n the morning of September 28, 1953, a woman approached a Kansas City school. She informed the staff she was there to pick up her nephew, 6-year-old Bobby Greenlease, because his mother had a medical emergency and was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital. The teacher pulled Bobby from class, and he took the woman’s hand — following her to the cab waiting outside. Little did anyone know, this would be the start of Missouri’s death row love story.
Soon after, a check-in to the Greenlease house revealed the story was false, and the Kansas City police and FBI were quickly brought on the case. At 6 p.m., Robert and Virginia Greenlease received a special delivery letter. Bobby’s kidnappers demanded a ransom to be delivered. Once the money was collected, the family was instructed to place a classified ad in the newspaper. Bobby’s safe return was promised once ransom was met. His parents received a second letter the next evening containing Bobby’s school medal. Over the course of eight days, the family would receive a half dozen notes and 15 phone calls.
During one call, Mrs. Greenlease asked the kidnappers to ask Bobby two questions, including what activity he was doing his last night at home. The next night, the man who identified himself as “M.,” said Bobby was uncooperative and refused to answer. This conversation began to confirm their worst fears. Desperate for their son’s return, the Greenleases held off law enforcement, opting to pay the ransom. Robert, a successful auto dealer, reached out to several friends and associates, including Commerce Trust Company Executive Arthur Eisenhower. Eighty clerks were tasked with assembly and instructed to track serial numbers on each bill. Numbers were soon published in newspapers nationwide. At $600,000, it was the largest ransom in U.S. history at the time.
Meanwhile, Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Brown Heady prepared to flee St. Joseph for St. Louis. With their demands met, the couple feared local police would trace them to their nearby location. Carl left Bonnie sleeping while he unsuccessfully attempted to bury the ransom in two metal suitcases. An FBI investigation would later establish that while these suitcases were in Carl’s possession upon his arrest, they never arrived at the precinct.
Want to hear more of Bonnie and Carl's story? Head to Jefferson City Magazine to read more.