Richard Loeb biography
Richard Loeb showed distinct manic characteristics at a young age. Outwardly a popular and affable child, his sinister side manifested itself in early thievery and later, murder. He and his friend Nathan Leopold met at the University of Chicago. The intelligent pair became obsessed with pulling off the 'perfect crime,' which they carried out on the 14-year-old neighbor Bobby Franks.
Murderer Richard Albert Loeb was born on June 11, 1905, in Chicago, Illinois. Loeb was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth to a wealthy Jewish lawyer who went on to become a senior executive with the department store company, Sears and Roebuck. Loeb was extremely intelligent and skipped several grades at school, thanks mostly to a rather strict disciplinarian nanny.
Whether as a result of rebellion at the repressive educational regime, or some deep-seated psychological flaw, Loeb showed distinct Jekyll/Hyde characteristics from an early age. He was outwardly an affable, popular child, but also showed a more sinister side to his personality. He became an accomplished thief early on and, while recognizing that lying was wrong, readily resorted to elaborate fabrications when caught out. He developed an elaborate fantasy life as a master criminal, and his interests evolved from minor family theft to shoplifting, vandalism and arson.
Involvement with Leopold
Loeb was admitted to the University of Chicago at age 14 as a result of skipping numerous grades. It was there that the friendship with Nathan Leopold began to develop. They were both considerably younger than their University contemporaries, but while Leopold was a genuine prodigy, Loeb was more a product of his nanny's ruthless tutelage, and his studies floundered when she was no longer there to assist him.
Leopold and Loeb were an excellent match psychologically: the brilliant but socially inept Leopold was enthralled by the handsome and vivacious Loeb; and Loeb found an excellent alter ego for his fantasy world in which he was supreme. By the summer of 1921, they were inseparable, and it is likely they began a sexual relationship. Leopold graduated with honors in March 1923; Loeb barely graduated from the University of Michigan in June 1923.
Both men returned to Chicago, where they were inseparable. Both pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago while living at home. Loeb continued to embroil Leopold in a number of different criminal pursuits, using the promise of sexual favors as an enticement, and became increasingly obsessed with the development and commission of the perfect crime.
Bobby Franks Murder
On May 21, 1924, Loeb and Leopold put their plan into action, collecting a rental car, obscuring its number plates and then driving to their old alma mater, the Harvard School, in search of a convenient victim. They settled on 14-year-old Bobby Franks, a neighbor of the Loebs. Lured into the car, Franks was hit over the head with a chisel by Loeb and then gagged before being hidden under some blankets on the back seat of the car.
After depositing Franks' body in a culvert at nearby Wolf Lake, they delivered the ransom note to the boy's father, Jacob Franks.
Trial and Sentencing
Unbeknownst to Leopold and Loeb, Jacob Franks had contacted the police, and Bobby Franks' body was found and identified before the ransom was delivered. Leopold and Loeb were interrogated by police and eventually Loeb admitted the murder, claiming that Leopold had been the driving force behind the plan and that he had struck the fatal blow on Franks. Leopold claimed the opposite was true. The families hired Clarence Darrow, the country's foremost criminal defense lawyer, to represent the pair at trial. On September 24, 1924 Leopold and Loeb each received a life sentence for the murder, rather than the death penalty, and an additional 99 years each for the kidnapping.
While serving his sentence in Joliet Penitentiary on January 28, 1936, Loeb was viciously attacked and killed by his cellmate, James Day, who claimed that Loeb had made sexual advances to him.