Kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease

(Redirected from Bobby Greenlease)

Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Jr. (February 3, 1947 – September 28, 1953) was a six-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri, United States, who was the victim of a kidnapping and homicide on September 28, 1953. His father, Robert Cosgrove Greenlease Sr., was a multi-millionaire auto dealer, and the demanded ransom payment was the largest in American history at the time.

Bobby Greenlease
Bobby Greenlease and his father, 1953
Robert Cosgrove Greenlease, Jr.

February 3, 1947
Died (aged 6)
Lenexa, Kansas, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide by .38 caliber snubnosed Smith & Wesson revolver
Resting placeForest Hill Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
Known forKidnapping and murder victim

Greenlease Jr.'s kidnappers, Carl Hall and Bonnie Heady, had no intention of returning him to his family, the child having been murdered before the ransom demand was even issued.[1] Both perpetrators were sentenced to death and executed in Missouri's gas chamber in December 1953. Heady was the third woman ever to be executed by U.S. federal authorities.[2]


Robert "Bobby" Cosgrove Greenlease Jr. was born to Robert Greenlease Sr. (1882–1969) and Virginia Pollock (Greenlease) (1909–2001), his second wife, on February 3, 1947. (They were married in 1939. Greenlease's first wife was Betty "Bessie" Rush (1890–1950), whom he married on March 3, 1913.) The elder Greenlease was a multi-millionaire car dealer and entrepreneur, having made his fortune by introducing General Motors vehicles to the Great Plains in the early 20th century, owning dealerships from Texas to South Dakota. He was 65 years old when Bobby was born in 1947. The Greenleases were said to have been devoted to Bobby.

According to author John Heidenry, Bobby was said to be a trusting boy; Bonnie Heady later stated that from the moment she appeared at his school posing as his aunt to take him to his mother, he just took her hand and did anything he was told to do.[3]

Abduction and murderEdit

Carl Hall
Bonnie Heady
Carl Hall (left) and Bonnie Heady (right)
BornCarl Austin Hall
(1919-07-01)July 1, 1919
Bonnie Emily Brown
(1912-07-15)July 15, 1912
December 18, 1953(1953-12-18) (aged 34)
Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S.
December 18, 1953(1953-12-18) (aged 41)
Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S.
Cause of deathExecution by gas chamber
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)Kidnapping (18 U.S.C. § 1201)
Criminal penaltyDeath
DateSeptember 28, 1953
CountryUnited States
Location(s)Johnson County, Kansas, U.S.

In September 1953, Carl Hall (34) and Bonnie Heady (41), kidnapped Bobby from Notre Dame de Sion, a Catholic pre-school located in Kansas City, Missouri.[4] The kidnappers were drug-addicted alcoholics then living together in nearby St. Joseph. In the early 1930s, Hall had attended Kemper Military School in Boonville with Paul Robert Greenlease, Bobby's adopted older brother. Hall had planned for years to victimize his former classmate's wealthy family.

Heady visited Bobby's school and persuaded a nun, Sister Morand, that she was his aunt, telling her that his mother had suffered a heart attack and was in St. Mary's Hospital. She then took Bobby away in a taxi driven by John Oliver Hager, of the Ace Cab Company, who would testify in court. When another nun from the school rang to inquire about Mrs. Greenlease's condition, she discovered the truth and her husband contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hall and Heady took the child across the state line to Johnson County, Kansas, where Hall shot him dead with a snubnosed .38 caliber revolver. They then took the child's body to St. Joseph and buried him in the backyard of Heady's house, at 1201 South 38th Street.


After the murder, Hall and Heady sent Bobby's father messages in the mail and phone calls demanding a ransom of $600,000 ($6.1 million today). Greenlease, desperately trying to save his son, held off the authorities and paid the money. At that time, it was the largest ransom ever paid in American history, and remained so until the 1972 kidnapping of Virginia Piper.[5] Hall became convinced that police would trace him and Heady to St. Joseph, so he randomly decided to drive to St. Louis. The couple collected the ransom and fled.


Once in St. Louis, Hall left Heady in the middle of the night in a rented room. He contacted criminal associates to enlist their help in diverting police attention. One of the associates, a former sex worker named Sandra O'Day, was supposed to fly to Los Angeles and mail a letter Hall had written. It was thought that this would divert police attention from St. Louis. However, O'Day caught a glimpse of the ransom money.[6] St. Louis police soon learned that Hall was flaunting a large sum of money, and they brought him in for questioning.

Hall eventually implicated Heady. The police found her at an apartment at 4504 Arsenal Street and discovered Bobby's body in a shallow grave in her back yard.[3] Bobby was later interred in a mausoleum at Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City.

Trial and executionEdit

Bobby's kidnapping and murder scandalized the nation. Because he had been taken over state lines, the crime became a federal case under the Federal Kidnapping Act. Hall and Heady both pleaded guilty to kidnapping. The jury deliberated an hour and eight minutes before recommending a death sentence. The two were executed together in the Missouri gas chamber on December 18, 1953.[7] Only eleven weeks and four days passed between the time the crime was committed and the executions.

Heady is one of only four women to have ever been executed by federal authorities, as of 2021. The others being Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt in 1865 and Ethel Rosenberg, who, along with her husband Julius, was convicted of being a Soviet spy and executed by electric chair on June 19, 1953, just months before Heady. The fourth woman is Lisa Montgomery of Kansas, who was executed by lethal injection on January 13, 2021, for the 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.[8]

Since the federal government did not have any execution facilities, Missouri's state facilities—and thus the then-legal gas chamber—were used to carry out the executions. This was the case for all federal executions in the 20th century, before the first executions at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 2001. Heady is the only woman executed by the federal government by gassing. Heady grew up and is buried in Clearmont, Nodaway County, Missouri.[9]

Only $288,000 of the ransom money was recovered. The missing $312,000 remained a subject of wide speculation. Some of the theories accounting for this were:

  • A cab driver who took Hall to the Coral Court Motel had tipped off local mobster Joseph G. Costello.[10]
  • Hall tried unsuccessfully to bury the cash near the Meramec River, though the FBI would later search that area in vain.
  • Suitcases in Hall's possession upon his arrest were not brought to the 11th District Precinct Station (the arresting officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and Patrolman Elmer Dolan, were subsequently federally indicted for perjury).[4] Two police officers, Lieutenant Louis Ira Shoulders and patrolman Elmer Dolan, told a grand jury that the $300,000 they turned over was the full amount confiscated from Hall when they arrested him. This statement was false; in fact, Shoulders had taken half of the $600,000 ransom that Hall had on him at the time of arrest. Both officers were convicted of perjury. Shoulders was found guilty on April 15, 1954, and sentenced to serve three years in prison; he died on May 12, 1962. Dolan was convicted on March 31, 1954, and sentenced to two years in prison. Dolan later maintained that he perjured himself because his fear of Shoulders exceeded his fear of prison, and he later received a pardon from U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.[4]

Popular cultureEdit

The case was the subject of an episode of Investigation Discovery's series A Crime to Remember, "Baby Come Home" (season 2, episode 8) as well as an episode of the Investigation Discovery series Deadly Women entitled "Under His Control."

During an episode of Ghost Adventures (Season 8, Episode 4) Zak Bagans and team investigates the hauntings at the Missouri State Penitentiary. During this investigation, it was explained that one woman was executed in the gas chamber of the prison (Heady).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cole, Suzanne P.; Engle, Tim; Winkler, Eric (April 23, 2012). "50 things every Kansas Citian should know". The Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on April 21, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  2. ^ "US schedules first federal execution of woman since 1953". Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  3. ^ a b As described in an episode of Deadly Women entitled "Under His Control", originally aired in the United States on October 21, 2010 on Investigation Discovery cable channel.
  4. ^ a b c "The Greenlease Kidnapping". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on January 22, 2016.
  5. ^ "The 18 Largest Ransoms Ever Paid". Business Insider. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  6. ^ Heidenry, John (2009). Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-37679-6.
  7. ^ "18 Dec 1953, Page 1 - Jefferson City Post-Tribune".
  8. ^ "US carries out its 1st execution of female inmate since 1953". Associated Press. January 13, 2021. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 18, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ John Heidenry (2009). Zero at the Bone: The Playboy, the Prostitute, and the Murder of Bobby Greenlease. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312376796.

External linksEdit