Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Kidnapping in New Mexico

The ransom note read: “Your child has-been kidnaped...The amount is $ 20,000 cash or negotiable bonds. Put same in envelope on top of your Sol y Lomas gate tonight if you can. If not until tomorrow night put a red rag as a sign...If not at all, your kid will die of cold and hunger. New Mexico is an easy place to lose a body. Do not talk about this to police, FBI, or friends. Any effort to interfere with our messenger, the child dies.”

It was the evening of November 10, 1950, at a comfortable farmhouse on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The house was surrounded by acres of wooded property.

As Mrs. Allen Stamm, wife of a prominent contractor, entered the house, the family’s maid handed her an envelope. A man had taken their nine-year-old daughter, Linda, the maid said. He stated he was taking her to the bridge party that Mrs. Stamm had been attending. As she opened the envelope, the mother recoiled in horror. “I got cold and numb and began to cry,” she later testified.

Police were notified and the maid described a strange-looking man who wore a stocking cap and dark sunglasses. Murdo Smith of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was contacted and took charge of the case.

The following night, dozens of police and FBI agents hid in the woods near the Stamm house. Suddenly, out of the darkness, a shadow emerged and headed toward the gate. As the person grabbed an envelope filled with dummy bills, authorities pounced.

“I’m only a go-between,” a voice screamed. “You don’t need to be rough.”

The figure, dressed in men’s clothing, identified herself as Dr. Nancy DuVal Campbell. Surprised agents patted her down and found two more ransom notes and a .32-caliber pistol.

About a hundred yards away, parked in the woods, police found a yellow Buick convertible. Inside the car, they discovered the kidnapped girl. Although she’d been tied up and drugged, she was alive.

In court testimony, her mother later described the reunion with her daughter: “She was incoherent. Her clothes were dirty and she acted like she was on a drunk. Her eyes were swollen pretty badly, and she couldn’t walk straight without someone holding her up.”

43-year-old Nancy Campbell was one of the strangest kidnappers in history. She was a well-respected gynecologist, a graduate of Yale University, and a Phi Beta Kappa. In her fourteen years in Santa Fe, she had built a thriving practice. Residents were stunned, but none more so than the area’s physicians. Close friends in the Santa Fe County Medical Association helped procure her $ 25,000 bond. After her release from jail, she was quickly spirited to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Albuquerque “for the medical attention she needs so badly.”

Her attorney stated that Dr. Campbell was insane at the time of the abduction and was therefore not responsible for her actions.

The trial began on April 16, 1951. The star witness was the victim. An article from the Albuquerque Tribune described her appearance before the jury: “Nine-year-old Linda Stamm prayed a ‘little’ while she was held a kidnap victim in a barren shack near Santa Fe last November 10. Swinging back and forth in the witness chair, Linda described to a District Court jury here today how she was abducted from her home, bound and blindfolded, and given a red pill.”

Linda stated that she answered the door on the night of the abduction and saw a “man” who later turned out to be a “woman.” The man told her that he needed to take her to the bridge club to see her mother. Before leaving, he gave Linda an envelope to give to the maid.

They got into a yellow car and drove for a few minutes. Then the “man” stopped and bound her hands and feet and placed duct tape around her face, leaving only enough space so that she could breathe. Linda was placed in the back compartment of the car. During this time she realized that her abductor was a woman.

They arrived at a ramshackle building and Linda was given two sandwiches. After eating, she was forced to swallow a red pill and made to lie on the floor inside an old army blanket. A few minutes later, the abductor left Linda alone. In her riveting testimony, Linda stated that she was cold and spent some of her time playing cards.

The abductor returned the following day and Linda was taken to a cabin. Again she was tied and her mouth taped. “After it got dark,” Linda testified, “we got in the car again and went home. There were a lot of men with guns there.”

There was no doubt that the crime had been committed by Dr. Campbell. As expected, the defense called several psychiatrists who claimed that she was insane at the time she committed the crime. The prosecution countered with the fact that Dr. Campbell had confessed to FBI agents that she kidnapped the girl because of large debts she owed.

It didn’t take the jury long to reject the argument of the defense. Dr. Campbell was convicted and sentenced to 10-15 years in prison.

She was a model prisoner. Dr. Campbell’s work in the prison consisted of washing dishes and doing laundry. She was denied parole in 1955, but was released two years later because of accumulated “gain time.” She moved to San Antonio and worked at the state hospital for many years. In 1968, liberal New Mexico Governor “Lonesome” Dave Cargo granted a pardon to Dr. Campbell and restored her rights of citizenship.

Since my sympathies are always with the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators, I attempted to find out what happened to Linda Stamm. I could find nothing about her later years. If any of my readers has any information about her, I’d appreciate hearing from you.


starbug said...

Dr. Nancy DuVal Campbell,M.D. born in 1906 in California to an illustrious military dynasty, never married and was truly amazing as far as what she accomplished. When at Yale, in the 1930s, she was published about the effects of radiation. Am so glad her victim escaped and also that she was pardoned, released and died in her chosen home, Sante Fe, NM, in 1981. Can't imagine what drove her to kidnap a child for money, though.

Aimee @ Explore, Learn, Have Fun! said...

I decided to try and find out more about what happened to Linda Stamms and found this via google...