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A superman... is, on account of certain superior qualities inherent in him, exempted from the ordinary laws which govern men. He is not liable for anything he may do.
Leopold

Nathan Freudenthal "Nate" Leopold Jr. and Richard Albert Loeb, often referred to collectively as Leopold and Loeb, were two American college students who perpetrated the brutal murder of 14-year old Robert Emanuel "Bobby" Franks in 1924. Their case became infamous due to their belief that they could get away with it due to their supposed intellectual superiority.

Backgrounds[]

Leopold and Loeb were both born in Chicago, Illinois to wealthy Jewish families. They knew each other since childhood, as they both grew up in Kenwood in Chicago's South Side. The boys were both noted for being highly intelligent even at an early age, with Leopold allegedly speaking at only four months old and Loeb graduating from the University of Michigan at only 17. Loeb was second cousins with and the across-the-street-neighbor of their future victim, Bobby Franks, whom he played tennis with several times. Leopold and Loeb attended the University of Chicago and bonded over their mutual interest in crime. While studying together, Leopold grew fascinated by Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of supermen (believing that their intellects made them above other people, absolved them of any responsibility, and made them immune to all rules or laws).

Fully believing this in a near-delusional way, Leopold and Loeb (aged 19 and 18 at the time, respectively) began committing various petty acts of crime, culminating in a burglary of the University of Michigan (stealing penknives, a camera, and the typewriter they would later use for their ransom note). Both emboldened and disappointed by the lack of attention or notice their crimes generated, they devised plans to commit a "perfect crime" - the kidnap and murder of an adolescent.

Murder[]

After seven months of planning their crime and searching for a victim, the duo settled on Bobby Franks. On May 21, 1924, they approached Franks in a car (which Leopold had rented under a fake name) while he was on his way home from school. Initially offering him a ride home (which he refused due to the short distance), they lured him inside to discuss a tennis racket he'd been using earlier. Once he was in the passenger seat, Franks was bludgeoned from the back seat[1]. They then dragged him to the back and gagged him, where he died shortly afterwards. Hiding the body in the car's floorboard, they drove out to Wolf Lake. There, they stripped him, disfigured his face and genitals with hydrochloric acid, and hid his body in a culvert along the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Upon returning, Leopold called Franks's mother under a fake name and told her that her son was being held for ransom and sent her instructions using the typewriter they had stolen earlier. Their ransom cover was blown after a Franks family member forgot the address of a store where more instructions were and after Franks's body was discovered. They disposed of their evidence and resumed their lives as normal, despite Leopold speaking to investigators and offering advice to them (including talking about how he would have picked Franks if he were to kill someone). More suspicion was put on them after Leopold's glasses were found at the crime scene and their typewriter (which they had destroyed earlier) was recovered. When they was brought in for questioning on May 29, their alibi failed after Leopold's car (which they claimed they used to pick up two women and dropped them off) was found in his chauffeur's garage and had been in there at time of the murder. They confessed shortly afterwards.

Trial and Aftermath[]

Leopold and Loeb's trial garnered much media attention and was the third case in U.S. history to be labelled a "Trial of the Century". They were represented by Clarence Darrow (who was hired by Loeb's family and who had taken the case due to being against capital punishment). The trial had over 100 witnesses presented and highly extensive psychiatric assessments arranged by the defense team. They attempted to find mitigating circumstances, such as childhood neglect, sexual abuse (alleging that Leopold was abused by a governess), dysfunctional endocrine glands[2], and their supposed delusions which drove them to kill. Darrow gave a famous 12-hour speech about the inhumanity of the justice system and the youth of his clients. Darrow successfully convinced judge John R. Caverly to spare his clients the death penalty and, on September 10, he sentenced them both to life imprisonment and an additional 99 years.

Leopold and Loeb maintained their friendship during their incarceration and transfers between two different prisons, despite the guards' efforts to isolate them from each other. On January 28, 1936, Loeb was slashed to death with a razor by James Day, who alleged that Loeb had assaulted him despite the fact that he had no injuries. Day was acquitted of the murder. Leopold suffered from depression after Loeb's death, but still managed to be a model prisoner and expand his prison's educational systems (even becoming a teacher there). He was also deliberately infected with Malaria and used for experimental treatment. A novel titled Compulsions was written by one of Leopold's classmates, author Meyer Levin. Leopold greatly disapproved of the novel and was sickened by it. He also objected the subsequent film adaptation. He later wrote an autobiography in an effort to gain parole and finally succeeded in 1958 after serving only 33 years of his original sentence. After an unsuccessful attempt to start a youth foundation, Leopold found work at a hospital. He spent the rest of his life in Santurce, where he was married, acquired both a degree and teaching position at the University of Puerto Rico, and worked several other jobs. He also joined a historical society and spent his time observing bird life and wrote a novel. Leopold died of a heart attack (caused by diabetes) on August 29, 1971, aged 66.

Modus Operandi[]

Since Leopold and Loeb only killed one victim, the term "M.O." is somewhat misused. When they killed Franks, they lured him into a rented car, bludgeoned him with a chisel and gagged him. They then drove out to their dumpsite, stripped him, disfigured his face and genitals with hydrochloric acid, and hid his body in a culvert. They then attempted to disguise the crime as a ransom kidnapping.

Mutual Victims[]

  • 1924
    • Unspecified dates: Numerous victimless petty crimes, including:
      • Numerous victimless thefts
      • Numerous victimless acts of vandalism
      • A victimless burglary of the University of Michigan (stole penknives, a camera, and a typewriter)
      • Numerous victimless arsons
    • May 21: Robert Emanuel "Bobby" Franks, 14 (bludgeoned and gagged, then stripped and disfigured with acid post-mortem)

On Criminal Minds[]

  • Season One
    • "The Popular Kids" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Leopold and Loeb appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Cory Bridges - All were teenaged killers who were interested in literature (particularly the work of Friedrich Nietzsche), bludgeoned their victims to death, attempted to disguise their murders as some other form of crime (Bridges attempted to make his look like a Satanic ritual killing, while Leopold and Loeb attempted to make theirs look like a ransom kidnapping), and interacted with law enforcement agencies investigating their crimes (unbeknownst to them). Also, Reid theorized that Bridges committed his murders in an attempt to create the "perfect crime", possibly a nod towards Leopold and Loeb's notion of doing so.
  • Season Four
    • "Masterpiece" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Leopold and Loeb appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Henry Grace - All three were killers who were prodigies, believed in some near-delusional concept (Grace believed he was born to be a killer due to having an extra Y chromosome, while Leopold and Loeb believed they were "supermen" due to their intellect), were inspired by a bookend quote, believed themselves to be intellectually superior to others, both spent months planning their crimes, abducted a young boy (though Grace did so in the process of kidnapping a family), and used acid to dispose of forensic evidence.
  • Season Seven
    • "True Genius" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Leopold and Loeb appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, Caleb Rossmore and Harvey Morell - Both were killers who were childhood friends, were highly intelligent, bonded over mutual interests, killed a young boy with similar names (Robbie Shaw and Bobby Franks, respectively), used acid to destroy evidence, and committed their crimes because they believed they could get away with it.
  • Season Eleven
    • "Tribute" - Leopold and Loeb were presumably referenced on Reid's map of famous serial killers in Chicago.
  • Novels

Sources[]

References[]

  1. The exact events are uncertain, but it is mostly believed that Leopold was the driver and Loeb attack Franks, though each both claimed that the other was the killer.
  2. Glands of the endocrine system which produces hormones and secretes them into the bloodstream.
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