The Kidnapping of Bobby Greenlease Part 1

August 7, 2017

On September 28, 1953, Bobby Greenlease, the son of Robert C. and Virginia Greenlease, spent his last day on earth. He was in the first grade at Notre Dame de Sion parochial school in midtown Kansas City. Sion, as it was known, was the grade school attended by all the upper class Catholics in Kansas City.  Little Bobby’s father was one of the largest Cadillac dealers in the nation. The Greenleases lived in Mission Hills, Kan., the most elite suburb in the Kansas City area.

A pair of neer-do-well alcoholics named Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Brown Heady hatched an ill-conceived plan to commit the perfect crime and set themselves up for a life of privilege and leisure. Both had been raised by well to do families, but both had fallen on hard times because of their drinking. Several years earlier, Carl Hall met Paul Greenlease, the older, adopted brother of Bobby Greenlease, and he learned of the immense wealth Mr. Greenlease had accumulated in the Cadillac business. After high school, Hall inherited a substantial amount of money from his father, then lost it while failing at several business ventures. Carl Hall started committing robberies of cab drivers and was sent to the Missouri State Penitentiary. Like a B movie plot, in prison he conceived of a master plan to commit the perfect crime and  make a big score and leave the game to a life of luxury.

In 1953, Carl Hall was 34 years old when he was released from prison. He was from northwest Missouri and moved back to St. Joseph, Mo. He met 41-year-old Bonnie Heady while drinking in a bar. Bonnie had also inherited money and owned her own home. She had spent most of her inheritance and was reduced to prostituting herself for survival. Carl Hall often beat her when they got drunk.

Carl Hall brought Bonnie Heady in on his grand scheme. During the summer of 1953 Hall and Heady made many trips to Kansas City to reconnoiter the activities of the Greenlease family. They learned that they had an 11-year old daughter and a 56 year old son. Their first plan was to kidnap the daughter. They later reconsidered and decided the 6-year old Bobby would be easier to control.

In morning, just before lunch,  Sept. 28, 1953, Bonnie Heady walked into the school and told a nun she was Bobby’s aunt and that his mother, Virginia Greenlease had a heart attack. She said she was there to take Bobby to the hospital. When Bobby was brought out to the front desk, he walked directly to Heady as if he knew her. The young nun who released Bobby to Bonnie Heady last saw him entering a car with the stranger.

Heady drove the few blocks to the Katz Drugstore at 39th and Main.  The police would later learn that Hall was waiting for her and they drove immediately to the Kansas side of State Line, about 20 blocks west of Main St. This would trigger the Lindbergh Statute and bring in the F.B.I. Carl Hall took over the driving while Bonnie comforted little bobby. Hall drove into Overland park, Kansas and stopped in a vacant filed. He told Bonnie to get out and walk away while he proceed to use a short rope to strangle Bobby. He failed at that because the rope was too short ad he struck Bobby in the mouth knocking out a tooth. He threw him to the ground and shot Bobby in the head with a .38 pistol. Young Bobby did not live 30 minutes after being abducted.

The pair took his lifeless body the 60 miles back to St. Joseph. They buried Bobby in the back yard of Heady’s home in a grave Hall had dug the night before. Hall then planted flowers on the grave so anyone looking into the yard would think it was a flower garden.

During this time, the nun who had released Bobby to Bonnie became concerned and called the Greenlease home. Robert and Virginia Greenlease knew there had been foul play and called the police immediately. The next few days they waited for contact from the kidnappers. Carl Hall mailed them a ransom note demanding $600,000 in $10 and $20 bills in exchange for Bobby. He had taken a small pin from Bobby and enclosed it as proof they had the boy. Hall directed Mr. Greenlease to gather the ransom money from all 12 of the Federal Reserve banks and to obtain 20,000 $20 bills and 20,000 $10 bills. Robert Greenlease called in his closest friends for help to comply with Hall’s demands. He knew the head of a local bank, Arthur Eisenhower, brother of the President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Arthur Eisenhower directed his employees to record the serial numbers as the money was collected from the various federal Reserve banks. This list of serial numbers was later printed in a number of newspapers. Hall called the Greenlease residence repeatedly for the next few days and he reassured bobby’s mother, Virginia Greenlease. that Bobby was alive. He hardheartedly added details like claiming that Bobby was quite a handful, and that he was earning this ransom money.

Finally, a week after the kidnapping, the money was delivered. Once they had the money Hall and Heady drove to St. Louis.

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