May 21, 2012; New York, NY – In an explosive new book, CEMETERY JOHN: The Undiscovered Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping, author Robert Zorn establishes the identity of the man who orchestrated the “Crime of the Century”—the March 1, 1932, abduction and murder of the infant son of world famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. Aided by experts across a broad range of forensic disciplines, Zorn also debunks the many flawed theories developed regarding the case over the past few decades.
“Zorn’s research is both meticulous and compelling,” said John Douglas, the criminal profiler who pioneered the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and the model for the Jack Crawford character in The Silence of the Lambs. “Had it been available during the original investigation and had I been advising the police, I would have said that [Zorn’s suspect] John Knoll is the guy you want to put on the front burner.”
Zorn’s evidence regarding the involvement of German immigrant John Knoll in the crime and the background story on Knoll will be featured in an upcoming NOVA documentary on the Lindbergh kidnapping. Using personal possessions, documents, photographs, new forensic evidence, and extensive research, Zorn demonstrates in his book that Bruno Richard Hauptmann was part of a criminal conspiracy led by Knoll, who plotted and executed the most famous kidnapping-for-ransom case in history. Based on conclusive evidence, Zorn reveals Knoll as the mysterious “Cemetery John” figure in the case—the kidnapper who called himself “John” and collected the $50,000 ransom in a Bronx cemetery.
“I’m convinced that John Knoll engineered and carried out the Lindbergh kidnapping and that he was Cemetery John,” said retired FBI special agent Edward F. Sulzbach. “I taught students in my criminal profiling classes at Quantico that life is simply not that coincidental, and there are too many compelling pieces of evidence that point squarely at Knoll for him not to have been involved. And like the physical profile, the behavioral profile of the ringleader of this crime matches the personality profile of John Knoll, not that of Hauptmann, who was a common criminal and not a leader type.” Zorn has nailed down several physical characteristics of Cemetery John that match those of Knoll, including a rare and highly distinctive “fleshy mass” at the base of the left thumb. The identity of Cemetery John, whose unusual array of physical characteristics does not match those of Hauptmann but does match those of Knoll precisely, has been the missing linchpin in the Lindbergh case for eighty years.
“Based on the CEDAR-FOX software’s comparison of the writing samples of John Knoll to the writing on the ransom envelopes, the results indicated a 95% probability of same writership,” said optical handwriting recognition expert Dr. Sargur N. Srihari, the director of the University of Buffalo’s Center of Excellence for Document Analysis and Recognition (CEDAR). For the first time in history, scientific handwriting technology— the CEDAR-FOX system—was used to evaluate both new and original evidence in the Lindbergh case. The CEDAR-FOX software was recently found admissible in two evidentiary U.S. federal court cases and was developed with federal funding to establish objective and measurable techniques to evaluate the accuracy of handwriting testimony.
Zorn also chronicles that after emigrating to the States in 1925, Knoll made but one trip back to Germany, and provides a dated photograph showing the Depression-era deli clerk at the gala dinner of the luxury liner SS Manhattan, three weeks before the beginning of the Hauptmann murder trial. Ship records examined in the book also prove that Knoll left Europe on his return to the States on February 13, 1935—the same day that Hauptmann was convicted and sentenced to death. Zorn has also sought out some of Knoll’s surviving family members, and their reactions to the evidence he has amassed add further texture to this fast-moving and historically important work.
“I’ve always believed that Hauptmann was guilty but that he worked with accomplices,” said former New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne. “Cemetery John validates that conclusion.” Governor Byrne signed the executive order releasing 250,000 files on the case to the public. A former prosecutor himself, he was a respected friend of the late David Wilentz, the attorney general who prosecuted the Hauptmann trial.
Few cases have generated more publicity and public scrutiny than the kidnapping of twenty-month old Charlie Lindbergh, who was abducted from the family estate near Hopewell, New Jersey. His parents, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, were the most famous couple in the world at the time, and the resulting trial, conviction, and execution of Hauptmann drew worldwide attention.
Zorn began the writing of his book with his father, the late Eugene C. Zorn, Jr. (1916-2006), who grew up three doors down from Knoll in a German neighborhood in the South Bronx. At age fifteen, at an amusement park in New Jersey, Gene Zorn unwittingly became the only eyewitness to the conspiracy. The bizarre fate of John Knoll—a man completely unknown to history—and his role in the kidnapping are revealed for the first time in Cemetery John.
“The case is now eighty years old,” said author Zorn, “but this evidence is brand new. John Knoll lived out his life in freedom, and we will probably never know for sure why Bruno Hauptmann went to the electric chair without fingering his co-conspirator and accomplice in this ruthless crime. But now we do know exactly who was ‘Cemetery John.’ And based on the insights of top FBI criminal profilers, including those of John Douglas and of Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole, the country’s leading expert on child abduction, we also know what likely had motivated Knoll to kidnap the baby of the world’s most famous man.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Zorn is a graduate of Duke University and the Wharton School of Business. His father, the late Eugene C. Zorn, Jr., a nationally respected economist, was the only eyewitness to the conspiracy behind the kidnapping. For more information, please visit: www.cemeteryjohn.com.
The Undiscovered Mastermind of the Lindbergh Kidnapping
By Robert Zorn
Published by The Overlook Press
Hardcover: $26.95 / 320 pages / ISBN 978-1-59020-856-4
PUBLICATION DATE: JUNE 14, 2012