Lifelong Kingstonian Richard Cahill has spent half a lifetime investigating a dead subject: the 1932 kidnapping and killing of 20-month-old Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Recently, the attorney, ex-alderman and two-time mayoral candidate published his thoughtful analysis of what was perhaps the crime of the 20th century, called Hauptmann’s Ladder: A Step by Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping. Was the kidnapping really solved? Did Lindbergh do it himself? Did Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was convicted and put to death for the crime, act alone? Is the Lindbergh baby actually still alive? Read on!
Carrie Jones Ross: Where were you born and raised?
Rich Cahill Jr.: Kingston, New York
RCJR: Meagher, Sophie Finn, Myron J. Michael, KingstonHigh School [graduated in] 1989, Mount St. Mary, where I studied history and political science, and then Albany Law School, 1996.
RCJR: Married — almost 13 years to Laura Cahill.
CJR: Tell me a little about your family background.
RCJR: Richard Senior was my father. Dad was a committeeman for 55 years, appointed by T.R, Gallo to the charter revision committee in 1994. My parents met at a Republican meeting. I believe their first date was to a countyConservative Party dinner. My mother is retired from St. Mary’s of the Snow.
CJR: What kind of attorney are you?
RCJR: I worked at Ryan, Roach & Ryan for 14 years, doing mostly workman’s compensation. Formally a prosecutor in RensselaerCounty from February 1997-1999 and also did criminal defense work. After that, I ran my own criminal defense practice for a short while, then moved back to Kingston. It was the only time in my life that I ever didn’t live in Kingston. Now, [I am doing] exclusively workers compensation and volunteer firefighters’ benefits law compensation for Pasternack, Tilker Ziegler, Walsh, Stanton & Romano in Newburgh.
CJR: Tell me about your political history.
RCJR: I served as an alderman for one term, Ward 6, which is Roosevelt Park. I ran against Sottile for mayor in 2007 and then ran again in 2011.
CJR: Why mayor, Rich?
RCJR: In 2007, I didn’t want to [run for mayor], I wanted to be city judge, but Mike Bruhn was running and I stepped aside because he wanted to run. The Republican Party came to me and asked me to run, so I did. In 2011, I very much wanted to run, but there was a large controversy with the endorsement so I went to someone else, and I wound up winning the conservative line.
CJR: What was your disappointment like?
RCJR: The first time, I was not all that disappointed because the race was very, very close, and as a Republican in the city, you were not expected to win in Kingston. I was pleased. In 2011, I was very disappointed to lose to the primary, but I was only running on the Conservative line, and so I knew I was going to lose. Looking back, I think it was a blessing. My life has taken a very different direction, and I am in a much better place now.
CJR: Do you coach baseball?
RCJR: I was a manager for the Metropolitan Knothole League for four years. I umpired one year before that. Starting this year I will be umpire again, because with the book coming out, I have to make appearances. So it will be fun. I was in the Knothole League as a kid. And then one day I was coming home and saw them playing, and I ran into Mr. Bob Boughton and he suggested to me that I involved, so I did.
CJR: What do you do for recreation?
I go to Ulster Budokai, where I take judo as a green belt. Working hard to get a brown belt. I did it as a kid originally, and came back when I got married, then had problems with my knee, and now have been doing it since 2013. And I write.
CJR: Tell me about your book.
RCJR: Hauptmann’s Ladder: A Step-by-Step Analysis of the Lindbergh Kidnapping. The book is a reset of the story of the Lindbergh kidnapping because over the years, so many people have told wild stories and distorted the evidence so it has become very difficult for the average person to go out, get a book and learn about the kidnapping because you either get partial truths, or outright lies. There’s rumors that Lindbergh did it himself, which is nonsense, or the baby is still alive and there are men who claim to be the baby, but are 10-15 years too young to even be the baby. And sadly, the baby is dead.
CJR: And so this was an effort to set the record straight?
RCJR: That’s what I was trying to do.
CJR: Why the Lindbergh kidnapping as a topic?
RCJR: It started innocently enough. I was assigned a research paper as a freshman in college by Dr. Cotter (at Mount St. Mary) and so I went to the library to choose a topic, and I don’t recall how, but I picked this topic to write about. I read one book, one article from a magazine, and wrote this paper proclaiming that Hauptmann was an innocent man. One year later, I saw a book in a bookstore saying that Hauptmann was guilty, citing the same evidence. I thought it might be fun to take a couple of weeks and look at the evidence myself, and see what happened. Twenty years later, I amassed so much information about the case that I decided to write a book about the case, so no one else would have to go through what I went through for 20 years. As someone who knew he was going to be a lawyer, I always found criminal cases to be interesting.
CJR: How long did it take to write the book?
RCJR: I started putting pen to paper, actually typing, 2004-2005. Whether or not I got it published was never the end-all for me, I just wanted to know that I could do it. Finished first draft in 2008. Then I wanted to do more research of particular points, but the thing that was most important was making sure that what I put down was correct. And then, 2012 my dad died. I went bananas. My mind was racing. And throwing myself into my work was not going to do it, because it reminded me too much of Dad. So I threw myself into this, and quickly did the second revision in 10 days. Third revision, one week. So I decided to throw myself into getting it published and sent it out to 20 literary agents, and got some lukewarm response, and bought a book on how to go about publishing a book. And found that university presses tend to be the way to go if you want to have control over the content of the book. Sent a proposal to two university presses: Fordham and KentState. Fordham because one of the main characters had been a professor at Fordham, and they were initially interested. And I tried KentState because they have a large collection of documents on the case, but they had never published a book entirely on the case. By June, I had the whole thing wrapped up with a contract. Kent State University Press published the book.
CJR: How did you go about researching?
RCJR: First thing I went around and bought every book on the topic — I probably own about 50 or more on them. Old magazines — Liberty magazines — and from those books, piece together what was generally accepted about the case. Then I went to the New Jersey State Police museum and archives, where they have all the evidence open to the public, and they have the original evidence, the actual ladder, the original documents — if you want to research the case, it’s a treasure trove. There were also documents the FBI maintains, including two large summary reports.
CJR: What was your goal? To document or to solve it?
RCJR: Both. I was kind of hoping to find the smoking gun that proved he didn’t do it. But, the evidence was to the contrary, he clearly did it. And ultimately, the main thing for me was to follow the evidence, not a predetermined destination. I wanted to come in with the idea that I didn’t know whether he did it or not, but I wanted to find out.