Synopses & Reviews
In 1953, six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, the son of a wealthy Kansas City automobile dealer and his wife, was kidnapped from his Roman Catholic elementary school by a woman named Bonnie Heady, a well-scrubbed prostitute who was posing as one of his distant aunts. Her accomplice, Carl Austin Hall, a former playboy who had run through his inheritance and was just out of the Missouri State Penitentiary, was waiting in the getaway car with a gun, a length of rope and a plastic tarp. The two grifters thought they had a plan that would put them on the road to Easy Street; but, actually, they were on a fast-track to the gas chamber. Shortly after they snatched the little boy, the two demanded a ransom of $600,000.00 from the Greenlease family and it was paid; but, Bobby was already dead, shot in the head by Hall and buried in a flower garden behind the couple's house, exactly where his body was found by police shortly thereafter. The Greenlease ransom was the highest ransom ever paid in the US to that date and the case held the US transfixed in the same way the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby had done decades earlier. In a bone-chilling account of kidnapping, murder and the dogged pursuit of a child's killers, John Heidenry crafts a haunting narrative that involves mob boss Joe Costello, a cast of unsavory grifters, hardboiled detectives and a room at the legendary, but now razed, Coral Court Motel on Route 66. Heady and Hall were apprehended quickly, convicted and executed in a rare double execution in the State of Missouri's gas chamber on a cold December night not long before Christmas. By that time, little Bobby Greenlease was stone cold in his grave and a fickle America had turned back to its Post-War boom. However, one question has never been solved: as Hall was being pursued around Kansas City and St. Louis, half of the ransom was lost and never recovered. Did it end up with the mob via Joe Costello? To this day, no one knows and dead mob bosses tell no tales. In a book that brings to mind films like Chinatown and Double Indemnity, John Heidenry has written a compelling work that blends true crime and American history to take a close look at one of the United States' most notorious murders.
"A tough, gripping chiller of a book, written straightforwardly yet cloaked with the trappings of pulp fiction. This hard-boiled crime story bears a resemblance to Truman Capotes In Cold Blood. Clean, cool, even clinical in its efforts to fathom a tale of unconscionable destruction."--Janet Maslins “Top Ten Books of the Year”, The New York Times
"This true crime caper by Heidenry of a 1953 Kansas child kidnapping gone bad carries a solid punch....Heidenry neatly tells this harrowing tale and its impact on all involved."--Publishers Weekly
"Heidenry delivers a lean, mean account of an infamous 1953 kidnapping and murder....Harsh, chilling, lurid and gripping."--Kirkus Reviews
In this haunting true crime tale, John Heidenry brings to life the 1953 kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease by two grifters with bone-chilling precision. Bobbys killers, Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Heady, met in the seedy underbelly of the Missouri crime world. Hall lost a $200,000 inheritance and ended up in the State pen for holding up taxicabs. Heady—whom he met on his release—was the former wife of wealthy livestock breeder now turned prostitute. Bobby, the son of a wealthy automobile dealer, was but six-years-old when he turned up dead in a geranium patch right after a $600,000 ransom was paid. With the ransom in hand, Hall panicked and set off a chain of events that ended when mobster Joe Costello arranged to steal half the ransom. It was never recovered. After their arrest and quick conviction, Hall and Heady died manacled side by side in a rare double execution in the Missouri gas chamber.
About the Author
JOHN HEIDENRY is a contributing editor to The Week, founding editor of St. Louis Magazine, and author of several books, including The Gashouse Gang and What Wild Ecstasy. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.