Famous Kidnappings

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Kidnapping is a very terrifying and very frequent crime that happens throughout the world. It does not differentiate between sex, race, religion, or background. It is not selective. And most often, it does not end on a good note. Usually the victims are found dead, or they are never found at all. The question is, what’s worse? Listed below are some examples of well-known kidnapping cases that have taken place through the course of history.

1. Mary Jemison

Mary Jemison statue
Mary Jemison statue

On April 5th, 1758, during the French and Indian War (the Seven-Year War) Mary Jemison, at the time 15,  along with her family and neighbors was taken hostage by a raiding party of Shawnee Indians and their French allies. She had two older brothers who escaped, but the rest of the family was scalped on the way to Pittsburgh. She and the neighbor boy were the only ones to be spared by the Indians.

Mary was adopted by two sisters of the Seneca Indian tribe as a replacement for their brother who had been killed during the war. The Seneca renamed her ‘Deh-he-wa-mis’ which means ‘a pleasant or good thing.’ She was later renamed ‘little woman of great courage’ by them.

Mary chose to remain with the Indians in the Genesee Valley in western upstate New York until her death in 1833. She was 91 at the time. During her time with the Seneca, she became a leading member of the tribe. She had two marriages and several children.

2. Adam Walsh

Adam Walsh
Adam Walsh

On July 27th, 1981, Reve Walsh let her seven-year-old son, Adam, watch a group of boys play video games in a Sears in Hollywood, Florida while she walked a few aisles away to search for a lamp. When she returned to the video game area approximately seven minutes later, Adam and the boys were gone. There were reports that a security guard had thrown the boys out for arguing over the video game, and it is suspected that Adam was kidnapped near the front of the store at that time.

On August 10th, 1981, Adam’s severed head was found in a canal in Vero Beach, Florida by two fisherman. He had been murdered and decapitated.

A convicted serial killer named Otis Toole confessed to the murder but was never tried in court due to a loss of evidence and a change of plea. However, it is widely accepted that he was, in fact, the killer.

Adam’s father, John Walsh, went on to host the show, America’s Most Wanted after a movie was made about his son in 1983. He became a long-time advocate for victims of violent crimes and still is today.

Additionally, ‘Code Adam’ was created which is a signal in stores to close down the doors when a child becomes missing until that child is found.

3. The Lindbergh Baby

The Lindbergh Baby
The Lindbergh Baby

Charles Lindbergh, Jr was the first of six children born to Charles and Anna Morrow Lindbergh in 1930. On the evening of March 1st, 1932, the child was stolen from his second-story bedroom. A note was left demanding $50,000 in ransom. There were some clues found in and around the scene, and the largest manhunt in American history (up to that point in time) ensued.

On May 12th, 1932, the baby’s corpse was found about 4 miles from the family’s Hopewell, New Jersey home. However, this area had already been searched, with no sign of the baby, so police concluded that the baby must have been kept elsewhere for a time and then placed there. This suspicion came about due to the state of advanced decay that the body was in.

Police felt it was an inside job, and eventually the ransom bills showed up being used by a Bronx carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptman in September of 1934. However, questions still linger today as to whether or not he worked alone.

4. Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann

On the evening of May 3rd, 2007, Madeleine McCann, a little girl just under four years old, disappeared while on vacation with her parents and twin siblings in Algarve, Portugal.

She and the family were staying in an apartment in Praia da Luz. Her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, claimed that they left the children unsupervised in a ground floor bedroom while they ate dinner in a restaurant about 130 yards away.
Since the time of her disappearance, Portugese detectives, assisted by detectives from other areas, carried out a massive investigation. They continued to do so until 2008 when the investigation was officially shelved. Since that time, no police force has actively been looking for the child. However, the family still seeks to know what happened, and some possible sightings of Madeleine have been looked into as recently as this past year.

Additionally, thanks in large part to Madeleine’s family and other families like them, laws have been created and put into effect to offer greater assistance in protecting and searching for loved ones overseas.

5. Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas
Polly Klaas

At the age of 12, Polly Klaas was kidnapped at knifepoint from her mother’s home during a slumber party and later strangled to death. The date she was kidnapped was October 1st, 1993. Her kidnapping and subsequent murder garnered national attention.

Richard Allen Davis was convicted of her murder in 1996 and sentenced to death. He already had a police record at the time he kidnapped and subsequently murdered Polly, which would be cause for laws to be enacted to hopefully prevent situations like this in the future. (See below.)

In the aftermath of her murder, Polly’s father, Marc Klass, became a child advocate and established the Klass Kids Foundation.

Additionally, because of what happened to Polly, California was the first state to impose the Three Strikes Law.

6. Megan Kanka

Megan Kanka
Megan Kanka

On July 29th, 1994, seven-year-old Megan Kanka was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her home. He had befriended the family prior to the time of the crime and lured Megan into his home by telling her he had a puppy that was too sick to come outside.

The criminal, Jesse Timmendequas, had been previously convicted of sexual crimes toward a minor, but at the time there were no laws requiring notification to the surrounding community considered necessary. In other words, the family of Megan Kanka had no idea they were living across the street from a dangerous, sexual predator.

Her assault and murder led to the creation of Megan’s Law, which requires sex offender registration and notification to a community when a sex offender moves into the area.

Kidnapping does not play favorites. Yet it’s important to realize that these people have not lived nor died in vain. Some of them went on and found a way to live beyond the crime they endured. Some have left a legacy that helps others: a legacy that now prevents the same horrific things from happening again to someone else. ‘If only’ has no place in the broken hearts of the families the victims leave behind, yet how can it be avoided? Take a lesson from these tragedies, and don’t think it can’t ever happen to you or someone you love…because, it can.

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