransom letters and notes of instructions to the Greenlease family concerning the pay-off of the ransom as well as going to the school and obtaining custody of the victim using the ruse that his mother was ill.
The boy’s body was found by FBI Agents at 8:40 a.m., October 7, 1953, buried near the porch of the Heady residence at 1201 South 38th Street, St. Joseph, Missouri.

The body had been wrapped in a plastic bag and a large quantity of lime had been poured over this bag. The Greenlease family dentist identified the body as that of Bobby Greenlease at 1:05 p.m. on October 7, 1953. Blood stains were found on the basement floor and steps in the Heady residence, and on a nylon blouse and fiber rug. Some .38 caliber shell casings were also found in the house. These shell casings were examined by the FBI Laboratory and it was found that they had been fired from a .38 caliber snub nose Smith & Wesson revolver in Hall’s possession at the time of his arrest. The FBI Laboratory also ascertained that a lead bullet recovered from a rubber floor mat in the Plymouth station wagon owned by Bonnie Heady was also fired from Hall’s .38 caliber revolver.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

Schoolmates of kidnapping victim 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease, praying for him.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

The funeral of kidnapping victim 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease.

Old Photos: Greenlease Kidnapping

A plaque in memory of kidnapping victim 7 yr. old Bobby Greenlease.

The Judgment

On October 30, 1953, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady appeared before Judge Albert L. Reeves in Federal Court in Kansas City, Missouri, at which time they entered pleas of guilty to the indictment. On November 19, 1953, after hearing the evidence, a jury in the Federal Court in Kansas City, Missouri, recommended the death penalty after only an hour and eight minutes of deliberations. Fifteen minutes after the verdict was announced, Judge Reeves sentenced both of them 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 together in Missouri’s lethal gas chamber at the State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri, on December 18, 1953. Hall was pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. and Bonnie Heady was pronounced dead twenty seconds later.
Over half of the $600,000 was never found. FBI investigation established that the two suitcases which reportedly contained the ransom money, and which were in Hall’s possession at the time of his arrest, were not brought to the 11th District Precinct Station as testified by the arresting officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan. Both officers were subsequently federally indicted for perjury. Lieutenant Shoulders was convicted on April 15, 1954, and sentenced to three years in prison, and patrolman Dolan was convicted on March 31, 1954, and sentenced to two years. After they were released from prison, both returned to the St. Louis area. Shoulders died on May 12, 1962. Dolan received a full pardon from President Johnson on July 21, 1965.

Update: Read the original Life Magazine Article here.

  • http://donna-justme.blogspot.com Donna W

    I don’t think we moved to KC until 1954 or 55, but I remember people talking often about this case. Did Greenlease live in KC North? Seems I remember us driving by an estate in the Northland somewhere and someone pointing out Greenlease’s house.

  • http://donna-justme.blogspot.com Donna W

    Oops, I just went back and read that they resided in Kansas. That’s what I get for speedreading so I can look at the pictures. Anyhow, this was fascinating to me because I remember all the talk about it.

  • http://hyperblogal.blogspot.com/ Hyperblogal

    Very interesting. I remember this case even though I was just a little kid…. a little younger than Bobby. What is truly amazing, at least to us today, they were caught in October, tried and convicted in October and executed in December.

  • http://kcmeesha.com meesha.v

    I was actually looking for old cars in KC, Greenlease Cadillac came up and then I found the rest of the photos. That’s what I like about the whole old picture thing.

  • smh

    Thanks for find and posting this. Very interesting stuff. I agree w/ hyper. The judicial system was quite efficient back then.

  • http://moxiemamakc.blogspot.com Moxie Mama

    Very nice historical post! I knew about the kidnapping, but had never known all the details. Where is that Notre Dame de Sion? Do you know?

  • http://kcmeesha.com m.v.
  • Jim

    The Greenlease kidnapping was the last instance of kidnapping for ransom in KC. Before Greenlease, Nell Donnelly Reed, wife of Senator James A. Reed was kidnapped for ransom. Before Reed, the daughter of a high ranking city official was kidnapped and representatives of a local organized crime family murdered the person that they held responsible.

    The main reason that Bobby Greenlease was the last is that the perps were executed within 90 days from the time the crime was committed. Contrast that with the evil Michael Taylor and Roderick Nunley who are still awaiting execution more than 20 years after raping and murdering a 14 year old girl. We’ve lost our collective will to deal with the human waste.

    http://www.kmbc.com/news/2165033/detail.html for info on the Taylor Nunley fiasco

  • midtown miscreant

    While I have read some about this, and heard Walt Bodine and the Late Jane flynn talk about it, you had some new details I didn’t know. Did they mention recovering the money the cops took? Like everyone else, I’m impressed at the speed they executed people back then. Last and most important, this happened 6 years before I was born, since Hyper and Donna actually remember it, there are at least two people, make that 3 counting old ass XO, who I am younger than!!!! Good post.

  • http://kcmeesha.com m.v.

    “Over half of the $600,000 was never found”.
    I just copied the story from the site linked at the top of the post and added the photos so the information is not really mine. I feel like a young pup in youll’s company :-)

  • http://donna-justme.blogspot.com Donna W

    Meesha, you are about the age of my son. A pup, indeed.

  • JoeMommaSan

    Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Sr., a wealthy automobile dealer who resided in Mission Hills, Kansas City, Missouri

    Mission Hills in on the Kansas side – it’s not part of KCMO.

  • http://kcmeesha.com m.v.

    I didn’t write this, it’s copied from the page linked on the very top.

  • Becky

    That is indeed the Notre Dame de Sion web site. Bobby Greenlease attended what we call the “lower school,” or elementary school at 38th and Locust. You can see the old building peeking from above the massive Boy Scouts Fountain at 39th and Gillham.

  • Craig

    The house is in Mission Hills, Kansas. The house was numbered for one street then later changed for the cross street. The back of the home overlooks the Brush Creek and the country club. 6200 Verona.

  • Gus

    I just finished reading a book about the Greenlease kidnapping/murder, ZERO AT THE BONE, the Playboy, the Prostitute and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease by John Heidenry. I grew up in St. Louis and now live in the area where the kidnappers hid out when they got here. Our police force hasn’t gotten better yet.

  • J. W.

    At least they knew how to deal with human garbage back then.

  • Andrew

    The Greenlease home in Mission Hills is 2920 Verona Road…..Not 6200 Verona. I knew three different families that lived in that home…The inside is absolutely beautiful…8 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms…about 12,000 square feet.

  • http://tricocopier.com Jason Vance

    Last night I read a book, by famed preacher John Rice. His book (famous salvation messages he had preached) had one sermon based on human greed – as espoused in the kidnap-murder of Bobby Greenlease.

    The photos and sparse words, blew me away.

    Like most readers – I too am impressed by speedy justice (especially as compared to today’s exaggerated system that seems designed for anything but justice.

    PS: Little note seems to have been made of the murderer (Carl Hall}and the fact that he came from a wealthy background and inherited a fortune (which he promptly squandered on woman, gambling, drugs, and profligate living. [maybe he planned on a career in politics]. Also, Bonnie Heady, was driven by dreams of money. She told at least one listener that she thought she would only get 30 years, and be out on parole by the time she was 45. She only had one fear -and that was of poverty. Allegedly she said, “….death would be better that being poor.” or words to that effect.

    It might be noted that Mr. Rice, the preacher noted how class-warfare (the rich vs the poor) often demonized the rich and made it OK (at least on a sub-Rosa level) to kidnap and harm a wealthy person… even a child. Apparently the child was not only murdered, but beaten before being killed by the heinous Carl Hall.

  • http://kcmeesha.com m.v.

    Jason, thanks for your comments, this is one of the most viewed and commented posts on my blog and I get search hits every day, I didn’t realize how many people were interested in this old case.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1487585850 Mike Hudson

    Thanks for posting this story, I grew up in Kansas City, MO and this is the first that I have heard of this tragic event.

  • Howard Blue

    In relation to my research for a book about another kidnapping, I would be grateful to anyone who could post the names of any of the FBI agents who worked on the Greenlease.

  • http://kcmeesha.com m.v.

    Maybe you can find some information in the original Life article http://bit.ly/caeuyS

  • http://www.pro-sys.ca/comserv/members/New-yorkPublicSchools63.aspx Elvis Blue

    Last night I read a book, by famed preacher John Rice. His book (famous salvation messages he had preached) had one sermon based on human greed – as espoused in the kidnap-murder of Bobby Greenlease.

    The photos and sparse words, blew me away.

    Like most readers – I too am impressed by speedy justice (especially as compared to today’s exaggerated system that seems designed for anything but justice.

    PS: Little note seems to have been made of the murderer (Carl Hall}and the fact that he came from a wealthy background and inherited a fortune (which he promptly squandered on woman, gambling, drugs, and profligate living. [maybe he planned on a career in politics]. Also, Bonnie Heady, was driven by dreams of money. She told at least one listener that she thought she would only get 30 years, and be out on parole by the time she was 45. She only had one fear -and that was of poverty. Allegedly she said, “….death would be better that being poor.” or words to that effect.

    It might be noted that Mr. Rice, the preacher noted how class-warfare (the rich vs the poor) often demonized the rich and made it OK (at least on a sub-Rosa level) to kidnap and harm a wealthy person… even a child. Apparently the child was not only murdered, but beaten before being killed by the heinous Carl Hall.

  • Randy

    I live in St. Louis and my aunt was a friend of May Traynor, the brothel madame who, in turn, was buddy-buddy with Lt. Lou Shoulders – arresting officer and eventual recipient of most of the missing Greenlease money. Because my aunt was in Madame May’s address book she was called in for questioning to see if she knew anything or could help provide leads to information on the missing $300,000. She didn’t and couldn’t.

  • Marilyn

    My husband was working at McDonnell Aircraft during this tragic event. I was on maternity leave from MAC and so was Mary Dolan, Elmer’s wife – Mary and I had worked together in the same department, and were expecting our first children in December, 1953. Reading this account brought back memories long forgotten, but I well remember talking to Mary on the phone numerous times after Elmer was incarcerated. My husband and I returned to Florida during this time and eventually Mary and I lost contact. I notice that Lou Shoulders has died, but I am wondering if anyone knows about the Dolans. I am not good at searching the computer for lost friends.

  • Texas Rockhound

    I was five when the Greenlease kidnapping happened and it was used for years to warn us kids about being careful and not leaving with anyone we didn’t know. It impressed me so much I have never forgotten it.

  • Audrey Burtrum-Stanley

    I too, grew up with the sad saga of this little boy’s fate. His father and mine were friends and fellow automobile dealers. His tragic end was a warning in our household and countless others across the nation – children should never go anywhere with strangers.

    When I was 19 and visiting KC (I was not from the area) with college pals, we ate at the famed ‘NY DELI’ on Troost St. It was so crowded in the restaurant, we took our sandwiches ‘n drinks and decided to eat across the street at a huge cemetery.

    Upon arrival there, we took note workmen were removing the faded Memorial Day bouquets from inside the marble mausleum. We strolled inside in the cool, shady building – reading the famed long ago names of parks, important businesses, even infamous mobster clans, etc… all from the Kansas City area. I had never been to this place nor did I know anything about the fame and infamy of the inhabitants till this tour. These were the final resting places of historic figures.

    At the apex of the design was buried a Doctor…and to the left of his site was a wall of white marble tombs — the Greenlease family’s final resting places. The lower tomb is Bobby’s. It had a special metal wreath – a gift from a boy’s orphanage in Italy.

    Visiting this was almost like ‘a religious experience’ as the name had echoed amongst my family allllllllll my life. Upon returning home and telling my Father about stumbling across the gravesite of the Greenlease lad – he, like so many strangers-to-the-family-who-had-only-read-of-the-story-in-newspapers, wept again.

    • Caroldow

      Gina greenlease and I were roommates for about two years and close friends in Kansas CITY in our twenties-she never

      mentined Bobby but it was obvious that she was very damaged by the experience -I often wonder what happened to her- I have lived in Ca. for many years but grew up in Mission Hills

      • Usbrit414

        She seems to have lived a bohemian lifestyle.  Had a daughter but didn’t marry the father, AFAIK.  A license was taken out that was allowed to expire.  She died at Truman Hospital of undisclosed reasons in her early forties, although when she was buried it was under a different last name.  Her mother outlived both of her children.

  • Wylycoyote1

    I remember this case from my childhood living in Prairie Village, KS. at the time.  My father Percy Wyly 2nd was SAC of the KC FBI Office at the time.  This was a very tough case for my Dad and his family.  Very sad, but the FBI broke the
    case and brought the kidnappers to justice.  I was seven at the time – the same age as Bobby having been born in 1947.  Tough case but very proud of my father (1935-2000) and the other law enforcement people, who were able to solve the
    case and bring these fugitives to justice.  Jim Wyly  

    • http://kcmeesha.com kcmeesha

      Thanks for your comment, I am still surprised when anyone who was somehow touched by this case comments here but as you can see above, lots of people remember. I have few more Kansas City law enforcement posts 
      http://kcmeesha.com/2009/03/14/life-photo-archiveskansas-city-crime/
      http://kcmeesha.com/2010/08/16/old-photos-kansas-city-bombing/

    • Branonoldmill

      Jim, I remember your family. My father, Bill Simon, was sent out from NY office to assist on the case. We were assigned to KC previously & he was ASAC there later–we lived in Indian Hills & attended St. Ann’s. Believe Clarence Kelley was Chief then. Although we left KC, this tragic case was unforgettable. Stephanie Simon Branon

  • Lou

    I am aware that the Greenlease case was looked at again, by law enforcement, later on when Wilma Allen was kidnapped and murdered.

  • thisaintdennys

    It’s really a shame justice for the victims has fallen to the wayside in favor of making sure these animals get a “fair” shot. The victims meet their fate without any deliberation by a jury or any intervention by attorneys. No one argues for hours over whether they should live or die. And I don’t understand the “insanity” defense. OF COURSE they are insane, but calling it “insanity” adds to the stigma of people who live with mental illness. Not all mentally ill are sociopaths. And it is a very small percentage of the mentally ill who commit such acts.